Government name, please | Simply Ranked

Plus: Toby Ryan, oligopolies, the SkateTubers are growing more powerful, and more.

Government name, please | Simply Ranked

The definitive weekly ranking and analysis of all the skateboarding and other things online that I cannot stop consuming and how it makes me feel, personally.

Small like a cannonball

Rank: 1

MegaRamp, SK8MAFIA, Wallenberg, Real Skateboards — Toby Ryan has thrown himself across some imposing chasms with a whole host of different people in his short two decades of existence. Diminutive only in the way a cannonball is small, last Friday Ryan delivered what is likely the gnarliest video part of the year thus far in REAL Skateboards presents Toby Ryan, launching his slight frame off of, onto, and over most every type of harm-inducing obstacle you can think of.

While undisputedly impressive, it is interesting that all these years on, spots like Wallenberg, where Ryan's ender takes place, remain standard bearers for the absolute zenith of on-board achievement. It's where Chris Cole's 360-kickflip ended the Zero Skateboards video New Blood in 2005 — just a year after Ryan was born. People have jumped off higher and longer things since, but places like Wallenberg still endure. Is that because skateboarders of this level know the body can't go much further than this? Have we reached the limit of what is possible for the consistent and concerted hucker? Why throw yourself down a larger, more dangerous spot no one else has skated when you could instead etch your name in familiar history?

Pulling back on this thought, it is incredible to think that in the relatively short amount of time that skateboarding has existed, in some ways, we've already reached its maximum potential. People will continue to grind longer rails with more kinks and curves, and technical maneuvers can always add more flip-ins and outs, but unless some child is given adamantium ACLs, we probably won't see anyone survive a leap much bigger than what Aaron "Jaws" Homoki has conquered.

Which, if we're being honest, is probably for the best.

Government name, please

Rank: -1
Mood: 📛

We're still doing it, this bizarre, generation-spanning practice of anglicization. Rodrigo TX (Teixeira), Paul Trep (Trepanier), Wade Desarmo (Des'Ormeaux), and countless other professional or amateur skateboarders have had their names chopped and squeezed into mush in service of some perceived ease of marketing to American audiences. In and out of skateboarding, brands and whatever other relevant organizations have long held the belief that any vaguely "foreign" spelt, sounding, or seeming name must be dumbed down into abbreviations or bastardizations of their original form lest the imagined thick-skulled, child-brained general public struggle to connect with the person whose name they might have to look up or ask a friend for its proper pronunciation.

This is a vestige of a long tradition of cultural assimilation, or "Americanization," that has existed in its common form since the early 1900s. While it still smacks of xenophobia, it's mostly just embarrassing that in the year of our lord 2024, brands or whoever would still feel it necessary to encourage an up-and-coming skateboarder to water down their identity in this way.

Case in point: last week, Exoplus released a Peace Park-centric part from Morgan DT (Desjardins-Turgeon), who is an absurd talent.

That same day, BH Worldwide dropped a part for another shockingly good Canadian upstart, Evan Tanc (Tancredi).

Perhaps those are simply nicknames, which, if that's the case, do you, fellas. Given how normal the practice is, it's also not a stretch to imagine that these are instances of self-policed and inflicted anglicization — skaters think that's just what a non-American skater does, so they do it. Whatever the case, can we just cut it out already? We've been doing this for long enough. If you live in any former or current English colony, there's a good chance your name has been tweaked to suit the preference of dullards — even my own. Technically, I'm a Novitski, but we've run Nowicki for generations, which is wack, especially since I don't even get a box of shoes out of the deal.

That's just the way that I feel

Rank: Blech
Mood: 😡🤮

Sometimes, you come across a text so raw, honest, and revelatory that you must stop and marvel. Fully grasping the audacity and courage of conviction required to write and share such an idea takes time, as the brain needs to steep in its message, which I had to do after seeing the tweet below from The Globe and Mail on Monday.

Via The Globe and Mail on Twitter

"Consumers may grumble, but these oligopolies are great for investors," it reads above a link to an article that tries to make the argument that while most Canadians largely get fucked by the small consortium of conglomerates that govern the majority of the country's economy, it's actually pretty great for those who put even more money into those companies.

From the perspective of investors, though, Canada’s cozy network of oligopolies – in which a few players dominate one sector – can look very different. Slim competition can keep upstarts out and profits in, driving strong shareholder returns and attractive dividends over the long term.

“We have a handful of oligopolies that are able to fend off new entrants (whether regional or foreign) without needing to destroy profits for an extended period of time, or where we need a government financed solution,” Ian de Verteuil, head of portfolio strategy at CIBC Capital Markets, said in an e-mail.

Consider Canada’s six largest banks, known as the Big Six, which dominate domestic mortgages and hog most of the deposits in this country. Over the past 10 years, to the end of 2023, this elite group of profit-gushers has delivered a total return of 157 per cent, on average, with hefty dividends included.

