Video Games

Posted: 2020-11-29 in Uncategorized

Like so many other 30somethings, one of my first exposures to skateboarding was through the Tony Hawk Pro Skater videogame series. The 90’s were a pretty magical time with things like the X Games bringing extreme sports to television on a regular basis; videogames like 2Xtreme and Cool Boarders making extreme sports simulations attainable as a playable feature; and the whole World Industries domination of skateboarding as portrayed in the movie The Man Who Souled The World, talking about how Steve Rocco usurped the whole-ass industry. Big Brother magazine gave way to Jackass on TV, which was tangentially related to Viva La Bam and the Camp Kill Yourself series, which spawned a band. Everything was exciting, high-flying, dramatic, and most importantly, EXXXTREME!

The Tony Hawk Pro Skater series captured the essence of the exiting, extreme, high-flying drama in a way that earlier games hadn’t. You could watch the X Games on TV, then go play as those skaters in a video game, and the game *felt* like you were controlling characters on the TV broadcast. To this day, over 20 years later, the Warehouse level still feels exciting – smashing the glass, rolling down the big hill, then doing a sick grab and getting the “Over The Pipe” and “Secret Room” gaps while grabbing the hidden VHS tape in the secret room. THPS2 introduced combos; building up massive lines by doing reverts into manuals and carrying on without bailing. THPS3 introduced flatland tricks, giving you time to rack up more points while manualling. By THPS4 and Tony Hawk’s Underground (THUG), a mechanic was introduced to get off of your board, and an element of free-roam was introduced as a storyline.

The point is, though, that each of these progressions felt epic. The climactic trick in THUG, for instance, was doing a trick over a helicopter. Ridiculous, sure, but words cannot describe how amazing that sequence felt as a player! Then, Activision stuck with that formula for a while, releasing THUG 2, Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland, and a few other games.

Out of the wings, Electronic Arts debuted the Skate series in the mid 2000’s. Focusing instead on realism and being a true skateboarding simulator, Skate gave the player precise control on tricks. It was no longer just tapping “X” to do an ollie, you had to move the analog joysticks in a certain way back and forth to have your character move his feet to do an ollie in the game. You couldn’t just hit Circle and do a grab, you had to manipulate your character’s arms. You couldn’t just hit Square to do a flip trick, you had to use both joysticks while in the air to move each foot individually. This amount of control was, once again, revolutionary.

While the Tony Hawk series was aimed at synthesizing the extravagance and spectacle of extreme sports, Skate was aimed at putting the player in the game. There are reasons that people who actually ride skateboards are drawn to the Skate series: It feels less fantastic, and more real.

With all that being said, I miss the extreme over-the-top feeling of the Tony Hawk series. While I can truly appreciate the real feel of the Skate series, and it is incredibly satisfying to play, there was just something about jumping over a helicopter or flying totally over a halfpipe.

I dunno…I recently got into playing Rocket League and got to appreciating the feel of high-flying aerial maneuvers, and missing the feel of that in skateboard games.

This is an article I’ve wanted to explore since 2005 and 2006 when I was a staff writer on the Jenison High School newspaper. We’d have pitch meetings with every issue, and go over the articles that were to be featured, length and word assignments, and which articles would be written by whom. I’d always pitch articles about urban myths and legends, but consistently got shot down in favor of current events and topical articles such as sports games, school spirit events, and local youth events throughout the Greater Grand Rapids area. The urban myth that intrigued me the most was the one of a hardwood roller rink under the floor at Field’s Fabrics, that was still intact. Questions bounced around my head: Tarry Hall was only a few miles away – were roller rinks popular enough in the 70’s to sustain 2 businesses that close to each other? What was meant by “under the floor” at Field’s – did they build some joists or supports to raise the current store floor, or did they just carpet over the hardwood? How does one go about seeing this hardwood roller rink? 

After graduation from high school, I went to college, and got heavily involved in skateboarding and longboarding as hobbies. My main exposure to the sports were through online sources, such as discussion boards, forums, and other forms of social media. The question still smoldered in the back of my mind, until the knot began unraveling: I’d found a group of “old guy” skaters, affectionately referred to as Fossil Night at the Modern Skatepark in Grand Rapids, and the forum that they maintained. They’d posted a list of old skateparks that used to be in the area, that some of the guys skated at “back in the day.” Wind, Waves, and Wheels skatepark was in Rockford; Purple East had a skatepark in Grand Rapids; Cosmic Wave in Kalamazoo; and The Astro Speedway in an unspecified suburb. I was curious about the stories they told. Wind, Waves, and Wheels had moved to 29th Street in Kentwood and became more of a lifestyle shop; Purple East became a headshop; Cosmic Wave was in Kalamazoo and I couldn’t find two cares to rub together about Kalamazoo; but what the heck was the Astro Speedway? 

