If you were looking to find a Skatebird in their natural habitat, allow me to direct you to some things to keep an eye out for. First and foremost, you gotta keep watch for big yellow beaks on an otherwise human-looking face and body. Looking out for handrails and hubbas is also no brainer. These things practically fly down them. You’ll usually find them sporting Emerica tee shirts and riding Baker decks. These are other telltale signs of a Skatebird. Last but not least, and if you have no idea what the hell I’m even talking about, you have to visit Wales-based illustrator and nose-slider Lewis Taylor’s Instagram page to find them.
On this page, you’ll find dozens of these Skatebirds that have been carving up different terrains over the past couple of years. Since the beginning, Taylor told us, “Skatebird was pretty much my main character when I first started posting on Instagram, he was really basic to start with and then over time developed into more of a real person with just a beak as the only resemblance of a bird.”
If you think this article has all the earmarks of an Artist Profile we did a couple weeks back on fellow skate illustrator, Dustin Ammons, you’re not far off. From one artist to another, Taylor recalls, “After coming across Dustins page and seeing that there was another character similar to mine I got in touch with him and from there we did a collab which I think came out pretty cool!”
Where Taylor’s profile differs and shines, though, is in it’s ever sprawling assortment of subjects and scenes. Some weeks there will be scenes recreated from The Office or The Simpsons. Other weeks feature some nods to the pros like Bryan Herman and Axel Cruysberghs. Then you’ve got silhouette-style works, works where everything is drawn with rubber bands and a bounty of works centered around original characters. When asked if he had a favorite character the artist told us, “I’d say I most enjoy creating my own characters and playing around with swapping body parts for different things or enlarging certain body parts etc.. I also like using scenes from my favourite films as the basis for a lot of my drawings. Basically the less serious it is the more fun I have doing it and that’s what keeps me picking my pens up.”
As for the man behind this all, Taylor cleared up once and for all that his @taygord handle stems from a nickname given to a drunken alter-ego of his. Before that, however, Taylor’s roots begin on a farm in the UK, as a son of an artistically-inclined family. Though his earliest strides in illustration began at primary school-age, Taylor asserts, “Surprisingly I was never really a huge fan of art classes in school though, I just wanted to draw stupid cartoons and skate related stuff. I didn’t take well to choosing themes and using different materials etc.. I’ve always preferred the traditional pencil, pen and paper approach. It’s just clean and simple.” As far as that skate-related aspect goes, Taylor says that an obsession he learned from a couple kids at school took shape on the farm where he build boxes, rails and even a mini ramp to skate endlessly.
Nowadays, he finds a happy medium between of working, keeping up with the illustrations and, of course, skateboarding. When asked whether he preferred putting the cap back on a marker after a long night of illustrating or getting into a noseslide without sticking, he told us “Having a solid skate where I’m landing everything cleanly and avoiding painful falls is always nice but, similarly, finishing an illustration that i’m really happy with is super satisfying. I guess you could say I prefer which ever one I’m performing best at on the day!”
We have been combing over a number of videos and I am delighted to share with you two new rarely seen videos from our first edition of Evolutions DVD. Evolutions hit in 2005 at a time when You Tube was still a concept. Getting a FREE DVD that went for over 2 hours was a pretty unusual thing back then. Here are two cool pieces from that DVD. Be sure to subscribe to our channel…more videos are coming!The first is Escate by Jay Edry. It’s a 2 1/2 minute animated masterpiece.The short still stands the test of time – hard to believe it was created 12 years ago!Jay Edry was a animation student at Seneca College in Toronto. He went on to be come a hugely successful game designer for mobile devices. Another video that we know you will enjoy is from the film “Downhill Motion.” It captures the 60’s and 70’s scene in a truly remarkable way. This video is presented by ZFBC. Huge thanks to them! You’ll see footage from 1960’s slalom contests and folks bombing the legendary Signal Hill. BONUS!have a peek here – this video will make you laugh – it is seriously well done!
Brad Edwards was a longboard pioneer, artist and a most excellent human being. His smile, grace and total stoke for skateboarding is something that I will never forget. Over the past 2 decades or so, I’ve met up with Brad on a dozen occasions. His family and friends who spent more time with him (than I ever could) know that Brad had a large heart. Ten years ago, Gravity Skateboards released FLOW – it’s still one of the best videos out there and way ahead of its time. A video from 2013 where Brad shares a little bit of his skate philosophy. Concrete Wave was proud to give Brad not one, but FOUR covers. With Mr. Tibbs – just over a year ago. Some thoughts from Facebook:FROM BILL BILLINGDevastated.
Brad was one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met.
At the beginning of the year when we did a gofundme to get the Old Bro ramp back in shape, all that money went to materials and Brad. He did all the labor. He was completely professional and showed up for work on time every day as if he was punching a clock. He cleaned up every day and when the money ran out, I had to turn him away. He insisted on doing more saying I paid him too much. I didn’t.
I’ve only known a few people who loved to skate as much as Brad, and he did it with more style than most of us could ever dream of.
A few weeks ago he had agreed to go to Egypt with me next month, to ride his skateboard. He was totally stoked on it and I knew we were going to have an amazing time. There is a big hole in skateboarding today and there is a hole in my heart. RIP my friend, you will be so missed. FROM ROBBIE LYONS
Not only did the skateboarding world lose a legend today, but the world lost an amazing person. Brad Edwards, it was an honor to work and skate with you for so many years, and to call you a good friend. I will never forget the fun times and great memories we shared.
You will surely be missed by people all over the world, and your legacy will continue to inspire so many. You were more than an inspiration to me, you taught me so much about skateboarding and about life at such a critical part in my existence and my gratitude for you will forever be owed.
RIP to one of the coolest, most humble, down to earth people I will ever know. He’s up there with Shane now, shredding all that heaven has to offer. Until we meet again one day, thank you Brad, for everything.
Geoff Edwards – Brad’s brother
Thank you all for your prayers and kind thoughts over past few days.
As many of you know Brad recently suffered a significant brain hemorrhage and stroke, and while he initially made a miraculous recovery and we thought he was well in his way to a full recovery, however, his condition rapidly deteriorated and he was unable to overcome the damage to his brain. It is with profound sorrow and broken hearts that we that we have to tell you all we had to say goodbye to Brad…
We know this news comes as a shock to all of you and be devastating to many of you that he called his family and friends, as it has been for us. Brad will obviously be missed by his extended family and freinds he has made all around the world, we all wish he was still with us ready to skate that next pool, bowl, and ditch…
For those that aren’t familiar with Brad’s entire story or least an abbreviated version, Brad was born in 1969 in Framingham, Massachusetts, and lived in Holliston, MA until our family moved to California the day after Christmas in 1972, which Brad thought was great because we had two Christmases that year (one on each coast). Brad grew up in the sleepy little town of Agoura, CA, and started skateboarding at the age four. Brad was always extremely active and involved in outdoor activities like soccer, cross country running, surfing and of course skateboarding. Brad graduated from Agoura High in 1987 and attended Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo.
Brad literally traveled the world skateboarding, surfing, and working for Gravity Skateboards for many years. Recently he has been involved a building skatepark in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Brad is survived by his brother Geoff and his wife Teri, sister Alison and her husband Tom and his five nieces and nephews (Zach, Jeremy, Peri, Wes and Tess), who affectionally called him “Uncle Rad”.
Details on memorial services will shared with all at a later date. We ask that in lieu of flowers or cards, if you would like to honor Brad’s memory you make a donation in his name to Saint Francis Hospital who provided world class medical care to Brad during his brief battle (details to follow).
As many of you know Brad was always a giver and as his final gift to the world was that he donated his organs that will potentially save the lives of 8 people, and tissue that will benefit as many as 75 additional people.
If Brad were still with us, we are sure he would want the lesson of his life to be, “Be good to each other, and make someone smile today through some small act of kindness, or even a smile”. And he would say the lesson from his death is to get your blood pressure checked on a regular basis and take care of yourselves and each other.
