Something is happening in Phoenix. It’s very difficult to put my finger on it precisely, or to articulate it accurately… but yes, something is definitely happening here. The independent activist skaters are starting to take over. And a collective, comprehensive skateboarding community is starting to slowly take shape around them. Phoenix is a really strange place. Being a relative newcomer here, it has taken some serious time for me to acclimate and adapt to my new surroundings. I’m a long, long way from home, and Phoenix feels extremely foreign to me. So please, as you read through the rest of the essay, keep that in mind: I’m totally new to the area. These are the experiences and observations of “The New Guy On The Block”, not one of the diehard Phoenix locals. Phoenix did not strike me as being immediately “friendly” or “welcoming” when I first rolled into town. My first impression of the place was that it was every man for himself out here, which fits in well with the whole “wild west” vibe and history, I suppose. There are a million skaters… they’re everywhere, you simply can’t avoid ’em… but very little to no “comprehensive skate community”, as we would define it back on the East Coast. Even when I would reach out to people, I oftentimes found them rather aloof, disengaged, and less than accommodating. They didn’t seem to like outsiders very much. Or maybe they just didn’t like me very much, because I’m an old, ugly, and opinionated fatass. That’s always a possibility, right…? The Gray Beard Crew kinda saved my life. That’s Phoenix’s “old-guy skateboard club”, if you didn’t know. They meet every Sunday up at Union Hills for their “Sunday Morning Mass”, which is a real hoot. Best “church” I’ve ever attended, hands down. Adam Richards is the ringleader of the gang, and he became my first friend here in town, along with the rest of the guys. I wasn’t too terribly surprised by any of this, though. Indianapolis also had a well-organized old-guy skateboard club (the Old Indy Skaters, headed up by Bart Kelley), so that felt more than normal enough. And skaters that came out of the ’80s generation still tend to be a little bit more community-minded and “aggressively accommodating” than the Millennials have become. So, no, I wasn’t at all surprised to find forty-something-year-old kindred spirits at the local skatepark. And to Phoenix’s credit, being a forty-something-year-old-skater here is also a completely normal, socially accepted paradigm. There are literally hundreds of ’em here in town. So that was a total bonus. Adam was the spark that got a lot of wheels rolling. I remember the first time he told me about his ideas for his SkaterCon event. That was a real trip, man. It sounded like an astronomically huge endeavor, one where the chances of success seemed slim at best. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, pulling something that ambitious off might be a mighty big challenge”. But outwardly, I was totally supportive of it. It sounded rad as hell, so of course I thought it was a great idea. Adam, to his credit, isn’t the sort of chap that’s scared off by a bit of hard work, or a seemingly insurmountable challenge. He put the thing together, along with a whole gang of dedicated volunteers, and it was awesome. It went off without a hitch, or even a blip; Adam and his crew really knocked it out of the ballpark, right on the first swing. It immediately became “The Event Of The Year” here in Phoenix. Of course, you can read all about it in this month’s magazine. Or, you can read all about it for free at Issuu. The choice, as always, is all yours. Inspired by Bart and Adam, I decided to help out a little bit by brainstorming a few events of my own. I really missed Bart and his fuck-all, go-for-it attitude… and Bart had a real penchant for thinking up super-spontaneous, “why-the-hell-not” sort of ideas. I was at The Wedge a few weeks later skating with Stuart Anglin… one of the diehard Phoenix locals… and I asked him when the last time was that The Wedge saw a really big skate session? His reply was that The Wedge probably hadn’t been sessioned since the late 1970’s, maybe the early ’80s at best. “Duuuuuuude! We totally have to get a session going down here! For old times’ sakes, if nothing else…!” And with that spontaneous outburst, an event was born. Nothing as outwardly ambitious as Adam’s SkaterCon, of course. But, a fun little skate jam nonetheless. Everybody came and had a grand ‘ol time. Which is always the whole point of putting these little events together in the first place. Content with how The Wedge event came out, I thought up another go-for-it little event called “CitySkate”. Again, this one was directly inspired by Bart and his Old Indy Skaters longboard cruises. Those were a heap-ton of fun, and I really missed