As we age, it’s easy to only remember the “big” changes: VX to HD, social media, Thrasher becoming the only magazine. The smaller ones are tougher to catalog, but when you think about it, had a substantial impact. In the not-so-distant past, “raw files” weren’t a “thing.” You couldn’t DM on Instagram. Polar was a small brand selling outline logo tees to the few who could get them. These things changing had huge reverberations, and in many ways, helped make “underground,” independent skateboard brands the dominant brands they are today.
It seems like just the other day that Palace was a small U.K. brand buzzing with montages filmed on VHS tapes, and P.W.B.C. news segments aimed at a skate industry still coming to grips with how to use the internet. In the ensuing decade of successes, it has remained unshakably English in its vision — even the fact that Jamal Smith is the only American to turn pro for the brand rings of a certain “foreigners appreciating your homeland in a better way than you do”-type thing.
To the American eye, Palace rose to prominence in that void left by Blueprint at the onset of the 2010s. In the time since, the world of U.K. skateboarding feels like it became closer intertwined to our own. This of course is thanks to Palace, yes, but also because of things like Isle’s unanimously adored “Atlantic Drift” series, the Yardsale videos, Free becoming one of the best alternate channels for skate media, and the inspiring success of the Long Live Southbank campaign.
With little context for how the U.K. scene actually operates, we asked Farran Golding — the man behind many of the deep-dive features on the Slam City Skates blog — to interview Charlie Birch, Palace’s newest teamrider, who we don’t know all that much about on this side of the Atlantic ;)
Way back when in the #90s, pay phones functioned as communication hubs for the Great American Skate Plaza. At my old local, Shafer Court, you could call the pay phone and, nine times out of ten, a gentleman would answer “Shafer Court — as if it were a place of business! — and tell you if anyone was skating, who was skating, and such. The pay phone across the street from Pulaski and the one (if I recall correctly) by the Embarcadero Carl’s Jr. — same shit. These phones, working in conjunction with pagers, served as communication nodes for the culture.
Of course, as cellular phone technology evolved, this quaint element of skateboarding fell by the wayside. That is, until the advent of Instagram. Specifically, skaters started using this mad futuristic technology to A) document their scene, and B) provide skate nerds the world over with access to a culture that they would have otherwise envisioned solely in the Theatre of the Mind.
@Macbalife is one of the leaders in this field (at press time: 292k followers). We sat down with its creator to gain some insight into one of the most notorious spots on Planet Earth.
What “is” skateboarding? A seven-ply piece of maple? Thirty-three inches of length and no more? “Not a crime?”
Just as skateboarding often eludes definition — existing in a purgatory between physical expression and existential thought — poetry uses language to access a similar type of feeling and add something new to our shared experience.
If you live or skate in New York, chances are you’ve come across Jerry. In the sixteen years since he moved to New York City from Michigan, he has mostly left the warm familiarity of Lower East Side haunts to leave his mark elsewhere. If you haven’t caught him in the streets, you’ve probably skated his well-chronicled concrete work. From patching up must-see-for-visiting-pros spots like the Bronx bank-to-ledge to more meandering locales like the B.Q.E. spot, Jerry’s legacy is clear and present.
He just finished up a video called Rust Belt Trap, which acts as a great visual representation of his philosophy, practice, and craft — and we realized we have never formally spoken to him on QS. Thankfully, Jerry found a slot of time in between picking up 2 x 8’s at the lumber yard to update us on his life and work. (Rust Belt Trap is still due out on Thrasher at some point.)
You’re from the Midwest but have been in New York for quite a while now. What’s keeping you here?
The fact that there’s something always happening. Even if you stay in and you feel like you’re missing something, that’s cool. A lot of the time, I just decide to stay home and know the whole world is still moving on and I’m fine with that. But when I was stuck in a small town, it was really moving on, and I felt like I was missing it go by.