Bethlehem Longboard Jam 4

Bethlehem Longboard Jam 4

 The event was a success, everyone that attended had a great time and we expect to see them at future events this year.  Below is the recap for the event with video links and pictures attached… BoarderX Race:This year’s BoarderX Race was one of the most challenging courses we have ever built with only 7 out of 15 completed runs by the competitors.  Riders were stoked on starting inside the moving truck and using the loading ramp to gain speed early in their run.  To make it to the finish, they had to navigate over 3 kickers, a hip ramp, 2 sidewalk transitions and a tricky slalom section.  NJ rider Tim Brookes was the only rider to complete all 3 runs (32.88/33.58/32.18 seconds).  Aaron Gordy charged the course and set the tone on his first run the fastest time of the day.1st- Aaron Grody 31.7 sec2nd- Tim Brookes 32.18 sec3rd- Cam Roundtree 32.75 secPhoto: Austin Bouthillet  Slide Jam Open/Pro:The Open/Pro Slide Jam was a small but talented group of skaters from CO, VA, MD, NJ, PA & DE.  Local shredder Steve Fitz stole the show with 3 killer final runs mixing up technical lines, big airs and smooth slides.  New to the scene, Tim Brookes wowed the crowd with his blunt slides, technical freestyle riding and tricks off the ramps.  Neena Schuller from Original Skateboards held her own with the boys and showed them her silky smooth slides which earned her a 5th place finish.  Our oldest competitor, Bob Kistiner battled it out in the Semi-Finals and impressed the judges enough to make it into the Finals.1st- Steve Fitz2nd- Tim Brookes3rd- Aaron Grody4th- Zach Longacre5th- Neena Schueller & Ventus KisariPhoto: Heather Hilse Slide Jam Juniors:Our Junior division was even smaller than the Open division but that did not stop them from putting on a good show of freestyle & freeride longboarding.  Nate Yager stood out in the finals with high risk freestyle maneuvers and high speed slides.  Last year’s Faceplant Freestle Cup Winner Benny Clark looked laser sharp with his seamless frontside 360 slides and combination of tricks.1st- Nate Yager2nd- Benny Clark3rd- Luke Landis4th- Will MacLeod Hippy Jump:Aaron Gordy stole the show with his WORLD RECORD Hippy Jump of 58”!  It was such an amazing feat, everyone at the event was going crazy as he landed the 4’ 10” high jump three times. Photo: Heather Hilse Longest Slide:Austin Bouthillet – Longest HeelsideZach Longacre – Longest Toeside Honorable Shredders of the Day(thanks to Muirskate):Bob Kistiner for being the oldest competitior and still laying down slides & tricks rad enough to make into a Slide Jam FinalPhoto: Patricia Martin Aaron Gordy for being MVP of the event, 1st in BoarderX, World Record Hippy Jump 58” and 3rd in the Slide Jam. 

Texas Sizzler 14

Texas Sizzler 14

  In the backwaters around Houston TX, on a soapbox derby hill in Hockley, racers from all over the US and Canada gathered for the 14th annual Cold Fusion Sizzler hosted by the Texas Outlaws.  The Sizzler is a three day race, with disciplines of Tight, Hybrid and Giant slalom as well as a downhill event called the Speed trap. Friday, unfortunately had to be called off due the weather, its hard to dodge cones with torrential rain in your face although, there is some of us would have tried. Saturday started with Hybrid slalom, a fast course set by your humble narrator, with lots of variety on a constant down hill slope. Skate Kings’ Joe Maclaren, turned out to be the skater to beat, followed by teammate, Richy Carrasco, and St. Louis Dagger Jonathan Harms in 3rd place. Next was tight slalom set by St. Louis Dagger Jonathan Harms that was fast and techy. Again SkateKings’ Joe Maclaren was the skater to beat followed by teammates, Brad Jackman in 2nd and Richy Carrasco in 3rd . Giant slalom on Sunday set by Richy (the 360 king 142 spins) Carrasco that was blisteringly fast in part thanks to the 35 MPH tailwind. Again Skate Kings’ Joe Maclaren was the racer to beat, followed by St. Louis Dagger Jonathan Harms in 2nd and teammate Richy Carrasco in 3rd. Next up was the speed trap, a “downhill” type race where the fasted speed through the trap (88 feet) Wins, Texas Outlaw Dylan Greenbaker was the fastest with a speed of 33.98 MPH fallowed by teammates Chris Doan 32.37 MPH in 2nd and Lou Statman 32.32 MPH in 3rd.  All round results was dominated by Sk8kings Joe Maclarlen, 8 time world Champion as he has done almost every Sizzler that he has attended, followed closely by teammate Richy Carrasco in 2nd and Jonathan Harms in 3rd. Top honors in both the B and the C classes were captured by new comers this year, Max Vickers in B class and Ryan Lesueur in C class. Joyce Weldrake was number One in woman’s class. The Texas Outlaws would like to thank all our sponsors, their generosity with products and other support in always greatly appreciated! Concrete wave, SkateKings, Carve Skate Shop, NCDSA, and the ISSA, Stoked, Fireball Bearings, Triple Eight safety gear, Landyachtz, Loaded skateboards and Orangatang Wheels, Venom Bushings and Wheels, The Texas Armature Skateboard League and Cockfight Skateboards. Lastly I would like to thanks fellow teammates who work hard every year and don’t always get recognized for it. Thank you Matt Franklin & Louis Statman, who made sure that the ramps where hers and ready, for this years Sizzler as well as Dylan Green Baker, Dustin Stilling, Jeff Bower and Dave Bonnell for bringing them the past years. To Glenn Bukowsky for his excellent trophies, Humberto Salcedo out good will ambassador and fill in MC, Stephen Pland and Jonathan Harms for their timing wisdom. And Eddy Martinez my fellow organizer, Facebook contest poster and founder of the Texas Outlaws. Lastly to every skate who races. 

Kebbek's Better Weather Tour

Kebbek's Better Weather Tour

Enjoy some optical euphoria as the Kebbek team hunts for steep roads, sunshine, bright starts and cold rivers in Austria. Featuring pro riders Emma Daigle, Juergen Gritzner, Isac Printz and flow rider Benjamin Sabol.     

What are you doing SEPTEMBER 16th?

What are you doing SEPTEMBER 16th?

Chances are you probably missed out on September 21 last year. In fact, I am willing to bet that the VAST majority of people reading this missed out on that date for the past decade or more. Well, I am here to tell you that things change THIS year. You see, September 21 is the International Day of Peace. And I am sure you’d agree, the world is in need of a bit more PEACE. Sadly, the 21st falls on a Thursday. Not really the best day when it comes to gathering a crowd. But as a skater, I am always willing to get creative. I have decided that September 16 will celebrate the ROOTS of Peace – kind of a pre-party for the 21st.Skaters are going to get together and roll for peace…bring a friend who skates a different type of board…bring a cyclist…bring a scooter kid. It’s about peace…not exclusion. in order to participate, find a place to roll and meet up at a specific time. That’s it. Nothing fancy…and remember not to forget September 21st. Be sure to let me know if your city is going to ROLL FOR PEACE!    Yours in peace, Michael  

Concrete Wave and LFP at Buskerfest in Toronto

Concrete Wave and LFP at Buskerfest in Toronto

We are only 6 weeks or so away from September 1st and we wanted to plant this seed with you. Concrete Wave in association with Longboarding for Peace is proud to be part of Buskerfest.We are working with Gibbon Slacklines and will be participating in the Global Slackline Challenge.  You’ve probably seen slacklines emerge a pretty popular pastime over the past decade. Often Slacklining is still perceived as an activity for gifted people who have exceptional balance. The Global City Balance Challenge is an initiative with as simple plan: To prove that balance can be achieved by anyone!   Besides balance boards, skateboards and longboards, visitors to our “magic of balance” booth will get the chance to experiment on the Slack Rack. This unique product that is fully portable is made by Gibbon. Once folks feel they are ready to take the challenge, they will be required to balance on the Slackline for a minimum of 10 seconds.

The Freestyle Report, July 2017

The Freestyle Report, July 2017

   Freestyle’s had somewhat of a rough time since the early ’90s. After being left for dead by the industry as a whole, it was revived by a few die-hard fanatics in the early 2000s. Ever since then, freestyle has largely been run by freestylers- as it should be.

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.

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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.
   

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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. 1st place Pro Isamu Yamamoto. Photo by legendary photographer and storyteller, Jim Goodrich.

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.)

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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.  Classic Ray Meyer at Golden Gate Park. Photo by Luke Ogden.

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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.

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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.    The Decomposed decks Tony was alluding to above. Photos lifted from Decomposed’s website. Don’t sue me, Witter.

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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.   Moonshine freestyle plank. Photo lifted from Moonshine’s website.

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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. 

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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.   
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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)

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  Before I finish up here, I’d like to take a moment to honour the sadly-departed Ty Page. His contributions to freestyle (and skateboarding in general) were legendary, even if most people under the age of 40 don’t realize it was his feet that spawned them. The daffy, 360 shuvits off the tail (the Ty Hop), toespins, and frontside stand up slides (the Ty Slide) were just a few of his inventions.   
Rest in peace, Ty. You’ll be missed…

  
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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!   

Burlington, Hamilton and The Real Gold in the Golden Horseshoe

Burlington, Hamilton and The Real Gold in the Golden Horseshoe

  Just spent a fantastic 24 hours in a very special place. You’ve probably heard about the epic skate scene here in Toronto and the world-renowned Board Meeting. What you might be a little less familiar with is the incredible scene that is growing just a few miles west in the cities that make up the western part of the “Golden Horseshoe.” According to WikipediaWith a population of 9.24 million people in 2016, the Golden Horseshoe makes up over 26% of the population of Canada and contains more than 68% of Ontario’s population, making it one of the largest population concentrations in North America.  This guy is a local named Tyler. The Hamilton Bayfront Cruise incorporates all skills, all ages and is all inclusive. I cannot say enough great things about the people of this scene. Rob Defreitas has been doing some very cool things with Bombora Boards. Meghan Guevarra (HBFC founder) and Rob (Longboard Haven) two architects of stoke here in the Golden Horseshoe. A huge thanks to Kyle who runs the legendary Farm for hosting this event. Meghan Guevarra, founder of the Hamilton Bayfront Cruise has done a phenomenal job of really creating an all inclusive scene. (and merci beaucoupe to Alex her partner!) Lots of great people in the Golden Horseshoe!Luis checks out the seating near the mini-ramp.  From gentle cruises, to hitting some pretty challenging hills of the Niagara Escarpment, this part of the Golden Horseshoe has a platinum level of stoke! A special shout out to Quarter in the Bag. This band was the perfect way to ring in our 16th year. Thank you guys!Quarter in the Bag definitely are a band to be on the look out for. Check out what they sound like: I’d like to write more but, we’ll save this story for our September issue. Meantime it is definitely Hammer Time for Hamilton and area!PS: In the spirit of 100% skate everything, we were fortunate to have Mike T. a representative of SBC Skateboard Mag unleash the latest issue. It’s been a few years in the making, but SBC is back. Congrats guys! 

