Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Regular Foot

Why are skateboarders today so much better at such a younger age with fewer years of practice than they were back in my skating youth (early 90's)?

It's not as if equipment quality has become so much better. Yes, shapes certainly changed, but the quality has always been excellent. I can rule out steroids as well. I don't think nutrition has ever been a factor and I don't believe any skaters engage in any gym work. Skaters still just skate and eat fast food while tearing around cities.

I believe that in that last 15 years skateboarding has lived within a series of defined walls. Tricks have not changed; they have only become smoother, faster, and bigger. Before 1995 you had to reevaluate your entire mindset every few years. Step hops and curb stalls gave way to ollies and rail slides. The emphasis changed. Those ollies expanded into nose slides and kickflips. Board shapes changed every few months without fail -- year old boards looked ancient and unrideable. Times changed again as people become obsessed with hyper technical flip tricks. Wheels become thinner and boards become exceedingly narrow as we fought for any advantage to get that board to flip a little easier. Around this same time everyone decided that every trick needed to be done with a switch stance. I am not complaining at all about this period. Skateboarding was amazingly creative, fresh, and in a seemingly endless sprint into the future. It was exciting.

However, it was schizophrenic for someone attempting to keep up with the latest tricks or trends. The walls and parameters kept moving. How much easier would switch tricks be if you started learning them within months of first getting on a board? What if you learned to switch ollie at the same time as learning to regular ollie? That seems to be the approach of people picking up the sport these days. They don't have to wipe clean a chalkboard of assumptions in their mind just to begin attempting the new stuff.

Decks are practically identical to the way they were shaped 10+ years ago. And most importantly, tricks in videos have not changed too much since then. Smoothness and style continually refines itself though, and that is the key. Watching Marc Johnson isn't about determining if he can pull the new switch trick du jour, it is about enjoying how he's taking the old bag of tricks and sliding them into his unique flow. It's about the rhythm, not checking boxes to make sure so and so can switch 360 flip. This is probably why I still prefer watching Kris Markovich over Mike Mo (yeah, I do love Mike Mo though).

I guess it is a natural progression. By 1995 the boundaries had been pushed and the lines had been painted. The future was in examining the fine grains inside that space. I don't believe this prohibits creativity or flies some flag asserting that the glory days will be forever gone. I liken it to a piano being designed and constructed. At some point we all agreed on the number of keys and then moved forward. The permutations and beauty that have come out of that are stunning and no one would doubt their creativity.

In 1989 I didn't know what a 360 flip was, but now everybody does and they can set in on the horizon and shoot for it. Maybe that is why kids get much better at a faster rate -- they know where to point there compass.

Regardless, session on in perpetuum.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Everything is on the internet somwehere and it all lives forever. At least that is what I believe. Perhaps that is just a cautionary axiom. It makes it all the more strange that I cannot find the random picture and accompanying information nugget that I am seeking.

Being a Boy Scout on the south side of Chicago meant you went winter camping in the cabins at Camp Sullivan or Falcon in the south suburban forest preserves. Aside from playing football and capture the flag in the snowy fields surrounding the cabins, the centerpiece of the weekend was a 10 mile hike through the forest preserves. It was an epic hike for us and it skipped across streets, powerlines, and chilled creeks. Looking back at that from my perch surrounded by all of Alaska, it was a fairly urban trek, though coming from the postage stamped Chicago bungalow neighborhoods it was plenty of nature. I always dug it and I'm sure my enjoyment of it augmented my eventual need to drive all the way up here.

As an 11 year old the point of my fixation of the hike was always the name and the map sign. It was called the Bigfoot hike and the large wooden sign sketching out the map stood near the hike's start, which was right next to the winter cabins. The weathered white and red piece of plywood had a dense crosshatching of streets, creeks, and trail markings. I didn't understand it in too much detail, but at that age your faith in the older scouts and adults hiking along is pure. They'll remember where we need to turn. The map had a large, imposing red foot on it, further echoing the name of the hike. It was the Bigfoot hike and I could not have read enough about UFO's, ghosts, and Bigfoot as a kid. One adult told me it was named as such because back in the early 70's mutilated animals were found in the area without explanation, save the large footprints nearby. How great is that, veracity happily unconfirmed? You can't plant a better seed for a kid's imagination. And we got to hike it every year, some times in October if the winter weekends were already booked. I'll further raise the ante -- the famously haunted Bachelor's Grove Cemetery was a stopping point on the hike.

The hike was always fun, though long for a kid's patience. I loved the possibility that something unexplained lurked in the suburban woods or the old cemetery. I'm sure we chatted about Transformers or GI Joe in our trudges, but I always kept a hidden eye out for more.

A few times in my late 20's I stopped in the parking lot near the cabins in hopes of glancing at that wicked, fertile, wooden map, only to find it long gone. It was ratty in the mid 80's, so finding it guarding the trailhead in 2000 was a slim chance. It looks like the trail may still exist in some form, though it has been renamed. This is the only relic on the web I can find, and it sadly does not have a photo. I'm sure if I look hard enough over time I'll track down my picture somewhere on the web.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

This photography project in Chicago seems pretty interesting. I do hope that they fill in the glaring south and southwest side holes in the map. Try 63rd and Kedzie. It has always been a particularly strange and busy intersection, though not as loopy as Wilson and Broadway.

And get over to the long forgotten steel graveyards on the south east side. I hope they put a full photo set up when all is said and done. A virtual art gallery might work perfectly for such a project.

Monday, October 04, 2010

October always becomes a scramble for me. I try to ride as much as possible and do anything else outside before the winter tumbles in. I wash the cars a few more times for good measure. I snag some anthologies from my bookshelf, dust them off, and then promise myself that I'll tackle some of those Poe and Bradbury tales in honor of Halloween. In between all of that is the goal of catching up on as many random horror flicks that cable can throw my way. Pepper in the Misfits and Samhain records and I end up with a busy month.

I just became aware of this documentary La Porte, Indiana, and I can't wait to see it. We had a cottage in Fish Lake, IN for many years and we always had to drive through La Porte on the way. Since Fish Lake was only 10 miles down the road, we often ran into La Porte for dinner or groceries or whatever. It remains a nice town in my memory and I'm sure I would find it a nice town if I walked through it today.