Weekend at Shorty’s

October 23rd, 2014 | 5:50 am | Features & Interviews | 15 Comments

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Space in New York is a precious commodity. Lots rarely sit vacant, building foundations are never left undone, and an open area seldom exists without a security booth watching over its perimeter. The Volcano was an isolated incident. D.I.Y. in New York peaks at the B.Q.E. lot, where a few pillars form quarterpipes and banks, which then get backed into by trucks every few months and ruined. A wide open space is too precious for developers to neglect, and neglect is how every great D.I.Y. story begins.

Shorty’s is the most recognizable D.I.Y. spot the the greater New York metropolitan area today (first brought to the world’s attention by Fred Gall’s “Scum League” series), and it sits in an abandoned warehouse amid an industrial zone outside the city. The nearest train station is a thirty-minute skate away. Skateboarders need to go quite far to be left alone these days.

The spot was started by a bunch of locals living not-too-far-away, in the most ramshackle skate house imaginable. After eyeing the space, the original plan was to cement a few barriers and see how much they could get away with in incremental doses. The volatility with these sort of spaces is high: there’s never such thing as a truly “abandoned” space. All it takes is for one person with oversight to get pissed off about it. Luckily, that *knock-on-wood* hasn’t happened. Shorty’s began with a small volcano in February 2011, and has bloomed into three walls of obstacles.

Five Favorite Parts With Jake Johnson

October 3rd, 2014 | 11:53 am | Features & Interviews | 7 Comments

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Photo by Jared Sherbert

As you continue skating into adulthood, your friends become your favorite skaters. Sure, there’ll always be a few select favorite pros, but once you reach past that thirteen-year-old-self’s dream of getting sponsored, and realize life as the next Eric Koston probably won’t happen, inspiration begins to come from those around you. Your friend’s kickflip will probably get you more hyped than even Wes Kremer’s*, because it’s right there with you, every time you skate.

Jake Johnson is sponsored and rather good at skateboarding. Yet he abides by a similar process in selecting his favorites. There’s just something special in watching parts of someone after actually knowing how they skate in real life.

*Singling out Wes because he initiated a three-way-tie with Lucas Puig and Bobby Worrest for “Literally Everyone’s Favorite [Pro] Skater” after that ten-minute raw footage clip.

Behind the Scenes of ‘Manhattan Days’ with Pontus Alv & Aaron Herrington

September 26th, 2014 | 3:36 am | Features & Interviews | 12 Comments

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All Photography by Nils Svensson

Been a slow news week around here. The web store ate up most of the time (thanks for all the support, your stuff should finish shipping today!) In consolation, here’s a quick convo with Polar Skateboards man-in-charge, Pontus Alv, and Aaron Herrington, Polar’s resident New Yorker, about their Manhattan-based sequel to last year’s “Trocadero Days” video. Have a good weekend.

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What is the concept behind the “Manhattan Days” video?

Pontus: For both this and “Trocadero Days,” we approached it like we were tourists discovering a new city with our skateboards.

Aaron: We watched the New York section from Powell-Peralta’s Future Primitive a few times before we filmed it. You see them skating the streets together around Times Square, World Trade, and Rector Street as a big crew.

Pontus: We wanted to use diamond plates for it. The sounds they make are very distinctive to east coast skateboarding. I really wanted that noise in it. The shopping cart was another aspect. Coming from Europe, the homeless people pushing around the shopping cart with all their belongings really stands out for us. It’s not something we really see. We wanted to customize that idea for skateboarding — us pushing around New York with junk. We added a pole jam as a Ricky Oyola tribute, to Philly and that whole Eastern Exposure era.

Aaron: In “Trocadero Days,” they used pieces of wood, but we wanted to make it so that the diamond plate material was accessible everywhere. You always associate it with New York skating, just seeing those old Tribeca spots and bump to bars made out of it.

Was the Future Primitive section a big guide for the vibe you guys were trying to achieve?

Pontus: My biggest inspiration for both videos was the Trent Gaines, Rueben Dominguez and Paul de Jesus section in Propaganda. That part has always been a huge inspiration behind what I do. I want to showcase skaters skating together: doubles, triples and more of a gang vibe than about the individual. When skateboarders go skate, they go in a crew. We have fun together and we laugh together, but in the final product, the video always turns out to be about the one guy who’s doing the trick, even if the whole crew is there with him. Skate videos have a way of portraying it as more about the solo artist. I really miss seeing people doing stuff together.

An Interview With Johnny Wilson

September 18th, 2014 | 5:00 am | Features & Interviews | 19 Comments

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Photo by Colin Sussingham

You can probably recognize Johnny Wilson’s crew when you see a mob rolling twenty-five deep to a Manhattan skate spot. In a city full of cop-outs (“We got kicked out because there were too many people,” “There are no good spots anymore,” “It’s too easy to get caught up partying,” etc.), they have managed to complete four full-length videos in two years, all while releasing a weekly video blog series, which is up to volume #214 right now. That’s roughly ten or maybe thirty hours of footage, in a place that we often insist to be pretty frustrating to skate in. These guys might truly be the most productive skate crew in the history of New York skateboarding.