While it wasn’t an obsession, it was a favorite topic of mine to Google during late nights in college. Through the wonders of Teh Intarnetz, I met a guy on the chatrooms at Silverfishlongboarding.com named Chris Yandall, who had spent a decent amount of time in the Grand Rapids area during the 1970’s. Stoked like you wouldn’t believe, Chris loved sharing stories of “the good ol’ days” especially with youngsters like myself. It was through a conversation with him that all these pieces began falling into place: He mentioned the Astro Speedway, and said that it now housed a JoAnn Fabrics in Jenison. It clicked as I realized that he’d actually meant Field’s Fabrics, and that the rumored hardwood roller rink under the floor was actually a concrete skatepark in the basement of the store! 

Fast forward a few years, and I found myself working with a young lady who had just recently married into the Field’s family, and confirmed that as of 2013, the skating terrain was still intact, though most of it had been filled in with sand. I was floored. This time frame coincided with when I started my skateboard blog, and the Astro Speedway moved from mere fascination to insatiable curiosity. It wasn’t a full-on obsession yet, as I didn’t have a Pepe Silva-esque corkboard with yarn and diagrams, but I learned to do some deep dives using Google’s search engine in conjunction with a few other online search tools to find some nearly-forgotten primary sources (in the form of magazine scans and old blogs). 

That’s how I got to where I am today. Reaching out to several sources on Instagram, I found myself in contact with one Michael Early. Mr. Early was generous enough to spend about a half an hour on the phone with me, sharing his stories of skateboarding in and around West Michigan in the 70’s and 80’s. In fact, Michael and a buddy, Jon Bishop, designed and built the Astro Speedway. 

He talked of the big names that had skated at the Astro Speedway throughout the years: Wentzle Ruml, IV, of Dogtown And Z-Boys fame; pioneering skateboard photographers Glen Friedman and Ted Terrebone; the Sims Skateboard team, including Brad Bowman, Bert LaMar, Doug DeMontmorency, and Dave Andrecht; the Haut Skateboards team (Haut being the H in NHS Distribution, of Independent Trucks, Santa Cruz skateboards, Creature Skateboards, and many other brands); and the early Variflex team including 1980’s Skater Of The Year, Eddie “El Gato” Elguera. 

The park itself was set up with the main pool in the center area. Michael mentioned that when it was initially dug out and built, it was a little shallow, so they added some vert pieces to the outside making it a sort of ¾ pipe. When he visited the store a few years back, it was still there, and looked like the vertical pieces had simply been broken off and pushed into the pool before being covered in dirt. There’s another, smaller pool in the back that he said was still useable. This confirmed what my former coworker had said; that crews simply filled in the skatepark with sand or dirt when they converted the building to a retail store. 

During one of the online conversations I’d had with Chris Yandall, he mentioned an outdoor snake run in Grand Rapids during the early-mid 1970’s, in addition to the several indoor skateparks in the area. Michael elaborated on this, and said that while he didn’t specifically remember a snake run in the area that Yandall mentioned, there was a pretty solid skate scene all around the midwest: Astro Speedway, of course, being in Jenison alongside several others in the greater West Michigan area; but also out east in Detroit, Flint, and Columbus (OH); west into Chicago and Wisconsin, where the infamous Turf skatepark was housed in Milwaukee. Bill Danforth (“Mr. Hate,” “The Nomad,”) was from Detroit, and had skated in the Great Lakes Skateboarding Association contest in 1979 at the Astro Speedway. Also on Alva’s skate team were a couple other guys from the Midwest: Steve Dread and Jesse Neuhaus, both from Chicago. Between the east coast/west coast rivalry, there was a remarkably robust skate scene right in the Midwest. 

The skateboard industry is notorious for its heavy swings – ebbs and flows that create epic boom/bust cycles. By 1983, the Astro Speedway had closed down in the midst of one of these infamous industry declines. Michael Early moved to San Diego, CA, where he currently lives and operates Pool King Skateboards as well as Alva Skateboards. 

Shared blog with tulipcitydispatch.blogspot.com

Works cited: 
Early, M. (2020, August 11). Astro Speedway Skatepark [Telephone interview]. 

Kingston, Malakai. Michael Early Pool King Founder/Owner. 2007, web.archive.org/web/20100917145156/www.poolkingskateboards.com/michaelearly.html. 

Murphy, Jim. “BILL DANFORTH.” Juice Magazine, 8 Nov. 2014, juicemagazine.com/home/bill-danforth/. 

Yandall, C. (1979, April). National Skateboard Review, 3(12), 3-4. 

