A skipping rock over a plastic lake | Simply Ranked

Plus: Ludo and an empire in decline, YouTube reaction face, Screech on Frog, and more.

A skipping rock over a plastic lake | Simply Ranked
The definitive weekly ranking and analysis of all the skateboarding and other online things that I cannot stop consuming and how they make me feel, personally.

Ludo and an empire in decline

Rank: 1
Mood: 🌍 🌏

Hmm, another video part from a handsome European skateboarder with good trick selection that skates interesting and occasionally frightening spots and has a distinct aesthetic that is complimented by a simple yet effective edit which ultimately makes me an immediate fan and hungry for more footage of a person that is known only by a cool sounding first name? Sign me up, brother.

It’s clear that the European scene has never been stronger, and while this may be reading too much into things, I think we’ve reached the point, if we haven’t passed it long ago, where the United States is no longer skateboarding’s defining cultural force. Some of the most impactful skate videos of the last few years have been offerings from Polar, Sour, Tightbooth, and other non-American brands. To boot, in the sport their country fostered and popularized, American skateboarders are now routinely outclassed on the competitive circuit, highlighted by only Jagger Eaton finding the podium (a bronze) at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

If you pull back and survey the current landscape, it’s a pretty stunning shift in the order of things from even 5-10 years ago. Is this a reflection of the global superpower’s continued decline on the world stage? Another sign of an empire struggling to tread water as its ruthlessly capitalist system devours itself and everything in it? Or is this just the natural progression of things? It’s hard to say. But you know what isn’t?

Ludo. Ludo. Ludo.

Reaction face

Rank: 4
Mood: 😱

Over the last year or so, a growing number of previously established PRO and AM skateboarders have tried their hand at becoming YouTubers. Tom Asta, Kanaan Dern, his brothers Dalton and Destin, and even Pedro Delfino are testing the waters (more on him below). It’s a bit surprising, given that “YouTuber” is often meant derogatorily, and in a culturally fickle world such as skateboarding, trying to become one could risk tainting your marketability.

Does this small but noticeable departure mean anything? Could it denote a positive change? As skateboarding culture slowly becomes more open and less gatekeepy, perhaps AM and PRO skateboarders feel less worried about trying their luck and having some fun on the ‘Tube. Or, maybe the ability to make a living as a skateboarder in our current age is so fragile and fleeting that attempting to monetize your notoriety in any way you can is simply becoming more accepted.

But beyond our perceptions and preconceived ideas, what’s most important is whether the content these skateboarders put out is any good. Tom Asta’s videos are classic YouTube fare: just a guy in a place with a camera and a tripod talking to himself. In Asta’s case, he frequents his local skatepark where he takes us on vlog-like journeys, including “I SUCK at these tricks…,” “Today I skate TRANSITION…,” “The KEYS to FLIPPING IN!” “The KEYS to FLIPPING OUT!” and “MANUALS! The most frustrating form of SKATEBOARDING…,” all of which are perfectly fine.

The Dern brothers’ have been experimenting with YouTube for longer, recently finding their groove with a series of “Skate Spot Videos” that feature Kanaan and Destin touring around famous skate spots, talking about what tricks have been done at them, and then just, like, skating around. All in all, they’re not bad! Their Carlsbad Gap video currently has nearly 270 thousand views, which is nothing to sneeze at. My only critique is one that extends across most of the YouTube universe, which is that content creators, beholden to the whims of the algorithm, still subject themselves to making the “YouTube reaction face” in their video thumbnails.

Admittedly, I’m not an algorithm expert, but I’d contend that the Derns don’t need to keep doing this. The reaction face images are corny, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who actually likes them, and judging by the Derns’ recycling of Kanaan’s smarmy chin-grab reaction face, it seems they’d rather not make them either.

Unless they are into them, of course. Then, by all means, MrBeast yourselves.

“I Paid A Real Assasin To Try To Kill Me.”

A skipping rock over a plastic lake

Rank: 1!
Mood: 🪨

“The neighbourhood I live in is inconveniently hilly and imperfect.” Pedro Delfino explains while detailing the corresponding skateboard setup he uses to bomb hills to the liquor store in a recent upload to his nascent YouTube channel. The video, which goes on to offer four tips for bombing hills, is titled “4 Reasons Not to Skate Hills.” It’s a compelling watch. As a guide, Delfino is as experienced as it comes in the subject matter, and his presence on screen feels as natural and honest as the tips he shares.

“Besides the gear, the most important thing to consider when bombing hills is that your environment is changing rapidly. There’s so many variables to worry about. There’s cars pulling out — which way are the cars driving? I try to make eye contact with the drivers, hoot and holler, [and] scrape my tail just to get their attention. But I always anticipate a car pulling out of a driveway.”