Brad is off on the next leg of his journey to join his parents (Nancy and Paul), and all his friends and family that preceded him, and I’m sure looking forward to the endless perfect wave, and the ultimate skatepark!
We already miss you immensely, but until we meet again skate on little brother, skate on!
Seven years ago if you asked me what was celebrated on September 21st I would have given you a blank stare and the following answer: “How the hell do I know what happens on September 21st? – I can barely remember what I had for breakfast yesterday!” So what is happening tomorrow? Well, read on and I’ll give you the scoop. A great many things have changed since 2010 but looking back through that year, Concrete Wave was doing things that NO other skate magazine would touch. Here’s a sample: Here’s another example – do any of these folks look familiar? Damn you guys look so YOUNG!The fact is the IDEA of DOCUMENTING skateboarding from different perspectives is what makes it such a phenomenal sport/pastime/lifestyle or whatever noun you want to put in there. Before International Longboarder/Concrete Wave, pretty much all skateboard magazines in North America ignored much of what was happening in skateboarding during the mid to late 90’s. The exception of course is Juice Magazine who have done an incredible job blazing their own independent path for 75 freakin’ issues. Seven years ago, if someone were to tell you that Donald Trump was going to be giving a speech to UN as President of the USA, you’d probably think they were out of their mind. Seven years ago, I predicted a great many things within skateboarding. Here’s just one: In case you can’t read that…here’s the most significant part: A lot of folks thought I was out of my mind – but the time from 2010 to 2013 was clearly the “golden age” with demand far outstripping supply. Now, as the industry wonders about demand, participants, contests, media and the latest Facebook shenanigans, I am here to tell you that Concrete Wave is about to change ONCE AGAIN. Things change within skateboarding – that’s in its DNA. But sometimes you get so bogged down you can’t see the forest through the trees. I’d be the first to admit, there are times when I get bogged down as a publisher of CW. But after some serious soul searching, I can tell you, I am on a very different path than I was one year ago – and it feels great. I got my skate mojo back and I fully intend to utilize it. As a magazine, we’ve pivoted a few times. That’s what happens when you buy ink by the gallon and pixels by the terabyte. But one thing I’ve never waivered from: I promote the joy of skateboarding through all kinds of media – not just print. We did videos (CW TV) 17 years ago and we did DVD’s way before YouTube. And for the record, this site still stands – and it just celebrated 21 years on the web! We’re about to unleash some pretty cool things in the next few weeks. My mind has been restless to determine a path for the future. Oddly enough the answers were right there in front of me. A lot of folks will tell you it’s all about going with the flow. For me , it’s all about FLOW state. That’s what skateboarding gives me – I enter flow state. Not sure exactly what that is? Click on the link above! So, to bring this full circle, let me break it down like this: 1. The world is going through quite a bit of trauma/drama/issues right now (just like some parts of skateboarding) 2. Within the world of politics , extreme right and extreme right are severely testing the MODERATE middle. Extreme left and right just creates a circle of mistrust, instability and chaos(skateboarders know how to turn both LEFT and RIGHT in order to move forward) 3. The future is unwritten – Joe Strummer(so what are you going to do about it?) Seven years ago I did not know that September 21st is the International Day of Peace. If you dream of peace in this world, you can do several things: 1. you can skate for peace (or longboard for peace)2. you can roll for peace (thank you to all who did just that on September 16th) to celebrate the 21st3. you can have a role IN peace. The third one is tricky. Our actions define who we are. If you want to roll for peace, that’s awesome Kudos to you. If you want a role IN peace, that is a little more complex because you might face some headwinds from those who don’t quite get what you’re up to. In truth, five years ago, a few people thought that Longboarding for Peace was weird. They thought “search spark stoke” was kinda lame. Have a peek at an online at interview from Wheelbase Mag with James Kelly: Note: I have the greatest admiration for the work that Marcus has done with Wheelbase and I am glad he asked James about his thoughts on winning “Speedboarder of the Year.” But fast forward four years and James Kelly (along with Liam Morgan) has a 12 page story in Skate Slate. Have a look at Jon Huey’s final question: Like James, I view my role in peace as an integral part of who I am as a skater. I am mixing skateboarding with my desire to foster peace, balance and justice. Have a peek at the past five years worth of our work: I am proud of the work that James is doing. I am also very proud of Valerian Kechichian of the Longboard Girls Crew who is also doing great things for skateboarding AND peace! Here is Valeria in her own words:
Through all these years we’ve received thousand of emails of women and men around the world telling us how they started skating after seeing one of our photos or videos and how their lives have changed thanks to longboarding. How empowered they now feel. And even though not everyone became an avid rider, this feeling stuck in them and affected their lives in the most positive way. THAT feeling is exactly what we want to bring to people who need it the most. Work on how we feel about our Selves and hopefully help see more of the magic inside us. We’ve been empowering people through longboarding all these years. Now we want to take it to the next level.
Us humans have basic external needs like food and shelter and we have others just as important: Love, Self-esteem, respect, education, support… We want to work on these aspects and if possible, bring them to people in need.
So how are we doing this? We’re creating new social projects all around the world and we’re also partnering-up with existing ones actively supporting their initiatives through financial and material support, media coverage, creating mutual actions and directing our audience through personal involvement and/or donations.
What does this mean? It means watch how skaters worldwide find their role in peace. Watch how Concrete Wave changes over the next few weeks. Watch how we completely pivot and create something vastly different. And watch as others in the skate community define and act on their role in peace. Tomorrow is the International Day of Peace. Now that you know this, what will be YOUR roll/role? Twenty years ago, my pathway to publishing was through the act of skateboarding. Five years ago, my pathway to peace was through the creation of Longboarding for Peace. One month ago, I created Roll for Peace. I am about to combine all three elements and you’re invited on my journey. Yours in peace, balance and justice,Michael Brooke Yoni Ettinger helps a student at the Shuafat Refugee Camp in East Jerusalem. Ps – High fives and positive vibes
Sioux City, IA local skateboarders lost a fellow skateboarder last January to brain cancer. Andrew Langin 40 years old was a single father of a beautiful 13 yr old daughter Sophie, an avid skateboarder, a bad ass drummer and an amazing metal sculpture. He was a member of the Sioux City Skateboard Association since it’s inception in 1999.Andy with his daughter Sophie The Association was formed by local Sioux City Skateboarders to raise funds for concrete skateboard parks in the midwest. The funds raised help build the concrete skatepark in Sioux City. The skate-able memorial for Andy was project idea from Association members David Hall and Trevor Osterholt. “We wanted to design and construct a memorial for our brother that he would be stoked about. So we designed an obstacle that would work for skateboarding and flow of the skatepark. Also the design is in the shape of an A. We also decided last minute to inlay a spade shaped base so from a certain angle you see a spade.The memorial is specifically shaped in the letter A Andy was a big fan of the band Motorhead and after the passing of Lemmy Kilmister that previous year we thought that would be fitting. The concrete was integrally dosed with butterfield dark charcoal color. We also dosed the truck with 400 pounds of 00 size lime green glass along with Andy’s ashes. All grading, forming and pouring was done by the Sioux City Skateboard Association, JFE Contracting in Sioux City and Concrete finish work was provided by MJ Concrete in Sioux City Ia. The polishing of the elements was done by Rich’s concrete polishing in Sioux City, Ia. The glass and aggregate after polishing glimmered and gave a beautiful finish to the elements. This project is a tribute to our skateboarding brotherhood. Some of Andy’s friends pay tribute to him at the park. All in all a very unique project for a one of a kind father, friend and fellow skateboarder.
I’m J.J. Hulsey. I grew up in Detroit, MI. Green Bay, WI. And both sides of Kansas City.
I create one of a kind artworks that are eye catching, fun, hand drawn/painted, and have more soul than Bobby Womack when he is lonely! (Ok, maybe I took that a little far!)
