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Skateboarding News

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Five writers that changed the way we read skateboarding magazines

There is a lot of first in that cover: first girl on a skateboard, firt pic of a skateboarder
on a pool, and that was in the 60's...
These five guys are the great minds that made reading about skateboarding so entertaining and awesome…

Those writers have a lot of things in common: they are surfers, skateboarders, relentlessly endeavoring and pushing the limits of skateboarding, opening new paths so others can follow. They are DIY artists, photographers, painters, writers, cinematographers, running against the tide, pioneers and visionnaires. Now that skateboarding is mainstream; we tend to forget that each of them had to swim upstream, like in the Bad Religion song… Skateboarding has always been a subculture. Stand up skateboarders of the 60’s were laughed at, dubbed as hula-hoppers, pool riders of the 70’s were seen as punk and bad boys, street skaters of the 90’s were seen as thrashers, trespassers, perverters of the modern landscape and property destroyers and the pool skaters of the 00’s revival are seen as members of an odd subculture within mainstream skateboarding, like the bastard child of skateboarding.

Skateboard magazines have become a staple of the industry ever since the sports humble beginnings in the 60’s. This was a way, especially early on, to show the lifestyle side of the skate life. Unlike most sports that are all about glitz and glamour, skateboarding is an art and a free form of expression. No wonder that so many pro skaters are also artists. Skateboarders don’t skate to win a contest; they skate for the love and passion that skateboarding gave them. And if these feeling can be seen through the often underrated photography found in the industry, they can be seen through the words that each writer is using to describe skateboarding in the magazines: the guys below don’t write to make a living, they write about skateboarding because that’s their lifeline. Without skateboarding, they would probably have died of boredom.

However, Skateboarding is and has always been the dark sheep of civilization, ever since C.R. Stecyk wrote in the late 70’s: “Two hundred years of technology has unwittingly created a massive cement playground of unlimited potential, but it was only the minds of eleven year olds that could see it.”

Gregg Weaver 1975
John Severson, SkateBoarder magazine (the 60’s)
John Severson is well known for being the creator of the internationally acclaimed Surfer Magazine (52 years and running!). He grew up surfing off the beaches of Southern California at the same time as pursuing a career in painting while finishing his Master's Degree. In the '50s he became the first person to create a large body of art relating to the Hawaii-California surf culture. In 1958, John Severson used his art, photography, and surfing passion to create a popular surf movie series. His films included SURF SAFARI, SURF FEVER, BIG WEDNESDAY, and PACIFIC VIBRATIONS. With the founding of Surfer Magazine, John's art focused on the magazine and graphics. In 1964, during the first skateboarding boom and thanks to the huge success of Surfer, John Severson created SkateBoarder Magazine as a quarterly. The magazine was actually called “The Quarterly Skateboarder”, but was later abbreviated to just SkateBoarder. In his first editorial, John Severson wrote: "Today's skateboarders are founders in this sport – they're pioneers – they are the first. There is no history in Skateboarding – it’s being made now – by you. The sport is being molded and we believe that doing the right thing now will lead to a bright future for the sport. Already, there are storm clouds on the horizon with opponents of the sport talking about ban and restriction." Unfortunately, those storm clouds soon gathered, and due to poor quality equipment in the form of steel and clay wheels, which led to numerous accidents, many American cities banned skateboarding. By Christmas 1965, skateboarding had largely disappeared, and along with it, The Quarterly SkateBoarder. After an initial release of only four issues in 1964–65, it ceased publication until 1975 when Gregg Weaver featured on the first cover of the new SkateBoarder.

Tony Alva in the cover of SkateBoarder, 1976
Warren Bolster, SkateBoarder magazine (The 70’s)
In the early 70’s Warren Bolster, an avid surfer, was making skateboards out of old water skis to ensure there was "a surfboard-like alternative for the few days lacking surf." Little did he know that those makeshift skateboards would one day sell by the millions… In 1972, he started to be published and then became associate editor at Surfer Magazine, until 77 when Steve Pezman, then Surfer editor, gave him the task of resurrecting Skateboarder Magazine in only six months. As an associate editor, he teamed up with Kurt Ledterman, the other associate editor at Surfer Magazine and Chris Maxwell who made the final member of a trio that would become the re-creators of SkateBoarder Magazine.