A dual project done in collaboration with Tulip City Dispatch

Now, skateboarding is mostly a West Coast thing that spilled across the country, and took root in major metropolitan centers across the country.  I’m a history nerd, obviously, with huge amounts of skate nerd thrown in.  I’m the kind of guy who would ride my boards around college parking lots with pockets full of bushings and various other pieces of hardware, just to feel the tangible differences between each one.  It goes without saying that the nerdery runs deep.
This post is not intended to be a full article, but more of a gauge of interest, and a collection of thoughts – there are a lot of small things to cover, and I’d love to exercise the connections I’ve made over the years to find out more.
First up, the Astro Speedway.  I graduated from Jenison High School in Jenison, Michigan.  There was always an urban legend of a skating rink hidden under the floors of Field’s Fabrics.  Turns out this was the rare gem of an urban legend that is mostly true.  While it wasn’t a roller rink, there was a skatepark named The Astro Speedway.  Sadly, most of the links I had saved are now dead (“tHe iNtErNeT iS fOrEvEr” my left foot, all this information is unrecoverable).  But, I did find a .pdf detailing a 1979 skateboard contest at The Astro Speedway, hosted by Chris Yandall (RIP, man).  While the magazine listed above says that The Astro Speedway was in Grand Rapids, that’s the nearest metro area.  This book lists Astro Speedway as being in Jenison.  An old forum post mentioned “A Joann Fabrics store in Jenison,” but there isn’t one there, and a former coworker who married into the Field’s family did confirm to me, that there is indeed, a filled-in skatepark underneath her in-laws’ fabric store.  Another source had to be accessed by the Wayback Machine, but it has actual pictures of The Astro Speedway!
A tangential rumor I’d love to pursue was given to me by Yandall, on the forums at Silverfish.  Unfortunately, he passed away before I had a chance to ask him more:  He said there was a snake run somewhere on the site of East Kentwood High School that was still intact enough to skate on, as of 2009.
I touched on this in a previous article on Board Life, but there was one point between 2010 and 2013 where you could build an entire longboard based on Michigan-only companies:  REY Trucks out of Muskegon, Milk Surfer or Zuma wheels out of Grand Rapids, there was a military-inspired griptape company out of Detroit, any number of bearing and hardware importers from across the state, and dozens of board manufacturers.  Related to this, there was a fairly major longboard race through Holland, following most of the Holland Half Marathon route that drew international attention by way of Concrete Wave Magazine.  In keeping the focus on West Michigan specifically, I’m choosing to not explore the downhill events around Boyne and Marquette, the Michigan State University parking garage longboard scene, and the Metro Detroit slalom scene.
Pro Skateboarder Josh Kalis grew up in the Burton Heights area of Grand Rapids, and had some videos shot on the Calder Plaza, and on the site where the Van Andel Arena would go on to be built.  I think one of the designers (or possibly owner) of Neff snowboard clothing was involved in GR skateboarding around the time Kalis was, but I’m drawing on the vaguest recollection of a faint memory.  Again, as I’m just spitballing ideas, this might be worthy of looking in to.
A more general idea I had was about the history of the skateboard scene around Holland, Michigan.  The Skate Casa inside RIT Music was started up as a summer job for the owner’s daughter sometime around 2004 or 2005, and still leads the way in local goods and services.  Westshore Board Sports sold longboards during the longboard boom of the late 00’s, but specialized mostly in surf, paddle, and skim boards.  There was a full-on skateshop on James St. west of US-31, but I never had the pleasure of visiting them.  My scope of history begins in roughly 2007, but there’s gotta be a lot of stuff that happened before that…like the decade of the 90’s…and the decade of the 80’s…and the decade of the 70’s…  The big news over the past 15 years circled around skateparks at the County Fairgrounds, and at Columbia Park near Downtown.  There was a plywood prefab park somewhere south of Downtown, but I never skated there and don’t know where the precise location was.
With all of that being said, I’ve got a general roadmap and some ideas laid forth.  Drop me a comment if you’d like to read more about this!  I sense this series will be more about personal interviews than bookworming at the library.
Peace, love, and powerslides!
-TulipCityDispatch and Board Life Blog

SKATEFULNESS WITH DAN AND DAVE

SKATE

FUL

NESS

WITH

DAN

AND

DAVE

 

c’mon, let’s go.

Skatefulness With Dan And Dave is my favorite new skateboard-related podcast!  It centers around Mike Vallely’s brand, Street Plant, and the community involvement associated with the brand and their diehard fans, the Street Plant Battalion.  The coolest part is that, because of their association with the Battalion, they call up and interview one loyal customer per week.

It’s hard to articulate the stoke oozing from my speakers when this podcast is on.  Straight up, you’ve gotta have a quantity of stoke in order to publish a podcast.  Skatefulness is definitely in the same vein as Frontside 360, moreso than The Venom Skate Podcast or The Nine Club.  There’s a lot less insider knowledge required than there is with more specialized content.  I won’t say it’s totally beginner friendly, as there is a little barrier to entry, but Skatefulness is very welcoming and mellow.

It’s right there in the title – a portmanteau of “skate” and “gratefulness.”  Hearing these stories of real skaters, their struggles, and how skateboarding has helped them through dark or hard times exudes a low-key, smoldering hope.  It’s there, it’s tangible, but it’s not in your face.  Through the Mike Vallely interviews featured in the show, I feel like I’ve grown to know the man more than “just” an angry vegan, or the guy fighting off 4 other guys, or the antagonist of Paul Blart Mall Cop.  Mike’s emotions are human, and he expresses them as best as he can.  That’s what the Street Plant brand is about, and that’s what Skatefulness showcases incredibly well.