I’ve worked as a mechanic for 10 years while also producing art. I tattooed for the last 3 years, and I now want to get into the graphic design field.
As far back as I can remember I’ve been into skateboarding, graffiti, and hot rods. I’ve had works shown in several local shows in the K.C. area which lead me to my tattoo adventures.. Found out some of the guys I worked for, were into a life that was totally not where I wanted to be. Not to say that I didn’t learn great things from them, I just wanted to go in a different direction.
Basically, I just want to be where my heart is, and that’s skateboarding and art! Through my young days as a punk rocker, I’ve always believed in the D.I.Y. aspect of skater owned and operated companies. So I’m not in it for the money, but who wouldn’t want to be able to make a living doing what they love!
Contact info: JJ Hulsey
Publisher’s Note – it’s easy to say “support your local skate shop.” It’s quite another to really get behind those folks working tirelessly to keep skateboarding moving forward by nurturing the next generation of riders. Joseph Burnham, the founder and proprietor of Kansas City, Missouri’s Burning Spider Stoke Company is a beacon to skaters world-wide. He’s also a great person. Remember “stoke” is not a commodity you can get online Stoke is a bi-product of skateboarding. And sometimes you gotta BUY the product at the LOCAL skate shop! We want to share skateboarding with as many people as possible. We love everything about it. There is instant feedback with skateboards. If you screw up. You get off balance. You fall. You then chose. You could just opt out. “Nope. Not my game. Not my kind of pain.” You can get back on, destined to fall again. “Yeah. I can do this. I want to do this. I have healed, and now I am stronger.” It is that decision almost every time we step on a board, or fall off. When we finish a session. When a good friend gets injured, sometimes bad. So if not for the support of each other in this otherwise completely mundane and often brutal world? Then why not devote that level of dedication to every decision we make? From the food we put in our bodies. The people we associate with. How we treat ourselves, and others. Where we spend our money in our community. How we invest our time and energy? It is with this we wish to fill our day. It is our absolute delight that we are able to serve such a rad community of people. From the companies that tolerate our perhaps bizarre system of keeping it all together, barely. To the people in our day to day that we get to encourage and watch grow. We have learned so much in these five years, and we are just getting warmed up. We instigate as much skateboarding as we possibly can, through as many channels as we can. We aren’t saying we are the best, only that in what our community has allowed us to build with their contribution, is a lot of fun, as well as rewarding. As we get things continually smoother and we learn a bit more there is no telling what kind of shenanigans are going to be going down. If you spent a month with us, it would all start off with either a first Sunday, or a First Friday. Photo: Joe B. In the case of June’s 2017 layout we would be talking First Fridays down at the Cross Roads. This is more of a Kansas City tradition really, but it gets us out of the shop early on a Friday night and we get to skate with our peoples. First Fridays is a gathering of all sorts of tribes. There are art galleries that have shows. Small makers collaboratives. Street performers. You name it. Oh and us. There is a really sweet free ride hill that cuts down one side of the whole shindig. Despite the sometimes heavy traffic we get in some pretty solid lines. We get to demonstrate what it is we can do. The crowd can get pretty pumped up so this is a lot of fun. Not to mention a great way to meet new people and give them a good example of the possibilities that skateboarding can offer. First Sunday brings the Indian Creek Push Trail series. This is now it’s second year and the band of regulars that push it are The Push Scouts. We have 3 distances someone can push. 25, 50, and 75 mile plans. Most of it is on trails, but the latter is a pretty sweet early start that rips through town. We have teamed up with the Shralpers Union’s local chapter to help with logistics and support, as well as Seismic, and Ultimate Directions for some gear at the end of the year. We keep track of our times on the trail to measure each persons progress. At the end of the year we present awards for Best 25 Mile Time, Best 50 Mile Time, and Best 75 Mile time. We also have a category for Most Improved in each of those segments. Mainly we just tell stories about all of the goings on on the trail and so forth. This has built a community that takes on a Father’s Day weekend event called the Knob Noster Knasty. This is a 69 mile per day two day fiesta smashed into a camping trip. You know we have a strong Shralpers Union Chapter so support is on point, planned out, and ready. It is a sunny little push filled with road kill, no see-um speed killing rocks, and a real nice challenge. There may not be any mountains to push up, but the uphill pushes go on forever, and the downhill sections are too short. Second Sunday we host our Stoke Clinics at Kessler Park. It is closed to cars on the weekends, and features are quarter mile downhill section, as well as a nice flat area. This makes it ideal to teach a really broad range of different skill levels and styles of skateboarding. We kick things off with a optional two hour push along Cliff Drive’s section of road that runs through the park for people wanting to build themselves up for the Indian Creek Trail or long distance pushing in general. Then at 12pm we bring as the shop’s collection of boards to the bottom of the hill and start teaching people what it is they want to learn. Photo: Joe B. Most of the boards were provided by Loaded Longboards, with wheels by Orangatang. The local chapter of the Shralpers Union teamed up with us to complete the decks the rest of the way. So people don’t even need to own a board if they want to try several different styles. We teach people from “never stood on a board before”, to working with our local group of regular riders to improve whatever it is they are wanting to improve. The huge range of riding styles, the huge range of riding skill levels, all the different styles of boards we bring out, and the 3 years of teaching these all come together to hopefully give people the best start to as far as they want to take it education we can possible offer. This location also is also used to host our annual, for the most part, event call King of Kessler. Which is the center event of a three event weekend including a swap meet (Third Friday), and our local Green Skate event (the Sunday After). King of Kessler is a triathlon of skateboarding styles. We kick it all off with a 5 mile push, then a Downhill race, and finish with a Free Ride segment. Each rider gets points for participation in each of the segments and how they finished. At the end of the day, the rider with the most points is crowned King of Kessler. The groms get to be compete for Prince, and the Shralpers Union keep on eye out for the most stoked high five giving person at the event so that we can hand them the Noel Korman Award. Third Fridays bring us back to the shop for our Swap Meets! We invite our community to hang out with us and buy, sell, trade their old gear like we had to do back before the internets. This was a bit of a scary leap for us, but as time has went on the benefits to us as a shop and more importantly the benefits to the community at large have kept these things going. I have had a few shop owners raise their eyebrow on this one for sure, but just bear with me for a few sentences. When I have customers that come in and they are looking for a set up at a lower price, those dudes are on a budget. Granted many of those new or budget skaters may not understand all that goes into a board and how price paid for a board can have an impact on quality. If they are on a budget, and it’s a firm one, and I don’t have a set up that is quality for the price those people will walk. It isn’t money the shop was getting anyways. Those customers would go to a discount internet shop or some corporate big box shop and then purchase a set up that is most likely not a very safe or fun option. Photo: Caleb Scott With the Swap Meets we can offer the budget or brand new skater a safe, quality, option. This takes old gear out of the B/S/T groups and on the road being used. Typically the person will then have budget dollars left over to get their used purchase fixed up with fresh grip. Most of the times fresh bearings, hardware, and other bits and pieces that otherwise would not have been purchased at all. The amount of information people get at the Swap Meet is huge as well. Instead of just one passionate person talking about skateboards, we have a huge chunk of community with different perspectives putting in their two cents as well. Let’s not forget the big thing for the sellers. Those dudes, peoples, our people get cash as well! Does that come back to the shop instantly? Nope not all the time, a lot of the time, but not all the time. That is ok though. We aren’t here to take all the money. We are here to keep our community as happy, as healthy as they allow themselves to be, and equipped with the best information and gear we can reasonably get. We want to curate our community to include as many different styles of skateboarding as we can possible facilitate. The rest of the month is typically now filled up with events from neighboring communities. Mostly being hosted by people that came to our clinics and other events when they started. These people are now stepping up and adding value and diversity to our community in ways that we can not do by ourselves. When the weekend isn’t filled up with something “official”, we like to get onto our local community group and get some sessions going somewheres somehow. Photo: