Words & Images by Adam Abada
“Shut up and skate!” That is a refrain I have seen written and analyzed more than actually spoken or practiced, but its dumb ethos echoes through so much of that which is considered “real” skating.
With the mindset of getting into the “summer vibe” (or something like that), I recently watched Dogtown & Z-Boys. Sean Penn’s bitter post-Spicoli narration about the [then] worst drought in California history doesn’t specifically say “shut up and skate,” but it lays claim to the temperament that it comes from. The film made me think about skateboarding’s connection to the world: the weather, school, roads, family, class, economics, substance use, housing. The film claims modern skating was born out of a drought.
Like everything else, when we skate, we bring the outside world to it. I do want to skate, but I don’t want to shut up about it! These three authors’ — all of whom skate — books, ideas, and studies help show that we can bring whatever we please to skateboarding to make it something that pleases us.
All product photos courtesy of The Palomino
To an outsider, Sicily feels like a skateboard fairy tale. It is where Mauro Caruso filmed a part in a ghost city once intended to be an eminent destination for art lovers. It is where Jacopo Carozzi et al. found an abandoned post-WWII era seaside resort that seemingly shares ancestral DNA with a skatepark. Almost every spot in Danny Brady’s “Welcome to Palace” part that isn’t British crust is in Sicily. A seasoned Euro T.M. once told me that it’s the best spots/cost/wow-factor combo for a not-obvious skate trip in all of Europe. The Dime guys echoed that sentiment, saying Sicily was maybe the best trip they had ever been on — oh, and, a volcano erupted while they were there.
Except what do any of us know about Sicily’s skate scene? Outside of that Mauro Caruso coverage, practically nothing. The aforementioned T.M. said that you need to pay a guide to drive you around to spots and handle things, because otherwise, you’re pretty much helpless.
Claudio Majorana is an Italian doctor, photographer and skateboarder. Head of the Lion chronicles six years (2011-2017) that he spent photographing a group of young locals in the suburbs of Catania, Sicily. (Catania is Italy’s 10th largest city.) It is the exact opposite of his first skate book, 2015’s The Recent History of Sicilian Skate Tours, which is about just that: foreigners skating Sicily.
The title refers to a cliff from where the crew would jump into the ocean, a rite of passage that signified they were no longer kids. Between a prologue and epilogue of blown-out video grabs, are photos of play-fighting, teenage make-outs, and religious ephemera — staples of any photo book about youth.
*Asterisk because two out of three of these blurbs are for photo books, with one of them (the first one) having probably less than a thousand words overall. Anyway, all three of these came out over the course of the past few months, and all of them deserve your time, especially as August grinds the skateboard news cycle to a near halt. Shout out to everyone putting cool shit on pieces of paper and sharing it with the rest of the world, whether it’s a ‘zine, a book or whatever the hell else ♥
Love — Paradigm Publishing
Love is less a book of skate photos, and more a visual essay of what skateboarding looks like when it’s forced to become a form of protest.
Jonathan Rentschler’s book tells the story of Love Park’s final years — a period most visibly represented by Brian Panebianco’s Sabotage series — in black and white photographs. Love was the first time I felt genuine anger while looking through a book about skateboarding: anger at the cops raising up skateboards in smiley triumph as they confiscate them, anger at police officers pulling people by the hair after they throw them to the ground, anger at the politicians attending a groundbreaking ceremony for the park’s destruction, who will no doubt spend as little time in its remodeled incarnation as they did when they were leading a stubborn crusade against the thing giving it life. These images are interjected with a portrait of the community that corralled in a place they were told was not for them. This is not limited to the skaters, but also fringes of society who those same faces of civil service often prefer to ignore.
Skateboarders are nostalgic, and it’s hard to think of something as endlessly mourned since its demise as Big Brother. There have been tribute Instagram accounts, promises of the entire archive’s digitization, four-figure eBay listings of the full collection, and Dave Carnie even published a 700-page book of his writing from it.
Shit, released by DC Shoes, is a 224-page hardcover book that chronicles the 1992-2004 run of Big Brother magazine, and costs about $950 less than buying every issue at online auction. Sparing intros and an epilogue where eight principal editorial members reflect on their time at the magazine, the book consists of two-page spreads for every one of Big Brother‘s 106 issues. Each spread has the cover, the issue’s quotes section, and a scrapbook collage with highlights. Alongside the covers are behind-the-scenes stories from Sean Cliver and Dave Carnie, who split the blurb duties 53 / 53. It is remarkable how much information they retain from every issue’s creation. The full history of the publication plays out over the course of the book, and in many ways, coincides with the grander story of skateboarding’s resurgence into popularity throughout the nineties.
As D.I.Y. spots have become more common over the past decade, the Brooklyn Volcano remains an anomaly. It was the first New York spot of its kind, and existed in a place that could have hypothetically grown into something the size of a skatepark. Given the route real estate has taken throughout the Bloomberg years, it will likely be the last of its sort. New York D.I.Y. spots are now one-offs in spaces that could not accommodate a full, skater-made skatepark.
Daniel Campo’s The Accidental Playground is a case study of the Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal (BEDT), a onetime freight loading yard. The BEDT was home to the Volcano, a photogenic D.I.Y. spot overlooking the Manhattan skyline, seen in any skate magazine from the early 2000s. Campo is a former New York city planner and an architecture professor at Morgan State University. He is an advocate of “unplanned” public space, and writes The Accidental Playground to discuss the merits of when cities do not get involved with the recreational lives of their citizens, allowing them to “make their own environment.” These sort of spaces present a “get your hands dirty” alternative to the “manicured” nature of a Central or Prospect Park.
Compared to the restrictions faced in official parks, the BEDT was practically lawless within reason. Recreational use of the space was pioneered by dog walkers fed up with leash laws, but eventually gave way to a range of characters with interests that were not accommodated by other nearby parks. This included artists, a punk marching band, undocumented day laborers who could not procure on-the-books housing, and neighborhood residents who wanted to drink a beer outside without worry of an open container ticket. Campo considers skateboarding to have been the most sophisticated use of the space, though each group is afforded its own chapter in the book.