Human beings are infatuated with ways to measure their endurance: Usain Bolt’s 100-meter dash, Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game, 76 hot dogs in ten minutes, etc.
In ledge skating, this measuring stick is holding a given trick over a long ledge. If it stands to reason that everyone’s first time doing anything on a ledge is a quick grind off the end, then holding it the distance is the true form of mastery.
For this purpose — in New York, at least — The Grate™ is a unit of measure.
Have you been getting really good at backside tailslides? There is no doubt that one of your idiot friends will ask, “D’ya think you could do it over the grate?”
This harks back on a more innocent time. It is not necessarily a matter of N.B.D. on a macro level — The Grate™ has been backside tailslid millions of times — but it is a way to mark that one has truly conquered a ledge trick.
The Grate™, of course, is the ledge over the grate gap at Flushing Meadows Park. Approachable from both sides, and first documented in R.B. Umali’s Peep This video when Rodney Torres crooked across it, the spot became a quantifiable microcosm of skateboarding’s progression in the ensuing decade. Marquee videos featured switch back tails across it in slow motion, and a switch frontside nosegrind across it in 2001 stood as an exceptional ender for the time. (Kinda still is, tbh.)
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
A decade before the back noseblunt, skateboarders were already in need of a new measuring stick.
See, on the east coast, maybe we thought we were cool with all this grate talk, but out west, Californians were grinding over dirt gaps, flipping into-and-out of them, and pivoting their trucks mid-grind for centuries.
In 2010, Plan B became the first-ever skate team in human history to visit New York City, and they were on the prowl for just that: a ledge over dirt to make their mark.
It wasn’t as iconic of a name as The Grate™, but that slightly longer slab of grey marble over dirt at Wall Street and South Street would become an inescapable fixture of 2010s New York-based videos. It was the new unit of measure for ledge mastery: “D’ya think you could do it over the dirt gap downtown?” (Assuming it was your side, because it was only approachable one way.)
The 2010s wore on, and soon, it became impossible to list the amount of front tail kickflips and noseslide nollie flips that had been done on it. The A.B.D. scroll became foggy, just as it had at Flushing ten years ago. There were too many masters. The search for a new measurement was upon us — something harder, better, faster …longer.
But could it have been hiding in plain sight all along? Speculated on, but never pursued?
Via “Soo Saxton Jonesin Part” by Gabe Shah
Sean O’Connor via “$$$two” by Naquan Rollings
Since the hideous 2016 Astor Place renovation, the plaza stood as a mirage for skate spots. Its initial features were skate-stopped soon after opening, and temporary construction gave us a morsel here and there, but it was the inside of the knobbed, long Philly step that loomed largest in the skater consciousness. The ledge is maybe two times the length of the The Grate™, and often deemed too long by pessimistic observers. However, given our current moment in which grinds going the full length of Columbus Circle’s granite waves are becoming commonplace, it should maybe come as no surprise that we stand at the threshold of this becoming an actual spot.
But as is often the case with precarious #trend speculation: you never know if you’re in the midst of a flash in the pan, or a summer away from a Revel-assisted, forty-foot-long Torey Pudwill back tail 💨