I’ll be honest – the format is a little dry, and it took me several episodes to fully get into.  But, I’m glad I put in the time to listen, especially after reflecting on my own skate journey here.  This podcast truly inspires joy and inspiration.

I didn’t expect to be able to squeeze 8 entries out of that story!  All that I set out to accomplish was basically tell 3 separate stories:  Pre-skateboarding, college years, and post-college skateboarding and how I’m learning to skate with my old man body.  The wild focus on gear wasn’t what I expected to get into, though I suppose, the sheer amount of gear I’ve owned is as important to my skateboard journey as the friends I’ve made and the good times I’ve had.

I had to go back and edit one of the posts – said something I probably shouldn’t have, and upon reading back upon my older posts, I realized that there are some patterns of general negativity, judgemental behaviors, and juvenile attitudes – to be expected, I suppose, from a blog that was set up to express the frustrations and drudgery of part-time retail work.  But, I hope I can impress upon the readers that it’s not my intention to actively spread negativity.  This is just my own opinions from exploring the world around me.  While I don’t want to go back and edit out all the negativity, I’m striving to remain more and more positive this year.  Seriously, I can furnish a picture of my 2020 New Years’ Resolutions if you want to see that I’m actively trying to better myself.

I’ve addressed this before – I spent a LOT of years with a lot of hate in my heart, and that manifested itself in my refusal to see “outside the box” of a scarce few companies, and made me nearly completely gloss over the biggest skate boom in 20 years.  I try to live a life without regrets, but one of the things I do regret is closing myself off so much.  I was stubborn and bullheaded, and because of my own preconceived notions, couldn’t keep my head on straight and see the forest for the trees.  It was cool to be a diehard fan of certain brands, but I definitely took it too far.

In light of that, please, leave a comment directly (or email me…pretty sure my email address is available on here) if there’s anything misrepresented or factually untrue, and I’ll do my best to correct it.  If anything comes across as too inflammatory or abrasive, let me know as well.

We’re all in this together – both with the skate industry downturn, and with the CoVid-19 economic shenanigans, and I’d love to pledge to my readers, and internet buddies that I’ll do my best to brighten up the corner where I sit.

Thanks, guys!  Please keep on reading, and let me know what you want to read

Peace, love, and powerslides
Shopmonkey/Knuckleduster

This blog sat dormant for most of 2014 for a host of reasons.  I just got married during summer 2013, so there was a lot of adjustment between Q4 of 2013 and Q1 of 2014, finding a house to live in, getting used to that whole “living with a girl” thing, finding a job, etc.

After moving into our new house in November 2013, we began combining our household equipment and other worldly possessions.  Something I hadn’t done in years was gather all of the boards I owned into one location for a picture:8908EDF8-C655-4290-8027-D0DCC91FCC88.jpgLeft to right, back row:  Moose Pool board, Indy 169’s, Earthwing Slide A’s; Earthwing Superglider, Bennett 6.0 Front, Indy 149 Rear, Bennett Alligator wheels; Earthwing Supermodel, Randal 180’s; Earthwing Butterballs; CLB Eleanor, Randal 180’s, Earthwing 76mm Superballs; TVS Lady Cruiser, Randal 160/DH’s, Abec11 Flashbacks; Homemade Darren Lott “Gumball Machine” street luge, Veloz trucks; Seismic Blastwaves; Pavel Downhillbilly Ditch Board, Randal 180’s, Abec11 Pink Powerballs; Neversummer Deviant, Bear Grizzly Trucks, Neversummer NSA Wheels; Dregs Race (owned by Biker Sherlock, raced by Dane VanBommel), Randal DH trucks; Abec11 Flashbacks; Tunnel Comp, Other Planet Trucks, Abec11 Retro Freeride wheels; Sector9 Race, Indy 169’s, Sector9 GOS wheels.  Standing on edge are an LVBC 8.5″ blank on Gullwing Street Shadows and Spitfire 80HD’s; and an Alien Workshop Josh Kalis on probably Indys and Spitfires.  On the floor, left to right:  Homemade 70’s cruiser, black Krux, and those damned Jelly wheels that I said I got rid of in Part 4 or 5; Hobie Skitch Hitchcock World Champion, ACS trucks, loose-ball urethane wheels; Element Ray Barbee, Element Phase 2 trucks, Element All Terrain 95a wheels; way in the background is a Creep Show Superhero deck that eventually got set up on Paris Street Trucks and Orangatang Onsens; in front of that is a Dregs Mini (from the same collection as the Raceboard pictured above); and a 70’s Hardwood blank with Tracker Midtracks and OJII wheels.  Not pictured are a matching homemade 70’s board, a Dregs/H-Street Pool board (on Stage 3 Indys, and Gravity Super Slider wheels, rounding out the Dregs collection I purchased); that Flip Tom Penny from a few entries back; and I swear there was another street/trick setup – that summer, I’d stopped by a local skatepark and gave 3 completes to some stoked skater kids; the Element, the AWS, and a third one that wasn’t the Flip.

