For the record, real street skating is very rad. That’s my opinion on it. By “real”, I mean skateboarding done on the actual streets.
I’m a skateboarder. I love skating ditches, street skating, parks, freestyle, hills. I don’t do slalom, but I think it’s very cool. I used to skate a little vert, but simply didn’t have the grapes for it. So my point is, to a great extent skateboarding is skateboarding, but there are “borders” between disciplines, even if those borders are often a bit porous.
In the past I have fluctuated on the relationship between freestyle and street skating. There’s a part of me that really appreciates the ability to get on your board — one non-specialized board – and skate everything. Up until about 1977 or 1978 it was kind of like that. The specialized freestyle board was still evolving. You’d still see people entering freestyle contests on boards that were essentially the same as what they’d ride in bowls or in their neighborhoods. So, yes, I do have an appreciation for the modern street board and its best practioners, who can ride it on almost any surface or terrain.
That doesn’t mean I dig all of modern street skating style. That part of it, for me, depends on the individual skater I’m watching.
There used to be kind of a joke about old vert skaters trying to skate street. A lot of them weren’t very good at it. Street was in, Vert was out, and many of the vert dudes simply weren’t good at street skating. Some were, however. I have street skated with Jeff Phillips and Dan Wilkes, and I can assure you they both had/have great street skating ability with great style.
What does this have to do with Freestyle? I’m getting to it.
Sooooo…seldom do you hear anyone but crusty old guys joke about street skaters riding vert. How horrible their style often is. There are of course some really good ones, but man, the street skating approach to vert can be fantastically ugly even when it is technically successful. At least to my critical and judgemental old eyes.
With the new boom of skateparks, there are some skaters now that can do it all. I love that. They can do it all and do it all with good style. I think that the pure street dudes still outnumber the all-terrain rippers though.
Which brings me to the subject of freestyle skateboarding and street.
My friend Keith Renna and I have had this discussion, and I’ve often found myself in agreement with him. The top street pros are sooooooo frickin’ good. They have such fantastic board control, and such a total lack of fear. What would happen if even one of the top dudes got into Freestyle? Would he/she kick everyone’s ass?
I have often suspected that would be the case. It’s not that the best freestyle guys aren’t fantastic, but there are just so many great street skaters. When you have probably hundreds of thousands of skaters in the potential population of spoilers, compared to a few hundred at most in the freestyle world, the laws of large numbers just seem to indicate the current freestylers would be overwhelmed by an onslaught of ultra-talented street skaters.
But I think I have changed my mind.
You might be able to find plenty of amazing street skaters who could quickly learn some tricks, but my mind drifts back to the ugly spectacle of street skaters riding vert. It’s just ugly. Sorry, but it is. The body positioning that works so well in modern street skating looks like an ape taking a dump when transferred to vert. I think the same thing would happen in freestyle.
But it isn’t just a matter of body positioning and style. It’s a matter of mind-set and discernment. Most of the best freestylers I know have the ability to discern good stuff from shit. A good landing from a shit landing. A good trick from a stupid one. A trick done well from the same trick done poorly. In the age of 50 Trys for 1 Make video street skating, I don’t know if that same standard applies. Maybe it does. I don’t see it.
What is freestyle? What is good freestyle? The answers to those questions are of course subjective. I know ’em when I see ’em. I think most of us know when someone is “doing freestyle” and when someone is just doing a bunch of tricks. How we know I do not know.
What I’ve seen when I see street skaters attempt freestyle, even very good street skaters, is a very clumsy version of freestyle. That’s not really meant as a criticism. Just a fact. Someone may have a killer 360 flip, but really not have any smoothness in what were once some very basic movements, like end-overs or walk-the-dog. What I see a lot is street skaters overpowering things where subtlety is needed.
It’s just a different, though related, art.
But – I am always stoked to see new people working on freestyle. At a freestyle contest, having street skaters enter is cool. I encourage everyone to give it a try. I just don’t think freestylers should sell themselves short regarding their craft. There is nothing inherently greater about street skating skills, and freestyle as the art and the “event” needs to be preserved and honored.