Posts Tagged ‘social media’

I’ve been able to dive headlong into the Venom Skate Podcast, as I made a review of back in November.  It’s addicting!  Episode 1, which I reviewed above, was so engrossing that I had it on in my car…then, I kept on driving around for a long time…then I got home and put on GTA V just to drive around the countryside in the game just to keep listening to the first ‘sode with Roger Hickey.  Episode 2 was a two-parter with Pete Connally, which I didn’t review, but now I’m on Episode 4 (third guest) with Rick Kludy.

I love Zak Maytum’s rapport with his guests, especially in this episode.  You can tell, just from the chemistry, that there’s a lot of mutual respect between Kludy and Maytum.  Kludy’s an OG, who began racing in the late 90’s, and was an “old man” in his 30’s even then.  Gives me hope that I’ll still be able to keep a board under my feet for a good long while.

A few things I learned from this episode:  Nicotine made downhill/longboard wheels – I’d always known them as a freestyle and street brand.  They were made on the East Coast, which I think puts them at Mearthane (as I’m really reaching back to an old list I’d compiled for Silverfish, noting which wheels were manufactured at which facilities).  Kludy confirmed what Hickey suspected in the first episode, that early competitions were almost rigged to put the racers that the sanctioning body wanted, into the races that they wanted them in, regardless of ranking or performance.

I’ve been inspired to take to the messageboards and try to find whatever footage I could from Kludy’s early races.  I rediscovered a segment of Wheelbase Mag, called Camcorder Classics, that covers a TON of old videos like that.  And, I think I have a small gallery of pics of Kludy himself saved on my harddrive, just from collecting pics across the years; especially from doing research into my early-2000’s board collection.

Another podcast that has only just fired up is the Frontside 360 Podcast.  They’ve got a corresponding blog, and a presence on one of the forums I’m still active on.  While the Venom Skate Podcast is nearly entirely geared at showcasing the history of downhill skateboarding/speedboarding/racing, Frontside 360 takes a more mellow approach at things.  But, not too mellow…no dreadlocks, macrame necklaces, and tie-dyed ponchos here.  They totally capture the soul of rolling and turning on a board, and acknowledging the pure feeling of rolling and turning, while still appreciating the difficulties of technical, aerial maneuvers.

Frontside 360 has most definitely inspired me to tweak a couple of my boards to be skated in a ditch – as soon as this quarantine lifts, I’ve got two ditches on my list to go try and skate again.


I’ve danced around this rant a few times in the past.  As much as I hated hearing this from clueless shop owners “It’s all about what you want, bro.”  I’ve had riding buddies fall off of my boards because they turned too sharply; conversely, I’ve nearly fallen off of buddies’ boards because they didn’t turn sharply enough.  The footnote in my Abec11 vs. Otang review put it succinctly:  To paraphrase, if you don’t like a particular piece of gear, you’re not going to ride it.  Back it up a step, and if a particular piece of gear doesn’t work for you, you’re not going to like it.  This is one of the reasons I was always so critical of The Hype Train…just because something is new and shiny doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll work for your purposes.  And, when something is new and shiny, the marketing team is likely to be in full force, making you (the consumer) see just how new and shiny it is.  I’m not saying you can’t trust early reviews, but these need to be taken with a grain of salt.  I was mad hyped on the Neversummer board, and the Veloz trucks, but at the end of the day, the results spoke for themselves:  I (sadly) traded the Neversummer Deviant away (shoulda kept it), and left the Veloz trucks off of any board.  But, I gave ’em positive reviews because I was hyped up on ’em.

There’s an odd resurgence in the skateboard world.  After forums have maked and breaked our beloved sport of skateboarding, Facebook took it over.  Skaters sought not good, solid information, but rather, to have their own opinions validated.  They sought Instagram glory over discussing wheels, bearings, and bushings ad nauseum.  And yet, there were holdouts.  There were those among us who shunned the instantaneous and superficial satisfaction, in hopes that true passion, heart, and knowledge would shine through.