All these boards – and I bought a new one to celebrate the new job I’d acquired:  A Sk8kings Maximus, that I’d been drooling over since the board debuted in 2007:  A 36″ monstrosity done only the way that Sk8kings can.  A behemoth of a slalom board that I set up on a Bennett front/Randal rear combo with atomic yellow Abec11 Zigzag wheels.  Sk8kings are great folks, they’ll be in regular contact making sure you’re getting the exact right board for your situation.  The board came with the appropriate wedged risers for my exact purposes.

First time I had it out, July 7, 2014, I went to a mile-long paved path to try it out.  Everything was going good until about a quarter mile from the end:  A small pebble had wedged itself underneath the kingpin of the Bennett truck, in the exact right spot to cause the board to screech to a halt, and send me tumbling to the pavement.  I landed on my left wrist and write elbow, severely lacerating my elbow, and leaving a pool of blood on the pavement, and also running down the skate deck when I picked it up.  I walked back home and got a ride to the emergency room:  4 stitches in my elbow, and they X-rayed my left wrist.  Diagnosis was a broken scaphoid.  They scheduled me for an emergency surgical consult, as that bone doesn’t have a lot of blood flow and has a hard time healing on its own.  I was put on a no-exercise order, as any amount of blood flow could hamper healing.  No lifting any weight of any kind, and they even dissuaded me from walking around the neighborhood.

Oh, that new job I just started?  Yeah, they dropped me on my ass.  On top of that, they kept battling my unemployment claim, saying I was “disabled” and couldn’t work, despite my orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist saying I could do anything they wanted me to, so long as it didn’t involve lifting weight; and there was a lot of light factory work, even office and design work, that could’ve been done.

Anyway, I just had surgery, and all the emergency medical expenses that came with getting stitched and X-rayed, and had just lost my income, and was being battled on my unemployment claim to boot.  Thank God for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare, for you Fox News types), for offering my wife and I the chance to have gotten insurance, thereby reducing my bills from $13,000 to $3,000.  I was able to take out a line of credit and get on a payment plan, but still had to find some way of paying the bills.

Funny thing was that the orthopedist pegged me right away as a boardsport enthusiast – my injury is dreadfully common in young men in their mid to late 20’s, as they’re not used to their less-bouncy adult bodies, and carry on skateboarding, snowboarding, etc.  He recommended some gloves that motorcyclists wear, with some plastic skidplates on the palm:  More or less describing the exact same slide glove I’d normally have worn.  I told him that, and he began laughing.  He’d never heard of such a thing, being made for the explicit purpose of skateboarding.

…And that was my 2014.

I mentioned in Part 6 that Spring 2012 was the last time I’d ridden a luge, and that’s a memory burn for me because I was considering 2 different career paths at the time.  I ultimately took a job working road construction, but at the same time, took a part-time weekend gig at a real, actual skateshop! In a unique bit of symmetry, that was the job that led me to starting this blog.

I did my best to keep customers informed and equipped with the best stuff possible, and was proud of the work I was able to do.  I learned a LOT as well, from all the different types of people that I interacted with on a daily basis.  I’ll spare the day to day minutiae, if you’re truly interested in life at the shop, check out any post from before 2014.

This is when I was truly clued into the benefits of high-end bearings.  There’s something to be said about buying cheap bearings, maintaining ’em as best as you can, but otherwise not worrying about wrecking ’em or disposing of ’em when they break.  There’s also something to be said, not necessarily about babying bearings, but buying something higher-end that’ll generally require less maintenance and will provide a little extra somethin’ somethin’…I liked Seismic Tektons because, on the little course I rode, they provided a little extra rollout speed.  I liked Toy Machine T-Sect bearings because they stood up to the sideloads of sliding and didn’t wear out as quickly as something like a Bones Red.  I liked the simplicity pioneered by Abec11 Biltins, and I liked when Zealous picked up that torch and brought it over the line with their self-healing nanoceramic grease.

I tried to assemble a skate team, but that never got off the ground.  What did get off the ground was a small series of underground skate events!  I got to meet some cool skaters from across the state of Michigan at a series of sessions at a top-secret ditch spot, and two hilly subdivisions.

2013 opened with another cool opportunity afforded to me by the Silverfish forums:  The chance to do some product testing on a prototype Neversummer longboard.  Working at the shop gave me the opportunities to purchase a lot of gear at a pretty insane deal:  While working through my period-correct longboards (between the TVS, the Dregs, and the Sector9 Race), I also set out to recreate a board from my very first skateboard memory:  A classmate had brought a CCS catalog into school in 4th grade.  We all gathered around, admiring all the gear, and being completely entranced with the sheer quantity of everything.  I’d discovered a website (defunct as of April 2020) with scans and PDF’s of CCS catalogs dating back to the late 80’s.  So, I scoured that webpage for ages, trying to locate and buy new gear (in 2012 and 2013) that was in that very catalog.  Through the ages, I’d acquired a few sets of Stage 8 Independent Trucks (the same ones in production in 1998), and somehow found a set of tile-blue Spitfire wheels that were a limited run in 1998.  Both were in the catalog in question.  As luck would have it, the skateshop got a reissued Flip Tom Penny board; the graphic being a nod to one of Tom’s earlier graphics that had appeared in the very same CCS catalog I was using as inspiration.

