Steve Berra, the LAPD, and the Church of Scientology, oh my! | Simply Ranked

Plus: An hour-long rough cut, Tony Hawk gets jeered, Vincent Alvarez's Suds, and more.

Steve Berra, the LAPD, and the Church of Scientology, oh my! | 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.


Rank: 1:00:00
Mood: ⏲️

AN HOUR-LONG ROUGH CUT! A full sixty-some minutes of Louie Lopez attempting and landing the tricks that would become his stellar As You Wish video part for Converse back in the halcyon days of 2022. What a gift, this hour-long ROUGH CUT... a whole hour of it. If we're being honest, that's a significant amount of cuts. Rough or otherwise.

Granted, I haven't watched it yet, but I'm fairly certain I would love this. It's just, yeah, a lot. Not that I'm unwilling to watch an hour of skateboarding — I've done that for most of my life. How many times did I watch all 50 minutes of Flip's Sorry? The number is incalculable. This, though? I don't know. An hour? Are we sure? I understand that we always need to have content and pulling content from existing content is the best, most efficient content of all, but still.

Consider this formula: With a normal 4-5 minute video part, I will gladly sit down for a 15-20 minute B-Side. That seems like a reasonable length of time to extrapolate on a thing we've already seen with BTS. Lopez's section in As You Wish starts around the 07:22 mark and the credits roll at 16:12. So that's just under nine minutes of skating. If we use that same formula here, a 27-36 minute rough cut would be more realistic. Glad we figured that out.

[Editor's note: I watched the whole thing and loved it.]

Jeer him! Jeer him!

Rank: 40,000
Mood: 🚫🦅

Last Thursday, a small contingent of concerned Brooklyn residents known as Friends of Mount Prospect Park, a group I wrote about a few weeks back who are attempting to stop the future development of a skateboard park in the greenspace whose name they take after, held a small protest outside of the Beacon Theatre, where Tony Hawk and Rodney Mullen were engaged in their "collaborative talk," Darkslides and Secret Tapes.

Image via @agoodfollow on Twitter.

It's an interesting decision to target Hawk, whose non-profit foundation, The Skatepark Project, is working with the city to build the new facility. It makes sense because he is famous and your efforts will draw attention. However, he is also famous and extremely beloved, so if you are going to put him in your sights and not have a strong message, the way that generally works is it will backfire.

According to The New York Post, Friends of Mount Prospect Park were ready to come out swinging last week.

They plan to chant a ditty to the tune of “Old MacDonald”: “Tony Hawk can save our park, save our green space now!”

The jeer continues: “Skatepark Project holds the key, stop the paving now! With your lobbyists here and your PR firm there, use your fame, change the game, show us you’re a hero!” the catchy bit continues.

Biting. The group's co-chair, Hayley Gorenberg, provided the Post with more details on her organization's concerns.

Gorenberg is hopeful that Hawk will hear the group’s complaints, particularly because he positions himself as a climate activist.

“In recent memory, our neighbors have drowned in their basements from flooding, which is only getting worse because we are so over-paved,” she told The Post.

Gorenberg also pointed out that New York City is home to some of the country’s worst “heat islands,” or spaces where the temperatures are notably hotter due to urban development.

“Right next door to the park there is a cooling center in the library, because the heat is so dangerous,” she noted.

The neighborhood’s elected official, Council Member Crystal Hudson, has not been receptive to the group’s complaints, Gorenberg said.

In a statement to the Post, City Council Member Crystal Hudson responded to Gorenberg's claims.

“It’s been made clear to them, repeatedly, that this project will result in more trees being planted in the park than currently exist; no current functions will be disrupted before, during, or after construction of the skate park, including off-leash dog walking hours and playground access,” the council member said.

“The park’s current persistent flooding and drainage issues will be permanently addressed by this great investment in our community; and, the skate garden will certainly not result in the paving over of the park as they disingenuously suggest,” the office added.

Alec Beck, the Associate Director of External Relations at The Skatepark Project, would add to that in the comment section of the Post piece:

As someone who is involved with this project, it may be helpful to understand a couple of key points: 1) NYC Parks chose this site. 2) Recreational facility additions are almost always limited to existing park space owned by Parks or the City. 3) Just because someone doesn't like it, doesn't mean it's an inappropriate site. 4) The design hasn't been started yet, and the community will be involved. 5) Despite efforts from project proponents, opposition to this project is not interested in having any conversations about compromise within the space chosen by the city. 6) The site will be on less than 12% of the existing space. The opposition is obstructing the addition of healthy, free and accessible recreation for the community, despite retaining nearly 90% of "their" public space. 7) Regarding green space - no trees will be harmed. More trees will be planted. The slated 4,000 sq. ft. of micro-forest additions within the skatepark will capture more carbon and trap more particle pollution than 40,000 sq. ft. of compacted dirt with interspersed grass. As it is currently, the field’s capacity to capture carbon, trap particle pollution, or allow for infiltration of rainfall is close to zero. 8) The playground on site was a similar new addition sometime ago, it begs the question if the local opposition would have had the same issues with that addition when it was added. 9) All of this info is publicly available, yet the opposition continues to traffic in misinformation.

