Imagery from New York skateboarding’s most romanticized decade is finite. The city spent half of the nineties without an industry, so all the existing artifacts have been reblogged, reposted and #TBT-ed a million times — Zoo, Kids, Ari Marcopoulos’ Metropolitan ads, a couple early 411 or Transworld montages, and then it runs scarce.
What does remain is people’s private collections (e.g. you may remember the homemade SkateNYC videos that made their way online back in 2011.) High and Mel Stones are two girls who grew up alongside many of the names you’d immediately associate with that era of skateboarding in New York, touting a camera from their respective school photography programs along with them. After posting outtakes on their Instagram over the past year, they are releasing a book of personal photographs from those years to celebrate the lifelong friendships they created in that time. We asked Mel to caption some of those images. The book can be purchased on ThatsACrazyOne.com, and all proceeds will be donated to the photo department at Lincoln High School in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.
Perhaps the only point in Alex Olson’s recent interview that did not polarize skateboarding’s sea of opinion, was his belief that nobody cares how hard tricks are anymore. We’ve all said “he’s good, but who cares” or written someone off as “a robot” before, so what do professional skateboarders have left to aspire to?
The line has long been the backbone of street skating. Skateboarder even published a print #listicle in the mid-2000s showcasing the best lines of all time. Appropriately enough, the latest entry belonged to P.J. Ladd, because his debut part was when progression really took off, and the “Everyone is Good” movement began to accelerate our numbness to incredible skateboarding.
“But what about style?” Sure, Ray Barbee looked amazing when only doing slappies and no complys, in a way that legions of art students have failed to replicate. Even Carroll’s library line — quite possibly the best thing ever done on a skateboard — wouldn’t be the same if it was performed by some midwesterner visiting San Francisco. Style plays a role, but remember when people would say things like “He’s so smooth?” None of that matters when everyone in a major skate video is “smooth.” Stylistic hallmarks have become less palpable because everyone skates and everyone is good. Everything was the same #drakevoice :(
A wise man once said “I don’t care how ‘good’ a video part is, all I care about is how cool it makes the skater look.” This list features the most timeless lines that were made so by the skater’s ability to make himself look cool, and not just “good.” They will stand out a decade down the line, even when each trick in a Micky Papa part is a go-to for fifty Stoner Park locals.
In the introduction to his interview with Zered Bassett, Chris Nieratko details how Zoo York was once a source of pride for east coast skaters. A few buyouts and a decade later, nobody sets up a Zoo board with a geographic bias in mind anymore. Even if the company completely phases out of skating, people will forever nerd out over their first three videos (Mixtape, at this point, is just as much of a hip-hop classic a la Wild Style or Style Wars as a classic skate video), and chances are, most who began skating after Zoo ceased being any sort of an east coast status symbol have seen those videos and cried about how all the spots are gone.
You can’t type “zoo york ads” into a Vimeo search bar and get any results, so a lot of younger kids won’t see the old Zoo ads. (They probably won’t see the new ones either…do kids still look at magazines?) Those ads are just as full of classic nineties east coast iconography as the original videos.
The Zoo ads throughout the nineties were “MAD HIP-HOP YO,” at a time when that meant more than leaving comments about how Lil’ Wayne sucks on every pre-2000 rap video’s YouTube page. Other companies even jocked their whole hip-hop scrapbook vibe when it was appropriate: Transworld styled article layouts for east coast skaters with Zoo’s look (see here), west coast companies would run Zoo-esque ads for their east coast riders (see here and here), and start-up east coast brands like Illuminati, Metropolitan, and Capital all had a bit of Zoo DNA in their ads. It’s unfortunate that now, even when paired with a sick photo, Zoo ads look pretty generic.
It has been a quietly monumental week for New York City skate footage, at least from a historical perspective. While the Skate NYC Apple Juice documentary is quickly working its way over 5,000 YouTube views, several lesser-exposed video clips have been released to accompany it, and they might be even more precious than the doc itself. I have no clue who “skinnypoo” is on Youtube, but he just uploaded a fifteen-minute gem of raw, late-eighties New York footage featuring Harold Hunter, Hamilton Harris, Jamal Simmons, Ryan Hickey, and even Steven Cales, all in their teen years. We’re talking people who already have sparse video appearances throughout their regular skate careers, let alone footage of them skating Tompkins in 1989.
These videos, along with the documentary from earlier in the week, have quickly managed to fill in the aforementioned late-eighties/downtown gap that the Deathbowl doc glossed over. It’s amazing how there is barely any Banks footage throughout the videos, yet plenty of Midtown, World Trade Center, and Tompkins stuff, not to mention a few cutty East Village spots, including the (now blocked-off) manual pad in front of P.S. 19 on First and 11th, and the two-stair curb next to the NYU dorms on 9th Street between Third and Second. You can go two decades hearing about an era of skating that was barely documented outside of a few iconic Shut or Harold Hunter photos, and then out of the blue, someone unloads thirty minutes of never-before-seen footage. The stuff that turns up on YouTube is absolutely amazing…