The Mighty Mamas

The Mighty Mamas

You might have heard about the Mighty Mamas. They are a group of female skaters who embody the true stoke of skateboarding. Their love for skateboarding is truly infectious. This year, their Mighty Mama Skate-O-Rama was a tribute to Di Dootson Rose. Di was featured last year in Concrete Wave. She was one of the key organizers of races in the 1970’s and her National Skateboard Review was the glue that kept things rolling on the grassroots side of skateboarding.The amazing thing about this event is these women come from out of state every year to skate together on Mothers Day. They have 14 years of this tradition. Women in skateboarding at it’s finest. It is the gift from Barb Odanaka for all these years.  

The Editor Speaks: Let's Talk Shop

The Editor Speaks: Let's Talk Shop

 I’ve been on tour for the better part of the spring and summer. If you’ve been reading my monthly tour articles on the Concrete Wave website, then you’ve probably figured that one out already. One of the most fascinating, yet totally depressing set of experiences that I’ve had so far on my tour have involved brick and mortar skate shops. It’s a subject that I’ve written several essays about in the last few months, although I have yet to publish any of them.  It’s not exactly an easy topic to take on, because I know damn good and well that passions, both positive and negative, are immediately going to flare up. If you don’t believe me, then check out some of my recent Facebook posts to see those passions hard at work for yourself. On the other hand: I do feel like the subject does need to be discussed in an open and honest manner, sooner rather than later. If I didn’t, then I’d be shirking my responsibilities as a writer and as a journalist. Hopefully, nobody in their right mind would ever want that. Whenever I go into a skate shop on tour, I never go in there as “Bud Stratford, the Executive Director of Concrete Wave Magazine”. No way, that would be totally self-defeating; going into a shop as “some dude with a fancy-pants title” would not serve me well at all. They’d probably be pretty impressed by that, roll out a few red carpets, and schmooze me a little bit, just because of my “perceived industry insider” status. Don’t laugh: it happens. But that’s not really what I’m going for here. So in my world, the fancy-pants title is actually a pretty big hindrance. As a longtime industry analyst, I what I really want to see and experience is the same exact stuff that the everyday kid experiences when they go into a skate shop. That sort of real-world experience helps me to spot emerging trends and propose industry initiatives long before my analyst-insider competition ever could. Plus, the magazine is very “down for the people”, anyway. We genuinely feel like we work on the behalf of the everyday kid first and foremost, even if that means kicking the industry chaps in the nuts from time to time. We are, after all, The Media. That’s what we’re designed to do. Retaining my relative anonymity, and going in there as an everyday skater… or, at times, as an everyday dad window shopping for his skateboarding stepson… generally gets me that real-deal perspective that I’m looking for. Thankfully, I’m still relatively unknown and anonymous enough that it still works out the way I was hoping it would, almost every single time. I call this “mystery shopping”, because I’m not quite revealing who and what I really am when I walk into these places. As such, I suppose I am being slightly disingenuous about my true identity. However, it’s not really “mystery shopping”, as it’s commonly defined. Most “professional mystery shoppers”, at the end of the day, still work for the retailers that are paying them for their shopping experience and their feedback. My reality is way different. I’m not paid by anybody to do what I do. Not even the magazine; my summer tour has been completely self-funded, straight out of my own pocket. And I’m not just “playing the role” of a typical customer; I actually am a typical customer, through and through.  Those are pretty big differences well worth keeping in mind.  Through the eyes of an avid traveler There’s another huge difference between me, Mr. Aging Touring Skater, and the everyday average kid that might need to be mentioned. As a traveling skateboarder, skate shops are absolutely critical to the success of my touring endeavors. I look at them much like the average citizen might look at a gas station, I suppose; as a convenient place to stop, rest, recharge, maybe get directions relating to where I might find the local skateparks and skate spots. As well as being the best place to find insight and enlightenment about what’s going on, and what’s hot, in the local skate scene. Their importance really cannot be overstated, because there’s nobody else out there on the horizon that can really do the job. The local skate shop, when seen through the eyes of a roving journalist, can single-handedly make (or break) the local skate scene in much the same way that they can make or break a skate scene through the eyes of the average, everyday skater. The only difference between me, and them, is that I see it a few hundred times a year, all across the country. The average kid only sees it in terms of what’s going on in their immediate backyard, and in their local skate scene. So in that regard, the ‘ol brick and mortar probably isn’t so critical and/or crucial to the average kid as they might be to me, as an avidly touring skater. Or, just maybe, the more accurate reality is that the average kid doesn’t recognize the importance of a really good skate shop as quickly as I might. I might see it a bit more clearly, because I’ve seen hundreds of skate shops fail in my time. Far too many of them, just since my 2008 tour. As a touring skater, my travels have suffered the serious consequences. It’s just no fun at all to drive into a strange new town, knowing nothing at all about the skate scene… only to look in the phone book (or on my smartphone) for a local skate shop… find that there’s none around… and realize, to my sullen surprise, that there’s nobody around to help me out and about. A world without skate shops, in my world, is a super lonely place. But the average kid that hasn’t driven a few thousand miles in my shoes hasn’t experienced that loneliness, in quite the same excessively extreme way that I have. Maybe they’re lucky. Maybe they’ve always had a great shop in their community that still survives, and thrives to this day. Or maybe, they’ve never been lucky enough to have a local skate shop to lose in the first place. Or maybe they’re just unlucky enough to have a local skate shop that sucks so hard, they’d be far happier if it just died and went away.  The Exceptions Of course, there are exceptions. Of course, there are still great skate shops out there in the world. They might be in the minority. But they do exist, and they do deserve credit and support. I’m not afraid of naming a few of the standout shops that I’ve come across this summer. Sidewalk Surfer in Scottsdale; Active in Tempe; The Sk8 Haus in Surprise; Freedom in Mesa; Beachcombers in Lake Havasu City… that’s the Top Five so far (in no particular order), while 91 West remains the standout private skatepark worth mentioning. I was up in Prescott last weekend attending a contest hosted by the local shop, the Prescott Skate Stop, that I was really impressed with; I keep hearing great all sorts of great stuff about that shop, too, although I wouldn’t know about any of it firsthand (they were, naturally enough, closed up tight last weekend because of the contest). I’m sure there will be a few more notable standouts by tour’s end. But so far, those have been the best of the best. They all shared the same best practices, of course. They were all genuinely super-friendly, knowledgeable, community-engaged scene activists with great product selections covering a wide swath of the skateboarding spectrum. Those are the timeless consistents. And they all do those “timeless consistents” really well, and really right. As a touring skater, customer care and service, local scene activism and awareness, and product availability and knowledge are critical keys to the success of my tour. It’s in these three areas, specifically, that I’m continually let down by the skate shops that I’ve been visiting this summer.  The Biggest Bummer: Customer Care and Service This is, by far, the biggest disappointment of them all so far out there on the road. You’d think that a skater, working at a skate shop, would be the perfect situation. That skaters would have a natural tendency to look out for, and look after, other skaters. That skate shop employees would be the coolest, friendliest, and most helpful people in the entire world. That walking into a skate shop… any skate shop on the planet… would immediately feel more like “home” than home itself. You would probably like to think these things, and I would definitely like to think think these things. But that rarely happens for me, in practice, out on the road. That’s nothing less than absolutely f’n depressing. There seems to be this weird belief among skate shop owners… and especially among their cooler-than-you, shitheaded little skateshop employees… that skaters somehow thrive on being abused by the “skate shop cool club”. That it’s all part of some obscure hazing regimen, the price of “the dues” that every skater pays to be indoctrinated into the holy inner sanctum of skate core-dom or something. To top it off, this belief is remarkably widespread. It seems to happen at about eighty percent of the shops that I walk into these days. Which pisses me straight off, every single time it happens. Now, I’m not sure which sludge-for-f’n-brains thought this crazy notion up, or when this obvious lapse of reason and rationale occurred. But let me assure you, it is complete and total bullshit. Skaters are really not that unlike any other customer on the planet. They like to be treated kindly and respectfully, and taken care of, just like anyone else. I’m the customer, fucko. Nobody is cooler than I am. Maybe the problems are the shop employees themselves. Typically cheap, inexperienced, teenage labor working their first-ever “real job”, skate shop employees have never been the harbinger of efficient, fast, or friendly service anyway. Add to that the oversized entitlement and craptastic “work ethic” of The Millennial Generation, and it becomes really easy to see why my mystery-shops have been sucking so f’n hard on my summer tour.  Local Scenes and Community Activism Every skate shop in the world that knows their stuff, and knows it well, should have these three things in their shop, at all times, readily at hand. These three things are: – A photocopied list of local skateparks, complete with their “proper” names, addresses, descriptions, and directions, that can be handed out to anyone who asks for it on a moment’s notice, – A city map, tacked up somewhere in the shop, showing where these skateparks are in relation to the shop (which would nicely complement that list that you just handed me), and – Another photocopied and free to hand-out list of all the upcoming skateboard community events, including the events that your skate-shop competitors and local skate activists are throwing, that are happening within a couple hours’ drive of the shop. That list should be made out three months in advance, and full of fun stuff to do, see, and experience at all times. If that list is lacking, then it’s high time to get crackin’ and get to planning some get-togethers. A lot of the shops that I go into will tell me, ad nauseum, about “how much they’re doing for their local skate scene”. Which is great and all, except for this tiny little tidbit of a practical problem: I’m not seeing much actual evidence of it, anywhere. When I go into a shop and ask their salespeople what they have coming up for local skate events… about eighty percent of them will tell me, point blank, “nothing”. Nothing…? “Nope. Nothing”. That, to me, is absolutely criminal. Events are not difficult, nor expensive, to put together. That’s total catcrap, a long-disproven fallacy. How hard is it to take three seconds to scribble up a quick flyer that says, “Hey! Let’s all meet at the park on Friday afternoon to skate! 5 pm, be there or be square!” Shit, man… I owned a skateboard company for ten years. We hosted skate jams every single week, hardly missing a beat (unless it was raining or snowing), for ten years straight. Ask anyone that skated in or around Concord, New Hampshire between 1991 and 2001; they’ll tell ya. And you guys (and gals) that run skateshops today actually have the audacity to try to tell me how “difficult and expensive” it is to throw a weekly community skate session? I’m sorry, I’m just not hearing your blabbering right now. It can be done. All you need to have is a caring disposition, some initiative, and a little bit of creativity. At the end of the day, though, a healthy, vibrant, and engaged community is still built on the shoulders of empowered, engaged, and encouraged individuals. If your salespeople cannot bring themselves to treat any given individual with common courtesy and genuine human respect, then I simply won’t believe your shop’s endless claims of “caring about the skateboarding community”. That whole “customer care and service” thing really cannot be overstated enough.  