The latest faves come from one of the eminent scholars of our craft. As he has mainly trafficked in still images, we asked him for five picks from the history of skate videos. (We’ll get a pro on the next one, but the non-pro streak has been pretty fun.)
Chops even offered a quick intro, so the rest of the words are his :)
Big ups to bro-cam, uncleared music, lens rings, slam sections, “acting”, background yelling (preferably in slow motion), self-celebratory rollaways, camera lights, hard copies, dubbed copies, BGPs, pissed-off security guards, random lurkers, supersonic skatecamps and unnecessarily long manual clips.
This list is dedicated to Gonz’s Video Days, Natas’ Fires, Guy’s Mouse, MC’s Questionable, Ricky’s EE3, Henry’s Lies and Heath’s Unseen Sight. Some things, like orgasms and pizza, are past the need of further recommendation.
Jason Jessee — Speed Wheels: Risk It (1990)
A wheel video has always been a dicey proposition. For those of us old enough to remember the Speed Wheels videos of the late eghties and early nineties, it was our generation’s plight to suffer through this never-ending demolition derby of dudes globbed together under the guise of “skateboarding.” Clocking in at a little under two hours with a cast of hundreds — of which you’d maybe heard of 10 dudes — this would be one of the four videos to come out that year. In 2017, you just click on a different video, but back then, you didn’t have the choice. Patience was key, as it was of utmost importance to sit through the entire thing once to know where the “good parts” lie for future reference.
It’s almost impossible for anyone to stand out in such a format. You were lucky to get a Blender part here, a Dressen part there. But what are we really talking about here? Personality and perspective, both of which Jason has in spades. Over 25 years later, this part remains unique, endlessly quotable and with style to spare. There are tricks that are supposed to look disgusting almost by definition, but through some form of sorcery, Jason makes them look pretty damn sick. I mean…a Willy Grind? Magic. Did it feature the most mind-boggling progression of the time? Not at all. It’s only a minute long and it’s probably not even the best part in the video. I just can’t tell you what those other parts are.
Rob Dyrdek — Alien Workshop: Memory Screen (1991)
Limiting myself to only one AWS transmission for this exercise, I’ve decided to go with the Book of Genesis from the Sovereign Sect: Lil’ Rob’s opener from Memory Screen. Hinted at prior in G&S Footage, this part kicked down the door with a jaw-dropping audiovisual tour-de-force that would provide the Workshop’s template for the next 20 years. This is the moment when the filmmaking and presentation aspects of skateboard videos matured past the point of “dudes dressing like chicks” and guys throwing TVs out of windows. This was, in a word, sophisticated.
Regardless of your opinion on all Big Rob has done in the years since, he is undoubtedly killing shit on this one with early tech, giant gaps and spooky warehouse transitions. And armed with Dinosaur Jr’s classic “The Lung, which was reportedly Pitre’s influence, that would’ve been more than enough. But there’s so much else going on here. A multitude of formats hurling literally everything from Fun Dip to Barry Zaritsky at the viewer, providing perfectly random peeks into a young man’s life on the road as sprinkled among the more skate-related fruits of his labor. And while this style of limitless sensory bombardment would quickly become Alien’s calling card for the next two decades, it never once felt stale. Seeing it for the first time upon its arrival in 1991, Memory Screen sidestepped expectation by delivering something unlike any other.
Friends / Blind Section — Plan B: Virtual Reality (1993)
[Part starts at the 19:35 mark. Audio on the YouTube version is disabled.]
While technically not the first of skateboarding’s buddy-inspired tangents, this was quite the unexpected treat when it appeared in the middle of Plan B’s even-more-Questionable-in-hindsight second opus. A reported footage dump on the way to more feminine pastures, what we have here is a straight-forward montage set to an appropriate Beatles track, featuring a group of guys arguably just as good or better than the superteam whose video they’re being showcased in. Highlights include Jeron’s Los Feliz line, Ronnie at Lockwood, vintage Lotti, Tim dragging trash — and that’s before Guy, Rudy and Henry even hit the screen. A final tease before that promised full-length would forever be taken off the table, you have to wonder if this friends section would’ve ever happened had its staunch anti-Ternasky founders still been around.
Ethan Fowler — Stereo: A Visual Sound (1994)
This is what happens when a 16-year-old child prodigy with a serious Coltrane jones runs away from Iowa to the skateboarding capital of the world with a head full of acid. To think that all of this was reportedly filmed in two weeks. Simply put, there was nothing even remotely like this at the time, which is probably why the majority of us chose not to pay attention. This was a style-infused dummy smack in the form of buttoned-up 360 flip perfection. From the opening Christ pose to all that weird shit out on the sidewalk, everything Ethan does here can’t help but look really damn cool. Rarely does a frontside tailslide look as is good as its backside brethren, both of which are demonstrated here with textbook form. Equal parts power and finesse, dude could do no wrong here. We just weren’t ready.
Quim Cardona — Real: Non-Fiction (1996)
Cocked hat monkey style set to the coolest of Pinto-inspired Money Mark soundtracks, this is mid-nineties New York and S.F. through the eyes of Jersey’s finest. We’d already been given a taste of Quimtime via equally-infamous turns in EE3, 411, and the criminally underrated Ride On, but this was the Cardona brothers in all their glory. A fresh perspective fueling a unique trick selection all his own, many of which haven’t been seen since.
I feel that it is a testament to Quim’s style that he was able to come off like he did during what was a very militant time in skateboarding, following the whirly bird tech explorations of the early nineties. Fakie bank melons and switch street grabs were definitely not an easy sale in 1996 — preposterous to prosperous, to hear him tell it. But he just seemed to be having so much fun out there, as one should when they’re making skateboarding look this easy. I mean, there’s even a skitch clip in here for God’s sake. And that frontside heelflip? All smiles. Hell, I even went out and bought a tan hat and coaches jacket myself after this came out, just trying to get a little bit of what this dude had. R.I.P Mike Cardona
Previously: The Bunt, Lacey Baker, Andrew Allen, GX1000, Brian Anderson, Gino Iannucci, Josh Kalis, Sean Pablo, Wade Desarmo, Chris Milic, Chad Muska, Hjalte Halberg, Danny Brady, Bill Strobeck, Aaron Herrington, Jerry Hsu, Brad Cromer, Brandon Westgate, Jim Greco, Jake Johnson, Scott Johnston, Josh Stewart, Eric Koston, Karl Watson, Josh Friedberg, John Cardiel, Pontus Alv, Alex Olson, Jahmal Williams