Lost In Translation — The Alluring Difficulty of Skateboarding in Tokyo

Legos not Lagos

Tell another visitor the truth about street skating in Tokyo and the response is between an eye-roll and defensive denial.

The truth: Tokyo is [deep breath] …not that good for skateboarding.

Ok, wait! Don’t start yelling! Are there spots? Yeah, some. Are there tons of incredible skaters from there? Yes, a lot. Is there a vibrant skate scene? Yes, yes, and yes. Does it have quite literally the friendliest, most amazing locals on earth? Good God, a million times yes. Tokyo has incredible skateboarding culture, but when you find yourself a tourist there, you soon realize this previously unfathomable truth: you’re more likely to come home with five expensive jackets you don’t actually need, rather than five tricks you’re happy with for a video.

This past October was one of those great groupthink travel moments where many diverging crews all happened to be in Tokyo at roughly the same time (a la that one January when literally every New York skater was in Barcelona at once.) As we’d cross paths with newcomers, the following interaction became commonplace.

“Have a you guys been skating a bunch since you’ve been here?”

“Er, um, not really, no.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s um…kind of hard to skate here.”

Cue the “You guys are probably just hungover everyday,” or worse, the proverbial “We’re more ‘core’ than you” subtext that assures the denying party will have an easier time being productive in Tokyo than you have.

Until you run into them the next time, and they concede to reality.

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An Interview With Bill Strobeck About Supreme’s “BLESSED” Video

Photo by Jared Sherbert

Keeping an almost three-year-long video under wraps — especially in the social media age — is next to impossible. Except all things considered, nobody really knows what to expect from Supreme’s upcoming “BLESSED” video, which comes at the tail end of a year already stacked with incredible full-lengths. We tried to extract as much as we could from Bill about the process behind the video, the legacy of the last one, and where they had to go from there.

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Skateboarding seems like it moves faster each year. Between “cherry” and today, has any change in skating really surprised you?

I don’t know if much has changed in skating. All the social media stuff was going off when we were doing “cherry” already. It’s so crazy to make a video like this for two-and-a-half years, watching all these other videos come out while you’re filming it. You’ve got so much more to think about. Before, you weren’t worried about if somebody is gonna do tons of psycho shit at the spot that you just filmed something at before you have a chance to put it out.

Would you be watching new videos with that in mind?

Yeah, before the next trick comes up, I’ll be thinking, “This dude looks like he would skate the same kind of shit we were at.” Now, even if somebody posts of a photo of a spot, people might see it and think, “Oh, I forgot about that spot, let’s go there tomorrow.” We were skating this one spot for a while, and all of a sudden, somebody hit me up, like, “Dude, no one’s skated that shit for six years, and since you guys are skating it, people are trying to film there.”

Why do you think that happens? I’ll see it, too. A spot will have been sitting there forever, one guy tries, and it’s like, “Oh, you get 20 minutes,” then it’s in every video. It’s like a collective consciousness thing.

I don’t know, and I’m more into going to classic shit, you know? Like, if I’m going to L.A., I want to hit the school yards. In 15 or 20 years, people will still recognize those spots: “Courthouse, that’s New York, schoolyards are L.A.” They are going to rip out the little things that people hit, but in 30 years, those are going to still be here. I want what I make to last a long time. I’ve seen gnarly parts come out, but I just don’t like the spots.

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An Illustrated History of New York’s Most Colorfully Named Spots

Illustratations by Mike Gigliotti

Good spot names are one of New York’s enduring traditions. A name condenses a spot’s origin story into one or two words, often a homage to its earliest conqueror (R.I.P. Huf Ledge, Vallely Banks, etc.) A spot name could also provide useful visual cues to look for (R.I.P. Bubble Banks, Pigeon Shit Double-Set) or even smell for (R.I.P. Shit Hubba) upon first arrival — a shorthand to know you’re at the right place. And a spot name is a way to pass along useless essential folklore to skaters yet to be disappointed by the diminishing expectations of our city’s most sought-after destinations.

But good spot names are dying.

