And now, in 2017, we find ourselves in the remarkable position where freestyle is healthier than it’s ever been. The “old timers” who resurrected freestyle in the early 2000s have largely moved on to establish their own companies, producing an array of freestyle-specific product, and the “new blood” of that era – people such as Mike Osterman, Felix Jonsson, and myself – have become the old guard, pushing freestyle out into the world and pushing freestyle tricks in whole new directions. Significant scenes have grown in Brazil, Japan and the UK, and breakout stars of the next generation – such as Marcio Torres, Ikkei Nagao and, of course, Isamu Yamamoto – are starting to appear from those very scenes. It’s an exciting time to be a freestyler – and a truly terrifying time to be a “professional” with this new blood biting at your heels!
However, while the world of freestyle continues to grow, coverage of its various developments is sadly lacking. As such, I am here in an attempt to not only proselytize, but inform folks who might not be aware of the spread of freestyle across the parking garages, tennis courts and schoolyards of the world. Hopefully, if time and attention allows it, these will be semi-regular features, running every month or so, giving you, the reader, information as to what you might have missed and what you can look forward to over the coming weeks or months.
It would be amiss of me to not start this piece by pointing out the fact that Broken Fingers Magazine exists. Available at www.brokenfingersmag.com and running on a quarterly schedule, Broken Fingers is the only purely freestyle magazine in the world. They’re small format (like little manga books), but with high-quality printing, and each issue tends to feature an interview with a significant figure in modern freestyle, competition wrap ups, great photography from all over the world, and some thoughtful or esoteric articles about tricks or freestyle in general. The last issue, #8, featured an interview with Kauê Araujo from Brazil and a short piece on the history of the kickflip. Each issue is $5 and all the back issues are kept available, so you can grab two years’ worth of freestyle goodness in one go. Get on it.
The competition circuit has already begun for 2017. The World Round Up, the biggest freestyle event in North America, went down in Vancouver last month, with Marcio Torres taking the win for Brazil in the Am division and Isamu Yamamoto taking the win (and $3,000!) for Japan in the Pro division. That’s a lot of money for a 14 year old!
Lots went down over the weekend-long event – small Japanese children shocked the world with 720 bigspins and kickflips to coconut wheelies, Rodney Mullen turned up with pizza and promptly got mobbed by almost everyone in a two mile radius, and Jim Goodrich shared a lot of stories that I don’t think I’m legally allowed to share in a public space. While the event can boast the largest prize purse of any freestyle event in the world, the competition is almost secondary to the five days of absolute chaos and carnage inflicted on the small town of Cloverdale, Vancouver by 60+ freestylers.
I’m never getting that hotel deposit back.
The next event in the circuit is in Germany; the annual Paderborn BBQ contest is being held over the weekend of the 8th/9th of July. With a large military-style tent being put up at the side of the skatepark and an on-site breakfast being given to all the freestylers on the morning of the competition, there’s no excuse for anyone to not be there. This is going to be the 20th anniversary of the Paderborn comps, so it should be a bloody good one.
(Want to plan further out? The completely ridiculous pisstake that is the UK Round Up will mostly likely be held in London on the 22nd of July, and the World Championships take place at the newly-fledged crown jewel of the freestyle contest circuit, Stockholm, over the weekend of the 19th/20th of August. Even later than that is the 8th Philly Freestyle competition, held on September 16th. Swedish pro Felix Jonsson flew over to the States and won it last year, so patriotic Americans need to head over there to try to stop him making it two wins in a row. Make America Great Again, people.)
Old man sightings: Shane Rouse, 80s British pro, has started to join his former Death Box team-mate Mac in some freestyle sessions in London. Former Santa Cruz pro Ray Meyer appeared at the World Round Up, and seems keen on getting some of his old freestyle tricks back. Swedish legend Hans (Hazze) Lindgren will probably be making an appearance for the second year in a row at the Stockholm Freestyle event in August, and rumour has it that his fellow countryman Per Holknekt may also turn up. Will Per Welinder turn up for the second year in a row as well? You’ll have to be there to find out.
The ongoing experiment into audio torture/absolute nerdery that is the Freestyle Podcast (freestylepodcast.com) continues unabated. The most recent episodes include blow-by-blow commentary on the World Round Up and on-the-scene recordings from the event by yours truly. I have a file on my audio recorder from the end of a very drunken night which I still can’t bring myself to listen to; whether or not it ever sees the light of day remains to be seen. Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or your podcast listening software of choice and maybe it’ll appear over the coming days.
Decomposed’s endless cycle of new graphics and shapes brings us an interesting curiosity: a “reissue”/remake/homage of the Joe Ayers “Sundancer” model. Coming in at 7.75″ x 29.25″ with a classic flat nose, this one’s perfect for all your late 70s/early 80s tricks.
It’s joined by new graphics for the super-tiny Marco Sassi and the super-pervy Mario Steinemann models, and a new GI-Joe inspired board for the pogo king of 2002, Tommy Harward.
You can grab all of the above from Decomposedsk8.com; Witter’s offering the new Harward board as a complete for $130, but the smart money (by which I mean mine) would be spent on the similarly-spec’d Hazze Lindgren complete for the same price. I hear he’s not got many of those decks left, and it’s a fantastic shape.
In other new board developments, Moonshine Skateboards (not to be confused with the litigiously-named Moonshine MFG) are coming out with their first two freestyle pro models soon and a slight redevelopment of their existing 7.3″ x 28.5″ and 7.6″ x 29.5″ freestyle team models. This has involved the purchase and production of two whole new moulds – not a cheap thing to do.
Before I leave Moonshine behind to go on to the next piece of news, I hear rumours (by which I mean I was there when it happened and helped make the decision) that Moonshine have also picked up some new team riders after the World Round Up, bringing the grand total of riders to 12.
These moves show a level of commitment to freestyle not seen since the days of Walker in the 80s. Is Adam Moonshine a madman or a genius? Time will tell.
Head over to moonshineskateboards.com to see the team in full and keep an eye out for the boards. I’m very excited about one of them; no prizes for guessing why.
Something from the rumour mill: I hear on the grapevine that another significant figure in freestyle might be coming out with a new board company. WIth Decomposed, Moonshine, Mode, Sk8kings, Never Enough, Skull Skates and Cirus all making freestyle boards, is there really room for yet another brand in what is supposedly a dead market? Considering some of the above brands are struggling to keep stock in on their most popular models and the weight of the reputation of the aforementioned freestyler, maybe there is.
I couldn’t write this without mentioning the latest Novak “Short Skate Film”. Novak flew out to Japan and spent a while pointing his lens in the direction of freestyle’s current wunderkind, Isamu Yamamoto, and the finished product is just as beautiful as the rest of his work. You can see it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmJ2w7tXRGc, or, if the person editing and posting this can be bothered to embed it, somewhere between the end of this paragraph and the next one.
Possibly the most unknown and under-appreciated project in freestyle right now is the Freestyle Knowledge Base. In what can only be described as an endless descent into madness, one man has taken it upon himself to create a sprawling wiki dedicated to freestyle, documenting more or less everything you never needed to know. You can find it at freestylekb.com; I highly recommend the list of skid plates as great toilet reading.
(I’m not even making that up, it really exists: http://freestylekb.com/wiki/index.php?title=List_of_Skid_Plates)
Rest in peace, Ty. You’ll be missed…
Got some freestyle news? New products, projects, or events? I would say email them to me but as I’m not overly willing to give out my personal email, I’d suggest leaving them in the comments below for inclusion in the next missive.
Now go and skate!