SIDEWALK ISSUE 2013 - AUGUST 2013
“Oh, so that’s what being sponsored looks like…"
I overheard this comment whilst standing on the platform of the 8-foot quarter on the left hand side of Bay Sixty6 during the demo and it made me beam. It was uttered in response to Greyson Fletcher launching a six-foot high, fully tweaked stalefish, right in the face of the kid who said it.
Now we’ve been accused of dick-riding Flip before I know, but without any hyperbole, you’d be hard pressed to think of any other organisation that has repeatedly wreaked skateboard terrorism of the most apex variety and to a similar level of intensity on these shores over the last ten years.
Plus, if giving Tom Penny covers skating the mini ramp in the Castle, or Lance Mountain ripping Dock Rd banks in Liverpool constitutes dick-riding then fire up the saddle: I’m down for the trot.
The whole point of tours in any country by premiere league skateboard teams is to fire up the imagination of those watching, and to reveal just what will occur if you stop worrying about the possibilities and just get your teeth stuck into reality.
The teenagers who ride for Flip, (or any other next levs company) are no different from you: shinners hurt them, booze influences them, and some tricks don’t work out – so if you find yourself looking at some of tricks in amongst this and wondering how you could ever get yourself into a comparable situation, I have the answer for you.
There is no substitute for determination.
As another skateboard luminary once said, “anyone can do anything they want, it’s all in your head…"
As far as global surfing culture is concerned, Greyson is of royal descent. His father Christian and uncle Nathan are to surfing what a combination of Rodney Mullen, Christian Hosoi and Mark Gonzales are to skateboarding. As such, Greyson’s upbringing is probably as far removed from yours as is possible to imagine – well, unless you were out surfing with universal legends in Bali at the age of 12 too.
Greyson was flown in at the last minute as a replacement for David Gonzales who had to return home to Colombia for family reasons. He’d been in Prague a week before crushing the Mystic bowl comp, flown back to San Clemente for one day and then flown back to London to perform insanely huge stalefish grabs in front of excited Londoners. Jet lag is some plebian shit presumably…
For a counter-culture Prince Regent, (and as Wikipedia has just informed me ‘professional actor’) big man made for a humble, funny and interesting hire van bro for the 3 days of carnage that unfolded before us. When not regaling us with tales of smoking DMT with his grandmother, his admiration for Cwmbran ripper and Crv Wkd associate Sox, or entertaining all present with his general, “I never went to school, hur hur…" demeanour, Greyson was kicking the trembling backdoors off any tranny he went near.
There’s a lot of shit talked about style in skateboarding – mainly due to the fact that its essence is so instantly discernable and yet completely indescribable at the same time: it just is.
Or, as Bukowski put it:
“Style is the answer to everything.
A fresh way to approach a dull or dangerous thing
To do a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a dangerous thing without it
To do a dangerous thing with style is what I call art."
This most definitely applied to the Tarzan-standard frontside ollie one-foots thrown like flaming javelins across the Tottenham park rainbow piece. You’re not going to see Greyson switch flipping into ssbsts anytime soon, but if you see him hurling freight train classics anywhere near you, I’ll bet my nuts that you remember it.
Barely contained loose-trucked skateboard fury for the win.
As a final aside, an observer was overheard gleefully exclaiming that, “Greyson is the most Californian human on Earth: it’s incredible". They meant it in a good way too…
We’ve known this kid since he was 12. Met his mum, been to his house in Hawthorne in southwestern Los Angeles County, languished in tour buses sweating across the Texan desert with him when he was still young enough to need a parental chaperone and even got wasted with his dad on Tecate and talked 80’s LA gang life this one time.
In short, it’s a rare and valuable thing to have been around to watch this once longhaired midget with braces and infinite heelflip variations grow up into the lanky, slightly shorter-haired skateboarding precisionist that young Mr. Lopez has become.
The potential was always obvious but despite Internet naysayers and the initial “kiddy" comments, Louie has matured in the public eye into another humble and thoroughly likeable Flip Übermensch, just like we all knew he would.
Louie is always smiling, always keen, is nice to kids at demo’s and is now old enough to be pursued by a newer, not-available-in-my-time phenomenon commonly seen at larger skateboard gatherings these days: namely the Instagram demo honeys. Good lad.
He’s still not very good at drinking though, three small bottles of Corona shouldn’t be giving anyone a hangover, let alone someone capable of backside heelflipping Brown Bar in MK that easily.
