Dammit, you got me, brand | Simply Ranked

Plus: An unholy convergence, that good shit, Sk8Mafia reigns supreme, and more.

Dammit, you got me, brand | 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.

Dammit, you got me, brand

Rank: 1
Mood: 👟💸👟💸

Asics Skateboarding has officially launched. When I messaged Kaspar Van Lierop back in May — one of the people behind the longtime shoe company’s entry into the market — he was coy about their brand strategy but did share this.

“I will say we are planning to do things differently than most skate footwear brands. We are hoping to stoke people out by bringing a refreshing look and feel. We plan to have a more nimble, less loud, but confident approach. Blending skate, art and Asics heritage.

The intent of blending skate and art was apparent when Asics Skateboarding gave Atlantic Drift auteur Jacob Harris what appears to be free reign to do whatever he wanted with their debut video “TOTAL ACTUAL COMFORT.” At times more arthouse than promotional vehicle; it certainly does what Van Lierop told me the brand wants to accomplish by doing “things differently than most skate footwear brands.”

Admittedly, I’m a mark for anyone willing to take a risk to cut through the noise of our current content churn, so watching creative, high-level skateboarding couched in the increasingly demented (positive) vision of Harris was a treat. And leading your brand launch with up-and-coming skaters like Akwasí Owusu and Emile Laurent is a bold move, even if they still made sure to hedge their cultural cache by having Gino Iannucci in the background throughout the edit.

All of that to say, it made me want to try a pair of Asics, which I think you can chalk up to a success.

A pleasurable and unholy convergence

Rank: 1
Mood: 🏀 🛹

Last weekend I took an extremely unrestful red-eye flight to Toronto to check out The Bunt Jam. It was a blast, and I’m working on something else about it for a later date, but one stray thought that came to mind after watching the eight-team 3-on-3 basketball tournament portion of the event, which featured professional skateboarders and various industry folk competing against one another, was that shoe-horning skateboarders into traditional sports is surprisingly engaging.

Sure, there was a thin layer of irony coating the tourney, and most of the skaters were there to simply have a good time. Still, it was fascinating to watch real competitive spirit come out of a number of the athletes who have been forced to repress that drive in the world of skateboarding, that historically hasn’t rewarded a similar approach in the way other sports do. Or, at the very least, has reframed it under the guise of “stacking clips,” “getting hammers,” etc., as a way to feel less “kooky” while embracing the naturally competitive nature of most athletic endeavours (whether against the self or others).

After watching The Bunt team successfully defend their title on the court, I started to think about what other sports would be fun to watch PRO skaters moonlight in and came up with this rough but inalienable list.

  1. Cricket: I don’t know how it works, and that would make watching Garrett Hill play it all the better.
  2. Curling: Who in the skateboarding world has the patience and poise to be Skip? I honestly have no idea. Chany Jeanguenin?
  3. Shotput: In a sport dominated by legs, it’s the inverters who are going to excel here. My money is on Erick Winkowski.
  4. Chess: Asking skateboarders to think more than one move ahead? That’s just a line, bro; we’ve got this.
  5. Darts: In a thematic twist, consider this an open challenge to any PROs who want to step to me at darts. We can play on the board in my apartment. I’ll make us dinner. Maybe some sort of hardy salad with a white wine.

The best sk8board brand

Rank: 1!!
Mood: 💯

For a brand to become popular, to successfully establish itself as cool, is a uniquely difficult challenge. It requires an understanding of the market the brand is entering and an ability to be fluent in the culture it’s catering to in a way that doesn’t feel forced. It should also be able to create a separate universe, or fandom, around itself. Something that feels different from the innumerable other brands out there that people can attach themselves to and, ultimately, add to the mosaic of logos that people tend to use as a way to define or accent their own personalities.

While difficult, what remains nearly impossible, is for brands to remain cool over an extended period of time. How does one continue to feel new, different, and exciting generations deep in a capitalist project? Sometimes brands just fall off and wind up in outlet malls like Airwalk; some have ebbs and flows of cool like most of the brands under the Crailtap banner; or there is an ever-so-slow decline in interest, like the steady leak of a bicycle tire, which appears to be what Fucking Awesome is going through nearly a decade into the hardgoods version of the brand’s existence.

