At a moment when everyone is preoccupied with the Emerica video, we are going to discuss some skateboarding that is two or three universes away, not eight. Stee, the collaborative video between Sk8Mafia and Sweet Skateboards, has been out since June, but recently went from “I’ll see it when I see it” to “must-see,” thanks to a hyperbolic tweet from Frozen in Carbonite (more on that later.)
Sk8Mafia is great. Though they are grown-ups who spell “skate” with an eight, rarely travel outside SoCal, and have art direction that reaches the bare minimum required for a brand to look more like a skate company than a drug front, they utilize a winning formula in which everyone onboard actually skates together. This translates to a fun experience when watching anything they put out.
“If you like Sk8Mafia so much, why did it take so long to watch Stee?” To put it bluntly: What the hell is Sweet Skateboards? (Answer: Sweet Skateboards is a Swedish company that has existed for over ten years, with a bunch of tall, mostly technical white guys whose names you cannot pronounce on its team.) It’s like the skate video equivalent of when Cam’ron started putting out those mixtapes with Vado — there’s always some hesitation when an old favorite mixes with an unknown. This sort of European crossbranding has worked in small doses, e.g. J.B. in the late-period World videos, the likes of Penny being introduced through 411, etc., but an entire project seems like a bit much.
Given what we know about Sk8Mafia, it’s easy to imagine Stee being born from a chance encounter between the two crews at a Barcelona bar. “Yo, we should, like, make a video together…” Soon after, those with the power to turn drunken bar banter into physical DVD reality got high together, and the rest is in this video.
One of the best things about the company’s 2011 offering is how inconsistent it was, in the most anti-“film” interpretation of a skate video possible. Dudes skated to the songs they wanted to skate to, the editing was simply trick-trick-trick, no part matched the one that came before it, and it was awesome. So naturally, each part in Stee is an arbitrary pairing between one Sk8Mafia rider and one Sweet rider, which somehow works given the company’s non-formula approach. San Diego ledge guys and Scandinavians who spend half the year at MACBA are only different in terms of wardrobe and maybe marijuana intake. Otherwise, they both occupy corners of the earth where an extraneous 180, shove-it or flip out is standard operating procedure. Tyler Surrey even overdoes the final trick in the video by throwing a late shove-it after catching a monstrous switch flip. Any nerd should palm his face and ask “Why?” under other circumstances, but these things make perfect sense by the forty-minute mark of a Sk8Mafia video.
Quick rundown: Javier Sarmiento remains ageless, Brandon Turner assumes a portion of Steve Olson’s role on Shorty’s circa 1998 by being the guy who drops in off rooftops, dudes skate in Batman and Simpsons gear, we’re left to wonder why any non-Pete Rock remix of Public Enemy’s “Shut ‘Em Down” exists, Smolik switch varial heels off the rock he skated in Let’s Do This, Jimmy Cao does a trick that makes more sense when titled 90 degrees counter-clockwise, it gets hard to tell some of the tall Europeans apart, dudes rap about Sk8Mafia over Master P’s “Bout It” — but really, the team has one cardholder in what Frozen in Carbonite would call the “Top 10 Best Dudes” barstool conversation, and that brings us to the aforementioned tweet.
Looking at the two alongside one another is tempting. Similar tricks, similar spot sensibilities, similar haircut. Except when Busenitz skates, he looks like he got off a nine-hour shift from welding metal and has 45 minutes to destroy every skateable thing in sight before going home to his family. The guy singlehandedly elevated the concept of skating fast. Kremer’s skating is comparable, just replace the nine-hours of metalwork with a lot of weed. That’s not to say he isn’t one of the best skaters out, only that he’s closer to a THC Busenitz than an imminent successor. His lines have more of a cruiser vibe whereas Busenitz has been equated to a crackhead running away from a crack dealer who he owes $100 to. The part does, however, prove Kremer is the superior wallrider, and perhaps the finest rider of walls (and vertical rails) working today.
A big chunk of the renewed interest in smaller companies is that they are more crew than brand. Even if most would be hesitant to rock a tee that has “skate” spelled with a number outside of San Diego city limits, there’s no other reason why Sk8Mafia shouldn’t still be one of everyone’s favorites. Baker is the sole major company that resembles a crew of friends all going out skating together, but even those videos have gotten tougher to distinguish apart over the past few years. So maybe a bunch of dudes from San Diego teaming up with some Euros for a change of pace isn’t that bad of an idea.
You can buy a digital download of Stee for $10 on the Sk8Mafia site. There are hard copies available, but considering there probably isn’t a Sk8Mafia deck on a board wall in the northeast, you might be hard-pressed to find one.