Before skating in the subway was an aesthetic direction you could film a montage around, before tricks underground went viral on mainstream news sites, and before we qualified what’s been done on pieces of MTA furniture, there was Mixtape. It featured the first shot of New York subway skating ever put into a skate video.
They were six B-roll tricks dumped into a friends montage, but they’ve kept a more permanent imprint in my memory than the majority of things I’ve seen in skate videos since. I’ve never made the walk between the L and the 8th Avenue trains at 14th Street without thinking about this clip.
Every interview with someone involved in the current *moment* of small companies touches on the “relate-ability” a niche-oriented brand is able to communicate over the might-as-well-be-CGI skateboarding you see in major company videos. In the years after Mixtape came out, there wasn’t a lot of relate-ability going around. Until the early 2000s wore on and innovations like IRC democratized the reach of skate videos, a company video guaranteed one thing: California.
Mixtape wasn’t just relatable because it was local, or because the skating wasn’t down big handrails. It meant so much more because of subtle moments like the subway tricks — they were as opposite of California as you could possibly get.
It helped that they were doing shove-its and 180s, further pushing the tangibility under our feet. We could do shove-its and 180s! Some kids put their friends in shopping carts and ran them off curbs after watching CKY; we were making mental maps of where the best subterranean hills were, and doing shitty flip tricks into all of them. The tunnel connecting the PATH and the MTA trains at Herald Square was the go-to for our Bici impressions, as were the hills leading into the lower level of Grand Central for a brief moment when you could still make unexpected loud noises in the city and not have people assume the worst.
The modern skate industry may have figured out how to turn the relatable into a commodity, but it has always been what has left the longest-lasting impression. I recently .GIF-itized my presumed insignificant obsession with this quarter-of-a-minute of footage, and the response was far from insignificant. Glad to know others love it as much as I do. Felt like it deserved some words ;)
Looking cool as fuck really does overcome all.