A week from the premiere of his new video, Paych, we talked to Johnny about where they come from and how their operation functions. Sorry for not including the obligatory “VX V.S. HD!” and “Is the internet ruining skate videos?!”-questions ;) ♥

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Where are you from?

Born in South Florida, moved to New Jersey because my dad worked in the city, back to south Florida, and then to Pennsylvania, near Harrisburg, which is the capital and two-and-a-half hours from Philly. Once I graduated high school, I moved to Brooklyn.

How’d you get into skateboarding?

I have two older brothers, Mitchell and Andrew. If one did something, we all had to do it. My oldest brother started, so we all had to start. I’ve been skating since I was around seven-years-old.

Were you always the dude with the camera, or was that later down the line?

This kid in our town [in Pennsylvania] made a little video when I was in seventh or eighth grade. He stopped filming immediately after, so I asked to borrow his camera to film my brothers and our friends. It was a shitty Panasonic with a baby Death Lens. After that, I got a bigger Panasonic, which was sort of the predecessor to the DVX. I ended up trading the Panasonic for a VX1000 to this dude in Long Island. I cannot believe that trade went through; I definitely got the better end of it. The dude even emailed me saying “I’m not really feeling this camera. Could we trade back?”

Alternate YouTube Link

Where’d you trade for it, Skate Perception?

Yeah, the kid who I originally got my first camera from had an account on there. He stopped filming, so he ended up giving me his camera, and eventually his Skate Perception password. He had 500+ posts, which grants you permission to post in the classifieds.

When I got the VX, I had no idea how to use it. This dude Kevin Winters, who made Bruns and has maybe five VX1000s, really helped me out with how to set everything up.

Were you only filming friends around your town at that point?

Both of my brothers went to college in Philly, and I was a senior in the middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania, so I’d be going out to Philly every weekend to skate with them.

An Interview With Akira Mowatt

September 12th, 2014 | 1:02 pm | Features & Interviews | 7 Comments

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Photo by Corn

Growing up, there was never a ton of footage from younger New York dudes. Most of the guys from the old Zoo videos, EE3, etc. had begun waning out of skateboarding by that point. Akira was tangibly closer to all of us in age; there weren’t a whole lot of New Yorkers you’d see in videos then who weren’t a good ten years older than you. His Vehicle ad of the ollie over the bar at Ziegfeld is still one of the sickest tricks done in this city (nobody has stepped to that spot since.) Seeing footage of Akira was cool because New York footage was still sparse at the time, and hey, “He’s not much older than me.” Except after a while, he sorta disappeared.

Fast forward and he’s been on it these past five or so years. He posts Instagram videos of himself at the skatepark at 8 A.M., puts out video parts, learns new tricks at the rate of someone half his age, and is an embodiment of the fact that nobody has any excuses. You’re never too old, too rusty or too busy. Below is a quick conversation about where he went, and where he is today.

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It’s still a trip to hear you speak fluent Japanese. What is your background originally?

I’m from Okinawa. Japanese was my first language. I went to American school out there, but once I got to New York when I was 12, I was speaking a broken up Japanese version of English. Eventually I started hanging with kids out here and it cleared up.

Where did you start skateboarding?

My friends in Japan would skate a little bit, but it was more of a curiosity than a real interest. I left Japan and moved to Houston and Suffolk with my dad around 1995 or ’96 because my parents got divorced and a bunch of shit happened. My dad was psycho, so I bounced.

When I moved out here, I remember hearing skateboard wheels all around the streets. One day, I was walking my dog and heard a board snap, I turned around, and saw a skate shop called Swish, which was on St. Mark’s, near where the pizza store on Avenue A is now. I saw Harold Hunter putting his board together and was blown away that there were skaters in my neighborhood.

Harold was like “Cool dog.” I was never out here before, so I thought skateboarding was a whole different thing. I thought, “Whoa, a black dude skating? This is crazy” because I was still thinking of it in terms of who I saw skating in Japan. He asked me if I skated and I said “kinda” because I still had this board my mom bought me when I left Japan. I ran home, and next thing you know, he was showing me around Astor, Union and Washington Square.

Filmed by Bradley Cushing and Goshi Goto

Did you meet all the locals from that time through Harold? When everyone my age was growing up, you were like the one “young” dude at Supreme and everyone else was way older than us.

There was always this bonding factor with a lot of New York kids back then. A lot of them have problems at home or they’re runaways, so we’d stay up all night just hanging at Astor or Union and never go home.

I think Harold gave the word to Jeff Pang that I was progressing a bit and Zoo started flowing me boards. Eventually I started to meet A-Ron [Bondaroff] and all these people who didn’t necessarily skate, but still ran in that same circle. A-Ron took me under his wing since I spoke Japanese. He’d always have me helping out at Supreme until eventually I got a job there.