As hard as it is to believe, nine or ten years ago, an endless stream of New York skate footage available for public consumption did not exist. There was Metrospective, which for all its merits, was updated irregularly. But you’d still sit there on your 56k modem and wait for a minute-long clip to slowly load, because you weren’t likely to catch much footage of any local spots in the latest 411 or Digital video. There were also the four Zoo videos (we’re talking up to around 2001, 2002 here), the INFMS video, Static, 5Boro’s 511, that Blackout video with the New York montage, but definitely nothing like the overload that comes with the autofill results when you type “nyc skateb…” on YouTube’s search bar.
But seeing “pros” (translation: dudes in skate videos) skate your local spots (outside of the Banks and Newport) matters a lot when you’re a kid. And was probably a lot more of an event back then than it is now. Everyone in my little circa-2000 skate crew was psyched when Pappalardo did a nollie heelflip into a sheet of plywood set down the six at Hoboken Ledges in his Photosynthesis part. Not because it was an amazing trick, after all, it was a 16mm artsy cut-in, but a small piece of history of the spot to hold onto, and especially relevant if your local spots weren’t any of the trademarks of the era (again, the Banks and Newport.)
That’s probably the reason why issues of EST were something to look forward to every year when a lot of us were growing up. For the time, it was a great idea. A video magazine in the vein of 411, Logic, or Digital, but with montages segregated by regions on the east coast, and supplementary feature materials. Basically, an eastern vehicle to give career boosts to up-and-comers in the same way a “Wheels of Fortune” segment would for some under-the-radar schoolyard kid out in the Valley. (Not that east coasters never received 411 segments, but they were more of an exception to the rule than the overall norm.)
As the 2000s progressed, high-speed internet became the standard, and the accessibility of three-chip cameras for younger kids widened, EST, like all other video magazines, slowly became an old model. The internet not only carved out an alternate channel for content that would otherwise be used to fill issues of EST and other video mags (probably where something like this would end up if it was 2001 right now), but essentially broke down huge barriers in widespread spot knowledge. There’s no learning curve anymore, where you make friends and find everything over a few years, even for the b-list cities. All you have to do now is search a city’s name and the word “skateboarding” before coming up with hours of videos that will inform you of what exactly to look for once you make the turn off the interstate. Post a three-minute clip online and within a few days, at least twenty-percent of the comments will be asking you for spots. Actual hard copy videos kept things on a word of mouth basis, not in anonymous dialogue with strangers in which you drop Google Maps links. Sure, it might sound old fashioned, but it altered the whole experience of finding things on your own. That feeling of stumbling on Pyramid Ledges when you leave the Banks for the first time after having watched Fulfill the Dream on repeat for the past two years isn’t the same. And EST was clearly as much about the locations as it was the skaters. It just didn’t come with a comment box below every VHS tape, but a hit list and an idea of “oh, this might be here” after you finish memorizing the video.
(Obviously, this isn’t to badmouth the internet because this site has no problem with using it to spread spot knowledge, or to be on some snobby “yo, back in the day” high horse, but a lot of us who just barely missed the era of finding things on our own or through word of mouth, and not through answers to screenshots posted on message boards, experienced something genuinely awesome. As did, of course, the older people who spent the majority of their adolescence in a similar environment. But the kids coming up nowadays are a hundred times better at skateboarding, so it is probably a better trade on their end anyway.)
EST lasted for four issues. The first three were released on VHS. Volume four wasn’t as widely distributed if I remember correctly, but actually made it to DVD. The first one is a local classic, the rest are kind of spotty for one reason or another, but being spotty is the inherent nature of all video magazines, especially when revisiting them years later. A lot of that has to do with the always troublesome prospect of getting music rights. (The second song in the New York section of Volume 1 is great though.) However, each issue had its share of highlights, whether it was introducing a lot of people to Zered and PJ Ladd, Billy Rohan gap-to-nosesliding the Madison Square Garden rail into middle-of-the-day pedestrian traffic on Seventh Avenue, or seeing Brian Tucci and Mark Gonzales skate doubles at the Welfare Banks in D.C. It would’ve been interesting to see where it could have went, but the internet had other plans.
Below is a haphazardly stitched together Vimeo clip of all the New York montages. Most of the sections from EST are available in varying corners of the internet, but may take a minute to track down. They are in chronological order from 2000 to 2004.