Skateboarding, Media, and Change
I was talking to a friend today about how her son was watching skate videos and BMX movies online. She mentioned how a lot of the movies he was watching had people touring parts of China and amidst all the tricks there were artsy cuts to scenery and local people in awe of the urban performances.
This struck a chord with me and I began to think of the transformations in skate videos over the years and what it all means. In the late 80’s Skateboard Videos were synonymous with Powell Peralta Skateboards. Their landmark movies The Search for Animal Chin, Public Domain, and Ban This, delivered cutting edge vert and street skateboarding into homes across the US and in turn the world. To a whole bunch of skateboarders from this era, thanks to these videos, whenever we think of Tony Hawk, we think of a floppy fringed teenager and his back yard ramps. Not Activision, and Tech Decks. In short the movies were well edited, crisply filmed, bright and gaudy.
By the early 90s H-Street and World Industries released videos that re-defined skateboarding and also laid way to a new era of video styling. Rubbish Heap is typical of this era. Filmed with VHS home movies cameras, roughly edited, and a poor quality soundtrack. These movies were shot in car-parks and back yards and were very much street oriented. As such the peripheral personalities in these movies were those folk that one could encounter in the urban margins. Tramps, hoboes, drunks and increasingly often security guards and cops.
These roughly made movies contained a core element of skating and more often than not bizarre tangents of amusing personalities, slams, and pranks. Watching Rubbish Heap, and then The End several years late it is easy to see the transition from Toy Machine videos, to Jackass and other MTV spinoffs. It was jeremy Klein of course that suggested this idea to Bam. Another preterition, I won’t mention Spike Jonze.
In the present era where street skating has increasingly moved to the skatepark, and skateboarding has become an accepted element of popular culture, skate videos now represent a different dynamic. With so much of urban America policed and skate-proofed so skateboarders cannot use ‘the street’, many professional skateboarders go overseas to find new spots. New destinations provide an opportunity to progress skating styles, but they also provide an opportunity to skate in an environment that is relatively ‘new’ to skateboarding.
Over the last 15 years skate videos have focussed on Barcelona as a key destination, and now increasingly China. Some tours have taken in locations in India and Afghanistan. No longer do we have inebriated homeless old men stumbling into skateboard sessions. Now we have the gapes of Beijing’s locals as skaters flip their way off obstacles by the forbidden city. No longer do we get the grainy vision of a low quality VHS recording, but a HD 720p crisp edit, which more often than not we watch on YouTube.
As a result much of the new skate media is also a documentary, travelogue, and anthropology of locales around the world. Consumers of skateboard media are now being exposed to ideas of different places, ways of life, and cuisine. Life viewed from the skateboard world is much broader than it was 20 years ago. But then access to media and information has changed so dramatically in this time, this is simply one view of it.
Times Change, Skateboarding Changes, Media Changes.
(Ryan Sheckler, another MTV star, at the Forbidden City via skateparkoftampa).