Grind like no one's watching | Simply Ranked

Plus: skateboarding retirements, world records, first popsicles and more.

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.

Grind like no one’s watching

Rank: 5050
Mood: 📊

Late last year, Australia’s Rob Pace released a video part for Slam Skateboarding Magazine that would understandably have any skater slipping into Thrasher-caption parlance upon viewing. Rob riots in the streets with a relentless barrage of rail-chomping, kink-smashing, death-defying moves that’ll rip open the Overton window and leave your jaw on the floor as your brain hemorrhages attempting to comprehend what you’ve just seen, we say quietly to ourselves.

It is a stunning collection of daredevilry. Pace descends rails of confounding form, kinked and curved and missing whole chunks. This is the peak of action taken to previous heights by the Jamie Foys, Kevin Bækkels, Zion Wrights and Braden Hoban’s of the world.

Curiously, however, Pace’s video part seems to have floated by nearly unnoticed. Does that speak to the more limited reach of Slam as opposed to a Thrasher? Perhaps. The videos hosted on Slam’s YouTube channel rarely crack 10,000 views, and “The Bible” is our cultural behemoth. Case in point: Thrasher’s “Skateline” web series featured Pace’s part on Tuesday, bumping its YouTube views up from 7,500 on Monday to just over 10,000 at the time of writing this. But that is still relatively paltry for tricks of such magnitude. Isn’t this the style and aren’t these the tricks that have defined what high-level skateboarding has looked like in the last however many years? These are usually the video parts that have the internet ablaze, regardless of what media entity released it.

This isn’t to take away from Pace’s offering, because it is an unquestionably amazing display of skill, but maybe we’re growing a little tired of the rail-chomping. Has the unreality of what these skaters execute finally distanced us from our enjoyment of it? Is speaking about the interests of skaters as a monolith a futile effort? Could this just be some poor social media manager fumbling the SEO? Sure, yep, totally.

Whatever the case, whatever you’re into, this part deserves a watch. If only to see how far a person is willing to push themselves, how far our reality is able to bend.

The lifespan of a retirement

Rank: 2

What does a retirement in professional skateboarding look like? It happens so irregularly that it’s sometimes hard to spot. In the NBA, if your stats sag, you won’t get picked up by a team. NBA career over. You can try to work your way back or call it a day. Some players quit on the precipice of decline to maintain their legacy. Heath Kirchart did the latter, and it sent shock waves through our little world. Pro skaters can retire? It had to be an aberration.

Usually, once a skater’s skills begin to dip and their output dries up, they disappear, their names unceremoniously erased from a company’s team page—unless they have a name. Because you don’t need to have a high-percentage shooter on the court in professional skateboarding, you only need a marketable, profitable personal brand. That’s what extends a career, not PPG. So why quit if you can milk it?

Unfortunately, those options only work for a very select few—the beloved pioneers, the ones who made big bucks when there were still big bucks to be made and the top 5% or so of our current crop of pros. Today’s skateboarders are pushing themselves harder than ever, for less. If that grind becomes too much, it only makes sense to pursue other career options.

There’s a running joke in mixed martial arts that when a fighter retires, expect them to have a fight booked before the year is out. It’s not a ha-ha funny joke, mind you. Instead, it’s more telling than anything. An athlete caught up in the emotion of a defeat or injury decides to call it a day. Then time passes, or more accurately, intervenes. Distance from that heartache allows room for confidence to grow, and before long, it seems like a certainty that they’ll be a champion one day. For athletes, these are necessary delusions, ones that have the power to make them backpedal with haste.

Was Robert Neal playing a joke on us imbeciles? If so, it sure wasn’t ha-ha funny. That would’ve been a rare sight, a professional skateboarder hanging it up on their terms. Getting out with youth on their side before the game itself ushers them through the door.

Alternative career paths

Rank: 1
Mood: 📚

On firsts

Rank: 1!
Mood: 🥇

In my youth, I spent hours attempting to learn heelflips in the driveway of my childhood home. Standing in place on my skateboard, I kept repeating the same simple motions over and over again: step on the board’s tail with my back foot to make its front end pop up, then jump and slide my front foot up and off the front edge of the board. Theoretically, those movements done in concert with one another would result in a heelflip. But they hadn’t, even though I’d done everything I thought I’d needed to do, having decoded the step-by-step instructions to the trick by playing and rewinding and playing Steve Olson doing a switch heelflip on an embankment in the Shorty’s Fulfill The Dream an innumerable amount of times.

Still, I kept trying, putting more quarters in the machine even as frustration mounted and my focus began to slip. One afternoon, I jumped and kicked my lead leg straight forward, not in the up-and-out motion of Olson’s that I’d studied so closely. The board shot up into the vertical position, my beloved toy now a dagger. I felt a white heat and then heard laughter as our neighbours across the street witnessed me thoroughly popsicle myself—a first. I ran inside, scared and in shock, to make sure I hadn’t severed anything. Not an hour after I’d confirmed all would be okay, I was back in the driveway, quarters at the ready.

720° of separation

Rank: -2,800,000,000
Mood: 💸💸💸

While doing research for a book about a video game about skateboarding, I came across an interesting factoid.

At first, I thought the esteemed Hellboy actor had found time in the late ‘80s, between shooting a bit Miami Vice part and a bizarre live-action Beauty and The Beast television series, to earn a world record high score on the original skateboarding arcade game, 720°. But, unfortunately, that’s Ron Perlman. Ron Perelman, it would turn out, is the infamous billionaire owner of Revlon. A billionaire whose debts have recently turned on him, threatening to swallow all of his precious excesses.

I haven’t been able to confirm if the Perelman of 720° fame is the same one sulking in the Times, but if it is, he should try to find comfort in that one large number no one has been able to take from him yet.

Something to consider: The Cold War Killed Cannabis As We Knew It. Can It Rise Again?” By Casey Taylor for Defector.

Good bad thing: Jesus goddamn christ. Can we stop this, please? I’m begging you.

Until next week…