Antisocial Media It’s not like brick-and-mortar skate shops aren’t trying. They’re just doing way too many of the wrong things, and not enough of the right ones. Every shop that I go in to, absolutely prides itself on their social media and e-tailer presence. They’ll talk about it for hours, like nothing else exists in the world these days except for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And that’s great as far as it goes, I suppose. Except for one teeny tiny little oversight on somebody’s part: I’m not a computer. I’m a human being. So ultimately, no, I’m not quite as impressed by your “virtual cloud-based internet friend community” as I am by your living, breathing, analog skateboarding community. Like most kids in the world today, I just don’t have the time anymore to follow 50,000 Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram news feeds. When would I…? I’m always too busy using the internet to plan my next skate-tour itinerary. Besides, “social media” is turning into an antisocial cesspool of utter blah. There’s no redeeming humanity to be found there anymore (as if there ever was in the first place). Everybody is pretty much doing the same exact thing, in pretty much the same exact ways, on the same exact social media, as every other everybody in the world… which ultimately means that nobody really stands out anymore. The whole thing has blown its wad and gone straight to hell, as all good things must do eventually. Any skate shop (or skate company) that is relying on the quick and convenient laziness, and the quickly diminishing returns of social media to drive customer traffic to their door is about five years behind the times. It all seems so intrinsically self-defeating, really. Web traffic is only gonna naturally drive customers to web retailers; that’s a no-brainer. No matter how great your e-tail presence is, there’s still a million of those out there already, most of them better-stocked, better-staffed, and cooler than yours. So driving web traffic does not seem like it would be the smartest or savviest goal. Isn’t the goal of a brick-and-mortar retailer, in a perfect world, to drive foot traffic to the damn door…?! If so, then why in the hell are we relying on the web to do this in the first place? Why are we exclusively relying on a digital technology means, to pursue a purely analog ends…? Wouldn’t it be far better to build an exemplary shop that skaters (or even regular ol’, non-skateboarding people) would happily spend a few hours’ worth of drive time to experience firsthand…? An analog shopping tour de force?  At that point, you wouldn’t really need to “invest in social media”. If you build a truly great skate shop, then everyone will be all over social media, talking you up on your behalf. If you feel like you need to be the Joe talking yourself up every sixty seconds on antisocial media, then I’d say you’ve got a real problem on your hands, buddy.   The Competition As an industry insider, I hear a lot of griping from skate shops these days. Some of it is totally valid. At least, it is at first glance. There’s way too many e-tailers in the world; they have an unfair built-in pricing and inventory advantage (mostly due to the lower overheads, or lack thereof); they can offer free shipping and steep discounts because of the volumes they move (and accordingly, buy)… and on and on it goes. I’m not so sure that I’m buying that argument anymore. I don’t think that the internet is out there, actively stabbing brick and mortar skateshops in the back. I think that what’s really happening here are that the shops… through apathetic, abusive, or unimaginative business practices… are largely killing themselves. The only thing that the internet is really doing these days, is providing a readily available alternative. If I were an average kid these days, and I had to deal with this sort of bullshit that I’m dealing with on tour on a regular basis… well, I’d probably be spending the bulk of my time shopping online, too. Oh, wait! I am. I still do most of my skate-shopping with Mike Hirsch at SoCal Skateshop, who always treats me professionally respectful, and personally awesome. Or, thanks to the emerging direct-to-consumer trend, directly with the brands who have consistently treated me similarly kindly. It’s not like I’ve abandoned the “core retailer”; I still shop at good shops from time to time. I just have the luxury of freely and easily avoiding the assholes now. So, I do. The brick-and-mortar has a lot of competition these days. They like to blame “price competition” for that, but I think that’s a cop out. I haven’t really noticed if I’m personally paying more or less for anything by shopping online. I’m just getting treated better. That’s all. I suspect that most of your “everyday mystery shoppers” might be telling you much the same thing. Except they’re not saying anything right to your face; customers just don’t have the time or the energy these days for confrontation or explanation. They’re simply turning around, marching off, and voting with their feet.  The Haters I have a pretty big ball sack. I’m definitely not afraid to take on haters and critics straightaway. And I was a bit surprised… but, not entirely shocked… to find that I had critics and haters, as I usually do, almost right from the get-go. Apparently, nobody likes some mystery-shopping asshole that’s totally unafraid to tell it like it really is out there; that sort of brute honesty is really dangerous, and could be a real threat. Of course, vested interests are going to want my ass handed to them on a silver platter. I get it. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not gonna tell them to go stuff themselves anyway. One that I remember with particular fondness, I believe, summed up the sentiments of all of my detractors in one fell swoop. Thier memorable position was something along the lines of this: “You’re just playing the role of some jerk out on the road, doing mystery shops that the shops themselves do not particularly want, and definitely did not ask for, in order to create sensationalized content for the magazine. And that whole deal is pretty unfair to the shops, themselves.” That’s pretty close to the verbatim quote, actually. And I’ve heard that piss-poor talking point a few times already this summer. Here’s the reality of the world around us, bubbo: every f’n customer that has ever walked into a skate shop, by absolute definition, is a “mystery shopper” that the shop probably did not want, and definitely did not ask for. If that’s the attitude of your typical, modern-day skate shop, then the typical, modern-day skate shop should probably throw in the towel right this second, lock up their doors forever, start marching their hides towards Hell, and don’t stop for a single moment to look back. The customer is not the adversary or the enemy here. If you really hate the customer that much, then you’ve already lost by default.  The Skateshop Of The Future Concrete Wave is the only magazine… the only media, for that matter… that is so consistently and militantly future-focused. Which is perhaps a little bit ironic, considering that we are generally perceived as a bunch of naive (or stupid) dinosaurs running an obsolete print magazine over here. Maybe the “common wisdom” isn’t quite as commonly wise as y’all would like to think it is, eh…? The skate shop of the future, in many ways, looks a hell of a lot like the dinosaur skate shop of the past. Nothing in this essay is particularly “new” at all; most of this stuff is the stuff that you used to actually find at skate shops, all the time, back in the day. It just went off the rails somewhere, for some reason. Perhaps it’s just generational; maybe it’s plain ‘ol entitlement, laziness, and apathy at work. Nobody cares about anything anymore anyway, why should skate shops be any different…? Whatever the case may be, retail isn’t going to survive… let alone, thrive… until we put this damn gravy train solidly back on track. And I suspect that it will take no less than a focused, persistent, consistent, industry-wide effort to make this happen. Make a note of that, IASC and BRA. The skate shop of the future, though, is going to be a little different from the skate shop of the past. It will start with excellent customer care and service, that’s for sure. It will be that community hub, scene advocate, event incubator, and foot-traffic destination that I dreamed up, and pretty much mandated a couple sections back. The employees will be product knowledge experts… “product geeks” might be far more accurate… that know pretty much everything about everything skate-related. They should already, because that’s one of the things that separates the legit from the fakes. If you know less than the average skater about skateboard stuff, then you’re on the outs. A lot of mall stores still fit into this category (although, to be fair, they seem to have gotten quite a bit better in the last eight years or so, which is a very real threat that’s well worth noting; Zumiez gets my “Most Improved” prize so far this season, as much as I totally hate to admit it… those bastards). The skate shop of the future will not be “the street-skating shop of the future”. That’s important to point out. Anybody can sell popsickle sticks and white-tablet wheels, so of course everybody does sell popsickle sticks and white-tablet wheels. That’s not differentiation, fellas; let’s get with the program already. And that’s not a skate shop to me. A truly legitimate skateboard enthusiasts’ lifestyle core retailer… memorize that one, because Harbaugh will be writing all about it in ten years or so… will carry the entire spectrum of skateboard hardgoods. Everything from street boards, to vert boards, to old-school shapes, to cruisers and longboards… which is generally where the best shops are at, right now, product-selection-wise… to slalom, freestyle, and downhill gear, which are forms of skateboarding that current core shops still tend to virtually ignore, for variously short-sighted reasons. If you don’t have some little bit of everything skateboarding imaginable, then you’re not a real “skate shop”; you’re a hopelessly opportunistic, lowest-common-denominator, un-original thinking, mass market profiteer. Would you like an energy drink to go with that assessment, good sir…?  Truly legitimate skateboard enthusiasts’ lifestyle core retailers exist to give skaters options and opportunities to not just get the information and the products that they might want right here, and right now, today… but if they’re really smart and forward-thinking, they should also be showcasing the types of skateboards that skateboarders might well want tomorrow, as they grow bored with whatever they’re doing, grow older, grow stiffer, and inevitably grow out of popsickles and tablets. Education and enlightenment are important aspects of the core retailer’s mission, and keeping skaters engaged and motivated to think outside the box, do a little bit of personal exploration, try some alternative types of skateboarding, and discover some new fun along the way is strategically smart business. But you almost never see that in core retailers today. I certainly don’t. And that’s one of the biggest fails of them all. The customer is changing. Long gone are the days where “the target customer” could be easily pigeonholed as a twelve-to-eighteen-year old, white suburban male. Skateshops still almost exclusively market themselves to that derivative, not quite noticing that the future market is in girls and women of all ages; older people who want to recapture their former youth (which is, incidentally, every single “older person” on the fucking planet); moms, dads, grandpas, grandmas, aunts, uncles, brothers, and sisters that want to share skating with their friends and family; and generally speaking, people all across religious, racial, economic, and geopolitical divides. It’s called “inclusion”, and Concrete Wave has been a longtime advocate of the concept. Consider yourselves warned: if your shop is not absolutely inclusive in nature, then you’re built to fail. Lastly: there is no way in hell that any brick-and-mortar skate shop will ever be able to have, in stock, today, at this moment, every single product that is available on the market today. There are far too many brands, making and marketing far too many individual items, for any shop to ever put them all on the walls. But the internet can do it, easily and effectively… and it does do it, all day long. How in the world is a small, independent, stand-alone skate shop ever going to compete with that…? Easy. The Industry is going to revolve. Not “evolve”, as in “evolution”. “Revolve”, as in “revolution”. First of all, we’re going to have MSRP’s all across the board, without exception, in the near future. If your brand or company does not yet have an MSRP structure in place, then you are about ten years behind; it’s well past time to get on top of that. Everyone… including the governmental powers-that-be… will eventually support, aid, and abet this idea, because the last thing that anybody in the world wants to see is a future where ninety percent of all retail space worldwide is boarded up and vacant, yielding urban and suburban blight, crime, decay, abandonment, and rampant unemployment on a massive scale. Nobody with any brains in their heads at all wants that, not even the government (which isn’t well known for being overly bright or competent, but does have a fantastic track record of being fundamentally self-serving and opportunistic). So, yeah, they will all eventually put their thinking caps on, and take a few sensible steps to avoid that. Making damned sure that retail is a valid, practical, and sustainable money-maker is a huge step toward achieving that aim. Then, we will have technology. The perfect marriage between technology and humanity. I’m envisioning small kiosks in every brick-and-mortar skate shop with little laptops on at all times, plugged into an efficient product portal somewhere, where every single skateboard item in the universe can be ordered immediately, through the shop, for home delivery… but with the added benefit of a fast, friendly, and helpful human standing right there, straight behind you, to competently and engagingly answer your 50,000 stupid questions in an inspiring and enlightening manner. What’s a spacer? Who’s Ty Page? What does a split-axle truck do? Where’s the local mini-ramp at? Sure, you can ask Jeeves any of this stuff, and that’s f’n awesome. But only living, breathing, thinking people can fill in all the gaps in your limited questioning that your inexperienced and unenlightened feeble little brain wouldn’t have even thought to ask. That’s the difference between people and computers. People, when they’re at their very best, can actually be perceptive and proactive, and answer questions that you didn’t even know… let alone, think… to ask. Computers can’t. So, there ya go. The gauntlet has now been thrown. The challenge to all skate shops, all across the country, accurately defined and fully articulated. The challenge for an entire industry to take up, and see through. This is everything that I want to see and experience, as a customer, when I’m out on the road checking out skate shops. When these things consistently materialize, that’s when I’ll finally be happy and content. And that’s when I’ll finally be able to f’n retire from this brutal business of skateboard touring, once and for all.      

