If you count everything in the Thrasher Junk Drawer, ten full-length videos, plus another handful of solo parts and edits came out in August 2023. We’ve come to expect that sort of programming when marketing teams try to get a thumb on the scale during the S.O.T.Y. race, but the end of summer has traditionally been a much less productive time of year for skateboarding.
At least until this year.
Lakai’s Bubble, Pass~Port’s “Trinket,” and Johnny’s Vid all came out in the same week. Palace’s Beta Blockers and WKND’s Rumble Pack came out on the same day, creating a nineties skater version of the meme about how eating a bag of Takis would overwhelm and kill a child from the 19th century.
What are the chances? How did it happen? And did anybody realize what was coming down the pipeline? I called a handful of skaters and filmers who worked on the projects that were released that month to find out why it was so stacked, and how it felt to navigate the spotlight.
Nobody specifically set their sights on the end of summer. Skate videos are usually a multi-year process, and the day-to-day content responsibilities that come with getting paid to skate often paradoxically get in the way of working on the bigger projects.
“Sometimes there’s not even a definitive marker as to why it’s ready.”
“We started talking about [Forever] a couple years ago, but it wasn’t until the last year-and-a-half that we started taking it more seriously,” said Tyler Smolinski, who edited the video. “Sometimes, working on a full-length takes a back-burner while you’re doing everyday stuff. We had talked about the end of last year, going into the new year, but we couldn’t get a team trip together until a little later,” he explained. “We still needed to film more for it. So it got pushed from spring to summer.”
Huf and Lakai are both run out of the same building, and while nobody from either camp was in talks over production or release schedules, the same sort of sentiment was unfolding down the hall. “Rick and Mike definitely always have the mindset that you don’t put [a video] out until it’s ready,” John Marello, who directed Bubble, said. “And you know, sometimes there’s not even a definitive marker as to why it’s ready. But they’re not gonna rush something, even if there is some sort of deadline looming. We always knew it would come out in the summertime. And then, it was starting to get pushed back on a month-by-month basis.”
Photo by Kevin Horn Courtesy of WKND
“I do remember talking about a deadline [for Rumble Pack] in February, because I was going to be in L.A.” said WKND rider, Sarah Meurle. “I rolled my ankle twice. That was definitely part of it for me: healing up before I could film again. And then Rumble Pack initially was Tom Karangelov saying, ‘you and me Sarah, let’s work on a part together,’ and that the plan was for it to be done in February. But then we also had Filip [Almqvist] be a part of it. And then I guess, also with Grant’s skits, everything just takes more time.”
International travel and production delays were factors in filming for Palace’s Beta Blockers too. “My first day of filming was like November 16 or 17th, 2020,” said Jahmir Brown. “I flew to London. I was there for four days, and then they shut down the border, so I went home, but I had rented [my] Airbnb for months.” Filming on Betamax cameras also moves at a different pace than stacking iPhone clips. “It’s hard to get someone to film with them, hard to set them up in time to get a clip before you get kicked out,” he explained. “The camera is not just a VX. It’s not something you just pull out and carry around. It’s heavy. And not everybody knows how to use it. So you’re going to teach them how to use it and set it up every time.”
Photos by Alex Pires Courtesy of Palace
Stretching filming over the course of years also meant working on multiple projects at once. “Most of the things that I was trying to do were for Beta. I wanted to make that as strong as possible,” Brown said. “I basically pushed my shoe part and then filmed everything in the last month or two.” Other skaters were running into similar situations as well. “I wasn’t going to have a part in the Quasi SIMULATION video, because I wanted to make Forever really special,” said Dick Rizzo. “And I also knew I was gonna have something for Bronze TV. All those videos were getting edited at the same time.”
“They would give me dates to pick, and I would always choose the farther date.”
Chad Bowers from Quasi called Rizzo early in the year to ask if he’d be down to put everything they’d filmed on a few trips together for a part in SIMULATION. By spring, Rizzo had three parts being edited at once. “That was definitely a hectic month in terms of not annoying the fuck out of the dudes who were editing shit,” Rizzo said of looking over three different shoulders to try and catch tricks that might repeat in one of the parts. The Bronze TV edit was finished and premiered first, but was delayed going online because of music rights. “There’s that whole music rights limbo situation. That seems like that’s just what it is now, at least if you’re going through Thrasher and going legal: you get stuck in that limbo, waiting for shit to clear,” he said. “I was stressing that it was all gonna come out in the same week, and then that’s it. It’s all done and on to the next one the next week.”