Look, we’re the last ones who should be chastising the internet for making people dumber, but it is all spot apps’ fault. Peruse through any spot finder and you’ll see things called “black marble,” “bank to curb,” and “sketchy eight stair.” Imagine dying and your best friend eulogizes you as “tall, sketchy, with brown eyes?” Skate spots let us mark up all their corners, and ask nothing in return except maybe to pick up the trash when we leave. They deserve to be called something more vibrant than “downhill ledge.”

This history bypasses all spots named after what they actually are, e.g. what building they are adjacent to. It’s pretty easy to figure out why Pace University Ledge, Paine Webber Benches, and Lenox Ledges have their names. It also avoids one level beyond that: spots named after the neighborhood they are in. Polish Park is called that because it’s in a Polish neighborhood, Gay Ledges gets its name because it is in a gay neighborhood, Hasidic Gap because it is in the Hasidic section of Williamsburg, and Crackhead Park because…well, you get it.

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An Interview With J.B. Gillet

Intro & Interview by Frozen in Carbonite
Collage by Requiem For A Screen with photos from @scalpfoto + ?

Summer of 1998: I had just moved into a closet on W 124th Street. The only video I had was Rodney vs. Daewon 2. However, I did not own a VCR, so I took the train down the The Wiz across from Union Square, purchased one, and lugged it uptown in a backpack. As I digested the video over the next few days, J.B.’s trick selection, previously-unseen Euro spots, speed and precision with which he attacked everything (e.g. that one nollie frontside 180 flip) [Ed. note: nollie half cab flip*] made it seem as if the dude came from not another continent, but from another planet. Planet EuroTech.™

ANYWAY, here we are twenty years later, checking in with him on the Quartersnacks web site. Circles, bro, life fuckin’ moves in circles.

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Yo, what have you been up to lately?

I’ve been in France, just skating but taking it easy. I’m supposed to film for Hélas with a filmer in Lyon, but it was so hot this summer; we didn’t really do shit. I’m going on holidays…taking a break in Hong Kong and Bali.

Do you have some kind of exercise or health regimen that keeps you skating at a high level?

I’m drinking a Heineken now [laughs]. I try to eat not too crazy, but I’m not too radical about it. With age, there is no secret; you have to stay a little healthy and do a little exercise. I go in at the gym a little bit sometimes. It didn’t matter before, but now I see the difference — so fuck it.

One of your last clips was filmed all in San Francisco. How has the city changed since you lived there?

It was kind of different, eh? There is no more Pier 7 — no more plaza skating, really. There are some new kids, but then you still see the old guys, like Chico is still there, and the guy from FTC, Ando. It’s like the GX guys doing their thing over there. I stayed only one week and it was pretty short, so it’s hard to tell, also.

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Frozen in Carbonite Presents — Song of the Summer x Video Part of the Summer 2018: Global Warming Edition

Words by Frozen in Carbonite

Everyone has their own theory about the point in time when summer ends and winter begins: fantasy football draft night, college kids swarming back into town, the first rainy Sunday when you bust out your favorite sweatpants, when the first beanie appears at the skatepark. (Maybe that’s not the best example, dudes would still skate in beanies* if there was a ledge in, like, Death Valley or some shit.)

ANYWAY, in my neck of the woods, the end of summer was marked by a quaint event at my local bar — perhaps the least “woke” event such an establishment could conceivably host: a bikini contest. Sunday night. Labor Day Weekend.

Unlike that one bikini contest that Ronnie “The Limo Driver” Mund hosted, this particular contest only had five entrants. The emcee set it off with a mandatory disclaimer regarding the importance of respecting women and a stern warning that anyone who failed to follow these guidelines would be removed from the premises. Subsequently, he asked the contestants a series of typical pageant-type questions like “if you were a number, what number would you be,” to which the young lady responded with the most predictable answer in the universe.

Nevertheless, another contestant triumphed that night and took home $500.

Before that, however, these songs and parts fucking powered summer 2018 — notable for a higher than usual number of according-to-Hoyle full-length vids and a lower than usual level of “IS THE FULL-LENGTH VIDEO DEAD?!” prognosticating.

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