Civic engagement is key to a functioning democracy and keeping a community vibrant and healthy. Generally. It's also important to know when to take your 'L.'

Pure, unadulterated Alvarez

Rank: 1
Mood: 🌪️

Now, I'm aware that Vincent Alvarez has taken a fair bit of heat these last few years for a style of skateboarding that has evolved to keep him much closer to the ground. Like a once-flighted bird which, by prolonged chance or circumstance, has changed its very genetic nature, Alvarez now keeps tight to the earth due in part to an injury, age, and, one could assume, a change in taste.

Does this mean his shuffling and shove-its and the banks (mostly banks) upon which he commits his practice are somewhat lesser or less worthy because he no longer leaps with the same conviction or lack of concern he did in Pretty Sweet (2012)? If you answer "yes," I'd ask you to watch his latest video part, Suds. Released to his personal YouTube channel, it is free of the trappings of sponsors' aesthetics or canned artistic direction and is Alvarez doing Alvarez in his purest form: Quick, tight lines, that weave his body from one obstacle to the next with unconventional twists of the human frame but familiar twists of Alvarez's own. That's how we've come to know him, in how he takes expectation and turns it — perhaps not on its head — but overrotates it to a place still unexpected.

Pretty Sweet came out over a decade ago. Despite those nagging injuries, Alvarez has kept busy since, putting out multiple video parts for Chocolate (including the two-song ender of Bunny Hop [2021]) and Lakai, plus TransWorld, Dickies, and appearances in everything from Boys of Summer to Static VI. He is a force, unique and unyielding. His craft is not so much limited by his proximity to the ground but enhanced. Refined. Relatable yet still out of reach, his signature twisting and turning making him nearly impossible to grab a hold of.

I owe you an apology. I wasn't really familiar with your game.

Rank: 1
Mood: 💐💝

I've given what's left of TransWorld Skateboarding Magazine, which is its URL and various social channels since it ceased print operations in 2019, a lot of grief lately, as I wrote just earlier this week:

"... TransWorld has lived on in a zombie-like state, its website churning out SEO-optimized aggregate slop that gets run through various newsreader services. The Arena Group, the media conglomerate behind the embarrassing mismanagement of Sports Illustrated (which it licensed from another conglomerate in Authentic Brands Group to publish under the SI name), acquired Men’s Journal, the parent company of TransWorld, and has since farmed it out for clicks and whatever Google Ad revenue it can scrounge up."

Not very nice! But also not inaccurate. However, TransWorld is now doing more than churning out slop. They've recently brought back their entertaining "Skate Nerd" series, along with a video version of their "Brainfloss" feature (featuring Lee Smith) and an interview with John Motta.

And it's all great stuff! I love to see it. I'm quick to criticize what TransWorld has become because it's indicative of the sorry state of media at large, but there are still good people behind the scenes trying to do good things, and it's important to support that when they do so they're encouraged to make more of it. Admittedly, I think I'm also quick to criticize because I am an unabashed TransWorld-ass skater, and it hurts me to see TransWorld get used in such a shallow way by a publishing conglomerate that's only concerned with leveraging known "brands" for cheap clicks. Hurt people hurt people, I guess.

Might want to get your thetans checked out

Rank: 75,000,000
Mood: 🌋

Last week, I wrote about how the SkateTubers are slowly amassing power and influence in the mainstream skateboarding industry. That also seems to be happening in this very newsletter, because here I am, writing about them again. This time, more specifically, it's the granddaddy of them all, Aaron Kyro.

If you're unfamiliar, Kyro is the person behind Braille Skateboards and the Braille Skateboarding YouTube channel, which has accumulated nearly six million subscribers and almost two billion total views by cranking out instructional videos and general YouTube-style drivel like "KICKFLIPPING A GLASS SKATEBOARD WITH GLASS WHEELS?!" and "I SKATE STOPPED OUR ENTIRE SKATEPARK PRANK." Yes, Braille has been so successful that it has its own indoor park and compound. Or, at least, was successful, according to a recent Dumb Data video that tracked the precipitous decline of Braille's content over the last number of years.

But that's all ancillary to what made some minor waves this week: Kyro has been named the new leader of Scientology in San Francisco, apparently appointed by David Miscavige himself.