I’m realizing as I type this that I’m running short on source material – a great deal of my board life that occurred in 2012, 2013, and later has already been covered.  But, there’s one incident in 2014 that I’ll cover tomorrow in Part 8.

2011 kicked off with a new hobby:  Snowboarding!  I’d picked up a 1992 Burton Air snowboard from a local pawn shop and got it set up with help from Casualties Marquette, and the Switchback Gear Exchange.  There’s a lot of crossover between longboarding and snowboarding, with one key difference:  Snowboarding requires you to effectively straighten out your path of travel while carving; longboarding allows you to ping rail to rail (which is why slalom pumping and long distance pumping work).  I got off the bunny hill within a few sessions, and wound up being able to comfortably charge the green slopes by the end of the season.  For years, I’d slammed snowboarders as “bros,” lacking in intellect and subtlety, and generally milling about the world in a marijuana-riddled daze.  After I bought my first board, I saw how wrong I was.  One of my biggest regrets in college was not picking up a snowboard sooner.  Gliding down powdery slopes gave me as freeing of a feeling as longboarding had done for so many years.

One pretty important piece of gear acquisition in 2011 was the Dregs Race that I purchased from the RIT Music Skate Casa in Holland, Michigan.  That was the second board in my Gravity Games collection, and came mounted up with a set of Dregs Labeda wheels that bore a striking resemblance to the old Exkate Turbo wheels; highly desirable in the 2002 time frame I was trying to clone.  Ultimately, I put the Labedas onto the TVS board (to more closely emulate a Gary Hardwick setup), and put some red Kryptonics onto the Dregs board.

On top of that, I was selected randomly to do a set of community trials and reviews on Veloz Trucks.  I can’t sufficiently express the gratitude I still have for that company, for giving me a cool opportunity to test their gear.  The trucks, after being tested for the review linked above, would wind up mounted on a Gumball Machine street luge that I’d built for a class project in 2011.

I built some small locker-sized boards inspired by a Longboard Larry Humu to try and drum up a few bucks during the fall semester, but precisely none of them sold.  I did sell the Feralarts Rabid Rodent to a classmate, and in doing so, got rid of the 70mm Zigzags referenced a while back…must’ve been mounted on that set of Indy 169’s, because I’ve lost all photographic evidence of those trucks after this point.

I’d also built up the parts to build a full Element-branded complete, when I won a set of their Phase 2 trucks from the old Search + Win online contests.  And, some G&S Bam Bams to round out the G&S Billy Ruff I’d been riding since the previous Halloween.

I entered 2012 as a new college graduate, armed with a rack of boards totally different than I’d started the fall semester with – and just like that, my gear exchanges slowed.  Not only did my budgetary and financial situation change to paying bills and not just having fun money, but the entire used market slowed.  Buy/Sell/Trade sections on many different websites (not just Silverfish, where most of my dealing was done, but also Skullandbones and NCDSA) slowed to a crawl as people began taking to Facebook Marketplace to sell their wares.  Post office prices had begun rising, making it harder to ship stuff across the country.

A couple of boards I picked up were an S9 Raceboard (through trade), and an Earthwing Supermodel (one of the last boards sold by MileHighSkates.com, the other being a 2011 Superglider that my wife bought).  I wound up selling my own red Superglider and my Pavel GoG slalom board to a gent in Chicago…that was one of the events that inspired my wife to buy her ’11 Superglider:  She loved my red one, and I went and sold it.  Having traded the Faltown, that left me with the Moose board as my primary hardwheel sliding board, up until 2018.

Spring of 2012 was the last time I rode my snowboard and my luge – due to a freaky weather pattern, it hit the 80’s on St. Patrick’s Day in Michigan, then we had a substantial amount of snow.  I was in my backyard, practicing some flatground maneuvers on my snowboard, and wound up pulling the binding screw clean out of the deck.  Ultimately, I sold the deck to a collector, but that was another 5 years later.  I brought my luge out to a local park, and while out there, had gotten 2 phone calls for life-altering job offers…I had a small nervous breakdown while considering each option, and never actually rode the luge again.