Cool. The article then offers some snarky reasons why us fucked should dump more of our dollars into the companies and organizations that already take so much from us, including our leading greedy grocer, my phone and internet provider who is constantly sneaking new fees into my monthly bills, and a bank and railway who both recently completed takeovers of their respective rivals.

Perhaps this piece is all tongue-in-cheek. If so, bravo. If not, it showcases an outrageously callous lack of compassion for consumers who are only ever getting more fleeced. The article was written by one David Berman. Not that David Berman (RIP), but I have been listening to a lot of Silver Jews lately, so it was jarring to see his name, which to me is synonymous with so much joy and comfort and beauty, and this other Berman, who, in this moment, even, and especially after much steeping, infuriates me.

It reminded me of how the Silver Jews ended, with Berman disbanding the group after struggling to reconcile the damage his ruthless corporate lobbyist father, Richard Berman (once dubbed "Dr. Evil" by 60 Minutes), has had on the world. Our relations, whether by name, flesh, or even other sides of ourselves, often wound us the worst.

"And the end of all wanting is all I've been wanting," Berman sang on "That's Just the Way that I Feel" from Purple Mountains, the final album he recorded before taking his life in 2019. While that line could be interpreted a number of ways, considering the context in which Berman wrote it, I think it also speaks to the strained undercurrent running through our current moment, where there is so much wanting, which could so easily be relieved considering our vast well of resources, yet no one will do so. Also, fuck other David Berman, and...

James Hardy, Rest in Peace

Rank: N/A
Mood: 💔

Over the weekend, the skateboarding community lost supreme Alabama talent and, from all accounts, a lovely, loving, and level-headed person in James Hardy. A skater known for his power and physical presence, the body behind that force would feel the impact of all those years on the board. During interviews in the time after his professional heyday, Hardy had been candid about the unforgiving nature of the skateboarding industry and skateboarding itself. In Vol. 1.2, Issue #2 of Closer from Summer 2022, he shared in harrowing detail how his life had been affected following the severe head trauma he incurred throughout his career.

"I've been having seizures for years now... originally they were in my sleep... but last year they graduated to where I would have them in the daytime. I had one at my warehouse job that I have. I woke up on the couch in the office, people staring at me, and I was like, "I guess I had one during the day." And then the next one was just [while I was] walking in my neighbourhood, and my girlfriend happened to see me on the side of the road — like, on the sidewalk — having one when she was getting off work. They just kind of started getting worse from there."
"Then, recently, I had a bad one at work where I ended up in the ICU. I was finally able to talk to the doctor there to show him all of my slams. I handed him my phone with all of the clips, and then showed him the videos of my actual seizures that my girlfriend recorded. After he saw the first slam, he asked me how old I was when that first one happened. I told him I was 16. He said, 'I can obviously see you got knocked out and had a concussion.' He said at that age your brain isn't fully developed yet. Then he asked me when the next one after that was. I told him the next one was when I was 17, on the Muirlands rail.

"He understood immediately that those early head slams were the cause. We did three MRIs and he told me that I have this gray area above my temple on my left side where I would always slam, and basically that I have permanent brain damage from hitting my head in that area so many times..."
"For me, I can't skateboard. I can't do my other hobbies that make me who I am. I like doing whitewater kayaking; I can't do that. I like doing electrical work, and that's my job — I can't do that, in case I have a seizure and I fall into a panel and blow up a building there."

On Monday, Blair Alley at TransWorld wrote that "It was a seizure that ultimately took [Hardy's] life." He was just 35 years old.

While everyone who skateboards assumes its inherent risks, the bodily trauma a professional skateboarder takes on in service of promoting brands while receiving so little in financial compensation or proper healthcare is something that still hasn't been addressed by the industry in any meaningful way. To many, a skateboarding career is seen more as an opportunity than a job, some youthful dalliance to be grateful for rather than the literal work that it is, full of risk and worthy of the benefits a job generally provides.

Skaters like Tommy Sandoval, Victor Aceves, and many more have been at the mercy of GoFundMe campaigns to cover costly medical bills that came as the result of skateboarding-related injuries — or in other words — workplace injuries. Part of those woes are due to a merciless American healthcare system, but also an industry where most companies are incapable or unwilling to provide proper care for their riders. Riders who are technically independent contractors, not employees — a loophole that has long been used across most industries to avoid treating those in one's employ like actual employees.

If anything positive can come from such tragedy, it's that this serves as a wake-up call for skateboarders and the companies that sponsor them: Professional skateboarding is a job with real consequences and should be treated as such. This career path can and will take everything from a person. Companies that use people who put their bodies on the line as champions for their brands should do all they can to ensure that those people are taken care of.