Joe B. We take a special interest in the growing number of articles foretelling the doom and eventual irrelevance of the “Brick and Mortar” skate shop. We see the need for them increasing. Are we able to keep up with the internet guys? Nope. Our purpose is different, our effects can be felt in a different way. As the world gets faster and satisfaction comes at the speed of a clicking button, face to face real touching hugging feeling is lost. Getting to teach one on one with direct contact and the look of real enjoyment and sheer delight when you can coach someone to the right movement in skateboarding is like nothing you can find behind a screen. We are the guardians of where our industry is heading. The way in which we choose to serve our communities, the products we bring in and introduce to our friends. The causes we put our energy and focus into, and the manner we present them to our little corners of a shrinking world are all things that you and I control. Is it easy? Nope. It is down right heart-breaking work sometimes. We believe in what we do, and we aim to cultivate a ideal that with enough hard work, persistence, and love, all things can be built, and sustained in a way that anyone can be supported. We love the brilliant people we get to see on the day to day, our customers and riders. We love the vendors we get to introduce to our people. We do this because we love it. You want to know what the world needs? More skateboarding. If more people skateboarded, we wouldn’t have time to fight, be angry, and say stupid hurtful things on the internet. We would be so tired from a day filled with as much skateboarding as we could get, we would just fall asleep. Next day’s intent, facilitate more skateboarding, whether that is through a job or whatever the end intent would be to skate. Mix . Rinse. Repeat. That is our ideal day. That is our ultimate goal that we work towards. The rest, takes care of itself. Don’t believe me. It can’t work. Talk to me again in another 5 years. Shralp It. If you find yourself in KC – go visit and tell them CW sent you! Burning Spider Stoke Company1603 W 39th St
Kansas City, Missouri, MO 64111(816) 898-0122
I recall meeting up with the man who started up Skullcandy a few years ago. Skullcandy’s logo borrowed heavily from Skull Skates but they wound up disrupting the earphone market. Last fall, Skullcandy got bought by another company for $197 million. The headphone market is definitely a big deal! Today I received an email about a new company that has come up with another take on headphones. They are called Unit 1. Take a peek at what they look like.While most folks on the snow would appreciate this unique helmet/headset combo, there’s no doubt there is a fit for skating. But, remember to be careful. You gotta be able to hear the cars too!The wireless headphones dock in and out of the helmet for separate use (so great for anyone with iOS jack issues). The unit has a super simple one button and dial control that work with thick gloves. Thismeans you can pause, skip tracks and take calls without having to fiddle about Indigogo campaign is in full effect.
The Toronto District School Board has an unusual school located downtown. I’ve had the privilege of working with Oasis for a number of years. I am proud to publish this story When Skateboarding Meets Video Games By Jessica The world is boring. Every day is the same trudge through work or school and all of your decisions are controlled by your parents, teachers or other authority figures in your life. This may not be how it is in reality, but many teens do feel this way about their lives. One stereotype of teenagers is that they are impulsive so adults try and take control of their lives and make decisions for them. Is it any wonder why teenagers struggle for some feeling of agency? This is the sort of things both skateboarding and video games can fix. Both of them offer a sense of rebellion against authority and taking control of your own life and decisions, finding meaning and purpose and escaping from that grey everyday world. The parallels may not seem obvious at first. Skateboarding is usually done outside while you usually play video games inside. We also see videogames as more of a mental sport while skateboarding is a physical one, although this is not always the case. As a person who has always been passionate about video games and who has used them as a coping mechanism, I can see parallels between what I get out of video games and what people get out of skateboarding. For me, video games have been about leaving behind this life and going into another’s, becoming a hero. I am given so much more power than in my physical life, I know that I’m important now and I become proud and confident. Skateboarding can have the same effect. At first you may be quiet and aloof, doing little to interact with others, but as soon as you’re on a skateboard, you transform. You are no longer unsociable, you are now loud and confident, you’re no longer you, you’re the Skateboarder. As The Skateboarder you have so much more power and can do so much more with your body than you could do before. With becoming another person, you lose the restraints of your old self and gain a new identity around other people. In these new identities, you find purpose. It’s easy to find purpose in these two activities because they give you reachable short term and long term goals that revolve around you succeeding. In video games, you have to complete levels and defeat enemies, while the long term goal could be defeating the villain or saving the world. With skateboarding, short term goals include trying new tricks and getting better at them while long term goals could be contributing to the subculture’s community. Giving purpose makes people feel motivated to keep living and to continue trying to get better regardless of failure. For a long time society has seen video games and skateboarding as inherently dangerous for teenagers and children, leading them to lives of apathy and laziness. Of course, they’re wrong. Society consistently overlooks the positive effects of skateboarding and video games and how they can aid teenagers and children with their mental health. From these different outlets, it’s possible to find the meaning, purpose and identity that teenagers can ground themselves in and find some sort of peace.
Skateboarding finally has its first Virtual Reality video game and it’s called “Hover Skate VR”. John Hinton, a skateboarder from Florida, developed it independently. The game is controlled with your hands and you can learn and master 250 skateboarding tricks. As its name implies, your skateboard is hovering instead of rolling, only touching down for grinds and slides. You’re in Virtual Reality world, so why not, right? As you make your way around various cityscapes, the terrain features lots of ledges, rails, and stairs. In the pro shop you can pick which shoes you want to wear, or deck you want to ride. Hover Skate VR has teamed up with Dan MacFarlane to bring Mentality Skateboards to the game. As you virtually walk around the pro shop you can hand pick a Mentality deck off of the shelf while the “Skateboarding Realms” video trailer plays on the shop TV screen. For the soundtrack, Missouri skateboarder and music artist Jonathan Toth From Hoth has contributed songs off his skateboarding themed album “Sick Boys” to keep you in full on skate mode as you play. “It’s fun and challenging like real skateboarding” says Jeremy Eyring, a skateboarder and avid player of the game. Hover Skate VR is played on PC only and requires a HTC Vive, or Oculus Rift VR headset. While it’s still a work in progress you can get early access and give feedback as it is perfected and built upon. John Hinton says he plans to add a new skatepark level to the game in the near future. Get Hover Skate VR here.
Rob Strand enjoys a moment of peace.
Two years ago I was lost. I had left my career track with a breakup-induced broken heart and the realization that I was working my life away for a cause that was not my own. I fell into depression. There was so much noise inside my mind. I knew something was wrong. The distractions of weed, alcohol and Tinder “dating” provided some instant gratification, but could not begin to heal the fundamental wound inside me. I found sanctuary in surfing and longboarding. During that period of cloudy confusion, a year of entire days carving down the hills and alleys of El Segundo, California, longboarding kept me going and became a fundamental part of my identity. Later on, after moving back home to Minnesota for some familial care, I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. A huge part of what brought me back to health is the practice of skating.
I first started skateboarding in rural Minnesota with two friends after elementary school let out. It was more for companionship between the three of us, less because I felt driven to do it alone. We would compete with each other. We pushed each other to see who could do an ollie first, then a pop shove-it, and a kick flip. It was about friendship, and finding a sense of belonging. Immersion in the skateboarding culture followed, and soon I had the pages of Thrasher and Transworld Magazines plastered all over my bedroom walls. I was enthralled. I kept regularly skating throughout high school. Skateboarding gave me purpose, friendship and energy.
As a son of an engineer and a school-teacher, college was next. Skating dropped oﬀ completely. Rugby and industrial engineering studies filled the days. I graduated and joined a large corporation as an operations manager in training. Thus continued a path that was set out for me but not my own. A good job, great salary, moving around the country from flour mill to flour mill became my way of life. Managing 24/7 operations was rigorous and exhausting. I realized, nearly four years into my career, that I wasn’t gaining any energy from what I was doing. I was failing to find motivation and enthusiasm for Life, as I had when I was a younger skater.