This happens for any number of reasons — consumer fatigue, drop in product quality, bad business decisions, out-of-touch brand strategy. Convincing people to give you their money is a delicate dance of marketing and timing, and falling out of rhythm is much easier than keeping pace.

But there is one skateboarding brand that has never given a shit about any of that and has stayed in their little corner of the club, dancing to whatever San Diego-area rap is blasting out of a portable Bluetooth JBL speaker as the other brands around them struggle to maintain the attention of an ever-evolving consumer base. They’ve been doing their own thing for so long without bowing to trends or attempting hamfisted efforts to remain “current” that it feels like they may be the only authentic brand left in the skateboarding space. All they do is skate, film (putting out a full-length video nearly every year), and occasionally drop product. It’s unclear if they make money as a company or if that’s even the point. Sk8Mafia, at least from the outsider’s view, seems to be a family above all else — an ironclad group of friends who just love to skate, man.

From their early Sk8Mafia Saturdays days on Transworld’s website to their latest release, the perfunctorily titled “Sk8Mafia Video 2023,”  not only is the ‘Mafia still “out there,” they’re still out there killing it. It’s a type of brand longevity fueled by the passion of the people behind the brand, not the consumers of it, which is not generally how these things work. And as long as we’re not gauging success via profit, as we’ve been trained to do, I think it’s time to declare that Sk8Mafia is, by far, the best brand in Sk8Boarding.

Show of excessive force

Rank: Yuck
Mood: 🤮

Photo: Kyle Martin for The Standard

Last Saturday, in an effort to stop the annual Dolores Park hill bomb in San Francisco, California, the local police, clad in riot gear, “arrested more than 100 people — 32 adults and 81 juveniles,” according to The San Francisco Standard. The apparent unlawful acts of some of the arrested?

… At 7:10 p.m., police said an officer helping residents return was approached by a male who spat in his face. When that officer tried to stop the male, a female approached and interfered. The officer was later taken to a hospital for treatment of facial lacerations.

That must have been some particularly sharp-edged saliva to cut through the officer’s face shield and flesh.

Other officers later arrested a 16-year-old boy on suspicion of aggravated assault, violence against an officer, assault and battery, resisting arrest, conspiracy and crimes involving a juvenile, and a 15-year-old girl on suspicion of resisting arrest.

“Suspicion” is certainly doing a lot of heavy lifting there.

Police said officers recovered left-behind firearms, unlit fireworks and "narcotics paraphernalia" at the scene. Thirty-two adults were arrested and booked into San Francisco county jail on suspicion of inciting a riot, remaining present at an unlawful assembly and conspiracy, with one adult cited and released for resisting arrest, remaining present at an unlawful assembly and conspiracy. Eighty-one teens were also arrested on similar charges, with one teen later hospitalized for treatment of intoxication.

Ah, yes. What skateboarder hasn’t left their firearm behind at an event?

Arresting “81 teens” is a staggering number. While it is true that the hill bomb is not an officially sanctioned or especially safe meet-up (there have been numerous serious injuries throughout the years, and a cyclist was killed after a collision with a skateboarder back in 2020), bringing out a militarized police unit to break it up was never going to end well, as SFGATE detailed.

Local community groups, as well as Supervisor Dean Preston and parents of the kids at the hill bomb, were outraged by reports — and plenty of video footage — of the enormous police response to a teenager-led event, which SFPD has referred to as a “riot.” Mission Local reported from the scene that kids were zip-tied for hours in the cold; some attendees alleged that they were unable to contact their parents and that kids urinated themselves because they weren’t able to use the restroom.

“I’m at a loss to explain this abuse of power, waste of money, and trauma inflicted on our young people,” Preston tweeted. “I’m ashamed of our City leadership for this type of militarization of our streets and attack on our youth. People deserve answers.”

Truly disgusting but not at all surprising. Could the City not have gotten over itself long enough to work with skateboarders to make the hill bomb a legitimate event instead of causing this traumatizing mess? Is that something skateboarders would even want now, considering how the City and the police have already shown they treat skateboarders? And if not, what about a simple, respectful acknowledgment of the skateboarding community that doesn’t result in City-sanctioned violence? How about closing off the road for skaters to use for a few hours and having some paramedics on site in case anyone gets hurt — just an absurdly obvious suggestion! Feel free to use it, SFPD. It’d certainly be a lot cheaper than rolling out the paramilitary thugs to thump on a bunch of kids.

