On November 11, 2011 or 11.11.11 something happened in the skateboarding world. Element skateboards, a huge company, dropped a full part from the prominent skater Nyjah Huston straight to Itunes. Nyjah Huston is 16 years old now but grew up in the skateboarding limelight. His parents were skateboarding rastafarian vegans in California, and raised him to skate. A few years ago he left Element skateboards to start his own company with his father. After that failed he went back to Element last year. He won 3 out of 4 street league tournaments this year televised on ESPN, chopped off his dreadlocks, had a full interview with Transworld, and has been the talk of the industry. So his part has been anticipated and well received by fans. To me the whole Itunes format raises questions on how the industry will handle new footage.
First of all, I purchased the part called Rise and Shine. It runs about 8 minutes and cost 2.99. There were two options, regular for 1.99 and HD for 2.99. And another choice was explicit versus censured. Of course I chose explicit and without much knowledge on the difference I chose the HD version. In one way, the tricks he does on big handrails, makes this part phenomenal. A few tricks I haven’t seen before like a backside 270 to noseblunt side, and a backside bigspin to hurricane. It’s amazing to have variations of new tricks introduced on 8 stair rails. Nyjah Huston takes some serious falls on here and it shows him getting back up and then getting the trick. His determination to push the limits and boundaries are apparent in this part. The skating is ground breaking, but I would have liked more variety. There were only a few short lines and never more than three tricks in a row. Using the slow Lil Wayne song forced this part to go too crazy with the slow motion. In my opinion the less slow motion in a skate part the better. So that is my evaluation of Nyjah Huston’s part and now I’ll go on to the bigger questions.
One of the bigger questions I have is why the insistence on a Nyjah Huston part and not release an entire Element Video. Element is stacked with a lot of skaters including Evan Smith and Mark Appleyard. Ten years ago there would be a push with that collective of skaters on the same team to put out a video. I’ve read in some of the magazines that big production videos are not as lucrative as they once were. To fly a team around the world, pay for hotels, film and other things is a challenge. The recession definitely affected the industry, and the online medium distributes this stuff for free. There is probably more filming going on because skating is popular, but less people pay for DVD’s. One thing I noticed this year I think contests the notion that video releases do not make the companies money. In spring, Real released Since Day One, a full length acclaimed and popular film. At the skate parks in NYC this spring and summer I saw so many people riding Real decks than before. So I’m convinced they sold the DVD and Itunes well while getting more people to buy their skateboards. Skateboarding has always worked like that, a good video would make the company more known.
Nyjah Huston is not the only skater to drop a solo part on Itunes. Last winter or spring, Pual Rodriguez and his company Plan B dropped an Itunes part. I think at one time I watched this online on a Chinese website, and then that disappeared. These companies once on Itunes do seem to control the distribution on other sites, at least youtube. After I purchased Njyah Huston’s part and started to think of the Itunes question I decided to purchase Paul Rodriguez’s part too. This part is phenomenal because he pushes the tech skating and has a smooth style. Last year I saw Paul Rodriguez twice in New York City, at Maloof 2010 and at a Plan B demo at the LES skate park. He is one of my favorite skaters. To me this was also worth the 2.99 Itunes charge. Individual parts are probably cheaper than full company videos. I do wonder how much Paul Rodriguez and Nyjah Huston’s parts will bring to their perspective companies. If there are 13 million skaters in the United States and these are anticipated parts would they sell 100,000 downloads? That’s a nice chunk of change. But then how much goes to Lil Wayne and Kanye West for using their songs? If it’s on Itunes the music artists get paid too. And how much of a cut does Itunes take? My point is that maybe it can be profitable for skate companies to sell on Itunes.
Thrasher on it’s website is dishing out skate parts for free. On July 4th Torey Pudwell, also on the Plan B team, had a skate part debut on Thrasher. This was a good part and showed his technical versatility. This was as good or better than the average part in any video. He skated well and showed that he was having fun in the process. Torey Pudwell and Paul Rodriguez could be considered among the best, and they are on the same company Plan B. Ryan Sheckler, PJ Ladd, Danny Way, and Colin Mckay are all very well respected and part of this Plan B team. In 2009 they ran some teasers online of an upcoming video to be released in 2010. Now 2011 is almost over and I’m still waiting for the Plan B video. They had some riders quit or some team changes, but this company needs to put out a video. Watching a brand new full-length video is so much better than the individual parts. I think this company could put out the best video ever, and I hope that is still on their agenda.
Thrasher also recently released free on their website a 20 minute company video. The company is Foundation and they have been in the business for 20 years. I felt the video a fun watch especially with the music collection. Foundation is a popular company, but not the most popular, and I wonder why they made the decision not to try to sell it on Itunes or in DVD format. Could the video in association with Thrasher free to all generate more buzz and peripheral sales for the company than if they tried to sold it? I don’t know, but I hope that videos can get these companies some profit. Es shoes used to be a staple brand in the skate industry, and this year it is going out of business. Skate shoes are a whole other topic in these changing times, but I mention them because if videos do not generate money for the companies it does not help them at all.
I think as long as people are fascinated with skating it will be documented through film. But I do not like the shift to focus on the individual skaters as much, and I hope films that feature a plethora of riders will continue, whether they ride for the same company or are grouped together in some other way.