The realization that I was following a career path that was draining the stoke from me, along with the collapse of a relationship, drove me out of work and into the greatest depression of my 27 years of life. I walked away from that path, and I was lost. Work had brought me to East Los Angeles, far from home in Minnesota. I was fortunate enough to have a cousin and her family in town, and they oﬀered me a place to find refuge and a table topped with good food, surrounded by two little kids and their loving parents. My cousin’s husband informally told me about a surfboard builder in town named Tyler Hatzikian.
I went to Tyler’s shop, introduced myself to his wonderful wife, Katherine, and soon began working retail, part-time for a craftsman I came to admire greatly. It was in that shop where I discovered Carver skateboards. There were a couple of demo boards. “Sure, take one out, have some fun!” When I hopped on that board and skated down the small alley behind the surf shop, I had no idea about the magnitude of the change that was beginning in my life. I became hooked on longboarding. Surfing the streets became my every-day dedication, a practice I was fully committed to. I skated for hours in the morning, and hours in the afternoon. I skated at night, late, when the streets were so quiet I could have sworn I was back in rural Minnesota.
Rob says that skateboarding has led to a deep connection with himself.
I had never set foot on a longboard before that time. Sensations of snowboarding came to me when I was carving down hills of concrete. I could move like the surfers I loved to watch, the turns became my obsession. I grew to Love the point at which my wheels would break loose, a feeling that became so intimately known on each board and surface. It’s like knowing the friction point at which the clutch of a car you’ve driven for years engages each gear. The sensation becomes part of your body, imbedded within the memory of the muscles used to activate the slide. I could wax poetic about a single turn and all the physiological and psychological activity that occurs when I’m skating, but I would hopelessly digress. The point is, I’m obsessed.
Skating was my therapy. All the rage, all the anxiety and even old wounds of lost love could be put into the background just by walking up a hill and carving down it (over and over and over again). Surfing was there for me too, but as any surfer knows, you can’t really surf every single day in most locations. What started as a flat-day-only activity became an everyday practice, and I committed myself to riding faster, turning smoother, and learning how to navigate the lines that my mind would draw on any hill, alley and driveway. This gave me such a positive outlet, and I soon saw my life changing from the inside out. I learned about dedication, about sticking to something and watching your hard work develop into skill. I developed an immense passion for the streets and I could express that passion by riding, pouring sweat and blood into them. Most important of all though, I learned presence of mind. I could focus, find the moment and open it wide, expanding time as I perceived it.
Being a manic-depressive person, I live at the far ends of life’s spectrum. With a mind like mine, it’s diﬃcult to find balance, and I’m often lost in fantastic dreams about the future and dark corners of the past. Skating brings me to the here and now. When I’m riding, I know exactly who I am. Funny thing is, I think there has been a direct translation between physically finding my steady balance on a skateboard, and finding that same capability in life’s varied situations. Every time I got into a sketchy spot on a hill, went too fast, lost control, and then pulled out of it unharmed by focusing my attention and listening to that instinctive survivalist voice in my head, I gained a measure of confidence. I can find that voice in life. The practice of skateboarding increases my ability to listen for it, and notice it when it’s needed. Stressful situations can become less tense, I can breathe and think more critically and independently of external circumstance.
In California I dove deep into longboarding. It was an every day, all day practice. The dry, sunny environment fully supported it. The scars I’ve got from learning to ride are inexorably tied to the growing pains I’ve had while learning to deal with depression, my hypo-manic moods, and life’s situations in general. I know pain, and I know bliss. I’ve found plenty of both on a longboard, and have developed an intimate understanding of how in skating there is so much Life, and in my Life there is always skating.
I would like to tell you that I’ve got it all figured out now. I’ve found a career that gives me energy, paid oﬀ all my debts, enjoy every-day balance and total control of my moods, and live free of depression and any symptoms of mental illness. However, such nonsense is utterly untrue. What I am able to say honestly and whole-heartedly is that my life situation is better. Six months of sobriety have brought me a more focused mind with fewer distractions, and sharper skating. Dietary discretion and wholesome cooking has brought me a cleaner body, healthier gut and happier disposition. No more Tinder “dating”, I’ve found my partner and best friend. She understands me. She knows how important skating is to my well-being, and encourages me to go out on the days I appear to be lacking the energy.
I started skateboarding as a way to connect with my close friends in elementary school. Over time, it became a way for me to connect with myself and find out who I am. It became an integral part of my treatment plan to restore and maintain mental health and general well-being.
Editor’s Note:I don’t mind that pretty much 100% of all skate shoe companies refuse to engage in anything but street and vert. It’s their money to spend on whatever they wish, marketing wise. While it would have been great to have a nice big skate shoe company take space in the mag, it never came to fruition. And I am sure as heck not holding my breath now! If I look back on the past 20 years, I’d say Vans has probably done the most to promote different types of skateboarding. They threw down $800,000 for the Dogtown film. Can you imagine if Nike had sponsored a freeriding event or two? Doubtful that will ever happen. Skate shoe companies still wield a mighty powerful stick in the industry and any variance from the mean will not be tolerated. It’s pretty much street, transition or vert…and don’t even try and think of creating a downhill shoe!
And then along comes a nice email from the folks at Simple Shoes. As my friend Kilwag pointed out (over at Skate and Annoy), Simple created this chart and didn’t even include themselves. That’s quite amazing and on top of this, Aurelija, their publicist wrote such a nice email, that I truly couldn’t resist posting something. So, in the spirit of Simple, I present this blog post. Keeping an open mind is paramount. Thanks Simple. I hope you sell a ton of shoes and if you want to spread the message in CW Mag, I’d be down. From the original Chuck Taylors of the ‘20s to modern sneakers, the crossover between fashion and skateboarding created a uniquely recognizable style. People were quick to capitalize on the youth trend, but it always kept its rebellious core. Adopting everything from surfing, early boarders would ride their glorified box carts bare foot. Early shredding tended to take place below the ankles (in the form of bloodied feet). It took a while before fashion and tech were refined. With the arrival of the first skate shoe in 1965 (thanks, Randolph Rubber), the stage was set for clever manufacturers, professional sponsorships and merchandisers to fund the brave new world. From vulcanized rubber to the ever-changing shape of hi-tops, skate fashion was one of those rare instances where young people were given a voice. Companies listened and made products that worked. Every sneaker is like a time capsule. Shoes of the ‘60s copied basketball style. The ‘80s saw chunkier, padded sneakers make a break with the past. The present day has a slimmer, more confident shoe design—popular with boarders and non-boarders alike. Charting the story from humble shoe to cultural icon, this interactive map should paint a clearer picture of the skate scene.
For many skaters of the 1970’s, 1977 proved to be a crucial year. It’s when everything really started to come together for me as a skater. I was 2 years deep into skateboarding and in late 1976, I learned about punk rock. In the summer of 1977, I found myself in England. I was with my family on a trip back to visit my extended family and pick up a few records. Specifically, the Sex Pistols. It was pretty funny going into a record shop and seeing a blank space at “number 2” on the charts. The shops were so scared of putting “God Save the Queen – Sex Pistols” that they intentionally left it blank. I still have this single. And yes, this song still sounds as good today as it did back then. When I returned home and played the song for friends at school, they couldn’t quite understand it. Three years later they had mohawks. Well, 40 years later, I am here to warn you that we are not going to intentionally leave anything blank like that shop did. Punk rock is not just music. It is an attitude. And that attitude runs a gamut of emotions and actions. No, we’re not going to spit on you. But we are about to unleash a 6,000+ word essay (over 4 postings) that looks at the state of things in skate retail. Bud is warning me that this might ruffle a few feathers. Ruffling feathers is the essence of punk, so I think we are on the right path. Ironically punk rock came full circle last year when Malcolm McLaren’s son burned five million pounds worth of memorabilia. Talk about punk rock – that is very punk rock. But we’re not going to that extreme. Stand by…you have been warned. Special shout out to Doug Ward of Clifton, NJ for inspiring this piece.