I learned this from another YouTuber, Growing Up in Scientology, who has built an audience of just over 240k subscribers by vlogging about the people and practices that make up the pseudo-religious cult. What a world.

It's quite something that Kyro, whose YouTube audience is overwhelmingly impressionable children, is such a prominent figure within Scientology, an organization that is desperately trying to increase its ranks by appealing to the young and disaffected. Skateboarding's proto-Kyro, Steve Berra, also got a shoutout in Growing Up in Scientology's video thanks to a news bulletin from the Church, which noted some of Berra's recent philanthropic efforts.

As part of a toy giveaway in Hollywood for underserved youth, organized by the Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre in conjunction with LAPD Hollywood youth development programs, Scientologist and legendary skateboarder Steve Berra donated signature skateboards, hoodies, and Berra’s Berrics Cariuma CATIBA Pro skate shoes. And what could be more appropriate in a town known as the birthplace of modern skateboarding.

Steve Berra, the LAPD, and the Church of Scientology! As the youth these kooks appear to be exploiting for optics might say: Nightmare blunt rotation. I wonder how Cariuma feels about its brand being highlighted in this way.1

Something to consider: If you have some extra monies, Rajab Al Al Reefi of Gaza Skate Team started a GoFundMe to help raise funds to repair his home and build a new skatepark, which was destroyed during Israel's continued siege.

Good things, podcast edition:

Episode 76 - Marbie Miller | Ausha
Episode 76 with Marbie Miller, skateboarder and artist from Oakland, California. Together we discussed her life and career, from growing up in La Porte, Iowa where she picked up her first board at the age of 11 to turning pro for There Skateboards in 2020, her art practice, fingerboarding and much more through surprise questions from friends of hers: Jeff Cheung, Nick Lyle, Una Farrar, Shari White, Cher Strauberry, Tom Mull, Preston Moses Clopton, James Pitonyak, Darren Johnson, Shag, Ben Venom, Matt Price, Lorien Stern, Jae Matthews and Augustus Muller from Boy Harsher, Eunice Chang, Chris Colbourn, Andrew Schoultz, Kristin Ebeling, Evan Smith, Jaime Reyes, Carolina Rey, Victor Valdez, Akiko Scott aka Kiki, Katherine Hamilton, Jim Thiebaud and Jessyka Bailey.(00:13) – Intro (01:25) – Jeff Cheung shoutout (01:46) – Nick Lyle(04:46) – Una Farrar (06:25) – Shari White(07:14) – Cher Strauberry(09:10) – Tom Mull(09:33) – Preston Moses Clopton(11:32) – James Pitonyak (14:19) – Darren Johnson(16:13) – Shag (20:01) – Ben Venom(21:59) – Matt Price(23:28) – Lorien Stern(24:14) – Jae Matthews(27:34) – Augustus Muller(30:06) – Eunice Chang(30:58) – Chris Colbourn(34:32) – Andrew Schoultz(35:40) – Kristin Ebeling(36:39) – Evan Smith(37:40) – Jaime Reyes(39:50) – Carolina Rey(45:00) – Victor Valdez(46:06) – Akiko Scott aka Kiki(47:11) – Katherine Hamilton(48:57) – Jim Thiebaud(49:51) – Jessyka Bailey(55:09) – Upcoming projects(57:23) – ConclusionFor more information and resources: Hosted by Ausha. See for more information.
Chipped with José Vadi. April 7, 2024. Mostly Skateboarding Podcast.
This week, Templeton Elliott, Mike Munzenrider, and Patrick Kigongo are talking to author José Vadi about his new book, Chipped . Listen he…

Another good thing: A recently(ish) released archival Jason Molina performance.

Not a paid advertisement thing: DOXA Documentary Film Festival is almost here. If you're in the Vancouver area, check out the films and get your tickets now.

Western Canada’s Largest Documentary Film Festival | DOXA Documentary Film Festival

Another not a paid advertisement thing: José Vadi is launching his excellent new book, Chipped: Writing From a Skateboarder's Lens, this coming Monday at Gilman Brewing Company in Berkeley. Nina Renata Aron and myself are on the bill, as well. Roll through! :)

A bumping this thing again thing: A long one from Tuesday. Special shoutout to my partner for reading it and offering notes that made it a much less unyieldy thing.

Looking through the glass
Contending with content, a media in decline, and skateboarding’s future online.

Until next week… if you find yourself on your own in a new city, make your way to the nearest dive bar. Don't be afraid to make conversation with those around you while there. The regulars may just invite you to sit at their table and you'll get an inside scoop on all of the hot local gossip. Plus, if you buy everyone a round of Jägerbombs, you'll have friends for life — or at least until the end of the night.

1 Good, probably?

Laser Quit Smoking Massage

NEWEST PRESS, available April 1, 2024


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.

Order the thing

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