Summer Camper Tour 2016/17 Report Number Eleven: Prescott and Prescott Valley, Arizona

Summer Camper Tour 2016/17 Report Number Eleven: Prescott and Prescott Valley, Arizona

   This was a really busy weekend. For a fella that’s supposed to have long since retired, I sure do have a nasty tendency to pack a whole lotta livin’ into three days. Especially when two of those days are abruptly cut short by unfortunately unforeseen circumstances. But given the ambitious itinerary for the weekend that included enjoying a weekend camping getaway with Renee, covering a skateboard contest, exploring a certifiably western-themed tourist town, fooding out at some fine eateries, and attending an unplanned bluegrass festival, it’s no real surprise that there was hardly a moment left unlived all weekend long. ______________________________________________________ I had planned on leaving mid-day Friday. Of course, that would have required getting an afternoon off from work to accommodate my early departure, and informing Renee of these intentions. Because the mag has been keeping me unusually busy these days, I plum forgot to do either of these things. That meant that my well-laid and good-intentioned “plans” went straight to shit, right off the bat. What we ended up actually doing, was leaving Phoenix at about 6:30 pm to drive through the excruciatingly hot blast furnace temperatures of The Valley (sans air conditioning) on our way to what we thought would be significantly cooler temperatures up north. ______________________________________________________ The skate-itinerary for the weekend was pretty mellow: two skateparks and an amateur contest. That was it. An unusually light weekend on the surface of things. But contests, for me, are an exercise in masochistic hell that I never truly look forward to; thus, I was definitely not looking forward to the contest aspect of this trip at all. I’ve always hated the damn things to the Nth degree, so I generally avoid them like the f’n plague. This contest, however, was being put together by the Prescott Skate Stop… from what I’ve heard, an excellent little skate shop that’s doing some pretty novel stuff. So I went along with the contest program anyway, if for no other reason than to grudgingly support the cause and the initiative, but secretly hoping the whole time that this contest might be just a bit more entertaining than the usual amateur bailfest. ______________________________________________________ We pulled into Prescott pretty late on Friday night, long after the sun had receded for the evening. It was still unusually hot… blame climate change for the aberration, I guess… but downtown Prescott was unexpectedly humming with bright-lighted activity. Turns out, we had sauntered straight into town just in time to catch an annual bluegrass festival, and all of the spontaneous nightlife that goes along with the party. We parked the camper-combo just a block away from Whiskey Row and climbed the short hill up to Grandma’s Bakery, where the smell of fresh bread immediately forced us inside, and convinced us to purchase a bagful of handcrafted lemon cookies and cherry turnovers. You and I both know that fat men cannot refuse their sweet-tooth impulses; that’s how we got fat in the first place.   Volkswagen Micro-Bus, Courthouse Square, Prescott, Arizona.Saturday, June 23rd, 2017. Illustration by the author.  After we scored our just desserts, we climbed a few more doorways to The Bistro St. Michael, where Renee and I sat and peoplewatched in the neon glow of the bay window while we munched on their most famous and celebrated delicacies: onion rings, Caesar salad, and tomato-artichoke bisque. The street musicians were out in force around the square; the sounds of banjos and mandolins filled the air everywhere you turned your ear. My first impression of Prescott was that it’s a far more happening place than I might have guessed it would be.  Yavapai Campground, Prescott National Forest.Saturday, June 23rd, 2017  The campsite was about ten miles from the city center. We got there really late of course, and the pitch black of the high desert night all but guaranteed that we wouldn’t see a damned thing. The only thing that I could perceive in the darkness was the strained whir of the Yaris’ little fourbanger that immediately indicated we were ascending and descending into and out of some impressively steep terrain; but what that terrain was, exactly, remained a complete mystery to our eyes. There wasn’t really much to do at that late hour once we arrived at the campsite but to turn in for the evening and start making some hay. The persistently high temperatures, the continuous squeal of hyperactive little camper kids, and the relentless onslaught of gigantically annoying flying bugs, however, made that uncomfortably impossible to pull off. ______________________________________________________ We woke up way too early to bright rays of daybreak flooding the camper interior. We had left the rear doors wide open in a valiant (but vain) effort to get some cooler air circulating around; all we got in the exchange were horse-sized flies and moths taking up residence in our sleeping quarters while we slowly and steadily sweated our asses off. I wiped the crusties from the corner of my eyes, asked Renee what time it was (her reply, 5:30 am), and wondered out loud why in the hell we were awake at such a ridiculous hour of the morning. She answered by lazily pointing out the door in a “Hey, check that out!” sort of motion. Prescott National Forest.Saturday, June 23rd, 2017 Mountains! And tall pines…! Well, I’ll be damned. The GoogleMaps aerial perspective made this campground look like a flat, featureless desert scrubland. I was really reluctant to even book a site here, because I thought it would be painfully ugly and insufferably boring to look at. But whaddya know, this place is remarkably rugged and ridiculously gorgeous. My persistent good fortune really does astound me sometimes.  Everything in Prescott revolves slowly around the central courthouse square. It’s the obvious destination, the place to be, and the life of the party at all times. Even in the wee hours of the morning, the courthouse is still brimming with activity. We were starving, of course, so we did like everyone else does and made our way to the heartbeat of town, parked right across from the city square, and made our way to The Lone Spur Cafe for breakfast. I’m normally a pretty adventurous bloke, but some of the stuff on their menu looked downright deadly.   Above: Paintings by Hugh Slayer at the Lone Spur Café, Prescott, Arizona.  Bacon steaks, cowboy skillets, and a thousand things slathered in sausage gravy looked devilishly delectable on one hand… but like a sure-fire recipe for indignant indigestion on the other. We played it safe this time around, although the pepper-rubbed bacon slabs that came with my Belgian waffle were pretty damn delicious. In between bites, we were well-entertained by a bevy of beautiful, western-themed Hugh Slayer impressionist paintings, and a posse of cowboys and sheriffs parading through the dining room, complete with clanking boots and rattling spurs. For a skateboarding city-slicker, this was akin to exploring and experiencing a whole new planet.   Prescott Skatepark, Prescott, Arizona.Saturday, June 23rd, 2017  I had some serious time to kill before the contest, so I figured that a little bit of skating might be in order. The Prescott skatepark was the natural first stop; surely the contest festivities would rule out any casual skating there for the balance of the amateur-contest weekend. I was super impressed with the quality build of the park… which is quite excellent, especially considering its small-town setting… but not so much its overall design and layout. It’s super tight; it immediately felt like a sardine can of skateboard obstacles. Everything is over-efficiently shoehorned in there, making the overall effect feel cramped and restrictive. It’s smooth and fast, but maybe just a little too quick for my mellower tastes.     Prescott Valley Skatepark, Prescott Valley, Arizona.Saturday, June 23rd, 2017  Prescott Valley is only about twelve miles away, and much more up to my speed and style. The small bowl complex there was superbly enjoyable, with lines all over the place and unintimidating heights for the newbies and geezers that live in all of us. The much bigger, faster, and scarier snake-bowl right next door was a superb challenge, making even simple backside grinds on its roller-coaster kink sinks a pretty manly proposition. But I still got up and got some of it, so it’s all good as far as I’m concerned. Between runs, I had the company of a wide-smiled older chap named Doug… “older chap”, relative to my 44 years aged, means he was pretty darned old… happily engaging me in enthusiastic skateboarding small-talk and tales of his own skateboarding travels. He was a really friendly fellow. The kids remained stubbornly aloof, as always.   Smoki Museum, Prescott, Arizona.Saturday, June 23rd, 2017  When we returned to the Prescott park, I decided that I wasn’t quite up to scorching in the sun watching sequential slams just yet. So I spontaneously decided to follow Renee into The Smoki Museum across the street, and learn a little bit of local lore. The “Smoki People” (pronounced “Smoke-Eye”) take a little bit of explaining; that much I know. How in the hell to explain these people, however, still somehow escapes me, a full four days later. Explaining them in “politically neutral” terms is even harder… because what these “people” really were, at the end of it all, were whiteys dressed up in Indian garb and “redface” (a word I just invented to illustrate the Native American equivalent of “blackface”) to entertain other whiteys for money. Money that was then spent to fund and propagate the local rodeo; the world’s longest-running rodeo, to be accurate. So, basically, it was for-profit fundraising racism. Naturally enough, the whiteys saw it as “a sincere and noble effort to honor the culture and the customs of the indigenous peoples”. And naturally enough, the indigenous peoples saw it very, very differently.   Smoki Museum, Prescott, Arizona.Saturday, June 23rd, 2017  The Prescott Skate Stop doesn’t play around. When they put something together, they do it right and they do it with f’n gusto. There were heaps of sponsors for the event; I was suitably impressed. Some sent along buckets of prizes, while some of the more savvy (small) companies made their presences felt in a really big, really professional way. The big difference here was that the brands who had a presence at the event got to talk face-to-face directly with their market, and sell some of their latest and greatest product… some of them even sold completely out of product, if you can believe that bullshit… while the prize-sending contingent got an honorable mention on the bottom of the flyer, and over the intercom airwaves. It just goes to show that nothing (and I mean nothing) beats having a personal presence. Once The California Contingent gets that all figured out, they’ll start to see some serious (and sustainable) market share growth again.  But not before they figure that out. ______________________________________________________ As a magazine guy, I love having the opportunity to sit, smoke, and chat with all of these small-company guys. I’ll save the details for the next round of Small Company Field Guide segments… those should be a whole lotta fun… but suffice to say, there’s still a lot of vibrant energy to be found floating around the skate scene, as much as the market analysts, the doomsdayers, the negatroids, and the naysayers will breathlessly blabber all over themselves in an effort to full-force deny it. Skativity isn’t being stopped, or even subdued; it’s just floating up out of your pocket, and into somebody else’s. That’s revolution at work. That’s skateboarders taking skateboarding back, bitches.   Iron Springs Cafe, Prescott, Arizona.Saturday, June 23rd, 2017. Illustration by the author.  There’s a cute little train-depot restaurant on the north side of town called Iron Springs Cafe that I just had to sample some lunch at. First of all, it was scorching hot outside and the humidity was climbing off the charts; an air-conditioned interrupt felt like a heaven-sent rest and relaxation opportunity. But then we had the adorably inviting board and batten architecture of the former Santa Fe, Prescott, and Phoenix railway depot itself, which had been relocated and renovated from its original siding in Hillside, and surrounded on its present plot by lazy, inviting benches and white picket fencing. The menu is top-notch, and the service was far beyond friendly; it’s no real surprise that they both consistently rate near the top of somebody-or-another’s Top Ten foodie-fun hit list. The tastes might be best described as “Southwest Cajun Culinary Fusion”, or something along those sorts of pretentious mouthfuls. But I’m a super-simple skating stiff at heart, so I’ll just call it well worth taking the time to stop, relax, and enjoy.   Big Johnson’s Store Muffler Man, Prescott, Arizona.Saturday, June 23rd, 2017  “Ohmygawd, look at that Renee! It’s a real-deal Muffler Man…!” Only I would get excited about such obscure roadside novelties… but once you experience the Muffler Man phenomenon for yourself, trust me on this one kid, you’ll become a connoisseur too. Muffler Men always came, quite literally, out of the same fiberglass mold; you can spot their trademark hand-holding position a mile away, maybe more on a clear day if you’re fully awake and paying attention. Designed to hold fast to a Paul Bunyan-sized axe, they’re sometimes posing with such ample-sized oddities as mufflers (obviously), hot dogs, swords, tires, picks, sticks, rifles, or even rockets. They’re epic Americana, super-sized to absolutely outlandish proportions, marvels of yesteryear marketing and egocentric self-promotion. The Big Johnson Muffler Man turned out to be the only Roadside America tourist tip in town, and here I’d managed to serendipitously stumble into it all on my own. I must be developing a finely honed radar for this sort of swanky stuff; maybe the travel-geek in me has finally gotten the upper hand.  ______________________________________________________ Back at the contest, stuff was really starting to heat up and bubble over. Thank goodness for the cloud cover that rolled in; without that, we would’ve all been a bunch of goners out here. There were lots of standouts, almost too many to list really. But I actually managed to work a little bit and take some serious journalistic notes, so here’s the rapid-fire: Chris Roberts and his bio benihanas; little Tyler B (riding for The Sk8 Haus) drawing long lines all over the street course; Ericson (from Flagstaff) ollieing the pyramid to flat, and backside blunting the weird little hip out of the really big corner; Vincent McLaughlin (my pick to be the winner) switch boardslide into the channel hip, and a vertical nosestall to frontside 360 revert that left the Raoul Duke-channeling contest announcer stammering and stuttering, unable to figure out what the hell just happened there; Dev The Dog ollieing the hip to a solid stand-up corner fifty; David Sparrow flying all over the place between puffs on his cig; Jerrett’s tre off the platform and straight into the flat of the bowl; and Alec Martinez’s bigspin front board on the tall rail, “the best trick of the day” according to The Duke. I’m not going to get into who the final winners and losers were, because they’re all winners in my book. They put on a pretty good show. Prescott’s got some seriously legitimate talent floating around that small city.   Paul Bacher, alley-oop backside mute, Prescott, Arizona.Saturday, June 23rd, 2017  The post-party shenanigans revolved around the city square once again, as Renee and I sauntered into town to sample some local treateries, lay out under a shade tree on the courthouse lawn, and enjoy a couple hours’ worth of bluegrass revival. The whole scene felt a lot like being a little kid in a candy store; having a legitimate treat shop right across the street from the courthouse certainly didn’t hurt the experience a single bit. They had free-to-sample popcorns, everything from caramel to kettle to cinnamon… yes, candy-coated cinnamon popcorn is a taste reality, folks… to cheddar, to chocolate covered cheddar, to Ohmygawd that stuff’s f’n amazing flavors everywhere. The ice cream flavors were equally eccentric. Of course I can’t remember them all at the moment, because the chocolate maltball flavor that I bought totally blew my brains away. It was epic awesomeness, that much I do remember. I probably gained about five solid pounds of fatass on this trip…   Vintage Ford, Prescott, Arizona.Sunday, June 24th, 2017. Illustration by the author.  Sunday morning was a virtual replay of Saturday’s bright rays of sunshine, without the luxury of cloud cover to keep things comfortably cool. Same stunning view out the back door of the camper; same slow scenic route into town; same impressionist paintings at the same Lone Spur Cafe, on the same sunny square that we walked around yesterday. But Sunday, I was feelin’ frisky. That Cowboy Skillet was callin’ my name, all two eggs, hash browns, sausage, bacon, ham, and gravy of it. If that’s not mean man enough for ya, I also opted for the biscuits-and-gravy side plate, just to speed up that inevitable heart attack into supersonic screech mode. Three hours later, I’m befuddled and hopelessly stranded in a stinking stall of an outhouse at the Prescott skatepark. Something that I ate attacked my tummy with a vengeance, and now I’m paying for it in the worst of unimaginable ways. The stainless steel toilet was torture enough; now I have a stubborn door to unsuccessfully contend with here. I’m locked in, and I can’t get the damn thing to budge; talk about maddeningly frustrating situations. Thankfully, somebody on the other side of that damned door had to shit even bigger than I did, and lended me a heap-sized helping hand to free me from my potty-pants predicament. The sun was scorching hot, and there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky to protect us from it’s baking rays. I was exhausted, I was frustrated, I was grumpy, and I was spent. It was time to go home. ______________________________________________________ All of the sincerest apologies in the world go out to the intermediate and advanced bowlrider battles that I missed… especially the over-40 competitors that I really wanted to support with a few extra-enthusiastic yells… and even bigger apologies to all the fine ladies and gents that I never got to say a proper thank you and-or goodbye to. Renee and I won’t be strangers to the Prescott skate scene for very long, though; I’m sure we’ll figure out some fast rhyme or reason to get back up there sooner than later.         