Today Longboarding for Peace heads out to Jamaica. We are teaching kids and spreading the stoke of skateboarding. We will be working with the Marley Foundation and Jamnesia Surf Club. We’ll have a detailed story in our Summer issue. Artwork by Chris Dyer
I found out about Danilo on facebook. There was something truly exceptional about his art that combined a mixture of fun and soulfulness. He currently lives and works in Brazil. I think his art truly captures the fun and chaos that is skateboarding. Enjoy! We have a four page story on Danilo in our latest issue. If you visit his facebook page you will see a lot more work.
It’s been over a month since I was at ISPO. Something has been weighing on my conscious, but I wasn’t quite able to connect the dots. While at ISPO in Germany, I met a number of interesting folks and ran into a few unusual situations. Without naming names, there are a number of people who have borrowed heavily from the Carver Truck. Some have done tributes to Neil Carver’s revolutionary designed truck, others have pretty much copied the design.Behold the CX Surfskate Truck! If copying someone’s idea is the sincerest form of flattery, you could say Carver has been overwhelmed by flattery. The truth is that it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to create something new. The entire crew over at Carver spent years working and promoting a new way to ride. Seems like folks like the feeling of sharp turning…gives them a great work out. But what is sad is that most of these companies that borrowed heavily or were inspired by Carver didn’t once pick up the phone and try and work out something. Some just copied, with no remorse. Well, in the spirit of ripping people off, I ripped off the PEACE SIGN five years ago. From this…thank you Gerald Halton! to this… Four years ago, my good friend John Krieger took the logo and tweaked it. Feel free to steal my idea too.Because I just stole John’s idea…or is more of a tribute? I figure it is for a great cause. Please don’t sue me John!
Where: “Bonfire” Camp in Großerlach, near Stuttgart (SW Germany)
When: June 1st to 6th
More details here: womenlongboardcamp.com
From complete newbies to advanced – this camp has got you covered. A perfect playground for all types of skating. Campfires, swimming pond, resident miniramp, a bunch of rad likeminded ladies – we heartily encourage all female skaters to attend.
Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org
This past January, I went to Cuba for my dad’s birthday. It was my first time there and I was so surprised about Cuba’s history that I’ve learned from the locals. Firstly, I did not expect to get a chance to meet some riders. Cuba is a small country and it can get very expensive for locals to buy skate gear. Actually in Varadero and around there’s no skateshop.
Varadero has an attractive park with a little river surrounding it. I was out skating and by chance, I met up with a 15 year old skater. He was wearing an Amigo Skate Cuba t-shirt. This is a group base in La Habana in order to help the skate community all over the country. It’s aim is to initiate kids and adults in our world.
Turns out his name was Christian and he invited me for a session with some of his skater friends. A few days later, I tried to reach them by FB Messenger. It turns out it, this was impossible. My “super wi-fi” connection was poor in my resort. I was feeling disappointed because I had lots of gifts that I brought from Canada. I had stickers, t-shirts from one of our skateshops in Montréal, (Boutique Rollin).
Two days before I was to return, I was longboarding again in the center of Varadero at sunset. I heard someone screaming my name very loud. It was Cristian with his friend. They were barefoot with their boards and we went riding around the city together. They were planning to to Judo training but when they saw me they decided to skateboard – even without shoes. It was a very funny unexpected session at sunset.
We then decided that for my last day in this small paradise, to meet up after their school class. A group of about 5 riders and skateboarding in that small park. Cristian told me that they were so stoked to see a 31 years old women, gringa, longboarding. It was great to have to have a chance to share my passion with all those amazing skaters. Each of us are unique and have a story to tell. It’s important to listen people that we find on our travels.
At the end of my travels, I finally got the chance to give away my gifts. I didn’t have a lot, but for them it was huge to have small pieces like bearings which you cannot easily find in Cuba. I learned a lot with those Cuban’s teenagers. In fact they have almost nothing when it comes to material possessions, but they still enjoying their life on that small island everyday.
We are not conscious about the things that we are missing if we don’t know they exist . One of keys of happiness, I think. Cristian is currently working hard to create a bigger group of Cubanos and bring them in that sport. Unfortunately he told me that the government don’t want to put a skatepark in Varadero, because they have one in an another city – in Cardenas This is about half an hour from Varadero. I think a park in Cardenas would be a great idea.
Definitely, I would like to contribute more to Cuba. It truly is a beautiful country. I want to help the skateboard industry to grow more there. Cristian told me that recently there were two guys from Puerto Rico who came to his city and gave him some skateboards as a gift. So if you’re planning to visit Cuba, think about brining something for the locals. For sure they will appreciate it!
Congratulations to All!
1970’s – ERA 1
1970’s – ERA 2
1980’s – ERA 2
ICON AWARD…announced next Monday!
Photos courtesy of Warren Bolster
Each year I visit Munich to attend ISPO. There are a ton of amazing skate products along with numerous great people. I always make it a point to get to the ISPO innovation area. This year, a backpack caught my eye. It’s from a Canadian expat who now lives in Denmark. His name is Adrian Solgaard and his company, Solgaard, is creating some pretty interesting products.This man is secretly Canadian. Adrian and I immediately hit it off and I was pretty damn impressed with his backpack that he was showcasing at his booth. Seems like I’m not the only one – the company raised over 1.2 million dollars on Kickstarter. What is fascinating about this backpack is that it literally has every conceivable thing a skater could want. 1. It has a proprietary lock – you can lock this bag to a fence or table. This is a crucial feature because sometimes you fear your bag is going to get lifted if you are at skatepark. 2. It has a phenomenal speaker – and you can play music for up to 96 hours 3. As crucial as the lock is a solar charger. You can charge your phone up to 6 times. 4. There are hidden pockets to hide your cash or secret phone numbers! There are more features, but these four alone make the pack a skater’s perfect backpack. Of course, true skateboard backpacks also include straps to hold the board. While this could be something that Solgaard could add to future products, I am not sure how much it would help things. The backpack is truly exceptional. Kudos to Adrian and his entire team! If you are interested, you can purchase one here.
As I was scrolling through Facebook one day, I caught a glimpse of a pleasant surprise amidst the barrage of cat videos, politically-charged upheavals and “New Year, New Me” status updates. In the depths of all the other virtual noise, I found a rider blazing downhill with a different stance and with more control than any other downhill footage I have seen.Evolution of the product.Call it effective social media marketing or call it fate but I knew I had to reach out to President and CEO of Freebord Mfg. Steven Bianco to find out more about their San Francisco roots, their worldwide expansion and the individualistic niche they have quite literally carved out of the board sports world.Freebord is about “snowboarding the streets.”As mentioned, the movement started in creator Steen Strand’s SF garage under mountains of credit card debt and prototypes. Introducing Freebord to the world was, “the hardest thing I’ve ever done” Strand summed up bluntly.Steen Strand (circa 1997) sweated blood and tears making Freebord a reality. With the production help from some friends and the same humanizing word of mouth promotion, the Freebord community began to grow. Then, by aligning themselves with the snowboarding community, the brand thrived in Summer months as wholesalers sought out new products to sell.In demand and out the door! Bianco notes that this early success came at the point where digital video production was improving in quality and encouraging riders to go out and document their runs. By connecting through online forums, dedicated Freebord riders turned 8 hour trips to meet up and ride into a casual routine. The influx of footage that derived from these trips culminated in a series of Best User Submitted Video contests in 2005. To date, hundreds of amateur and professional film makes have took to the streets and shown the world what Freebord riders are capable of. To this end, riders like Caleb Casey have taken on snowboard-inspired pillow lines, while riders like Jordi Puig keep their sights on conquering mind-numbing lines down the Alps and stomping perfect frontside 360s for enders. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, those like Mike Hoppe, stick to the San Fransisco terrain where he helped Freebord rise to fruition in its early days. Here in street skateboarding’s capital of hill bombs, Hoppe makes snaking down “the most crooked street in the world” look trivial with effortless frontside to backside transitions. Also here in the Bay Area, the the many members of the prominent local community have transformed the city into their own personal resort. As Bianco puts it, “Freebording has created it’s own irreverent sub-culture that resembles other board sports but is also not like other board sports.”Skyhooks meet Freebords and this allows Caleb Casey to take flight.The difference between the Freebords and cruisers, downhill boards or any fusion of the two is in the fundamental design and performance. From the bottom up, the Freebord was designed to simulate snowboarding on pavement, not to take the skill out of the longboarding or skateboarding. By designing the center castor wheels to act as a similar base to snow, the wide trucks were subsequently designed to keep riders flowing from heelside to toeside edge, like snowboarders would on the slopes. From there, the bindings allow riders more torque as would snowboard bindings, only they allow riders to easily hook in and out to add the ability to push and to step out. This completely reimagined way of taking the sensation of bringing snowboarding to the streets influences riding styles in a way that allows Freebord riders to size up a hill unlike the way any other boarder would approach one. Visit freeboard here.