The SkateTubers are growing stronger

Rank: 1
Mood: 🤳

As the traditional media landscape continues to shift, collapse, and reshape itself (but mostly collapse), that has led to openings for new figures, organizations, and mediums to gain a foothold. From podcasters to influencers, YouTubers to anonymous meme accounts, audiences are increasingly drawn to "creators" and personalities outside of the establishment media. This once alternative chorus of characters continues to grow louder, often breaking into and drowning out the mainstream. That sea change is why outlets like the Washington Post have a designated TikTok reporter/creator and Amazon has reportedly signed a development deal for a gameshow hosted by the king of YouTube, Mr. Beast. These are attempts to meet viewers where they are now, stay current, and appeal to an increasingly online generation before they get left behind.

That shift has finally started to happen in earnest in skateboarding. Specifically, SkateTubers have recently broken into the mainstream in a number of interesting ways. Ben Degros, who returned from YouTuber retirement a few months back, helped design the "Easy Rider" board shape for Real Skateboards. Bryan Arnett somehow got a tipsy Paul Rodriguez (who is now a YouTuber himself) to join his livestream where he opined about the state of skateboarding. Gifted Hater had a whole entertaining subplot in Ryan Lay's Epicly Later'd episode, where PROs like Nora Vasconcellos and Kevin Long acknowledged his impact on skateboarding to varying degrees of disgust and admiration.

And that's just 'Tuber's success in the skate bubble. Shimon, A.K.A. MDAskater, a Japanese YouTuber, is the creator behind Kasso, the skateboarding obstacle-course game show that you've likely seen pop up across your various feeds the last few weeks.

MDAskater partnered with TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting Station) to produce the program, and according to him, spent over a million dollars constructing the various courses.

I could be missing something, as I'm still a relatively new observer of the SkateTuber ecosystem, but from my knowledge, this seems like the biggest effort anyone has put forth so far — and it rules. This is a wide-funnel product designed to appeal to as broad an audience as possible (as MDAskater notes in the above video), but is still enjoyable for the regular skateboarder.

It's unclear whether Kasso has been a success for TBS, but if cursory metrics are any judge, it seems to be doing solid, with its account amassing over 100k followers on Instagram and hundreds of thousands of views across Kasso and MDAskater's YouTube accounts. As the future of skateboarding media remains unsteady, with print no longer being a reliable money maker and the spigot of standard online content (skate videos, video parts) never turning off but also not making anyone any money unless you're Thrasher earning a publishing fee, if this trajectory continues, the SkateTubers seem poised to be the only ones who make dough from skateboarding "content" in the coming years. Probably time for us all to hurry up and get ring lights.

Something to consider:

‘Lavender’: The AI machine directing Israel’s bombing spree in Gaza
The Israeli army has marked tens of thousands of Gazans as suspects for assassination, using an AI targeting system with little human oversight and a permissive policy for casualties, +972 and Local Call reveal.

Good thing:

An Interview with Skate Photographer Matt Price
Handling internet criticism, the similarities between skate and concert photography, and the dangers of getting too close to subjects.

Another good thing:

While there are still some exceptions, the signature shoe has largely evaporated from the skateboard industry. But, why?

An ugh thing: TransWorld's owner is scrapping it out with the company it licensed Sports Illustrated from before tanking it. Good times.

Sports Illustrated Owner Sues Former Publisher Over Bungled Leverage Play | Defector
Authentic Brands Group, the intellectual property giant that own Sports Illustrated, has filed a lawsuit against The Arena Group, the weird consortium of media brands that stopped paying Authentic Brands Group earlier this year for the license to publish Sports Illustrated, and its owner Manoj Bhargava, the 5-Hour Energy founder, for breach of contract, tortious […]

Until next week… with spring having sprung, have you sprang into action (felt the sun on your face, walked along a beach and watched ducks drift into the tranquil distance, touched a leafy bulb and thought about infinite renewal and potential)?

Laser Quit Smoking Massage



My new collection of essays is available now. I think you might like it. The Edmonton Journal thinks it's a "local book set to make a mark in 2024." The CBC called it "quirky yet insightful." lol.

Book cover by Hiller Goodspeed.

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Right, Down + Circle



I wrote a book about the history and cultural impact of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater that you can find at your local bookshop or order online now. I think you might like this one, too.

Here’s what Michael Christie, Giller Prize-nominated author of the novels Greenwood and If I Fall, If I Die, had to say about the thing.

“With incisive and heartfelt writing, Cole Nowicki unlocks the source code of the massively influential cultural phenomenon that is Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and finds wonderful Easter-eggs of meaning within. Even non-skaters will be wowed by this examination of youth, community, risk, and authenticity and gain a new appreciation of skateboarding’s massive influence upon our larger culture. This is my new favorite book about skateboarding, which isn’t really about skateboarding — it’s about everything.”

Photo via The Palomino.

Order the thing