Skateboarding's First Coloring Book

Skateboarding's First Coloring Book

What is Skateboarding’s First Coloring Book All About?

 

The story starts in California’s San Fernando Valley.

 

Main characters: The brotherly duo of Gantry and Garrett Hill.

 

The plot: Two 12 year old kids turn to skateboarding after getting fed up with shitty coaches in  team sports, as Garrett recalls. The pair sets off into the skate world and ends up under the wing of Jamie Thomas, Zero and the rest of Blackbox Distribution. Here, they learn the inner workings of The Chief’s brain and take note of how he juggles a handful of brands and projects at once.

 

Over time, the inspiration they gain takes them down the path of embarking on video projects together, the most notable being the Conquer the Concrete video.

 

Fast forward a tad more and the brothers come up with the Hotshot Handle as a result of the filming missions. Finally, one year later, the brothers strike again and debut skateboarding’s first coloring book, Color-X.

 

That’s where this story picks up.

 

 

 

But before you quit scrolling because you think I’m crazy for trying to tell you that skateboarding and coloring books correlate, allow me to bring up what the Hill brothers have to say:

 

Troubled by the fact that the world holds a massive amount of skate photos but only a few ways to engage with them, Color X was created. To give viewers a brand new way to consume skate photography. As Gantry Hill puts it, “There’s this huge archive of incredible skate photos but we felt like there’s only so much interaction you can get out of them. You see them in a magazine, on Instagram, or a poster, etc. By illustrating these iconic photos in color-able form, there’s a new layer of interaction and creativity. You become the artist and have creative control over the page, as well as the freedom to bring it to life the way you see it.” 

 

Now we’re on to something.

 

 

 

A sneak peek at some of the pages validates the idea even further. There’s real photos, shot by real skate photographers of iconic professional skaters. Moreover, there’s actual illustrations in there from the likes of Todd Bratrud, FOS, Aye Jay Morano, and Andrew Braswel.

 

 

 

However, this isn’t just another outlet try to peddle skate photography. Because there’s some science behind it. In production, the Hill brothers learned from art therapists and children’s psychologists about how coloring can be used to help fight stress and anxiety. They found themselves surprised at the number of therapists using coloring-related techniques with their patients. A quick glance at Color-X’s tagged photos on Insta continues the tale of kids and pros alike already with their hands on the pages. From the creativity that skateboarding brings to the streets to the creativity it helps to foster through a set of printed illustrations and activities,

Color-X is making some awesome strides in the way of keeping stoke levels high.

 

Next up, the Gantry and Garrett Hill have some plans up their sleeves for new collaborations in books 2 & 3. Set to debut in the Fall/Holiday seasons, you can keep up with them until then, here

 

 

  

A New Chapter.

A New Chapter.

 

 

As some of you may be aware, I have recently decided to turn the editorial reigns of the magazine over to Bud Stratford. You can learn a little bit more about this decision in the fine print of our Summer 2017 edition (you can read online for free here)

 

This issue’s cover story is about my trip to Jamaica and it features Brady Brown on the cover. Brady is a local ripper who I met a number of years ago at the infamous Poop Chute here in Toronto.

