They were six B-roll tricks dumped into a friends montage, but they’ve kept a more permanent imprint in my memory than the majority of things I’ve seen in skate videos since. I’ve never made the walk between the L and the 8th Avenue trains at 14th Street without thinking about this clip.
Every interview with someone involved in the current *moment* of small companies touches on the “relate-ability” a niche-oriented brand is able to communicate over the might-as-well-be-CGI skateboarding you see in major company videos. In the years after Mixtape came out, there wasn’t a lot of relate-ability going around. Until the early 2000s wore on and innovations like IRC democratized the reach of skate videos, a company video guaranteed one thing: California.
Mixtape wasn’t just relatable because it was local, or because the skating wasn’t down big handrails. It meant so much more because of subtle moments like the subway tricks — they were as opposite of California as you could possibly get.
1991 is a new magazine dedicated to chronicling the notable cultural events of a certain year. 1991 happens to be the first installment, and future editions will follow the format for different years. In honor of the inaugural issue, QS is sharing one of its more pertinent stories with everyone, which happens to be about a video part filmed at a certain baseball diamond on Avenue A and E. 9th Street…in 1991. (It even ends with a fight! #onbrand.) Buy the 82-page issue at 1991magazine.com.
Cameron Martin is well known in the art world as a painter of photorealistic forests, mountains, and cliffs. Born in 1970 in Seattle, Martin boasts a CV as impressive as any working artist, with exhibitions around the world, features in major publications, and inclusion in museum collections across the country.
As an acquaintance of Martin, I knew that he was once a professional skateboarder and a member of the fabled Bones Brigade, a team that included Tony Hawk, Rodney Mullen, and Steve Caballero. While researching 1991, I found a video on YouTube called “Cameron Martin 1991 freestyle skateboarding NYC.” The 1:08 clip shows Martin skating in Tompkins Square Park and then farther downtown, under the Twin Towers. His skating is fast, technical, and flawless. The tricks flow together in successions of lines that look improvised but likely took hours to get right. Though it’s seemingly unconnected to a full length or sponsor, “Cameron Martin 1991” has the same feel as the most influential videos of 1991, including Blind’s Video Days and Alien Workshop’s Memory Screen.
“There’s quite a story behind that video,” Martin said when I asked him about it. We met at his studio in Greenpoint, and he was right—there is an interesting story behind the video. Here it is in his words. — N.
Even in 2015, there’s a commemorative éS block at Le Dome. It honors the millions of dollars in skate tourism the company brought to France these past fifteen years.
It seems like after every trip to Europe, the first order of business back at the QS office is to reconcile with Menik Mati. While every critical adult skate nerd writes it off, that video really planted the childhood seed for our European travel bug. Some kids wanted to go to California and skate a schoolyard; we wanted to go to Bercy.
Is there a spot on earth where one of the best tricks done on it was legitimately a 5050 kickflip? Maybe a curb in front of some 12-year-old’s house in Alaska? Noseslide shuv-its, willy grinds, varial flips up untiljust recently, 5050 kickflips — all of these tricks begin getting phased out halfway through high school. They’re kid tricks. “I’ve never done a flip-out trick — well, besides a 5050 kickflip — but that doesn’t count.”
So could you believe that a 5050 kickflip ranks as a peak achievement at one of the most iconic spots in all European #sk8 #fantasy? (Lord knows why, not like any of us can skate anything besides the three stairs there…)
Nearly every time a particular trick on a particular spot is mentioned on a particular website, the responses are the same:
“My boy from Wisconsin already did that.”
“Didn’t some guy on Habitat Australia do that in a Slam four years ago?”
“That Canadian with the guages and the DCs did it switch.”
“Greg Lutzka frontside flipped into that.”
We live in a time when some guy lipsliding up Black Hubba is forgotten during a cursory nerd-out conversation regarding all the tricks that have been done there.
The year was 2006 and we were not yet twelve months into our now decade-long existence as an accredited skateboard fashion house. YouTube was a year-and-a-half old. Myspace was more popular than Facebook. Bronze was still Flipmode, and their star players were Billy Lynch and Derrick Z. That summer, they released what was then the pinnacle of little kid New York City skate videos, Flipmode 3. One of its standouts was a switch flip backside tailslide over the Flushing grate by James Reres.
If at least 20% of the numbers in your phone don’t begin with a 516, it is likely you may not know who James Reres is. Around the time of said Flipmode 3 trick, he rattled off a barrage of tricks over Flushing, with a ferocity not seen in city limits since Zered on the old Grace ledge. Individuals qualified to give proverbial Golden “Globes” crowned him “King of the Grate,” a title that still stands today. It didn’t matter if someone did one of those tricks down the line — they’d have to do all of them and probably some new ones to make a further impact on the spot.
It was right then and there that we knew ABDs would soon be useless. A guy unknown to most not living within a sixty-mile radius of Long Island had singlehandedly set the bar higher than anyone would be able to reach it for almost a decade to come. Our ABD statistician — a fresh-faced Princeton economics graduate tasked with populating spreadsheets with every trick done at the city’s spots — was out of a job.
Some kid on Supra flow is warming up at Santa Monica Courthouse with a switch flip back tail as you read this. Any nerd with Chickenbone wax and some patience could probably do The King’s tricks now. Except unless he has a time machine back to when miraculous skateboard achievements had a lifespan of more than 24 hours, worrying about whether someone did a better trick in 2015 is like hoping the sun won’t set. Thank you to James Reres for so unfairly tipping the scales at New York’s longest-standing marquee skate spot in his favor. Our office hasn’t cared about ABDs since.
In the late 1990s, a New York-based company called Infamous Skateboards started up. The first wave of the team consisted of 4 pros and 6 AMs. There was a tour that soon followed, which was cut really short after two dates. Within that little time, half of the team was kicked off. Oh yeah, there was a beer sponsor too.
Fresh off Puleo talking about the demise of Infamous Skateboards in his most normal sounding recent-ish interview (15:25 mark), Howie Glover uploaded the Infamous 1999(?) tour segment from his Pre2k video. Infamous was a brief pitstop for much of the team — Puleo, Nikhil Thayer, Andy Bautista, Jahmal all went on to other board sponsors — but the other half of the roster is a list what-ever-happen-to’s that you may remember from Slap New York features or a montage in Heads.
After watching a video of their tour that apparently ended in 48 hours, it’s not tough to understand why whoever was responsible for the nuts and bolts of keeping the company afloat may have deemed it not worthy of floatation. Mobb Deep hasn’t made a good album since 1999 anyway ;)