It’s that time of the year. Non-horrible weather, nice long days. I’m skating as much as I can.
Been riding an 8.25″ street board with some freestyle adaptations, like a skid under the nose and the rectangle cut out of the grip tape in the middle, for footwork. For the stuff I’m doing right now it’s pretty good. I wouldn’t recommend it for classic freestyle with lots of board flips and whatnot, and I wouldn’t recommend it for footwork for a shorter skater because of the relatively long wheelbase, but for me and what I’m doing these days it feels good.
The second shot in this video is a little sequence I’m working on. Next thing is going to be cranking some speed out of the frontside 360 that changes the direction of the flow. Was thinking about it today, and realized that a simple change in posture will probably do the trick.
I know it seems kind of like “the old guy is just doing this easy shit because he doesn’t want to learn hard tricks anymore”, but that is not the case. This is what makes me happy now.
Back at my freestyle practice spot for the first time in about a year. It’s a bit more prone to pedestrian traffic, seeing as how that building next to me it the public library. I’ve not wanted to be there breathing the air of every parent and urchin that happens by, but now got my shots. Combing the shots, with loud music not necessarily friend to children, and I feel fairly safe there now.
It was nice to be back. I’m out of condition, but over the next couple of months lots of practice will correct that abysmal situation. I’m out of practice, but again, the solution is practice.
Anyway, here is the dancing elephant. Sorry Mike — I was not listening to the music you wanted. I have to have stuff that’s the right tempo and mood when I do this. I’m not driving a pickup down a dirt road at 100mph.
The early sunsets and temperatures of winter always suck. This is the first time I’ve been able to have a good freestyle session since October 2019. I did OK. It just takes me a couple of sessions to wake my feet up for the year. I always start the year just working on footwork, trying to get my feet moving smoothly. Afterward, as usual, I came up with stuff to work on tomorrow.
This is my board from the 2019 Paderborn Germany freestyle contest. After each of these trips I get all my friends who were in the contest to sign the board, plus any of them who are there but not skating in the contest (judging, taking photos, etc). This past year was especially meaningful because it was the first time my wife was over there with me, meeting my friends from the UK and Europe, and experiencing what a special event it is. Magical, really.
2019 was a hard year. This contest was in July. For the past 5 years I’ve known that any time I leave the country I may have to return at any time if my mother got sick. Amazingly, we made it through two weeks in Germany with no emergency calls from home. By mid-November, my mom would be gone. It seems likely that I will have to skip Paderborn this year, but I’m looking forward to doing a run there for my mom in the future.
Anyway, I officially retired this deck tonight and set up a new one. I’m pretty easy on boards. Rough on wheels, but my boards usually last about a year, depending on what I’m doing trick-wise.
My board from 2019, used at the 2019 Paderborn Germany freestyle contest. I got 3rd in the “Legends” (old bastards) division.
Over the last five years there are a number of old skate images and video I’ve been obsessed with. Things that just hit me so hard at the time I originally saw them in the 1970s or in the case of the videos just a few years ago, when they were finally put on the internet.
I’ll start with this image, from Skateboard World Magazine. The skater is Steve Day, who was a pro freestyler at the time for the Russ Howell team, and then later he skated for the short-lived Bad Company team. Steve was a top freestyler for a while, and while he is usually remembered for the handstand kickflip, this simple, beautiful image of him doing a 1-footed nose wheelie was on my wall when I was a kid, and it still hits home for me today. Steve got 4th place at this contest, the 1978 Oceanside Pro Freestyle. The results were as follows:
1. Doug Saladino
2. Matt Barden
3. Steve Cathey
4. Steve Day
5. Dan Ewell
If footage of this even evert finds its way to video I think some third eyes are going to be opened.
Why this image? Well, first it’s just a great full-page shot. His positioning on the board is superb, projected strength, balance, and control. The Howell freestyle wheels look really cool. He’s riding a flat fiberglass Howell board with a “foot stop” attached to the top of the tail to keep his foot on while spinning 360s. There is a real crowd there to see the skating. Man, it must have just been fantastic to be there.
Everyone on that list of placings was a great skater. There were lots of great images from this event. Soon I’ll be going on and on about Doug Saladino at an even earlier contest, but that’s for a different post.
Sinus Infection Winter 2019 continues, which means I’ve been sitting around thinking about skating. Tonight I’ve been thinking about my favorite trick, the 2-footed Nose Wheelie. Some people call it a Hang Ten Nose Wheelie. Bad people replace the word Wheelie with “manuel”, which is of course incorrect for reasons I’ll not go into here (but words do actually mean things, so I’m not flexible on this).
Modern freestylers tend to do the trick with their feet centered on the board, while older skaters often had their feet offset or not exactly facing forward, or at least have one foot a little further up the nose than the other. The new way is better for variations like Nose Wheelie Spacewalks. I can do it both ways, but I tend to put one foot a bit farther up the nose, as I learned this in about 1979. It never occurred to me that a spacewalk might be possible from this wheelie.
If you want to learn this trick, here is Tony Gale’s tip for it on FreestyleTrickTips.com. Tony will harsh on you for moving your feet to the offset position, but don’t let that fool you. He’s a top bloke, and certainly in the top 5 freestylers in the world now.
Talking to my friend Terry Synnott (of Mode Skateboards) tonight, I was telling him that a shorter nose allows you to lift the rear wheels higher, and that I think it looks better. Terry thinks this opinion comes from the era in which I started skating. He’s probably right. Still, it looks better with those rear wheels held high. Anyway, here are some examples.
Me, Oct 2019. Photo by Joe Makarski. You can see how much less nose I really need. That long nose is actually a problem. I’m generally happy with the wheelie. Good rear wheel height.
Doug Saladino, late 70s, offset feet, great style.
Tony Alva, from cheesy Playboy Magazine video, but with great style. Very offset feet. Sometime in the 2010s.
Steve Cathey, late 70s, Jim Goodrich photo. Great wheel height and wild back arch. Feet pretty well centered.
Steve Olson, Indy Trucks ad, early 80s Thrasher mag. Again, great style, wheels held high. So cool. Offset feet.
The annual freestyle contest in Paderborn, Germany is coming up in early July. It, quite simply, the best freestyle contest. The ground there is magical and holy. It’s a grassroots gather. No corporate bullshit, no parades. No prize money. Just a great event, like a family gathering.
I’m starting to think about my contest runs. A run at Paderborn has to mean something to me. It isn’t just a bunch of tricks strung together. Corny as it may sound, it’s my art, and I care about it. I’m not that good, but what I do out there is all mine. We all skate like ourselves. No one skates like you, and no one skates like me. So when you do a contest run, it should come from within you. It should represent you — your emotions. I don’t give a fuck what tricks someone does. A run must not be hollow. Even a run where you mess up a lot can still be a beautiful thing.
So I’m working on a list of tricks and an approach to the run that I think exemplify me, and picking some music that will mean something to me, and I hope I can make it a gift to my friends there and connect with them.
Competition sucks, but like all grassroots skateboarding events, this isn’t so much a competition as it is a celebration.