BEHOLD THE MIGHTY THRASHER T- SHIRT! By now you have probably seen this on a t shirt. It’s from fast fashion behemoth H & M.Here’s the story behind it. What is astounding is H & M’s response to Thrasher’s request to cease and desist. No wonder people detest lawyers. Just read that last paragraph once again. “While both words start with the letter “T”….” Talk about a stretch. So what is this story about? Here’s what this Tippin logo is NOT.This logo is not about a tribute to Thrasher. A tribute to Thrasher would have meant acknowledging the 36 years this logo has been around. Lawyers from H & M would have contacted the lawyers of Thrasher and they would have figured out a deal…or not. My sense is that Thrasher would not have agreed to a tribute to their logo from H & M. Note: Tribute bands are something else entirely. While I am not one to judge a book by its cover, I’d say neither of these tribute bands would be mistaken for the real thing. This is not a story about an homage to Thrasher.Homage is respect paid to a person or idea. The word comes from feudal times. Suffice to say, I don’t see any respect being paid to Thrasher. So if it’s not a tribute or an homage what exactly would you call what H & M has done? Perhaps the best way to answer this is to highlight a comment from Thrasher’s Instagram account. While I can’t verify sladerobinson, it does seem rather telling that there is a pattern here. And here.So, for what I can tell, H & M borrows, in the heaviest of ways, other people’s ideas and images. To put it another way, the pattern is ripping off other people’s images and ideas. It’s not like this doesn’t happen all the time – it does. Check out logothief. But there is something truly egregious about ripping off Thrasher that just makes my blood boil. I’ve looked at that logo longer than I’ve known my wife! If you’re as pissed off as I am, why not contact H & M and tell them?
There’s far more to life than skateboarding. That statement probably won’t make me particularly popular among my fellow skateboarders, of course. But being a bit of a punker still, even well into my middle forties, I’m blessed by the curse of not giving too much of a crap about such trivialities. Life is far too short to allow yourself to be pigeonholed or packaged into an inhibiting personal prison. My job, as I see it, is to see, experience, dream, and grow. If that doesn’t suit your pet political penchants, well, so be it. I have also been advised by a few of my mentors and confidantes that kids just can’t be bothered to read too much anymore. That’s too bad. If that’s true, then you’re probably gonna miss out on guys like Jules Verne, Jack London, Jack Kerouac, and Kurt Vonnegut. Not that they were “great” writers or anything, but still… Thankfully, I did take some heed of this awful advice, and decided early on in the planning of this installment to tell my story much more in photographs, and a bit less in words. Some trips can’t be believably articulated, anyway; some things just have to be seen to be trusted. I had a hunch that this Quartzsite expedition might just be one of those extraordinarily eventful excursions. Turns out, I was right. And thankfully so. My road map for this trip was guided by a neat and novel new website that I had stumbled upon, quite by accident, called Roadside America (www.roadsideamerica.com). Inside that web world, you’ll find a full and complete cataloging of every obscure American oddity that the average would-be road adventurer might find fun and fascinating. As it turns out, Roadside America is pretty spot-on, and a great resource for the geekery that defines me. My very first stop in Quartzsite was at a public garden called Freedom Park, where I found two aging examples of one of my all-time favorite airplanes, the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. Or in this case, more specifically, NRF-4C Phantoms. These particular planes served with overseas tactical reconnaissance squadrons before landing at the AFFTC (Air Force Flight Test Center) at Edwards Air Force Base, where they were used to for on going flight test support; the “ED” tail codes and 6510 Test Wing emblems on the fuselages gave their whole story away to the discriminating dork in me. Whatever else I wanted to find out about these Phabulous Phantoms… which was pretty much, “everything”… I could hastily and efficiently retrieve by simply Googling their serial numbers, a fun little trick that I’ve been employing pretty regularly these days. The ‘Net, after all, is an absolutely amazing resource for certifiable nerds like me. Everything is there, just waiting to be discovered. “Prefab plastic swill. If you do make a pit stop here, just take a funny pic with the goofy skate statue in front of the park and leave. More fun to be had at the various junk shops and flea market booths around.” – Concrete Disciples review of the Quartzsite Skatepark I was advised well beforehand that the Quartzsite Skatepark was going to suck. It really lived up to my lowly expectations. It seems like they might have spent more on the bronze statue dedication to the skatepark, than they might have spent on the skatepark itself. And look at that skateboard; it looks more like a small snowboard mounted up with clay wheels and Chicago trucks, than an actual skateboard. The fact that the kid is tethered to the pedestal is freakishly ominous; this Skatewave skate-place does seem like a jail of sorts, where kids are sentenced to suckiness for the rest of their lives until they either quit skateboarding, or move to The Big City… whichever comes first. I did manage to get my must-do trick here though, the obligatory frontside rock; when you’ve skated as many sucky Skatewave parks as I have in the last ten years (or so), you do start getting used to them. It still wasn’t particularly easy to pull off, though. The only thing worse than the crappy obstacles is the overall setup of the place; here, the skate obstacles themselves become ironic obstacles to enjoyable skateboarding. Celia’s Rainbow Garden was right around the corner from the skatepark. It’s a botanical monument to a local girl that died (at 8 years old) of a rare viral heart infection. The story is heart-wrenching, of course; only a true megalomaniac could avoid being somehow affected by such a tale. But the garden is a study in strikingly solemn beauty, a truly creative and collaborative community effort. It is currently the largest (if not the only) free botanical garden in the state, and it provided me ample opportunities to shoot colorfully saturated photos of extraordinary objects from strange and unusual perspectives. Roadside America had enlightened me to the existence of Naked Paul at Reader’s Oasis Books on Main Street in Quartzsite. Naked Paul is the owner of the place, and apparently mans his humble bookshop sans clothing. This, I just had to see for myself; I can bring myself to believe a whole lotta horsecrap, but this was just too over the top for my temperamental tastes. Turns out, the tales are totally true… Naked Paul has pictures all over the place of himself being naked, typically with a tourist within an arm’s embrace… but unfortunately, they’re also totally seasonal, and not particularly applicable to the frigid frost of the desert winter. I did manage to shoot a few photos off their offbeat literary offerings, and I made a small donation to Celia’s Garden while I was there with the little bit of cash I was carrying. It was the very least I could do, I thought. Yes, “RV Park Sculptures” are a very real thing in this topsy-turvy world of roadside bemusements. Hassler’s RV Park is a cornucopia of steel structures of the clever and funny variety. Bicycles, bobcats, whales, bears, and many more were all forged from horseshoes and castaway rebar, among other steel tidbits; ah, the clever things we can craft from castaways. After Celia’s Rainbow Garden, I kind of needed a chuckle. Hassler’s didn’t disappoint. Hadji Ali… popularly and affectionately known as “Hi Jolly”… was a Syrian camel driver that was recruited by the United States Army to lead an obscure (and ill-advised) 1856 experiment involving testing camels as pack animals in the arid desert southwest. An American legend… at least, in this far corner of the country… he is memorialized by a pyramid-shaped tomb near downtown Quartzsite. The camel experiment having roundly failed (as far as the U S Government was concerned, at least), the animals were released to the wild, with the last camel sighting occurring as late as 1942. Ironically, I visited this memorial on the very same day that Donald Trump was signing an executive order banning Syrian immigrants from our shores. Hi Jolly might well have been rolling over in his tomb, just as I was standing squarely upon it. The world works in really strange ways, sometimes. Tyson’s Well Stage Station Museum is a former stagecoach stop that currently houses mining artifacts, homesteading displays… and this really strange, display-case-sized diorama of a “typical” 1950s bar