going to them… so, why not just get up, get going, and throw one together myself? What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen? Eleven people showed up, so maybe it was a total fail. But…! Those eleven people had the time of their lives, and are kicking me in the ass to do a few more of ’em around town this summer. So maybe it wasn’t as big of a fail as I thought it was. Besides, it was still a ton fun. Which is still the whole point. I went to a mini ramp contest at Garrett Cafficus’ Wasabi Ramp last weekend, over in Tempe. Garrett and I met at SkaterCon a couple months back… that’s the great thing about Adam, he has a way of getting like-minded people together in the same place, at the same time… and we’ve become fast friends ever since. Just a couple weeks after meeting Garrett, he sent me a really welcoming email, inviting me to a contest at his ramp that “a couple of kids are organizing”. That event was also really ambitious, and a heap-ton of crazy fun. You can read all about that event here at the Concrete Wave Website, because there’s a full story about that one as well. After the contest, I was standing around chatting with Terrel, one of “the kid organizers” that Garrett had told me about. Terrel’s probably in his early 20’s, so he’s clearly of the Millennial generation that guys my age tend to look down upon as not being quite from the era of the “Golden ’80s”, when men were men, and skateboarding was at its very best. But the funny thing was, the Wasabi contest totally felt like something straight out of the 1980s. It was a total do-it-yourself, beer-and-pizza fueled, knock-down, drag-out, backyard skate jam. Actually, now that I think about it, it wasn’t “just like the ’80s”. In some ways, it was even better than the ’80s…! At some point in the conversation, I asked Terrel what his biggest worry had been as he was pitching in to put the whole event together. His answer was immediate, and kinda funny. “I was worried that nobody was gonna show up!” I took a long look around the huge, raging crowd that was surrounding the ramp… a crowd of super-happy kids with smiles plastered all over their faces… and I let out a big’ol belly laugh. “Looks like you didn’t have much to worry about, buddy…!” It’s funny, because when Adam was working on SkaterCon, and I was working on The Wedge and the the CitySkate events… those were probably our biggest concerns, too. Having a great idea is the easy part. People have great ideas all the time, all day long. Putting them into action isn’t too terribly difficult either, once you make that critical first step (which is always the most important part). The hardest part of any ambitious endeavor, though, is inviting everybody… especially if “everybody” includes perfect strangers that you’ve never met before… and then worrying all day and all night long, wondering whether anybody’s gonna show up. But if you build it, they will come. Sure, it sounds totally cliché. But clichés exist for a reason: clichés are clichés because they’re generally true. Adam and Terrell have proven that the “if you build it, they will come” theory still holds water, time and time again. The best advice that I could ever give to some kid (or, some adult) that’s thinking of putting together a homegrown skateboarding event, is really simple: F’n Do It…! Do not let the fear of failure stop you. Do not let The Negatroids and The Naysayers discourage you. Do not let the lack of industry support get you down. Find yourself a couple of like-minded nuts… if all else fails, Mike and I are always here to help… and make that shit happen! Something Always Beats Nothing. As long as you’re doing something positive, and doing it for the right reasons, then you’re automatically winning by default. The only way you can ever truly “fail” at life, is to sit around on your hands and your duff, and do nothing at all. That strategy has never done a damn thing for anybody. By the way: If you do manage to pull of an event, be sure to send in an article. Mike and I like to stay up on top of these things. Lastly, I’d like to extend a big ‘ol Thank You to four Phoenix locals that helped me out with the coverage for all these events. They are Jessie Pena, Oliver Whitelaw, Estevan Corrales, and Taylor Cohen. They’re all photographers, and together they contributed the carefully crafted photos that made my articles a little more engaging and far more compelling. I really hope they enjoyed shooting all these homegrown skate events, because I suspect they’ll be pretty busy and in demand this summer. The event calendar and The Newsletter are filling up fast. The independent activist skaters are starting to take over, and the future looks really, really fun. See ya out there somewhere.  Bud StratfordExecutive Director,Concrete Wave Magazine