Music rights stalled Forever’s web premiere too, though some brands were more affected than others. “We had cleared all of our Pink Floyd songs months prior, so we were good to go,” Grant Yansura, who owns WKND and produced Rumble Pack, said. “I’m just kidding. We didn’t actually say anything. We don’t have to worry about any of that. I just put on my own YouTube channel.”
16MM Still by John Marello
Rumble Pack was supposed to accompany Meurle and Almqvist’s pro debut, but between releasing JIT in May, producing skits, and actually filming skating, things were falling behind schedule. “We went to Malmo to surprise Sarah and Filip with pro boards. We had a premiere version that was good enough for a drunk crowd, and I had to finish it when I got back to L.A.,” Yansura said. “Filip’s scenes when he was walking through L.A? That’s me dressed up in his outfit where you can’t see my face, because I didn’t have them to finish it.”
“I saw a meme comparing ours and the Palace video to the Barbie and Oppenheimer releases, and I figured we were probably Barbie in that matchup.”
By early summer, it was starting to be clear that a few projects were nearing the finish line. “I realized a few hyped up videos were coming out around that time, but I also couldn’t wait much longer because [Rumble Pack] was supposed to be attached with these pro boards,” Yansura said. So he started calling other filmers to find out when their projects were scheduled to come out.
“Grant Yansura messaged me,” Johnny Wilson said. “He said ‘Hey, I heard you’re having a video [premiere]. Just wondering when it’s coming out so we don’t post it on the same day.’ Which was cool, because it’s better for both of us.” Johnny’s Vid had been in the works for a year, with a few moves to the back-burner because of Wilson’s obligations filming for Nike and Supreme. Nike was in touch with him over locking in a premiere date, so that it could allocate some social media posts to promote it. “They would give me dates to pick, and I would always choose the farther date,” he said. “I think the HUF video was going to come out the same day as my video, but I had to move mine because they were going to post about [Forever] that day.”
Photo by Zach Baker
Johnny’s Vid dodged the bullet of coming out on the same day as another video, but WKND wasn’t as lucky. “The day before putting Rumble Pack online, I heard from someone at Free Skate Mag that the Palace video would be coming out the same day. I realized it was a fucked time to put something out. Good luck with [getting on] the Top 10″” Yansura said. “At the same time, who cares? I knew the videos would be pretty different. I saw a meme comparing ours and the Palace video to the Barbie and Oppenheimer releases, and I figured we were probably Barbie in that matchup.”
By September first, Forever had cleared music rights limbo and been posted online. The only thing left to do was get caught up on watching over five hours of skate videos. It was easier for some than others. “I’m probably still getting caught up on everything,” Marello said. “Coming off a full-length, it’s easy to get burned on screen content. You become desensitized to watching skating a little bit. Especially if you’re still fresh off a project and you’re going to be constantly comparing it to other things.” The sentiment was echoed by the other filmers too. “You’re trying to forget what it looks like to watch a skate video while you’re making it,” Smolinski explained.
In addition to getting product sent to your door, avoiding a real job, and traveling, getting paid to skate also offers something else: ample time to watch all the videos, parts and edits that come out. The filmers and editors eventually caught up, but the skaters were watching things a lot closer to real time, albeit with delays. “You get fed by so much Instagram, but if there’s something special that I want to see, I have it in the back of my head. I’ll take a bit out of my day to watch that,” Meurle said. “I usually don’t watch more than one thing in a row.”
Photo by Morgan Rindengan Courtesy of HUF
Rizzo watched Johnny’s Vid the night before the Forever premier. “That was definitely funny. I like that they’re completely different. And I wasn’t really stressing there being much crossover there, because I knew what to be expecting for both,” he said. “Watching both videos was definitely a bit of an overload.”
Brown was unfazed by getting through it all. “I saw videos before they actually came out, because I’m tapped in,” he said. “I have so many friends in the industry now, I watch skating every day. I wish I didn’t, but honestly — I can’t not watch it.”