There’s a common thread between skateboarding and forums.  There’s a raw energy that drives likeminded people to connect in specialized forums…that same raw energy is at the heart of skateboarding.  Skaters are creative, freaky weirdos. Skaters, by their very nature, are inquisitive and inventive.  That same creative, freaky, inquisitive, inventiveness drove the .com bubble in the late 90’s, spawned social media, continues to invigorate the gig economy and today’s DIY ethos.  So, it’s no surprise that skate forums, once having been left for dead on the side of the road, are still kickin’.  Here’s a brief rundown on a few of my favorites:

First up, we have the site Gnarwheels.  Gnarwheels formed from one of the malware attacks on Silverfish, after a couple skate geezers wanted to stay in touch.  There are a few SFL holdouts on there; maybe a dozen or so regular posters.  There’s a lot of cool, informative, tech talk here…a LOT of intelligent skate nerds hang out there.

Skaterscafe is a more traditional street skating forum, dating from 2004.  There are 6 or 8 OG members still posting.  Being more of a street skate site, the posters are a little more aggro, and a little less concerned with minutiae, but they’re some of the coolest, most down-to-earth guys I’ve encountered online.

AlwaysWill seems based out of the old freestyle skateboarding forums, and is centered mostly around flatland, freestyle, ditches and banks.  There’s a healthy bit of nerdliness here, but my experience is warm and mellow.

Skullandbones is a skate collector’s site, focused more primarily on skateboard art, culture, collecting, and old-school (pre-1990’s) skateboarding.  I’ve been an active, posting member for nearly a decade here, and I still can’t quite figure the place out.  There are a lot of big, dynamic personalities, which certainly lends itself to some fun drama and colorful e-suicides.

On September 21, 2017, the website went dark.  It’s not the first skateboard forum to go bye-bye, and it won’t be the last.  But, I’ll be honest, it was hard for me.  I wasn’t involved in running the site at all, but Silverfish was my very first introduction to longboarding, something that’s become a vital part of my life.  Hell, people know me as “longboard guy,” and that’s something that can’t be faked.  I’m not super skilled or anything, but longboarding is something that I’ve grown up around, and something that I’ve taken from college adolescence into post-graduate adulthood, all the while having my loving wife at my side, encouraging me the whole time.

Sometime between the 28th and October 3rd, even Google removed any links to Silverfish from their cache.  Whoever said “The internet is permanent” is only partially correct – the Internet is only permanent if anyone cares enough to save and backup all that data.  The thing with Silverfish is that the site dated to the year 2000…the site in its most recent iteration began a couple years later in 2002.  So, there’s over 15 years of information that went *kaput* in the blink of an eye.  Sure, there were millions of posts of drivel, asking which wheels were best for sliding, or if I can cruise on this board, but an online community like Silverfish is deeper than that.

A community like the one that grew around Silverfish transcended longboarding.  Relationships form, local skate crews used to congregate there, events were organized, people even fell in love and developed romantic relationships using Silverfish.  That’s not to mention the humongous exposure that brands got through word-of-mouth, product demos, and genuinely stoked users.  There were brands that existed solely within the confines of Silverfish, and while that’s not necessarily a long-term sustainable business model, people made a frickin’ living selling boards on this one website!  There were at least 2 brands I can think of offhand whose owners actually quit their 9 to 5 jobs to make boards full time!

I’ve been in contact with the owners of Silverfish for years…again, the relationships that form are pretty real.  I’ve got at least one of ’em on my phone, and the other on a few other sites.  Looking through texts and emails to me, as well as a few “in memoriam” pieces that I’ve read, it seems like the site’s demise was a long time coming.  I’ve touched on the longboard EXPLOSION of 2009 a little before, and that brought about dozens of new companies.  I liked to say that everyone and their duck had a board, truck, or wheel company.  With that came most of these brands looking to establish an online presence – what a better tool to use than Silverfish?  By 2009, they had over 10,000 daily page views, and at their peak, over 100,000 active users (making it, for all intents and purposes, the largest skateboard site on the whole internet).  Some of this was due to the great recession, no doubt.  Cabinet makers could keep their carpenters busy during the downturn by cranking out boards; machine shops could keep their employees busy knocking out precision skateboard trucks; urethane manufacturers could keep their guys busy by producing small batches of wheels.  Once the Recession was over, and they could go back to doing their own thing, they dropped longboards like a bad habit.  As a result, brands folded, and advertising dollars to Silverfish decreased.  As revenue decreased, so did the support for maintaining such a huge infrastructure…as support decreased, malware and spam attacks increased, which drove away page views, which drove away ad dollars, and repeat ad infinitum.