scene, complete with miniature bottles of booze, a pint-size cigarette vending machine, and a whole host of creepily entertaining characters socializing on and around the barstools. It seemed extraordinarily out of place in a museum setting. At the same time, it was probably one of the most entertaining exhibits I’ve ever seen. Next on my visit-list was The World’s Largest Belt Buckle (it really is pretty big), the “Wheel Rim Camel” (a camel sculpture made out of… yes, you guessed it… wheel rims)… and then, we stopped at the Quartzsite Airport. Which, like most things in Quartzsite, is not entirely what it was advertised to be. Thinking that it’s a functioning facility with flyable hardware, we actually discovered a strange and decrepit boneyard of archival aircraft components, and a field full of reasonably well-preserved vintage Cadillacs, patiently awaiting some sort of vague and uncertain fate. We liked the area so much that we made it our evening’s campsite, where we got to watch a fireworks display erupting over our camper while we listened to the succulent sounds of a ragtime Christian revival emanating from a nearby yurt. Quartzsite was certainly full of strange surprises. We learned that much the fun way on Saturday.The Southwest is still largely defined by World War II, and the immediate aftermath of the immense war effort. Relics of the mighty military effort still liberally litter the desertscape, close to seventy years after the fact. Blythe, California, hosts not just one, but two abandoned WWII airfields… although this one was “abandoned” only in the semantic sense. In reality, I found a horde of anonymously-dressed “civilians” and blacked-out SUVs cavorting here, along with some impressively foreign military hardware that seemed strictly engaged in some sort of super-secretive maneuvers. I swore my secrecy of the finer details (and the resultant classified photos) in exchange for some suave intelligence on a far more accessible abandoned airfield just across town. Secure in some American officers’ enthusiastic permissiveness, I thus made my way to what would become the score of the day. Blythe Field was subsequently known in it’s WWII heydays as Gary Field. It was the home base for the Morton Air Academy, a contract aviation school that churned out trained flying cadets for the United States Army Air Forces. Today, it remains (barely) standing as an atlas obscurity known as W. R. Byron Airport, named after its apparently absentee owner. Having received surprise permission to do a little bit of urban exploration, I carefully strolled the grounds, climbed the control tower… a heart-stopping exercise in immediate risk, that was… sifted through debris, and photographed the site to my heart’s never-ending content. Yes, it was extremely hazardous hunting… and yes, it was eerie and creepy as hell… but this sort of history simply cannot be experienced (or appreciated) secondhand. It takes getting up close and personal with the ghosts of these places to truly understand, internalize, and empathize with the significance of the homefront war effort, and the mass dismantling and abandonment that followed. An hour’s drive away in Poston, Arizona was a memorialized reminder of a far different sort of struggle on the WWII homefront. Namely, the struggle for Americans to retain their rights in a fearful and insecure world. After Pearl Harbor and the sweeping victories of the Emperors’ Empire all across the Pacific, of course, anti-Japanese sentiment ran amok; Americans (of Japanese descent) were roundly and arbitrarily suspected of anti-American espionage and terrorism, rounded up, stripped of their worldly possessions and property, and trucked away to inhospitable desert internment camps… much against their free will and their civil rights, of course… for the balance of the war. Ironically, these camps were sited on the sovereign lands of another historically oppressed American minority, the reservations of the Colorado River Indian Tribes. Poston was the largest of these internment concentration camps, and this memorial represents their dignified struggles to retain their “constitutionally guaranteed” rights and liberties in the face of widespread public propaganda and misguided racial hatred. Not unlike the sort of politically directed disservice that we’re subjecting the Muslims to, today.Before George S. Patton became a celebrated national hero, he was the commanding officer of the sprawling Desert Training Center (DTC), later more widely known as the California-Arizona Maneuver Area (CAMA). A massive desert warfare simulation site of epic proportions, the DTC covered virtually all of Southern California and western Arizona (except for the aforementioned Japanese internment camps, which were probably located right in the middle of the battle zone to keep “The Japs” both figuratively, and literally, in their damned place); it ended up being the largest military training ground in the history of military maneuvers (according to Wikipedia). The CAMA eventually covered an area approximately 350 miles wide by 250 miles long, and included eleven camps, five major airfields, five minor airfields, and dozens of auxiliary [emergency] airfields. This Patton tank in Bouse, Arizona, is a way-off-the-beaten-path remembrance of Patton’s single-minded military mission; rumour has it that he even slept on the floor of the A & C Mercantile across the road when he flew into town. The western-themed town of Wickenburg, Arizona was my last stop of the weekend as I made my way back home. Far better than the skatepark of suckiness that I experienced in Quartzsite, this was a concrete mini-marvel of a skatepark, anchored by a midsized bowl that was almost perfect, if only it wasn’t filled to the brim with litter and leaves. Apparently it doesn’t get used all that much by the locals, and they obviously can’t be bothered with sweeping it out from time to time. But just like the rest of the stops on my weekend tour, it was still pleasantly entertaining in its own weird, eccentric sort of way. I just got back two days ago. The camper is already restocked, and the gas tank is full again. I’ve got some money burning a hole in my pocket. I wonder where I’ll go from here?
I’m not too sure if there’s ever been a skateboard tour that has featured, of all the crazy things in the world, a homebuilt micro-camper. But, this one will! If you’re not familiar yet with my micro-camper, I’ll give you a brief synopsis to get you caught up to speed: I designed, and built, my little camper about three years ago now. It’s built on a Harbor Freight utility trailer, and is made of wood… much like a skateboard ramp would be. It weighs about 700 lbs (or so), features a queen-size mattress (with a memory-foam pillow top), and tows easily behind my little Toyota Yaris. The same Yaris, by the way, that I took out on my 2008 Tour. Back then, the Yaris was brand spankin’ new. Today, it has a compiled a lovingly reliable 187,000 miles. I just realized that, by the way, as I was writing this paragraph. My, how the time flies. The camper has been through a few revisions, and has had some press over at Tiny House Listings… Google “Bud Stratford camper” to find the articles, and they’ll pop right up, three articles in total. Since I built it, the camper’s probably racked up well over 30,000 miles, and has been all over the western United States. You could probably build one for about $2500 or so; of course, I have a bit more than that invested in mine, with all the various revisions and rebuilds over the last three (or so) years. But even then, I’d be shocked if I had more than $3500 invested in the whole project. Given that the Yaris still gets about 28 mpg while towing the camper, this is probably the most fun, functional, relaxing, and enjoyable way to experience the vast, wide-open wilds of America, on a threadbare budget. Whatever “vast, wide-open wilds” that remain, at least. And trust me, there aren’t that many left. I know, because I’ve been looking. The camper was originally designed and built with long-distance snowboard expeditions in mind. Like, to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for my annual pilgrimages to Mt. Bohemia. It didn’t dawn on me until quite some time later that this thing might actually work pretty well for summer camping, too. I can be a really short-sighted idiot like that, sometimes. At first, I was a little disinclined to agree to, and follow through with, yet another overly-ambitious summer tour. I really didn’t think that I had it in me, and in any rate I suspected that the ‘ol knees would immediately protest and/or veto the whole shenanigans. But once I remembered the camper… all of a sudden, I was all about it. How much better could it really get, than to combine two of my favorite lifelong loves… skateboarding, and camping… into one big, epic adventure…? I turned it over in my head a few times, and quickly realized that it cannot possibly ever get any better than that. The Tour was a go, and I was off like a herd of turtles.