Stick to the skateboarding son; leave the boozing to the professionals.
Wow! That alone pretty much sums this blond maniac up.
Hailing from a little town called Rochester in Minnesota, (a state that borders Canada), Alec is the latest in a long line of ‘what the f*ck!’ wunderkinds plucked from geographic obscurity by Flip skateboards. Alec is 17, grew up thousands of miles away from the epicenter of the skateboard industry in a state that regularly bears witness to -51 degree winters, tornados, 100 mile an hour winds and loads of other climatic conditions that definitely contribute f*ck all towards your ability to ‘train’ up your skateboarding like some silver spoon goon.
Two days before this tour started Alec was crushing the Red Bull ‘Bomb the Line’ contest held at Kulturforum, Berlin. And I say ‘crushing’ deliberately – none of this “a front lip will do" shite – we’re talking next levs tech action on big hubbas, over wedges and down 10+ stair rails, in lines. If you haven’t watched it yet, go peep the clip and realize just how much gnarly skateboarding this softly spoken, fifth generation northern European immigrant to America had done in the 2 weeks surrounding this UK tour.
Anyhow, to refer back to what was said in the intro – the point I’m trying to make here is that Alec is your average skateboarder, not a kid born into surfing royalty like Greyson, or immersed in skateboard culture from day dot like team mate Curren Caples. He comes from somewhere as cold as Scotland and has burst onto the skateboard scene through a combination of determination, talent and a willingness to travel and go off – winning local Volcom contests, then national ones, as well as Tampa Am in 2012. Basically, what I’m saying is – the ‘come up’ isn’t that hard to get your head around. If you want it enough then you’ll put your iPhone down for 5 minutes and travel, and you will reap the benefits.
For someone whose flight arrived at Heathrow an hour before the demo and who was already gingerly dancing around on a heel bruise the colour of a ripe banana, my man did not miss a trick. Why bother 5050’ing a skatepark rail in a demo when you can kickflip 5050 it first try? Pisstake.
The unbridled gallantry continued unabated – when somebody’s warm up for nosegrinding an unskated 11-stair handrail is waking up in the van next to it, you know you’re witnessing some heavy shit. And as far as the hardflip at Hackney Town Hall goes: well, look at it – f*cking look at it! Quite possibly the gnarliest thing I’ve ever seen done with my own eyes. Not even bothered about ollieing it first, all that was needed was for Deacon and I to move a plant pot out his eye line and within 8 tries these stairs were finished. Jokes…
Prepare yourselves to hear a lot more about this dude.
The Birch Society
Charlie gets flowed Flip boards through Shiner with the blessing of fellow Scouser Geoff Rowley. He’s not ‘on’ by any means though so don’t get it twisted, but they are down to support the plywood needs of this high-energy midget with milky pipe-cleaner legs.
Charlie has just turned 14, is severely eager for skateboarding of any variety at any time of day or night, and is way easier to hang out with than his age might suggest, well, as long as you can deal with him spitting on you occasionally. Comes with the glottal territory I guess: you can blame generations of Welsh and Irish immigration for that one.
More notably however he is completely free of the social media pollution that has turned many skaters of his generation into narcissistic bellends. It could be a consequence of genuinely not giving two shits about who’s just posted a selfie in front of a car that not theirs for the umpteenth time. Or maybe it’s because he’s from Liverpool where being a self-regarding tosspot is not allowed. Either way Charlie and elder brother Ollie are fast becoming regular faces at everything that goes on in the UK. The brothers Birch appeared at the demo in London and after a typically polite Charlie asked Deacon if it was okay to skate, they were with us for the entirety of the trip. Pays to have your dad on the board of Governors and attend a school that values sporting excellence as high as double maths, eh?
Note to aspiring skateboard heroes: everyone is ‘good’ these days so tricks don’t really mean shit. If you’re a tit then you could be kickflip nosegrinding a moving tank made of diamonds and nobody’s going to give a toss. Dickheads get nowhere – work on your human interaction game, it will pay dividends.
It’s f*cking Arto – do you really need me to tell you why this dude is pinnacle tier?
He’s the guy that the entirety of skateboarding is still trying to catch up with, more than a decade after his Sorry part came out. The statuesque Finn who has indelibly linked David Bowie and fakie kickflips at MACBA together in skateboarding’s collective unconscious for the rest of eternity. The original nowhere kid from the Northern hemisphere who turned up at Munster, blew everyone’s mind and was changing the game in Cali 6 months later; or, that son of Suomi who backlips kinked handrails.
