Max Palmer has an eye for the strange. He is as distinct of an individual as I’ve ever met and his skating follows suit. I’ve known Max since 2009, and he has been one of my best friends and favorite skateboarders ever since, constantly surprising me every time he takes me to a spot. I’ve been filming him for the last eight years, and if there’s any way to describe our relationship it’s this: he leads and I follow…and follow and follow and follow, until three hours later, when he finally pulls off the impossible on whatever fucked up “not spot” we are skating. Below are some of these stories. I love you Max — even though you may sometimes put me through hell, I hope to have another eight years following you to these horrible spots.
Let’s start with a spot that Max actually made, a spot that influenced a style and a way of skating for all of us.
Max used to live in this complete shithole of a building that was sandwiched between the BQE and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The building would drip when it rained, had a potentially-deadly carbon monoxide leak, and there was that one time when undercover police broke through the peephole and started screaming at Andrew Wilson (who lived there at the time), thinking he was someone else.
The building’s saving grace was this skinny piece of lot filled with all sorts of trash, dead animals and debris. Most would not set foot into this little side yard, but Max had the idea to take the existing trash and build on top of it. We poured concrete and winged it. The result was pretty impossible to skate, as this was all of our first time taking on an endeavor like this. Regardless, it was my version of a heaven and also an insight into the workings of a mad man’s brain.
One morning in 2015, I got my usual bacon, egg and cheese from John’s Diner and a coffee, and immediately skated up to the Sideyard. Upon arrival, I saw the landlord and his buddy jackhammering out the place. It was done. The Sideyard currently sits as a pile of trash, just like it started.
TAFFEE AND PARK AVENUE
It was a July or August morning. I’m thinking about what I’m going to do with my day, and I get a call from Max. He tells me to meet him over at his house because he wants to take me to this “sick spot.” Usually, we meet at the Halfway House, where a handful of my friends live — the halfway point between where Max and I live. Skating from my house to his, I fantasized about why I may be meeting Max solo rather than with a group. Keep in mind, the 917 video deadline is coming up; I’m thinking he’s trying to skate something incredibly sick or unique.
So, I show up to his house. I didn’t ask where we were going because I wanted to be surprised, and figured if I already knew the spot, Max would have filled me in. We’re skating, and with every push I feel the excitement bubble a bit more until finally we arrive at the corner of Taffee (don’t take a right on Taffee, ever) and Park Avenue.
“What the hell is this?”
He went on to tell me that he’d scoped this thing out a few weeks prior and set the wood up. No one gives a shit about this spot, so the wood just laid on the wall awaiting Max’s arrival. If you saw the 917 video, this is the spot where Max screams at that Pratt student who is in the middle of orientation week, hence he still hasn’t learned which way right or left is (they teach that at Pratt.) It was unused as of right now, but Max actually did get a pretty cool line here.
THE LIGHT POST
One afternoon this past winter, Max and I were skating into East Williamsburg to skate the “Jew Projects,” a spot with a huge handrail, a couple stair sets and some funky manny pads — a bit of everything. While in transit, we stumbled upon Max’s literal wet dream: a huge light post had fallen down in the storm the night before. Signs were sticking out, electrical wires were exposed and it was right near a gas station and by a bridge. This thing couldn’t be more Sideyard style. Max stared at it while I opened up my bag and started to prep the camera. He bent a few signs, grabbed some rocks and empty water bottles, all in attempts to make this thing skateable. After exhausting all other possibilities of how to skate this thing, Max eventually settled on skating it like a slight up-rail which led straight into oncoming traffic on Kent Avenue…perfect.
Then he couldn’t settle on what trick to try. He threw boardslide fakies, noseslides and crook bonks at this pole; it is typical Max fashion to try a different trick every single attempt, which keeps things interesting but also makes filming difficult. After a half-hour of skating, Max landed a boardslide to fakie with a quick switch backside 180 off the curb. After landing it, he said that he wanted to do the same thing, but manual from the pole to the street rather than just ride, “DOPE!”
About ten minutes into trying the boardslide to switch manual backside 180, Max threw out a noseslide where his board shot out and got run over by a Verizon van.
We were done.
THE SKATE-STOPPED BANK
The last spot I want to discuss is also right around the Pratt area. This one is a steel-gated bank with skatestoppers all over it. It is a Rubik’s cube of a skate spot, pure fool’s gold. We were working on getting an ender for his 917 part, and this spot one idea. I was down, Max and I have a history with this spot as we filmed his ender for Mama’s Boys here.
Warming up, he quickly landed a 5050 to 5050 (a gnarly feat by itself) on these skatestoppers and claimed he had something else. On the next try, Max threw a frontside nosegrind at the first skate stopper and fell. I jumped in excitement, yelling at him “Fuck yeah, nosegrind to 5050 is so dope.” He corrected me: “Nah, nosegrind to nosegrind, my G.” My jaw dropped. I know Max’s capabilities fairly well, as I’ve been his best friend for the better part of a decade, but still, I have to admit that I wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to pull this one off.
In short time, Max landed on one. He gave me a look like he had it and I finally believed he could do it! One the next try, his wheel broke off and went into oncoming traffic. Nobody had an extra nut or bearing. The session was done.
We went back maybe a week later. We were all stoked, now knowing Max could pull this one off. While warming up, Max hit a rock and fell directly into a pane of windshield glass that was on the ground next to the bank. He cut his hand pretty bad, and we had to go back to the warehouse to patch him up. Strike number two.
We went a few weeks without mentioning this spot, and I thought the dream had been forgotten. One day, we were rolling around Clinton Hill with no spots in mind, and Max mentioned that he may as well try “this bullshit” again. We took a skate down to Park Avenue and began attempt number three.
It took Max about thirty minutes of battling with the rocks, cracks, glass and traffic until he pulled one that was extremely close. One one attempt, he should have rolled away, but a rock jammed into his wheel, and on another attempt, he almost landed it to fakie. He kept trying and for about a half-hour, but wasn’t getting close at all. Again, we started to think this was going to be Max’s “White Whale.” All of the sudden, he pulls it perfectly.
I remember filming him roll away and felt this huge sense of euphoria creep over me. I felt like I had just witnessed something very special.
This is why I love filming with Max Palmer. His skateboarding and personality make you feel like you are witnessing something precious and fragile, and that you have to harness it, because in a moment’s notice, it can all be taken away. I hope I know Max for the rest of my life, and I hope I can continue to harness this incredible creative energy he holds inside, only showing it to the world through his skateboarding and through his art work (his sculptures and skate spots.) See you at the Warehouse brother!