What Warren Bolster did with SkateBoarder had never been seen before at the time. Bolster was venturing into new visual and editorial paths: photographically, Bolster was among the first to use fish-eye lenses, motor-drive sequences and strobes while documenting California's skateboarding culture. It looks normal now, but that was a revolution in the mid 70’s. For example, Ty Page's multi-faceted, rapid-fire technique and footwork were nothing short of incredible. After trying many times to photograph his footwork, Bolster was forced to purchase a new $3,000 high-speed camera to catch him on film to publish in the August and September 1977 issues of Skateboarder Magazine when it became a monthly publication. SkateBoarder was "The Bible" for skateboarders all around the world. In large part, its success over the other skateboard publications that were soon to follow in the 1970s boom was due to its exceptional photography and editorial content. Bolster has been credited as the key driver of the magazine attaining its "biblical" status. The success of Bolster also comes from his ability to gather the best talented people of the time, writers, photographers and designers that gave SkateBoarder that look that no other skateboard magazine had…

Tony Hawk actually said SkateBoarder was the only magazine worth reading at the time. "The pictures were always dreamy and left me full of disbelief…. If it weren't for SkateBoarder, I would have never realized what was really possible on my four-wheeled plank," Hawk said in the book The Legacy of Warren Bolster: Master of Skateboard Photography. After SkateBoarder closed, Warren Bolster remained a staff photographer for Surfer Magazine until 1992.

IASC. IASC. The Skateboarding Hall of Fame and the I.A.S.C. formally celebrated the second year of inductions into the Skateboarding Hall of Fame tonight. This years entries were Torger Johnson, Stacy Peralta, Steve Caballero, Eric Koston, Bob Burnquist, and Patti McGee. Also included we two industry awards to Craig Stecyk and Larry Stevenson. They have now joined the class of 2009 inductees: Bruce Logan, Tony Alva, Tony Hawk and Danny Way.
Craig Stecyk at IASC 2010
C.R. Stycek, Skateboarder magazine (the 70’s)
Sometime after Warren Bolster restarted the 2nd epoch of SkateBoarder, in the Dogtown area of west Los Angeles, a group of young surfers known as the Z-Boys was experimenting with new and radical moves and styles in the water which they later translated to radical terrain. At the time, the Z-Boys were breaking the boundaries of what was possible to do on a skateboard, essentially skating in empty pools. They were circling around the original Zephyr shop and their owners, Jeff Ho, Craig Stecyk III and Skip Engblom. Craig Stecyk was not only the founding father of Jeff Ho Surfboards and Zephyr Productions but he also helped define the surf-skate-punk-graffiti aesthetic of Venice and Santa Monica in the 1970s by publishing his photographs of Dogtown and Z-Boys skaters in SkateBoarder. But, according to Stecyk, “There was a lot of resistance to what was going down in the D.T. scene. Pressure was brought to bear, the Z Boys were black-balled in many instances. People would complain about us being bad influences and that sort of thing. The skateboard world was extremely political then. Guys like Richard Novak at Santa Cruz, Larry Gordon at G&S, Steve McAnlis at Hobie and Mark Richards at Val Surf had a tremendous effect over what would appear in the mags. The content of the magazines largely reflected the viewpoint of the advertisers in them.” And that’s exactly why Stecyk publication in SkateBoarder was a turning point. Before Stecyk, SkateBoarder was displaying a clean (read surfer) image of the skateboarders with guys like Gregg Weaver.

Stecyk recalls that “I was happy to see the local boys get some coverage. Without offending anyone who worked at Surfer Publications, they re-edited everything so much; it was difficult to retain any kind of emotional stake in it. Stuff really got sanitized. For example, the spelling of the Hispanic term “campesinos” was once corrected by them to “campers.” Obviously, they did not understand what I was trying to get at.

The impact of Stecyk DogTown articles had on skateboarding was pretty gnarly, and it changed the face of skateboarding forever. Stecyk’s writing is totally different from what had been written in skateboarding before him and whatever will be written in the future. Here’s an example of how SDtycek writes: “Skateboarding is an incredibly adaptive performance form of functional transport. If civilization collapsed completely skaters would thrive riding on the ruins. I'm obsessed with the primary activity while being only mildly interested in the social and commercial manifestations of the same.
Kevin Thatcher in 1979. Yuvis Dam, Northern California
Skateboarding is a complex and difficult sport that is widely practiced on a global level…” “ The intrinsic artistic aspects of skateboarding are rooted in the act itself. There is a resident art form in the graphics on the boards and the rider's typical adornment and modification of them. The riding of skateboards can also can be equated to modern dance and performance art. Numerous artists have come into prominence that have had or maintain genuinely significant involvements with skating.

According to Stecyk, “25-year-old content aces out today's typical non-content. Everything is so politically correct and diluted that there is very little rational discourse any more.

