The skating I’ve seen

From my blog last week that I analyzed my search statistics I realized that entries on skate culture got more views. Actually, the ones on literature got searched well too, but I’m going to focus on the skating for this entry. It seems that naming pro skaters or companies makes this blog searchable. So as an exercise I’m going mention some pro skaters I’ve seen at contests and demos. I am not friends with any pro skaters, so I’ll keep my observations positive. Hopefully this will bring back memories and get me amped for skating this weekend.

I went to Woodward skate camp for three years in a row. The years were 1990, 1991, and 1992. My parents let me go because I was excited about it and I did the research for it myself. I read about it in a magazine and mailed in a request for a brochure.  The first year and the last year I saw pros but enjoyed those weeks more for other reasons. But 1991, the middle year, was amazing.

Danny Way and Mike Carroll were there that week skating for the H-Street team. A year later they both skated for Plan B and had parts in The Questionable Video which is one of the best skate videos ever made. Mike Carroll skated so well at Woodward and with ease. I was amazed that he could skate a mini ramp and hold a conversation at the same time. Danny way flew on the big 12 foot vert ramp. I did not know much about vert skating and still don’t but he made it look easy.  There was also a manager or trainer there named Mike Ternansky. Before this I didn’t think of people being trained for skating. But Ternansky really worked with both Mike Carroll and Danny Way to sort out various tricks.  Watching the documentary, The Man Who Souled the World, it tells that Ternansky really developed that Plan B team including the legendary Rodney Mullen. In that documentary it stated that the skateboard community really lost something when Mike Ternansky passed away in the mid nineties. I believe he passed away from a car accident. At Woodward as an attendee watching these two skaters and a trainer interact with each other it kind of made me take skating more serious. I realized this was not just cruising down hills but a sport, a discipline, and a craft to learn. Maybe my thoughts were not that acute but I was amazed by what I saw. I believe I dropped in the vert ramp that year when my friends did not. Dropping in on a 12 foot ramp and not slamming is the only thing I remember of my own skating that week. But I’ve never been able to observe that level of skating for multiple days in a row ever again in my life.

After the next year at Woodward it was a long time until I saw any pro skaters.  In Toledo Ohio 1993 was awesome and probably one of my best skating years. That year a few of my friends went to a World Industries demo 2 plus hour’s south in Columbus Ohio. I was unable to go but I wished I went. In that documentary The Man Who Souled the World the riders say that was a crazy tour. I think I heard that the owner Steve Rocco would through either 20 or 100 dollar bills at people doing dares. I wasn’t there so I don’t know but I remember my friends that went had a good time. So I skated off and on for the next several years but did not see a pro or demo until the Rossford ramp was built.

The Rossford ramp was built in 1997 or so and my friend Scott started a skate shop called Just Skateboards. From college and other reasons I was rusty at skating but quickly enjoyed it again. I could skate to the Rossford ramp if I wanted to but most of the time drove there in less than five minutes. It was a hangout. The mini was 4 feet on one side with a 6 feet extension and so mellow it was easy to skate. There was a large parking lot for flatland, and people would bring different obstacles so there was variety.  I’d say that for a good 2 to 3 years that was a nice easy place to skate. Just skateboards brought a few demos there. One I attended was the Blind demo. James Craig was young then. Ronnie Creagor, Lavar Mcbride and probably more Blind skaters were there.  Someone bought a simple launch to launch ramp. So you had to clear the gap between the two ramps. I remember trying an impossible which was not even close, and seeing in periphery vision the camera guy looking agitated. Other than that I thought it was a nice day. The Blind skaters ripped and some of the Toledo skaters did good tricks too. I thought it was cool that they let everyone session. The riders looked like they had a good time, and remember after the product toss James Craig trying to find the kid that caught a thrown wheel so that kid could have the complete set of 4 wheels. Months after the demo I was hanging out at Just Skateboards and a worker there, Mike, showed me the article of the demo coverage in the Big Brother magazine. The writer of the article said that the Toledo skaters tried to show up the Blind pros. It was ridiculous to read because I think people at that demo had a good time, the pros included. Just skateboards bought another demo to the Rossford ramp which was a company that called themselves the A-team. This included Rodney Mullen, Marc Johnson, and Gershon Mosley. Somehow I missed this demo, and it was five minutes from my parents’ house. Shortly after the Toledo paper ‘The Blade’ wrote it up, and I learned that Rodney Mullen did his spin thing on one wheel that was popular around then from the skate video ‘Rodney vs. Daewon: Round 1’.

The next demo near Toledo was a few years later. Just skateboards bought in Habitat to the Woodville skate park. This was a huge indoor skatepark that was fun to skate. I heard that it has been rebuilt and I’m looking forward to skating the new version of it.  At this Habitat demo in 2000 to 2002 I got there before the riders did and waited in the crowd. When they arrived I overheard a pro state this is larger than some other park. So they seemed stoked on the park. I remember that Fred Gall on this huge ledge/rail was trying kickflip to backside 50-50’s. He landed and rolled down on the platform instead of grinding. People were cheering like crazy but he kept saying he didn’t get it. Watching it I could tell that he was trying and was happy when he got the grind part of the trick. Tim O’Conner and Brian Wenning were there. I remember Brian Wenning doing switch 5-0’s down a big ledge rail. It was awhile ago so I don’t remember much of that demo, but I remember I enjoyed being there.