When I started this journey, I never thought I’d be able to dive this deep into my skateboard story.  I’m caused to wonder how much I can write, then I hit that 1,000 word mark, and realize I’m still not done, and that I’ll have to write yet another chapter.  But, 2010 marked a few important milestones for me:

  • I got back to my “roots” by buying another one of the Moose pool boards, referenced in part 1, to reignite my love for hard-wheel techsliding
  • I bought my first board and began digging into my studies of Millennium-era downhill setups, like those from the Gravity Games
  • I became the stuff of legend at the emergency department at my college’s hospital after messing my face up somethin’ fierce in a gnarly wipeout in November
  • I was allowed back onto the Silverfish forums

I had my Faltown 3.2 set up on Indys and…I don’t even remember, either 96a Noskoolz or Spitfire Numero Uno wheels, for sliding.  I wanted to recapture my roots, so I bought another 10×34 Moose pool board, and set it up on some second-generation Earthwing Slide A’s.  First gen had a red core, the same core seen on wheels like Rainskates, from Creative Urethane.  Second gen had a black core.  The legend was that Earthwing got Creative to pour them some skateboard wheels in an aggressive inline formula, but I’ve not been able to verify that at all.  The only thing I’ve heard was a small note on the Earthwing Instagram page saying that the Slide A formula was too expensive, and that they would’ve had to substantially increase the price to make enough profit on ’em.  Under my feet, the First Gens felt a little more compliant; they had a “whooshy” sound when going fast, and gripped quite hard on concrete and (strangely enough) on wet asphalt…something about water getting into the pores of the asphalt created surface tension (as you’d feel if you submerged a cup in a pool, inverted it, and tried to lift it out of the pool).  Second Gens feel harsher underfoot, have a higher-pitched “screamy” sound, and will throw you on your ass if you ride them on a wet surface.  I haven’t ridden any of the other Earthwing slide wheels (including the 48d Dual Duros or their street wheels), nor have I ridden Rainskates Avalanches, which have been advertised as a continuation of the Creative Urethane tech-slide evolution.

Going back to my review ethos, if I like something, I’ll ride it.  And, I just plain didn’t ride the Moose as much as I did the Faltown.  So, the Slide A’s went onto the Faltown, and I put some different Earthwing 66mm slalom-shaped wheels onto the Moose for use as a campus cruiser…which is what I was riding when I messed my face up so badly:  On November 8, 2010 (I wrote the date on the board), I threw my board down at the back exit of the library, and rode down the hill to my wife’s apartment.  I got speed wobbles – not a big deal, just relax and ride ’em out.  Except, I hit one of those crack seal lines in the road…you know the ones, those snake-lookin’ black lines of tar.  As I was at the extent of one of my wobbles, I’d hit one of the lines, which caused the wheel to bump up into the deck:  Wheelbite!  The deck stopped, and I fell flat onto my face; glasses shoved up into my eyebrow, causing a deep laceration; chipped a tooth; landed on my left wrist with my right arm curled underneath my chest.  We went to the ER, and got a concussion test and everything, though I should’ve probably pressed harder on the wrist injury I’d sustained.

Back it up a few steps – An old skateshop (Eastcoastskates.com) was going out of business, which I’d been clued into upon my return to Silverfish.  They were the storefront that sold Capital Skateboards, Nicotine Wheels, and a few other key brands from the late 90’s.  I’m not sure on the details, but the owner had some legal issues, then his brother took over the shop in order to liquidate the stock.  I acquired 2 boards from them:  The TVS Lady Cruiser, and a Capital Freestyle deck.  The TVS was my very first Gravity Games board.  Using the online resources of Silverfish, which I was allowed back onto I *think* in September of 2010, I perused their backlog of scans of International Longboarder and Concrete Wave magazines endlessly, searching for the types of boards that would’ve been ridden between 1998 and 2002.  There are a lot of videos on Youtube in 2020, but there weren’t in 2010, so magazine scans were all I had to go on.

But, being on Silverfish is what afforded me the opportunity for a couple of wheel purchases:  The second-gen Slide A’s mentioned above, and some prototype UFO wheels from circa 2002.  I’ve got an email from Angela Madrid, at Madrid Skateboards, confirming that they did indeed try to relaunch the UFO brand in the early 00’s, and that the wheels I had (still possess to this day) were made in their urethane shop.

It also put into perspective that I’d missed a year and a half of growth; an episode of growth that showed longboarding to have been outgrowing traditional/street/trick-based skateboarding for the first time ever; showed Silverfish to have broken the 100,000 user barrier, which led to Silverfish being the biggest skateboard site on the entire Internet; made full-time employees out of boutique skateboard brands; and showcased the entire mainstreaming of a once-niche, cottage industry:  A wise friend once put it “If your activity is big enough to have poseurs, your activity is already mainstream.”  I was completely out of the loop as far as techniques, trends, and gear, which is partially what jammed me into the “good enough” mentality for so many years…If I wasn’t impressed with the (comparably small) improvements from 2007 to 2009, I certainly wouldn’t be impressed with the improvements from 2009 to 2010.  What I didn’t fully appreciate (until much, much later) was how many improvements had been made in chemical engineering and urethane production as it applied to skateboard wheels and bushings; the improvements in truck designs over a semi-basic Randal RII/Paris/Gullwing Charger type geometry; and how board shapes improved to be fully functional over being purely aesthetic, and therefore, easier to ride.