Kevin Thatcher, Thrasher magazine (the 80’s)
At the end of the 70’s, Kevin Thatcher was a ripper relentlessly searching for pools, ditches and pipes around the San Francisco-San Jose area. After setting up the Blackharts decks for the Hester Series, he turned to Tunnel Skateboards and eventually helped creating Independent trucks, Kevin Thatcher teamed up with Eric Swenson and Fausto Vitello to start Thrasher magazine, with the idea of creating a platform to promote their products. Thrasher Magazine motto was "skate and destroy" and its anarchic layout and frenzied copy celebrated the slacker look and punkish music of the new generation of skateboarders. Thrasher was an immediate success, especially after SkateBoarder morphed into Action Now and eventually died. Kevin Thatcher was a very strong advocate for publication of Northern California skaters and assured the transition between vert skateboarding (including backyard pools and skateparks) to flat, even writing on the cover of Thrasher such obscenities as “Vert Is Dead”. Not only Thatcher was the editor of Thrasher, but he was basically in charge of getting the mag off the ground. Eben Sterling, Thrasher's advertising director, claimed the magazine elevated skateboarding: "Before Thrasher, skateboarding was just another trend like yo-yos, rollerblades and Hula Hoops. But now it had its own music, dialect and its own fashion style."

Kevin Thatcher is now retired from skateboarding but wrote a couple of books along the way, including How to Build Skateboard Ramps, Halfpipes, Boxes, Bowls and More (Skate My Friend, Skate). Although his main grip on Thrasher is 20 year old, he is part of the foundation of modern (read mainstream) skateboarding as we know it.

Ozzie’s Blue Tile Obsession writings are highly existentialist, in the true sense defined by Kierkegaard,
they are substantially inspired and literary gratifying.
Ozzie Ausband The 00's
Ozzie Ausband is credited with the return of pool riding. At least, he is the witness of an astounding revival and he is writing about it on the internet. Left for dead by Thrasher 25 years ago, pool and bowl riding have come back big time in the past years and now that street skateboarding is mainstream, gathering thousands of people in huge venues around the world, pool riding has recovered its legitimacy of being an alternative to regular skateboarding.
Originally from the east coast, Ozzie started skateboarding in the late 70’s but eventually moved to California.

Ozzie’s world is organized around stealth and solitude and describes pictures of emptiness even if Ozzie’s words are obviously filled with filthy pools, dead animals, gnarly cops, nosy neighbors, Peter King, Mark Partain, Salba, Zzach Petschek, Kyle Lightner, Bandon Wong , MRZ, Stacy Peralta, the Bones brigade and beyond that; with one's own life meaning and with a passion, sincerity and relentless living, in spite of
Pool riding is a strange thing. It’s tough. I have seen skateboard pros that ride 
ramps go to a backyard pool and receive a fair amount of humility. It isn’t easy. 
The shallow end must be learned and adapted to, or you will get served up a cement nap. 
In the end it comes down to this. Fun is where you find it. If your type of fun is 
found in a bar on Sundays watching a bunch of overpaid guys run around 
in tights and crushing each other over a football...go for it! That won't be for me. 
I will be down the street from that bar draining the neighbors’ pool.
many obstacles and distractions including despair, angst, absurdity, choice, boredom, and death.
Ozzie is a true skateboarder at heart, he is always finding the right lines, whether in an empty backyard pool or on a white sheet of paper.

Although Ozzie’s writing is obviously very different from Stecyk’s writing, there is some sense of belonging and interconnection with both writers, especially because they are both artists and they have that X-Ray vision that nobody has. They can see, feel and write about things and feelings that a regular skateboarder has lost, and that’s what makes their writings so true and overwhelming.

Beyond the world of C.R. Stecyk’s skateboarding dissertations, Ozzie’s Blue Tile Obsession writings are reminiscent of Charles Beaudelaire (R.I.P.) whose “Fleurs Du Mal” poems dealt with themes relating to decadence of the world and the changing nature of beauty as well as the fleeting, ephemeral experience of life in an urban metropolis, and the responsibility art has to capture that experience. Ozzie’ words also show some connection to the works of Mexican author Octavio Paz (R.I.P.) whose essays were predominantly centered on the theme of Mexican identity and demonstrated how at the end of the existential labyrinth there is a profound feeling of solitude.

Ozzie’s writings show that he is profoundly pursuing a quest for the traits that define what a core skateboarder is and the ephemeral state of pool riding. In Ozzie’s world, a new pool has to be discovered every time you want to skate and that new pool has a shelf life spanning from a couple of hours to a couple of days. This is one of the highest forms of art: you are part of it only if you can witness it firsthand.

Ozzie started his own blog, Blue Tile Obsession about three years ago. After about one year he moved his blog under the wings of the Concrete Disciples website; then just moved his blog back to an independent platform. And that’s the beauty of living in 2011, you don’t have to take directive from a Boss, you pack and publish somewhere else on the internet.

Ozzie also wrote essays for AngelFire and The Skateboarder’s journal.


I skate therefore I am: skateboard pools, pipes, parks, bowls and vert, daily skateboarding news...
posted by Xavier Lannes @ Thursday, December 01, 2011 

Blogger Double Deed said...

What about Dave Carnie? Legendary, and to me, made skate mags interesting again...

December 7, 2011 at 9:34 AM  

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