I stopped skating for awhile, a good 5 years or more. I see people my age that never stopped that are super good. So I wished I never stopped but I did so I just need to get over it. The next time after the Woodville demo that I saw a pro skating event was in the summer of 2008. That spring I had a slight tare in my ACL/knee that sidelined me for a year, but I was hoping to skate soon at that point.  I went to the 2008 Manny Mania at the Coleman skate park in NYC. I stayed there through the whole competition and saw these skaters: Jason Dill, Brandon Beibell, Chico Brenes, Eli Reed, Joey Brezinski, Stevie Williams and others. The format of that comp was I believe 4 skaters at a time trying to do their best technical tricks in 8 minute sessions. So over the course of a day a field of 30 or so pros gets down to the semi-finals and the then finals. I find manual tricks or wheelies the most frustrating maneuver in skating. On curb sidewalks which mean low I can do regular manuals, but not nose manuals. The higher the ledge the less likely I am able to do manuals. At this contest they did ridiculous combinations. It was fun to see. I also believe in 2008 I went to a DVS demo at the KCDC skateshop in Williamsburg Brooklyn. They have a mini ramp that I find hard to skate, but Daewon Song was insane on that mini. The tricks he does are on such a surreal technical level I’m not even sure what he is doing. But he is one of my favorite pros, so I was glad to see him skate. Steve Berra and Keith Hufnagel were there too. At that demo I talked to the DVS team manager, I didn’t catch his name, which was really cool. DVS makes some fun skate videos and is my favorite skate shoe company.

In summer of 2009 I started skating again, which is rad, and this summer 2010 I saw some great skating. The Maloof Money cup was in Flushing Meadows. This was a pro skate contest and the sponsors donated the course to the city. Now it is a great public skate park here. To get a ticket to this event you needed to go to a NYC skateboarding shop or event. No purchasing on the internet and people needed a ticket to watch the contest. On facebook I’m a fan of NY skateboarding, and one day they posted Maloof tickets at Homage skate shop today. So I went, waited in a line, and I went to the finals of the contest. In the morning they had the amateur competition.  I was surprised that Felipe Ortiz, Tony Asta and a few others were amateurs. They have long parts in popular videos, and the videos don’t indicate who is amateur and pro. I think the pros make a lot more money. I was impressed with the level of skating by these amateurs and a lot of them were young.  It was also really cool to see NYC skater Louis Tolentino ollie the ridiculous gap from the large rail to a bank. The crowd was psyched and behind him. The pro skater finals were very impressive.  It was 12 pros, down from 30 pros from the day before.  The standouts were Chris Cole, Paul Rodriguez, Bastien Salabanzi, and Torey Pudwell. Bastien Salabanzi kind of went for all or nothing. I think I saw him try a double kickflip to frontside rail on the 6 foot rail. Also he attempted his world renowned fakie fullcab kickflip down the nine stair set. That was insane and I think perhaps that only time ‘France’ has been chanted at a sporting contest in our country. Seeing Torey Pudwell try a lazer flip down nine steps was unreal. Paul Rodriguez rides so smooth. His switch tailslides look better than a lot of skaters’ regular tailslides. Chris Cole was good and did a full 360 kickflip down the nine step set. I don’t like Chris Cole’s style but he does so many tricks that he won this contest and so many others in recent years. Right as the finals ended it started to rain, and it was a rad day.

In August of this year I went to Plan B demo at the Coleman skate park and saw these pro skaters: Paul Rodriguez, Torey Pudwell, PJ Ladd, Pat Duffy, and Ryan Sheckler. Before the rest of the riders got the park Paul Rodiguez did a one man demo on an assortment of obstacles there. On a picnic table which is near hip height P.Rod did switch 5-0 both ways and other tricks with ease, in most cases first try.  For the actual demo portion the team skated on the pyramid only. I was a little disappointed because I wanted to see some flow skating by these guys, but they did most tricks you can think of on the pyramid. I noticed there that all of their tricks have height to them. All of they skaters impressed and pulled weight.  The demo ended with Ryan Sheckler backside kickflipping the double stair set at the entrance of the park. The length of this stair set is ridiculous. I believe it is 5 steps then about 5 feet followed by another 5 steps.  It is rare to see anyone attempt to ollie it. Sheckler backside flipped it on his 3rd try. A lot of people do not like this team because there are mainstream or commercial, but I think they are one of the best companies.

This blog is a lot longer than I intended and I’ll end by saying I’m happy that I’m skating. Every time I go to skate parks I see good skating. I sometimes see NYC skate pros like Steve Rodriguez skating with everyone else at these parks.  I think skating can occupy me for years into the future because there are always tricks to learn, and I’ll always be amazed by watching good skating.

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