 

It also features awesome artwork from Chris Dyer of positive creations.

 

 

 

I have decided to publish this issue on line right now because I wanted to ensure that EVERYONE was on the same page. Our subscribers and advertisers have their copies, but it takes time to trickle the mag out to the shops.I am still the publisher and will still have stories in the magazine, but our September issue will be the first for Bud as editor.

 

The time is now for new blood to direct and create a deeply inspiring vision for inclusion within skateboarding- that is where Bud and I agree 100%.Bud started skateboarding in the 80’s which means he has a perspective on things that are unique to mine.July 2017 marks 42 years rolling and tomorrow (June 30th) is the fiscal year end for CW.

 

 

 

The skate journey I started over 2 decades ago with the skategeezer homepage is about to take another “left turn in Albuquerque.”My sincere thanks to Wentzle Ruml IV Brady Brown Luis Bustamante and the SHRALPERS UNION for their support of this issue. This issue is dedicated to the people of Jamaica and in memory of Ty Page

 

 

 

 

Wishing you all high fives and positive vibes from Toronto, Ontario.

 

Stand by for a rather intriguing announcement coming soon.

 

Rayne Joins Forces With Origin

Rayne Joins Forces With Origin

Rayne Longboards and Origin Distribution Partner for Manufacturing and Worldwide Sales
SEATTLE, WA – June 26th, 2017:  Origin Distribution and Rayne Longboards are proud to announce a new agreement under which all Rayne products will be manufactured and distributed worldwide out of the Origin Distribution warehouse and factory in Washington state. 
 The partnership marks the beginning of a new chapter for both Rayne and Origin alike. Since being founded in 2004, Rayne has widely been known as an industry-leading innovator in board design. With Origin managing manufacturing and distribution, the Rayne team will be provided the opportunity to directly focus on the product innovation and progressive development that defines the brand. Moving warehousing to the US will offer better access for North American dealers, as well as the added convenience of online ordering utilizing the Origin b2b webstore infrastructure. The core management team at Rayne will remain intact and a physical location will be maintained in Vancouver for R&D to continue their long heritage of bringing radical new ideas to market.  With the addition of the Rayne product line, Origin now offers one of the most robust longboard skateboard product selections available. Rayne is a complementary addition to a brand catalog that already includes DB Longboards, Cloud Ride Wheels, Atlas Truck Co and Predator Helmets. Origin will also now be offering Vicious Griptape to US customers. Rayne’s long history of product innovation, superior manufacturing and community support align perfectly with the goals of the Origin team and both parties are excited to move forward with a partnership rooted in these shared values. rayne.com origindistribution.com 

Seismic's New Crystal Clear Speed Vent Wheel

Seismic's New Crystal Clear Speed Vent Wheel

Now available in 77a Clear Blue & 79a Clear Purple!

Brand new are Seismic’s crystal-clear shades of light blue and light purple Speed Vent wheel.  Poured in their “Premium Clear” urethane and molded around their proprietary “EC Core”; these wheels are fast, sticky, and light! 

 

The 77mm diameter gives it the roll speed of a downhill wheel, while the weight-saving core adds the quickness and agility of a smaller wheel, as well as enhanced rebound. The offset bearing placement and deep bell-shaped outer lip profile give this wheel amazing grip for hard carving and pumping! Go to Seismic Skate to learn more.

 

 

2017 APAC World Cup experience in Nova Lima Brazil

2017 APAC World Cup experience in Nova Lima Brazil

PHOTOS: CESCHINI GERSON ARRIVAL After about a 10 hour flight from JFK airport in New York City, I arrived in Rio de Janeiro a bit tired but more anxious because I was about to be part of one of downhill skatings most elite races. I am very fortunate to have a residence in the State of Rio in the  beautiful mountain top city of Petropolis so I was able to rest a little before my drive to the city of Nova Lima. The 2017 APAC WC was only a five hour drive away through some of the most beautiful regions of Minas Gerais. Minas, as it is commonly referred , has a never ending landscape of hills and valleys covered in green fauna, palms and trees I would never be able to identify. Its beauty is only surpassed by its long winding roads, steep grades, long sweeps and short banking turns with deep drops, a paradise for any downhiller. As I neared closer, In the distance was what appeared to be the magical city of OZ was actually the bustling city of Belo Horizonte which is the neighboring city of Nova Lima which gave clue we had arrived.Kassy Jhones (center) takes in a run. CHECK-INWe checked in to the Alamanda Pousada which was recommended to everyone on the IDF- (International Downhill Federation) registration site by Matheus Felicio ( the IDF event organizer). Since this was my first event I could not believe that the accommodations were so top notch, I mean this place was beautiful. A large well manicured grounds with a pool and several semi natural stone fountains. I could go on about the Pousada but we are here for the race. Not long after check in I ran into Will Stephenson, currently ranked #3 in the world for DH luge, we had a brief discussion about the industry and agreed to meet for dinner with Ryan Farmer (ranked #1 for DH luge) and Jeff Suchy (ranked #5). Needless to say there was a lot of fast guys staying at the Alamanda. The finals with Guto Negão, Tiago Mohr and Silon Garcia. We all later met at a restaurant next door named Mata for drinks and dinner. They had live music and an open mic so after some more drinks and a few shots of Cachasa (a brazilian specialty) Ryan Farmer and myself were called to the stage to perform. Im told we did surprisingly well, however, i hope theres no video evidence. Its been a while since I performed. After that I called it a night, I needed to get my beauty sleep for the big day. I don’t have much beauty so i needed to get as much sleep as possible. REGISTRATION and QUALIFYINGThe following morning was registration day where everyone could get in some practice runs and get familiar with the hill. It was everthing Matheus Felicio said it would be; fast drops, fast sweeping turns and a very technical chicane at the finish surrounded by the beauty of Nova Lima, Brazil. The weather was a plus, beautiful blue skies and summer like conditions made for a unforgettable and most desirable experience for the awestruck athletes.  As the athletes lined up to register, Federico Barbezio and Cyrille Harnay, aka Koma Kino, held court with Matheus Felicio to reiterate the rules and importance of respect on the hill while distributing transponders. I was certainly impressed with the professionalism and organizational skills of the event. Logos of sponsors were well draped along the chicane  and other key sweeps, hay bails were neatly positioned, emergency care was on stand by, plenty of temporary bathroom facilities, local police maintained traffic safety and it was clearly obvious the city supported the event. Willian Rubim, Daniel Engel, Weyder and Nascimento Lourenço. The son of the Mayor of Nova Lima, Gabriel Pedrosa, was a huge factor in helping some last minute details. He provided landscapers to clear more spectator space, brought in city trucks to hose down and sweep the course, made a larger bus available for the athletes and stayed all 3 days for the event. It was a pleasure to befriend such an advocate of the skating community. As the athletes  got their runs in you could feel the energy build as each run got better then the last. As old friends got reacquainted, new friendships were being forged. It didn’t matter if you were ranked #1 or a fist time competitor like myself, everyone seemed to be on the same plane just mixing it up and giving each other advice to get ready for qualifying runs. RACE DAYAfter all the niceties and politeness of qualifying day their was a sudden shift of consciousness.  Just as fast as a skater can go down a hill the focus changed to the realization that this is a race and only the best would make it to the podium. So as  the day commenced after some practice runs the real fun began. Everybody crowded to view the heat chart and the official races were on. As the day moved forward and races commenced each time the racers crossed the finish line the first two would advance and  the other two would fall. The energy was palpable as each heat progressed towards the finals. Aaron Hampshire and Daina Banks  FINALSAs expected, APAC would not disappoint with regards to excitement and drama. Some of the worlds best DH athletes such as Carlos Paixoa (BR), Thiago Lessa (BR), Aaron Hampshire (USA), Daniel Engel (USA), Daina Banks (USA) and Douglas Dalua Silva (BR) just to name a few were about to go head to head on one of Brazil’s most notable courses. In the end though, the Brazilians owned the day on their home turf but not without the Americans giving them a run for their money with  a spectacular demonstration of competition. The final races for board and luge were equally exciting. It came down to the final bends at the chicane to decide the winners.  Aaron Hampshire, Daina Banks, Yan Bertinati, Keenan McCartney, Jeremias Gasparotto, and Pepe Laporte In luge, Will Stephenson held the lead with Ryan Farmer closely drafting up to the winding chicane where he executed a brilliant maneuver to pass the powerful titan from Great Britain. It was hair raising to say the least. The finals for the women’s DH longboard was also equally exciting. Upon entry to the chicane Luana Campos and Melissa Brogni were neck and neck until Brogni took a tighter entry to the final bend to sweep the win. Having registered to compete for the Masters, I was not able to have an accurate account of this event or the Juniors, as I was suited up and at the top of the hill at the starting line. All results could be found on the IDF web page.   The ladies division: 1st Melissa Brogni, 2nd Luana Campos, and 3rd Luana Chaves. MAIN EVENTThe final event of the day proved to be everything the spectators wanted. After taking the Qualifying rounds the final four would  be the Brazilian armada; Thiago Lessa, Carlo Paixao, Pepe LaPorte and Douglas Dalua Silva. This race was nothing short of a hair raising drama right up to the finish line, it was absolutely incredible from the very start. Paixao and Dalua pulled a lead off the push until the sweeping drop at the top of the course where Lessa made his move after drafting and held the lead till the finish. It wasn’t until the famous chicane where the drama of who would place and show unfolded. At the entry of the chicane it was Lessa, Dalua, Paixao and LaPorte. Mid stream before the final hard left all riders drifted together very tightly, the roar of the crowd was testament to the excitement of the moment when suddenly in the final left, approximately 20 meters from the finish, Paixao brilliantly leaned left to pass Dalua  followed by LaPorte who executed an amazing pre-drift allowing him to have enough speed to take third place. This was one of the tightest and most beautifully orchestrated demonstration of DH that I’ve ever seen and it was clear by the roar of the crowd that we all witnessed an incredible moment of DH sports history.Adriano Silveira was delighted with his performance! I was honored and humbled to be part of such an amazing event. There was such a positive vibe in the air for the entire event that no-one could deny it. This sport, while dangerous and extreme, separates itself from others by its incredible sense  of comradery coupled with the spirit of intense competition. At the end of the day we were all arm in arm with big smiles celebrating for the victors and encouraging the others for the next event. I will never know what intangible force guided me to this community but I am grateful and fortunate to have been so lucky. Congratulations to all the athletes, the choice to compete is what makes us all winners.