The good shit

Rank: 1!!!
Mood: 🎨 🌁

As traditional skateboarding media outlets wilted away and Thrasher Magazine stood as the last remaining big North American skate mag, it also established itself as one of the most significant online hubs for skateboarding content. Eventually, it accrued more reach, relevancy, and influence as brands and independent outfits all pined to have Thrasher post their latest full-length videos, solo parts, commercials, etc. Their watermark in the top right corner of a video became a coveted sign of legitimacy.

“The Bible’s” near stranglehold on the industry has loosened in recent years as companies and filmmakers began to self-release or upload to different websites with more regularity. While that might mean their efforts are seen by a smaller audience in some cases, it allows them to grow their own channels and have their content posted across different online outlets, which in theory, allows for a healthier media ecosystem to thrive as our daily deluge of new videos isn’t exclusive to the one webpage we’re all corralled into visiting to stay up to date.

Speaking of theories, one that I absolutely cannot backup but would like to think is true is that with the premium on the Thrasher bump not being so high, or at least as necessary, and those brands and filmmakers uploading on their own, it compelled Thrasher to focus more on original programming instead of prefacing other people’s with their suite of custom bumpers. Whether or not that theory holds water, what is true is that Thrasher has been making some legitimately rad content lately.

From their fun and barebones “Cold Call” series, archival storytelling pieces like “Still Watchin’: Diego’s 20 Stair Ollie,” to the ever-evolving “Out There” mini-docs that are some of the most compelling and candid personality-centric skate media in recent memory — Thrasher has been taking chances and putting in the effort. Which brings us to their latest series, “This Old Ledge.” The debut episode’s YouTube description invites us to “Follow Ted Barrow into the world where skateboarding, architecture, and the concrete jungle collide to spark the magic of modern street skateboarding.”

It’s an entertaining, engaging, and elucidating watch; Barrow brings new life to a spot and subject that has been covered countless times before. Placing skateboarding history within the history of San Francisco and culture at large, as Barrow does here, provides more import and dynamism to the topic than the time-tested tradition of just listing tricks and remembering some guys (which he also does, to be sure, and it rules).

While it can be easy to rag on Thrasher and its dominance in the skate media sphere, it’s also important to note when they do cool stuff — which has been often as of late — so they’re encouraged to keep making it. “This Old Ledge” is the good shit, and I can’t wait for more.

Something to consider: The multiverse saga we really need.

Good thing: “Seeing San Francisco Through a Skateboarder’s Eyes,” a great piece about “This Old Ledge” by friend of the newsletter José Vadi for KQED. The article also includes this quote from Thrasher president Tony Vitello.

Through original videos, Thrasher’s “been pushing to expand further into personality and cultural stuff,” Vitello says, “beyond just ‘Here’s a [skate] video with music in the background.’”

Assuming that push is due to the pinpoint accuracy of my theory above.

Another good thing: Joe Buffalo’s guest board on Antihero.

One more good, albeit depressing thing: David Roth in Defector on David Zaslav, enshittification, and the utter lifelessness of the corporate greed destroying our shared creative culture (and, you know, the world).

The faceless capital that rules all this wants to see things get bigger and watch numbers go up; the people that support it, on the other hand, mostly just want to go on using the things they enjoy. That fundamental disconnect only becomes an existential threat—that is, only gets to the point we're at now—when capital decides, out of spite or impatience or greed, that it is sick of it all and tries to see whether there isn't some way to do this without having to deal with all those people and their bullshit.

Until next week… please, please. I’m begging you. If there’s one thing you do out of all the things I ask of you — which is a lot I know — it’s this. And really, it’s not a tall task or an over-extension (well, maybe literally in some cases), but it can make such an impact for such a small thing. So please, please, I beg you, before you skate, just do a little stretch. Make sure your body is limber and ready to absorb the impact you intend to suffer. Can you do that for me — and you? Great. Thank you.

I wrote a book about the history and cultural impact of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and I will keep posting about it at the end of the newsletter for the foreseeable future. Apologies. It’ll be in stores on September 26 and you can pre-order Right, Down + Circle now from your favourite local bookshop, my publisher ECW Press, or all of the usual devils (Amazon, Barnes & Noble). I think you might like it.