Late 2008 to early 2009 led to me reconsidering my online presence.  I mentioned in Part 3 that I ended up getting banned from the Silverfish forums as a result of trolling, shitposting, and a generally negative attitude by March of 2009.  I made a return to the initial forums I’d joined, and tried to act as the more mature character, a wizened Internet veteran, a calm presence that informed rather than argued.  That didn’t pan out as I’d planned, and I wrote this emo rant shortly before my perma ban.

This was right around the time when Facebook went public:  They were originally a college-only social network where representatives from your college had to apply, then pass out invitations to enroll.  They slowly opened up to where colleges need to apply to be on the network, but users did not need invitations; then, they opened up to anyone with a college email address; and eventually anyone with a school email address; before finally opening enrollment to the whole world.  There were some fundamental changes made with how Facebook dealt with users’ content, users’ information, and the entire user experience that ultimately led to me requesting a full deletion of my profile.  The actual incident was one where they made some sweeping changes in the newsfeed, then ran a poll to see what users thought of it.  The results were something obscene, like 10,000 to 1 votes saying to change it back to the old layout, then Facebook released a statement basically saying “LOL JK, you’re our bitches, we don’t care,” so I backed out.

Wrap that up with some personal information being leaked, and a rather unique situation where an individual followed me around the Internet to inquire about a board I had for sale:  He found a picture on my Photobucket, traced it to a forum where I had the board posted, looked up the email address I had registered on the forum with, and then contacted me through the job search aggregator, Indeed.com.  This was the catalyst I needed to consider spreading out my internet footprint, and change up the usernames across platforms.  To this day, I maintain somewhere between 9 and 12 email addresses, each with its own set of purposes (job hunting, spam/marketing lists, social media, etc.), and have since adopted different usernames across each new site I register for.  It’s not much, in the grand scheme of things, but it makes me feel better.

Fall and winter of 2008 gave me some new gear acquisitions, as I was trying to rekindle my stoke and deal with the angst and internal turmoil that came from having ended my season on a sour note.  One of the boards I bought was a Kebbek Revenger, used by a racer in an IGSA event; trying to get myself back into the “topmount speedboard” hype that I was channelling with my Presque bro model.  By 2009, I was in full swing of buying new bits and pieces to make my boards ride differently:  I’d swapped the Grizzlies from my CLB Eleanor onto the Kebbek, and went with an all-black motif on the carbon fiber-clad Eleanor by buying black Randal RII’s, dusting off those black 76mm Earthwing Superballs, and even going with black hardware and black JimZ bushings.  I bought a street deck from the local skate shop, Casualties, in yet another vain attempt at learning trick and street skating (I still haven’t learned it, 11 years later).  And, I gave into the Hype Machine by buying Orangatang Wheels and Venom Bushings for a few of my setups.

With all of that said though, I honestly didn’t do a whole lot of skateboarding throughout spring, summer, and fall of 2009, and was absent from the GearSplosion of 2009.   I sold the Kebbek by mid-July, but not before being able to compare 70mm 80a wheels from both Abec11 and Orangatang; which was honestly one of my favorite memories of that year.

By December of 2009, I owned about 12 different completes:  The Powell/Peralta Ray Bones, this time set up on Bull Dog Skates Shogo Kubo wheels and Indy trucks; a G&S Billy Ruff all original on Tracker Sixtracks and OJ Freez Streets; my trusty Pavel GoG still on a Bennett/Tracker combo; a Habitat Kerry Getz street deck on Indys and Spitfires; a blank Criddle Kult street deck on Venture trucks and Spitfires; my Faltown 3.2 Slide Deck on Indys and Earthwing Slide A’s; my Feralarts Rabid Rodent Revenge on more/different Indys and 96a Abec11 Noskoolz; Earthwing Superglider on Tracker RTX/S 149’s and those Orangatang 4Presidents (I had a writeup done on the versatility of this board in a long-DSCF0003distance pumping scenario, but didn’t back it up); according to a picture I have, I still owned my homemade pintail at this point, but I think I mentioned in a previous post that I’d disposed of it, sitting on Bear Grizzlies and the Seismic Blastwaves that had been on various boards around my quiver; my CLB Eleanor sittin’ pretty on black Randals and black Earthwing Wheels; my dad’s homemade board; and my own buttboard.

Sometime around this is when I had a come-to-Jesus moment and realized that it wasn’t my destiny to be one of those movers and shakers of the industry; I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my way of life in order to travel the continent in search of downhill or slalom races; and that I wasn’t in a situation to begin making or marketing my own skate products on an appreciable scale.  One of my coolest stories, whether or not it’s 100% true, was that I submitted a diagram to Randal Trucks for a bushing resembling the “barricle” that they wound up adopting (similar to a Venom Freeride bushing), but I’ve received no official credit; all I’m basing my hypothesis on is the fact that I was in contact with the guy behind the Hi Kids series, who was working on revamping Randal’s image at the time.

2010 would start without a whole heckuva lot of skating for me, as I’d spend most of the year obsessed with cycling – I spent a good 7 months buying parts out of clearance bins and discount sections of shops and websites, to build a friggin’ sweet road bike.