The Collegiate Skate Tour Returns to NYC

The Collegiate Skate Tour Returns to NYC

Skateboarders generally aren’t seen by the public at large as “The College Types”. Being a skateboarder in college, I’m uniquely perturbed by this narrow-minded and short-sighted stereotype. So when I first sat down with Keegan Guizard, the founder of Collegiate Skate Tour, back in October of 2016, I was intrigued in his pioneering efforts to bridge the gap between skateboarding and higher education opportunities. It seemed like a sensible strategy to start shattering this glass ceiling that skaters have imposed on ourselves, and that society has saddled us with. Collegiate Skate Tour Founder, Keegan Guizard, speaking from experience.  After seeing the level of ripping that went down on a rainy afternoon in Queens the following day, I was confident in CST’s ability to attract and share it’s message with skateboarding’s talented youth. After all, there is no better way to connect with skateboarders than through a sweaty skate sesh at the local spot (or park). However, the one aspect that I doubted to myself was the effectiveness of getting that pro-college message across in a hectic street-contest setting. In the middle of a chaotic skatepark jam session where making sure not to cross into anyone else’s line is taxing enough, I wondered if such an important message was falling on deaf, preoccupied ears.  Launching one off the top deck  This is precisely why I made myself available, on the day after I finished my last final exam of my junior year, to check out Collegiate Skate Tour’s return to New York. This was not a hectic street contest; this session was quite the opposite. In collaboration with the Harold Hunter Foundation, this event was held at the Keep Grinding workshop at the House of Vans. In doing so, my doubts about the effectiveness of this sort of program were soon eliminated. The ensuing presentation was not particularly substantial, in terms of covering every single aspect of preparing for higher education. The key here was that it was a rare presentation produced specifically for members of the skateboarding community, by skateboarders, to give a broader perspective of the possibilities that are out there, just waiting to be seized. No teachers. No academic advisors. No recruiters. It was simply a group of college-experienced skateboarders, trying to mentor other skateboarders through a few of the hurdles of getting a higher education. Locking into a crispy front blunt.  By gathering skaters in an environment more conductive to lecturing, the message from Collegiate Skate Tour and from the Harold Hunter Foundation was demonstrated with greater specificity, and came across far more clearly than might be achieved in a typical skatepark setting. This session tackled leading (and widespread) concerns from skaters regarding the immediate challenges of preparing for college by explaining solutions like grants, scholarships, and loans. It stressed the need to exercise freedom of choice in the college setting, and encouraged skaters to drop classes and switch majors if they became undesirable (even if it’s not always a popular strategy). It told up-front, real-world stories about some skaters hating school, and not finding their desire to continue their education until long after dropping out. Last but not least, it provided hope in showing the examples of very real and tangible benefits that could only be achieved through a college experience. Some examples of “extracurricular college perks” included the freedom to tailor a class schedule around skateboarding, starting/joining clubs that aligned with personal interests, and meeting new people to go skate with; the goal here was to reinforce the reality that not every moment in college has to be spent studying, or preparing for the next exam. College delivers some real-world lifestyle and recreation benefits as well. The mantra for the night, according to Shut Skateboards’ Michael Cohen, was that “attitude is everything.” It’s everything in college, just as it’s everything in skateboarding. If you can imagine it, then you can do it. Then, as is typical of Collegiate Skate Tour events, an impressive amount of shredding went down after the workshop. Skaters are always ready to take on whatever challenges might lie ahead. CST merely puts “education” on the challenge radar of the everyday skater, and points them toward the path of personal success. Danny, as always, would like to extend his appreciation to Maya Minhas for editing his photos.    

Muun Modular Kit

Muun Modular Kit

Electric skateboards keep cropping up on our radar with increasing frequency. We met up with another electric skate company by the name of Muun in Vancouver last week. They have created a modular kit to get those with electric dreams pretty psyched.  There must be something in the air in Arizona college campuses as this marks the second company to tap into this market. As Sydnee Akers, the director of public relation explained, “we started with our three co-founders in a dorm room at Grand Canyon University. We had a dream of making any beloved longboard or skateboard into an electric board, while still coming in below all other electric longboard prices. We were tired of sitting idle in rush hour traffic and barely making the trek across campus to class on time. Looking for solutions, we were faced with two options: either pay for an overpriced product or build our own – one that surpasses our highest expectations without breaking the bank.” The company offers both a modular kit along with a Muun Voyager board which comes pre-installed with the powerful kit. The Muun Modular doesn’t require any modifications to your deck and can be installed in as little as 5 minutes by simply unscrewing your rear trucks and screwing on the electric unit. The patent-pending battery design allows you to “plug and play”. Each battery pack slides in and out with ease, with a unique locking mechanism that secures your battery into place. The portable battery packs include USB ports so you can quickly charge your electronic devices when you’re on the go. The unit also has regenerative braking. When you pull back on the remote, you come to a smooth and controlled stop while simultaneously recharging your battery every time you slow down. The unit can reach speeds of up to 20 MPH. A Kickstarter campaign is about to launch. Concrete Wave has been featuring electric skateboards for over a decade and we will continue to showcase this technology.   

Summer Camper Tour 2016/2017, Report Number Nine: Kingman and Lake Havasu City, Arizona

Summer Camper Tour 2016/2017, Report Number Nine: Kingman and Lake Havasu City, Arizona

