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Skateboarding News

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

At Dogtown east, you Shut up and skate.

I never had the opportunity to meet with Andy Kessler as my experience from the New York skateboard scene is from the late 80’s at a time when Shut was still an underground brand. Literally: in order to buy the Shut stuff for my shop, The Surf Factory, I had to go to a lost street in Little Italy, take a precarious elevator to go down several stories underground, go through a maze of depressed aisles and sinister corridors and bang on a bleak door, the entrance of the Ali Baba cavern. Inside was Bruno Musso and his very small posse of skateboarders… The Shut operation was so underground and selective that, when I would go with my business partners, we were seen as intruders about to break a secret spot. Spies from the old continent were about to divulge the best kept secret. The production was so scarce that I could not buy more than 20 boards at a time, and everything was so shrouded with secrecy that the transaction was held strictly in cash.

At that time, the skateboarding industry was still a west coast operation. The image that appealed to the big industry boys was still an avatar to the blond hair, surfer look. Bruno Musso, Rodney Smith and their crew had invaded the deteriorating urban landscape and explored their world with a “new school” vision. They didn’t have skate parks, pools, or ramps like they did in places like California and Florida. Instead they innovated ways to turn private, public and forgotten spaces, into their playgrounds, the hard streets into their sanctuaries and their frustrations and motivation evolved a simple toy into freedom and expression, an achievement that modernized street skating.
That was the thing, nobody was skating as hard core as the East Coast regime, yet the industry wasn’t making the kind of decks that they really wanted and they didn’t exactly approve of the image either, so they created Shut.
Of course, things have changed. Shut bowed to give space to Zoo York that was later sold to Ecko Unlimited and would became the giant company that we know now with sales up to J.C. Penney shelves, next to the Scheckler gear.
Amid this sea of change, one man never changed: Andy Kessler. Andy Kessler’s name will be forever associated with NYC skateboarders. He was part of the landscape and everybody knew him. He was rad in his skating and in his life, like the day he refused to move to the back of a crowded bus, telling the driver, “You move to the back. This place is a sardine can. I’ll drive the bus.” The next thing we know, Andy is thrown out by the driver, and his skateboard flying out after him. After chasing the bus for four blocks, Kessler eventually smashed the window with his board. Then there was the time Kessler refused to put on a helmet at a skate park in New Jersey and was chased by guards trying to force him to wear one. Fights were commonplace. Andy designed many of New York City's skate parks, including those at Riverside Park, Pier 40, and in Brooklyn…

Andy Kessler was an integral part of graffiti and skate crew The Soul Artists of Zoo York in the late '70s—considered by some to be New York's version of the Z-Boys crew from Dogtown in Santa Monica, Calif.

In 1979, the crew earned its place in history when one member, Marc Edmunds, published the 'zine "Zoo York," in which Kessler and his crew were pitted in a fictional championship against a rival skate crew, establishing their outlaw legend. They skated throughout the city from Riverside Park to the abandoned swimming pool in Van Cortlandt Park dubbed the "Death Bowl." The bowl was later immortalized in the documentary about the evolution of the skate scene in New York, "Deathbowl to Downtown."

It is sad that he died a couple of months ago from a rare insect sting in Montauk.

All skateboard magazines paid tribute to Andy, but the one that did most is Juice Magazine whose issue 66 featured Andy Kessler on the cover with a photo by Ivory Serra and an interview he did with Steve Olson.

Andy Kessler will be missed.


On a special night, Volcom NYC Presents:
Andy Kessler Memorial Foundation Benefit Art Show
Opening Night: Saturday, December 12th 8PM-Midnight
Sunday, Decemeber 13th 11AM-7PM
446 Broadway (between Grand and Howard)
18 to get in, 21 to drink
Be there.

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posted by Xavier Lannes @ Tuesday, October 27, 2009 


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