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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Is Double Pits To Chesty Ryan Schekler's best move?

Written by Xavier Lannes

Ryan Scheckler is a skateboard star. He is unlike any street skater in history. He is more popular than Tony Hawk at the same age and after July 27th, he might even be more popular than Tony Hawk at all. Ryan is genuinely gifted, able to ride with uncommon elegance and with astonishing consistency. And he's happy selling out his image. A couple of months ago, he said "You know what I really want?" "My own cologne." Even if he stills does not have his “own cologne” he is close to it. At the Maloof contest in the OC Fair on July 10, Axe, a deodorant company, unveiled a new series of spots that ran incessantly on the big screen all weekend featuring a radiant Ryan Scheckler performing his best trick so far: the “Double Pits to Chesty” and ready to hit the big networks for the openings of the XGames, after July 27th.

Whether you think Ryan is a semi-god or a sellout for making that ad, what is truly remarkable is the number of negative blogs that popped up commenting on the ad. And the ad has not been broadcast on TV yet. Many comments on Thrasher Magazine’s message board – where the controversy has allegedly initiated – criticize Ryan for selling out to any type of corporate greed and rejecting the Axe ad. On the other hand, on Facebook, Ryan scheckler has 85 fan’s groups. There’s a couple of hater’s groups, the biggest with 125 members and 80 or so fan groups, the biggest with almost 800,000 fans (again the number is eight hundred thousand fans). Each post from Ryan can generate up to 3000 comments, in comparison, Skateboard legend Tony Hawk is the most prolific Twitter user in action sports, with more than 500,000 followers. He sometimes receives more than 1,000 reply tweets a day. And Thrasher Forum has 4500 members.

When he unveiled his spot on Facebook on July 17th, 800 fans gave Ryan the thumbs up and 120 posted positive comments.

On Facebook, there was not even one negative comment about the commercial.

Facebook is not the genuine Thrasher, not even Concrete Disciples, a true skater’s web site, where Jeff Greenwood wrote: "Thanks once again Ryan, for making skateboarding look utterly stupid to those who don't know any better”.

Why is the ad so deranging to skaters? Because Sheckler's 30-second TV ads, uses the phraseology of board-sport tricks to make a point about the proper use of Axe body spray: "Double Pits to Chesty" is a funny way to remind young men that spraying their armpits isn't enough; they need to hose down their chests to really smell good. In making Axe’s commercial, Ryan created the most popular skate trick ever! The “Double-Pits-to-Chesty” is a phrase that will surely be up there with the likes of double-heelfip-to-fakie for years to come!

So, why are true skaters complaining? Are they afraid that they will have a compelling urge to buy Axe because they saw Ryan using it on TV? Can’t they resist? I would not be compelled to buy it, let alone use it, even if I saw, Ryan, Nyjah, Chris, Tommy, Torey, Lynn-Z, Alex, Chaz, Pierre-Luc, Buckey and Danny on hundreds of commercials all day long. Besides, the point is not to sell Axe to skaters but to mainstream non-skaters. The skaters that are whining in the Thrasher web-site that Ryan is a sellout are generally young guys that will never be able to have a trick named after them like Caballero, McGill and Schekler. That’s called jealousy. All Skaters, including the whiners or the haters should be happy that Sheckler is big enough to earn a television commercial for a mainstream consumer product, not a lot of board-sports stars belong to the club. So, is it good or bad for the skateboard industry that one of its most prominent members is going mainstream with a clean image (as he has done for a couple of years now, especially with The Life of Ryan on MTV). Hell yes. It helps giving a positive image of the skaters that are still seen as filthy outlaws by most people. There was recently on a mainstream TV channel a documentary about underage drinking in Europe. Guess what they used as the intro scenes coupled with drinking and drugs? Yes ! Skateboard.

Finally, does the Axe ad pervert genuine skate? Hell yes! And that’s what all is about. Skate has been about destruction and nihilism for decades. By mocking the true skaters, the funny Axe ad is true to genuine skater’s own standards by going in the same direction as nihilism (of true skaters) and destruction (of the core image). That double negation could be summed up as “Skate and Create”.

Are we on the verge to enter a new era where skate has become as clean and odorless as Golf? Only time will tell.

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posted by Xavier Lannes @ Wednesday, July 22, 2009 


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