Meanwhile, Facebook and Reddit were also exploding in popularity, and forums in general were declining…I mean, who wants to remember a different username and password for 18 different forums when you can just go on the Facebook that you’re already checking 48 times a day and check on those 18 different interests in one stop?  The problem is that Reddit and Facebook don’t have the history, nor do they have a meaningful way of organizing what they have like a forum does.  And, in my experience, pseudo-celebs don’t really respond on Facebook or Reddit…I can’t tell you how many movers and shakers of the sport and industry I personally dealt with either by private message or in the chatrooms at Silverfish…most of whom have generic corporate accounts set up on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, and don’t get involved personally.

It blows.  It blows hard seeing the former largest skateboard site on the internet just evaporate into the ether.  But, with that, I’ll close with a few inspirational quotes from the owner:

We knew the best wheel for sliding all along, but people have to find it for themselves.

The sage, Longboard Buddha, once said “A tree spends 100% of its lifetime in a static environment and only after its reincarnation as a deck is it allowed to move at fast speeds. When allowed, the wood will give thankless service if allowed to flow”

Online forums save longboard maker’s sale from going downhill

That’s from a Canadian newspaper, talking about how Rayne Longboards really utilizes social media, specifically in the shape of forums, to help their brand grow.  I’ve often thought it was weird how all of longboarding has sorta snuck into the mainstream, using social media and Web 2.0.  Rayne’s a perfect example of that, as illustrated in the article.

I look at the skate scene in my home state as another weird example of how social media helps grow longboarding.  When I got into longboarding in 2007 (with much assistance from social media), I tried like hell to expand the skate scene around my college.  Meanwhile, at a State University, longboarding had been smoldering for years at that point.  The State University had been a hotbed of longboarding, and all the local shops treated it as something of a longboard mecca.  Now, the 2008 skate season ended with an injury to me, which spooked me off of the board for most of 2009.  I wound up losing my sole source of social longboard media due to some personal drama, and Facebook finally opened up their doors to everyone (not just college students).  It was during my year away from longboarding that, via Facebook, the whole state’s longboard scene EXPLODED in popularity.  The aforementioned State University, spearheaded by a young, ambitious student, stoked the longboard embers on campus up into a wild inferno that quickly took the entire state by storm.  Now, this young student had actually been in regular contact with me in years past, and I had given him some great ideas of mine, which he eventually put into place igniting the state.  It’s been phenomenal watching longboarding grow like it has throughout the state…I’m not trying to take credit for anything; I guess I’m just trying to express my disappointment in my missing it all.  And please don’t take that any of this as actual, historical fact…I’m just calling it through my own eyes, and from my own viewpoint.

Now, open up a new tab and check out longboard videos on Youtube…There are multitudes of videos about anything related to longboarding.  Many users have created their own music videos, product reviews, and promotional videos all about longboarding.  Some of the biggest names in longboarding today have gained untold popularity due to Youtube (and other video hosting sites) videos.  Loaded Longboards used Youtube as a platform to launch their Loaded Challenge video series, in which users submitted a series of trick videos to Loaded’s channel in return for a discount on boards.  Original Longboards gave discounts to subscribers to their Youtube channel.  This actually pertains to the skateshop in that the top 2 brands we get questions about are Loaded and Original, mostly due to their Youtube presence.  Sector9 went viral with their Blue Suit Bombers, which was actually featured on Tosh.0 if I remember right.  Skatehousemedia is an entire website devoted to Youtube (and Vimeo) vids.  Hell, I myself won some Veloz longboard trucks through a Youtube giveaway.

As I mentioned in Educated Idiots , a TON of people come in with bits of information gathered from online sources, be they Loaded or Original videos, skate- and longboard forums, blogs of all stripe, or Facebook groups.  So yes, I’ve seen this social media explosion happening right in my own shop.