  My travels, generally speaking, are pretty solitary in nature. This weekend, however, was a rare exception. I met Mike Kitchen a couple months back at the SkaterCon event in Phoenix, where he was on hand to represent his sponsor, Millennium Skateboards. Being kindred skating souls in our mid-’40s that still live a very ’80s paradigm of skateboarding, we hit it off pretty famously right away. Ever since we met, Mike has made it a point to extend an assertively open invitation to me to come up to Lake Havasu City, skate a bit, and check out the local scene. Hearing that he would be leaving Arizona soon to spend his summer up in the Colorado Rockies, I cancelled my imminent plans to head off to Yuma and Southern California’s Imperial Valley, and fast-tracked my plans for a Northwest Arizona tour. An open invite, after all, is not something to be taken for granted or missed. Especially when it sounds like a heap-ton of fun. Mike and his lovely lady, April, live on BLM land just north of Lake Havasu City. Their site is about two miles down a sandy wash, in the heart of a jagged mountain range, where they work as campground hosts while whittling away their time doing odd jobs to keep up a steady income. They live a very simple, yet extremely adventurous lifestyle, one that I was quite keen on seeing and experiencing for myself. This would surely be a prime boondocking opportunity, and I spent the week getting my micro-camper scrubbed down, geared up, and ready for the great unknown ahead of me. As always, Atlas Obscura and Roadside America offered a whole host of deliciously eccentric deviations for me and my wandering eyes to check out along the way, while Concrete Disciples shaped and shored up my skatepark search. While I was planning my round-robin trip, I decided to add the skateparks in Bagdad, Kingman, and Bullhead City to my overly-ambitious itinerary. If I’m gonna spend a weekend traveling all over the sparse northwest corner of the state, I might as well get everything I want to accomplish done in one efficient swoop. As you can see, my itinerary for this trip was stacked up pretty tightly. There was barely a moment left unscheduled and unaccounted for. From the moment that I left my house at daybreak (5am) on Saturday morning, I had a whole host of strange places to go, interesting things to see, and obscure oddities to document.  In that regard, it was just like many of my more recent expeditions. At the same time, these journeys are always full of all sorts of surprises. You just never know what you’re going to stumble into along the way, no matter how obsessively-compulsively pre-planned your trip may be.    I’m staring bright-eyed at the prisoner sitting squat on the ground in front of me. The prisoner, on the other hand, is leaning heavily on his arm, staring back at me with dull, glassy eyes that suggest a long night of drunken hijinks might have precipitated his impromptu incarceration. He seems to be suffering from a hangover, coupled with a heaping helping of dismayed confusion. He’s not a real person, of course; he’s a mannequin dressed up in jail-stripe prison overclothes. But he’s a very convincing mannequin, and an unusually creepy one at that. Two feet away, there’s a steel pole with a bright green button that’s just begging to be pressed. I’m a skateboarder. I like to press buttons. So, I slowly and steadily reach across and give it a decisive poke. The mannequin startles me right out of my skin by suddenly speaking, his voice amplified by his fiberglass form. His easygoing drawl, however, is strangely disarming. The Jail Tree is far more urban legend and lore than it is an accurate historical recording. The story goes that, in the haste of Wickenburg’s sudden and spontaneous growth as a mining claim, they just didn’t have the time, the energy, or the resources to build a “proper” jail. Other priorities came first, and robbing the land of its various riches was definitely Priority Number One. Shackling arrestees to this mighty lump of a mesquite tree did the duty perfectly well for the town’s immediate purposes, the serendipitous by-product being a not-so-subtle, overtly public display of what would happen to certain segments of the populace if they decided to step anywhere out of line. Wickenburg is not widely known for harboring successful criminal contingents; the rule of law stands pretty solidly ’round these parts. After seeing The Jail Tree for myself, it’s pretty easy to see why that might be the case.   Giant Spurs sculpture, just north of Wickenburg, Arizona. Saturday, May 13th, 2017   Bagdad Skatepark. Saturday, May 13th, 2017  Bagdad is a company town. The large mining interests of Freeport McMoran seem to own everything around here. They are, after all, the town’s largest employer and benefactor. It’s not a big town by any means, and it’s about twenty solid miles off the beaten path. The only way in and out is over a windy road traumatized by extremely hazardous twists, turns, hips, dips, and blind corners. The scenery is heavenly, but the drive is pure hell every single foot of the way. The skatepark looked great from Google Earth. They always do. It even looked great through the tall steel fence and the chained-and-padlocked gate. Across the way, I could see a playground standing idle, yet inviting. “There must be a way in there, somehow”, I thought to myself; and I was dead set and determined to find that way. A determined human is, after all, a fierce animal. A few doors down, somebody had left an entrance gate swinging wide open. My good fortune really does astound me sometimes. I ran back to the car as fast as I could, grabbed my board, and lunged straight for the skatepark. Oh, God. This place, wow. The transitions were… how do I put this nicely? “Definitely abrupt” might be fitting; “Absolute Torture” would be far more accurate. Things do not always skate as they seem, and this was Exhibit A of my unfortunate reality. There were two small nipples right in the way of my line that seemed to serve no functional purpose whatsoever, above and beyond making my life far worse than it already was. And then we had “The Quarterpipe Of Certain Death”, made far more lethal by the jagged razor-blade pebbles strewn around the base. I did manage to land a few grinds, and boy, did I ever feel accomplished for having done so. Bagdad is a company town, sure enough. And just like those lucky miners that manage to make it to retirement, I was happy as hell to make it out of there alive.   Abandonment at US 93 and AZ 71,  north of Wickenburg, Arizona    Nothing, Arizona. “Population: 4, Chicas: 2”. Saturday, May 13th, 2017   At  the Wikieup Trading Post Jail. Saturday, May 13th, 2017   Snoopy on a Rocket, Wikieup, Arizona. Saturday, May 13th, 2017    Kingman, Arizona started life as a humble railroad siding named Beale’s Springs. This simple city subsequently grew and expanded due to two entirely unpredictable circumstances that could have never been imagined when it was founded in 1883: the certification and construction of Route 66, and the outbreak of World War II. Both brought a glut of infrastructure and humanity into to the area between the 1930’s and 1950’s; Kingman Army Airfield alone trained well over 35,000 aerial gunners during the wartime effort. Route 66 was how the government got them here,  and Route 66 is how the Army Air Forces got them to the coasts, so they could ship straight to the front lines to do battle with Hitler and Hirohito. After the war, Kingman AAF became a Reconstruction Finance Corporation center, tasked with storing, selling, and ultimately scrapping entire air forces of obsolete Army Air Corps bombers; 5500 airplanes met their final fates at Kingman, most of them being ingloriously smelted down into raw aluminum ingots by fires that raged 24 hours a day. There used to be a small museum here dedicated to Kingman’s invaluable contributions to the war effort, but that museum is no more. A victim of public funding woes, a far-off-the-beaten-path location, and a general indifference towards such obscure historical tidbits (or even American History in general), the sole World War II remnant that survives at Kingman Airport is the original control tower, built in 1942 to handle Kingman’s burgeoning military air traffic.    The railroads and Route 66, however, are still the toasts of the town. There are historical spaces and places all over the city that have been lovingly preserved and restored to tell the tall tales, and there are several museums right in the heart of downtown to further educate and enlighten anybody that has an interest in the area’s past. It’s even possible to drive a long-forgotten and bypassed remnant of the original National Old Trails Route, the precursor to Route 66. Yes, it’s a narrow and harrowing drive along a sheer cliff that dead-ends at a former raceway, but it’s also a rare experience that illustrates just how unsophisticated (and unsafe) those old roads really were.    The El Trovatore Motel’s restored neon, gloriously beckoning a new generation of Route 66 fans and aficionados. Saturday, May 13th, 2017     An abandoned raceway still (barely) stands at the end of the National Old Trails Highway,  just southwest of Kingman, Arizona.     The Powerhouse Visitors Center and Route 66 Museum, Kingman, Arizona.   Mural detail at The Powerhouse Visitors Center and Route 66 Museum, Kingman, Arizona   Classic car show on Route 66 at Locomotive Park, Kingman, Arizona.     The Kingman skatepark, however, left a hell of a lot to be desired. It looks as if it was designed fairly competently… you can clearly see some real potential here in the overall layout… but somebody, somewhere, seriously dropped the ball on the execution and the construction.  It seems like it was poured and trowled by rank amateurs that knew little to nothing about the finer points of skatepark construction, let alone skateboarding. I’d be hard pressed to think of a bigger kink-sink anywhere in the world; I’ve certainly never skated anything quite this quirky in all my time as a touring skater.     The quirky art-enclave of Chloride, Arizona.  “In science, chloride is an ion used to desalinate seawater into drinking water. Which is ironic, because the Arizona town of the same name is incredibly dry. Founded in 1862 as a silver mining town, Chloride was once home to some 75 mines and 5,000 residents. The local miners excavated minerals like silver, gold, and turquoise for over six decades, until in the late 1920s when the town was burnt to the ground in its (near) entirety. By the 1940s, it had practically become a ghost town.  Now Chloride is making a comeback, thanks to tourism. With new attractions like mock gunfights, Arizona’s oldest post office, and “The World’s Only All-Female Gun Fighting Troupe”, the town is a chance to walk through an original Wild West town. Yet amid all this, the two most unique characteristics of Chloride often go unnoticed. The bizarre junk art of Chloride can easily be seen along the roadside of the non-historic part of town. Drivers can admire a flamingo made of a gas tank, a tin man with a blue hat, and a junk tree with rusty items hanging from the branches. The graves in the town cemetery are even topped with old telephones. In fact, of the 20 currently-inhabited residences of Chloride, each of them features some display of junk art. One house, for example, features an elaborate bottle tree; another displays a metallic spider next to a caterpillar made of bowling balls. Harder to reach, yet equally worth the visit, are the Murals of Chloride. A 1.3-mile, 4-wheel-drive-only road past abandoned mines and ancient Native American petroglyphs will take you up the hill to the murals of Roy Purcell, who, in 1966, was a local prospector with some extra time on his hands. Not yet showing the signs of weathering, Purcell’s “The Journey” covers 2,000 square feet of cliffside granite and is dense in symbolism, featuring a yin yang, a giant red snake spanning multiple rocks, and a fertility goddess.” – From Atlas Obscura     The Murals of Chloride (top), and detail (above). Chloride, Arizona.    Santa Claus,  Arizona.  Founded in 1937 by land speculator Nina Talbot and her husband, the unlikely roadside relic of Santa Claus, Arizona was the focal point of the couple’s strategy to entice forward-thinking investors to purchase lots out in the distant desert. Unfortunately, the tourist spot’s close proximity to absolutely nothing at all and the scalding summertime highs probably did more than anything else to insure its eventual demise. Even the relative success of the Duncan Hines- and Jane Russel-endorsed Santa Claus Inn could not stop the inevitable downward spiral; Santa Claus was sold in 1949, and was well on its way to ghost-town status by the early 1970s. The long-abandoned and nearly forgotten remnants of a land speculator’s dream investment, these empty shells still stubbornly stand twelve miles north of Kingman on the southbound side of US 93.   “Poki, the World’s Largest desert Tortoise”. Bullhead City, Arizona.    The Lil’ Red Schoolhouse, erected in 1946 and currently residing at the Bullhead Community Park,  Bullhead City, Arizona.    Oh, dear… Here, we have the third total blow of the day, the Bullhead City Skatepark. Another built-by-total-amateurs misconstruction masterpiece, this one featured flaking concrete that was peeling off the walls of the bowls in big chunks, and settling into the flatbottom, creating all sorts of unexpected hazards. You can see the rudimentary (but ineffective) attempt at patchwork in the photos. This might well be one of the worst skateparks that I’ve ever attempted to skate in my entire life.   Because of the lackluster quality (to put it mildly) of the Bagdad, Kingman, and Bullhead City skateparks, I managed to arrive  in Lake Havasu City well before my scheduled 7 pm rendezvous with Mike and April. That allowed me to take a quick catnap before they arrived to escort me to their campsite far out on the northeastern edge of town. On the way to the site, we spotted several Mojave Green rattlesnakes crisscrossing the primitive road, and stopped to watch one of them rattle off a fair warning from beneath a bush (from the safety of our vehicles, of course).  The evening was spent relaxing in outdoor easy chairs, reminiscing about skateboarding’s heydays, and  the various misadventures that we’ve enjoyed all along the way.   Sunday started at a local breakfast boutique  named Rusty’s, where we  tanked up on omelets, pancakes, Cokes, and coffee  before  making our way over to Beachcombers to fine-tune our boards a bit before we began the day’s skating adventures.  Mike had a few seized bearings that he had to break free and lube, which gave me the time and the initiative to give my rolling stock a thorough clean-and-lube  as well. Beachcombers was a surprisingly welcoming and well-stocked skate shop that shared its ample retail space with water skis, life jackets, kayaks, scooters, surf  trunks, bikinis, and a whole host of miscellaneous “beachy” offerings. With our rides rolling smoothly, we made our way over to the first skate spot of the day.     Tillman Memorial Skatepark in Lake Havasu City is, as Mike put it so simply, “The sort of skatepark that’s built for pros to skate”. It’s massively huge and extremely impressive to be sure, but the one thing that it’s not is particularly “fun” for the average, ho-hum, run-of-the-mill, middle-aged skater. Everything in this park is super-sized to the max, so it’s definitely not the sort of place for easygoing guys like us to chill, relax, and enjoy the simpler pleasures of skateboarding. The view of the lake, however, was absolutely outstanding; we did spend some quality hanging time hanging at the beach before we made our way to the next spot on Mike’s to-skate  list.   London Bridge, Lake Havasu City, Arizona.  Because it’s shoehorned between a backdrop of high mountain ranges and the low-lying Colorado River Valley, Lake Havasu City is blessed with a bevy of drainage ditches that serve to re-route floodwaters harmlessly around and through the city during the infrequent (but potentially severe) monsoon rains that blow in throughout the fall. Exploring these ditches was the itinerary for the day, in lieu of killing ourselves at that monstrosity of a skatepark. The ditches were pretty manly, as it turns out, but at least we didn’t have to deal with any scooter kids at the ditches. That was a definite bonus.     Mike checks out the harsh transitions of our first ditch of the day.   The second find, just up the street from the first. Hot damn!   The third ditch of the day was a real charm, complete with hips and roll-in channels.   Mike casually carves a speedy line while grabbing a rail to hold onto.   This mellow masterpiece might have been the best of them all.   Mike scoops up a beauty of a bean plant for the amateur photojournalist in me.  Mike and April really know how to win over a traveling skater. Food (and  lots of  it) pretty much wins every single time. That evening, before I hit the road for home, April made a Chicken Alfredo (from scratch) that completely knocked my shoes off. It smelled delicious just relaxing in their camper, which was sheer torture. Mike and I were seriously starvin’ after a long day of tossing ourselves around on harsh transitions and splatting our old bones onto the flatbottom; after a long afternoon of self-abuse, that Alfredo was a real smell and sight for sore eyes and empty stomachs. That dinner was the best dinner I’ve had on the road yet. If Mike and April ever invite you to dinner, don’t be stupid. Go…! I really didn’t want to leave, but I had a warm bed and an idle computer at home, patiently waiting for me to return. Even though the skateparks along the way ranged between mostly-to-entirely unskatable (for a variety of reasons), thanks to Mike and April’s hospitality and sense of adventure, the overall trip ended up being a real success story. When the going gets insurmountable, skaters start searching for alternatives. Thankfully, Lake Havasu’s geography has a lot of hidden gems, just waiting to be discovered. On my way out of town, I spotted another half-dozen (or so) ditches that we didn’t even see in our initial search-and-destroy mission. If you decide to take a road trip to check it all out for yourself, bring along a broom, a shovel, and a pair of bolt cutters; they’ll serve you well in your skate explorations.   Until next time, travel safe, travel well… and by all means, travel often.