Delfino’s other guiding principles for hill bombing are matter-of-fact, if not obvious, like “keep your eyes on the road” or “don’t bomb alone.” Others demand an advanced level of self-reflection. “You’re going to go down. You’re going to go down so hard it’s not gonna be funny. You just will. Be ready for it.”

He also doesn’t shy away from the dangerous reality of the subject at hand, “I never run out of my bombs. That’s how you blow your knees out and… fall face-first on the ground.” It can often feel forced and Phelpian when people opine on skateboarding’s mercilessness, but here it just feels like sound advice (even with literal Jake Phelps voiceover included in the video). And sometimes, there’s a poeticism in Delfino’s exploration of these brutal truths.

“Ideally, you want to be going so fast that when you fall down, you’re like a skipping rock over a plastic lake.”

From primetime to flow

Rank: 1997
Mood: 📺

Before skateboarding’s rise to near pop cultural ubiquitousness, it was always a shock and a treat to spot any nod to skate culture on television in the ’90s and early ’00s — which mostly came in the form of conspicuous brand placements. From the DVS and Matix stickers on Joey Tribbiani’s fridge to the still surprising Illenium sticker that popped up in Malcom In The Middle.

Image via SLAP

While logo spotting has lost its impact over the years as it’s become almost standard for a TV character to sport skate gear or have a bedroom with some form of skate company branding on the wall, there is one important angle we’ve yet to consider: what brands would those characters from that golden era of the sitcom be flow for? Like a personality test, but more accurate and meaningful, I’ve put together a starting lineup of iconic silver screen personalities and the companies that would most likely send them a couple of boxes and then stop responding to their emails.

Samuel “Screech” Powers
Played by: Dustin Diamond
Show: Saved by the Bell
Flow for: Frog

“Screech” on Frog just feels right, doesn’t it?

Jane Lane
Voiced by: Wendy Hoopes
Show: Daria
Flow for: Supreme, Violet

A distinct appearance, an effortless cool, and seven layers of attitude and irony disguising an earnestness at their core. It’s not hard to imagine an extreme Strobeckian slo-mo zoom-in of Jane smoking a cig while gripping a board.

Carlton Banks
Played by: Alfonso Ribeiro
Show: The Fresh Prince of Bel Air
Flow for: Illegal Civ

Many jokes and low blows have been made at the expense of the sartorial similarities between Carlton Banks and Illegal Civ’s Mikey Alfred. But, in this context, would that surface-level connection at least be enough to get Banks in the van? Considering the state of Illegal Civ’s team, probably.

Played by: Roseanne Barr
Show: Roseanne
Flow for: Plan B

There are some uncanny parallels between person and brand here. Roseanne and Plan B initially took their respective worlds by storm; both were briefly best in class, subsequently went under, returned years later, and have since been shells of their former selves, even developing a shared interest in conspiracy theories.

Spammy seduction

Rank: 5
Mood: 💌

As a person who’s written an incalculable amount of marketing emails for everything from leggings to dining chairs and SaaS products, one approach I never tried while crafting them was to make the hooks a bit flirty. First, I guess, because it’s weird and would reflect poorly on the giant unfeeling corporation. But it would also be a difficult balance to strike between provocative and professional that doesn’t read like an echo of a boner-pill phishing scam spam email.

Even here, Last Resort AB stumbles. “Hi Darling,” is a promising start. It’s a fun, unexpected greeting that immediately grabs your attention. Did this shoe brand just address me as “darling?” It did, yes! However, “How’s your Sunday going? Let us make it better!” Is a clumsy proposition that spoils all of the intrigue it had previously established. You’re going to make my Sunday better by extending an offer to buy your shoes? No discount, nothing? Perverts.

That said, it is commendable that they tried. Marketing emails are boring as hell, so it’s nice to see someone take a risk, even if it verged into the strange and spammy. It’ll only be concerning if we start receiving Last Resort emails addressed from Pontus Alv himself, asking for our help transferring his vast wealth out of the country; all he needs is our personal banking information and SSN.

Something to consider:

Good thing:

Seemingly every major tech story of the past five or six years has been about the tech industry getting filthy rich while others suffered or losing unthinkable sums of money, with no counterbalance of “but at least we got this” to go with it. Tech’s heroes aren’t guys in turtlenecks who reveal the future in a cinematic presentation - they’re billionaire whiners crowing about “woke AI,” or buying up hundreds of acres of land in Hawaii, or claiming that remote work is bad after laying off thousands of people before taking a 10-day “digital detox” in French Polynesia.

Ed Zitron on the public disillusionment with the tech industry for Where’s Your Ed At.

Another sartorial thing: Friend of the newsletter, Wes Allen, had a great chat with Blackbird Spyplane about “what makes skaters so swaggy?”

A haunting thing:

Until next week… as spring creaks and groans to life and your seasonal allergies kick in, try not to begrudge nature for the inconvenience; it is simply doing what it’s always done. If anything, take your frustrations out on poor urban planning.