Posted on 04 March 2008.
Skateboarders are known for many qualities-bravery, independence, a lack of concern for the laws of society and physics-but literacy is not necessarily one of them. While some skaters doubtless make a trick of speed-reading Moby Dick while grinding the library stair rails, the printed page is not always up to the nuts-and-bolts task of teaching the noob how to rock the next “ollie impossible.”
No mere description of suicidal insanity can make the jaw and stomach drop with amazement at how little some experts value intact bones. For the true visceral experience, skateboard video clips bring every sight and sound of a mind-blowing ordinary afternoon in the white-knuckle life of the celebrity skater.
At 30 frames per second, if a picture is worth a thousand words, each second of video is practically a book. Any expert, no matter how inarticulate in speech, can use a camera and a simple editor to convey at variable speeds exactly how they make the magic happen.
Skateboard video clips are able to show what words all too often fail to describe: the delicate nuances of timing and execution that make the difference between being slick and being slammed.
The first video recordings of skateboard teams appeared with the advent of the VCR in the 1980’s. The new medium revolutionized the sport, and also standardized it to a certain extent. Skate teams emerged to take advantage of the growing star power potential in what had previously been an underground, solo sport. The most important of these was the Bones Brigade, featuring such icons as Stacey Peralta and Mike McGill.
Skateboarding came into the sporting mainstream during the nineties, when cable TV companies began scrambling for content to fill the sudden programming gaps between standbys like auto racing and tennis. ESPN led the way, sponsoring the historic X-games in 1995, followed trendy stations like MTV.
A new phenomenon emerged: spectator-driven skateboarding, exposing the sport to armchair enthusiasts who didn’t know an ollie from a kickflip…but sat on the edge of their seats waiting for a fancy trick to go wrong.
The new celebrity skaters had a rougher road than conventional athletes, battling the volatile ride to stardom while executing never-before imagined flying feats and making tremendous personal sacrifices for the sport.
A generation of soon-to-be hardcore kids took to the streets, empowered with a repertoire of concrete-thumping moves hammered out by old-schoolers, at a high price in broken bones the young neophytes only had to wince at.
The vert skater in particular has been a perpetually endangered species, in a skateboard world increasingly dominated by the urban landscape crowd. Legends like Tony Hawk, who could sail the half-pipe with ease, have struggled personally as well as professionally with the shifting fortunes of a sport which had not yet found its destiny.
Today, video skating is finding a cozy home among some of the most popular titles on sharing sites like YouTube and DailyMotion. Predictably, the amateur wipeout variety consistently outperforms the instructional skateboard video clips. The future of skateboarding as a spectator sport may owe more to the hapless slam victim than the pro making it look all too easy.