Yeah, that Arto…
These days he likes to refer to himself as the ‘diesel generator that takes a while to get going’ due in part to enduring more knee surgeries than your average Premiere League prancer, and more so, to the simple fact that at a sprightly 32, he’s already lived a dozen normal lives.
That said, it was a delight to see him involved in the demo backlipping picnic tables and then charging up onto platforms to shoot photos in quick succession, and even more delightful to see Arnie’s motor chug into action to bag the first landed maneuver at a M25 outer rim gem that’s been teasing Horsely for two years.
He’s also strictly off the sauce these days which, coupled with an omnipresent camera and a tour van that slowly dissolved into a Tyskie fuelled blur each evening, will probably have made for some amusing and embarrassing photographic anecdotes.
Arto is the boss to put it simply: some people just don’t need giant’s shoulders to stand on; they brought their own.
Seventy-two hours is a fairly short window for any artistic activity but happily this jaunt coincided with a run of the most unseasonably scorching weather in recent memory. So unseasonal in fact that more than one foreigner expressed genuine concern that global warming was tightening its grip on the Western hemisphere: “Isn’t it supposed to be pissing down?"
Obviously the first day was comprised of trips to and from Heathrow airport, establishing a seating hierarchy in the hire van, and demonstrating heavy business to the assembled masses at Bay. All of which were handled. A boozy sesh went down at Meanwhile bowls shortly after the demo that saw hired lensman Sean ‘Nano’ Lomax running around like a blue-arsed fly, and locals and visitors alike whooping it up till the skies went dark.
The following day was a strict London ting with Parrot and Moneymorph at the helm directing skateboard warriors to various east London gems.
After a brief stop off at Victoria Park in the morning which saw Greyson and Louie casually assault the bowl and cradle despite “not really being into it" – the VX fetishists took us on a mission deep into Ballance Boy territory.
Turns out that it’s all good to skate a handrail in the middle of a housing estate’s afternoon BBQ, providing you’re polite and friendly. In fact, the only regret engendered by our decamping in a collective back garden in Hackney was that the dude whose house was next to it hadn’t got a fridge full of cold beer to sell us – ‘could’ve made a fortune bruv’.
Two hours and 3 miles later, (f*ck London traffic) and we arrive outside what my research tells me is a Rabbinical Education centre for Hasidic Jews who follow a Rabbi known as ‘the Rebbe’ who some within the Lubavitch Movement believe to be a Messiah.
Needless to say, high hopes were not held aloft to start with, as it seemed unlikely that the streams of Rabbis and Hasidic students were going to tolerate some random kid chipping paint off a handrail outside their place of education for long. Conversely, it transpired that they were actually pretty hyped on Alec, even if I did overhear (for the first time ever) the following description of us non Jews from a passing Rabbi on his mobile; “Everything is fine, it’s just goyim playing, skateboarding goyim…"
Following Alec’s destruction of said handrail we took a detour via Hackney Town Hall where he saw fit to desecrate another piece of meaningful architecture with severe telekinesis.
A quick deep-fried pause ensued and we ended the night at the excellent and spiritually deep Tottenham DIY spot where Greyson blew minds, Louie frontside flipped and, sadly, Harry Lintell hurt himself. A long day but a satisfying one: no doubt.
The final day encompassed the now traditional pilgrimage to the geometric oddity that is Milton Keynes. On hand to greet us at the always-bizarre Peace Pagoda were MK originals Rob Selley and John Doe and an assortment of MK faces new and old. James Bush smashed out a couple of switch bangers for Buddha and we traipsed from one selection of ridiculous marble blocks to the other, collecting photos and footage as we went, before inevitably ending up at the time-honoured ‘Brown Bars’, (which are actually white). Charlie and Louie stepped up, three photographers and four different filmers pointed various types of camera equipment at humans, and then we ate over-priced chicken sandwiches: a genuinely glorious MK experience.
There was a further session after this at some semi-secret fullipes nearby but a) I’d left by then and b) they got kicked out after 10 minutes before shooting any photos so, in essence, this is where it stopped.
This is what skateboard tours should be – if you’re going to blow any trumpets about who you are, or the fact that you’re coming then you better bring the noise, because if you’re not on that shit, don’t waste our time.
In a bit.