It's in the job description | Simply Ranked

Plus: SOTY betting odds, TJIFSK8MAFIA, Brazil's Olympic skateboarding team still says no merger, and more.

It's in the job description | 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.

It’s in the job description

Rank: last one
Mood: 📛

Professional skateboarding is a career without a clearly defined end. The pro skateboarder doesn’t go to an office from 9-5 every weekday until ushered out the door at retirement age. Given that the status of “PRO” is more or less decided by whether or not the skateboarder has sponsors who choose to put their name on various hard or soft goods, the end can come at any time. A grievous physical injury, a shift in the winds of what is trending — the PRO is at the whim of whoever is making money off of the perceived marketability of their image.

That makes maintaining a successful career as a professional skateboarder supremely difficult, impressive, and, at times, completely arbitrary. Some PROs call it a day on their own, as Heath Kirchart famously did after concluding that he could no longer compete with the peak ability level of the day. Others hold on as long as a board with their name on it sells. And why not? Those products are proof of their contribution to the culture. But most simply fade out of the industry and onto the next phase of their professional lives — until they get an honourary “guest” board for a brand and are technically PRO once more, for however long that run of graphics lasts.

While what decides professional status may be signature product, what qualifies a PRO is fluid. It’s not always about skill level (nor should it be); it’s about a skater’s ability to inspire others vis-à-vis their sales potential. It’s cool, interesting people doing cool and interesting things on a skateboard. PRO is a marketing hook. A PRO is meant to SELL. While bleak when framed like that, it’s just the nature of the industry. And a PRO, if their career should demand anything, it’s effort and exposure in whatever form those take.

Historically, that’s been through video parts, media coverage, and competitive success. Which makes me wonder, since Tony Hawk announced that his Tapes you leave Behind video part that was released on Sunday would be the last of his unparalleled career, a career whose successes redefined professional skateboarding, skateboard culture, and pop culture itself (so much so that I wrote an entire book about it), if Hawk no longer “gets clips” or “drops video parts,” is he still a professional skateboarder?

I mean, yes, of course, in the “technical” sense, because he has far too much name value to ever stop selling stuff with his name plastered on it. “Tony Hawk” products are an industry in themselves. And it’s not like he has been milking it. Tapes you leave Behind is a staggering feat, full of wildly technical maneuvers that build on decades’ worth of experience, with callbacks to the people and tricks that the foundation of modern skateboarding is built in. It’s also a video part that comes after Hawk’s recovery from a broken femur in his mid-50s. It is a truly special offering, one that even made me a bit emotional watching.

But if you retire from “producing,” i.e., video parts (not to mention competing), are you still PRO? I know this a silly question, especially in the context of Tony fucking Hawk, but in any other profession, once you “retire” from the act that your job title suggests, you are no longer that thing. You are a “retired certified professional accountant,” even if you still crunch numbers in your spare time.

But skateboarding is weird like that, which is probably good? Although, a Professional Skateboarders Pension Plan would probably be better.


Rank: 1
Mood: 🥰

A couple of weeks ago, I backed TJ Rogers for winning Thrasher’s Skater of the Year award. I’ve since backtracked on that and staked my own completely undeserving claim for the trophy. However, if neither of us wins, I will take comfort in the fact that Rogers has seemingly found — if not officially announced — a new board sponsor. After leaving Blind Skateboards, his home for some 15 years, back in June, he has been consistently rolling with the SK8MAFIA crew, which leads one to believe that is whom he’ll be plying his trade for now.

Thematically, aesthetically, motivationally — it’s a great fit. SK8MAFIA, a company and crew of friends that has remained in a state of perma-fried stasis (positive) since its weekly web series “SK8MAFIA Saturdays” on the old TransWorld Skateboarding website in the late aughts, is only concerned about one thing: going out and skating as much as physically possible. A commitment proved year in and year out with their annual full-length video release — an underrated and impressive feat.

Given Rogers’ propensity to put out multiple video parts per year, SK8MAFIA seems like just the place for him to be. Whether the sponsor move makes financial sense is a different question, but vibes-wise, it makes all the sense in the world. So even if he doesn’t get Rusty, at least he’ll have the hemmies.

Speaking of SOTY campaigns, it appears mine is picking up some steam…1

SOTY betting odds

Rank: -150
Mood: 🏆

But really, if I had to guess, to bet even, I’d say by this afternoon, we will know who Thrasher’s Skater of The Year is. It might have even been announced by the time you get to this part of the newsletter. If future you — well, current you but future you to me — is reading this and knows the truth, please recognize that past me (to you) nailed these odds.

Yuto Horigome: +200
Could Horigome win? Of course! We’ve all seen the absurd street clips, the contest wins, and the puffy jackets. He has all the makings of SOTY — just not in 2023.

Rob Pace: +150
In any other circumstance, Pace would be a frontrunner. This year, he turned PRO, got a Thrasher cover, put out multiple video parts that are all more gnarly than the last, and he skates with a blatant disregard for his personal health and safety. However, he just doesn’t have the name value yet. If his knees still work in a year or two, SOTY is his.

Pedro Delfino: +100
Pedro is in the place Pace will be in a couple of years: known, gnarly, and primed for a SOTY win. I won’t be surprised in the slightest if Delfino gets gotcha’d with the trophy while playing pool or getting some stitches removed at the hospital. However, it just doesn’t feel like his time. While he was undoubtedly the most hairball of the contenders, others went daredevil mode while being a bit more technically dynamic in the process.

Tom Knox: -110
His sponsors want it. He probably wants it. I wouldn’t be mad about it. While some people felt like Knox’s final SOTY salvo in Recurring Dream No. 15 wasn’t convincing enough, myself included initially, after watching it again and keeping in mind how utterly crusty and hostile nearly all the spots he skates are, I can see it. A Knox victory. Unfortunately, he’s lacking just one thing…

Miles Silvas: -150
that Bay Area appeal. Yes, Silvas’ City to City video part is absolutely bonkers and deserving of celebration (and maybe even the trophy) on its own, but it’s also centred in the heart of Thrasher’s kingdom in San Francisco. Plus, there’s the pandering soundtrack of Too $hort and Mac Dre, which could very well be the thumb on the scale he needs.

World Skate, what are you (still) doing?

Rank: Oi
Mood: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

We haven’t heard about World Skate, Olympic skateboarding’s governing body, being a bunch of power-hungry dorks in a while, huh? In January, amongst a bunch of other impressive feats of mismanagement, I briefly touched on this:

Skateboarding’s international governing body is moving to force all member countries with multiple “roller sport” organizations to merge into one. So if a member country has separate Inline Speed Skating and Skateboarding organizations, they must unify staff, bank accounts, policies, and more. The worry from member countries is that this would hamstring skateboarding’s influence and voting power on the national and international level—which assumes they have any to begin with.

It’s become contentious enough that the president of the Brazilian Skate Confederation (CBSk), Eduardo Musa, has publicly clashed with World Skate about the merger requirement. He also criticized World Skate for its lack of qualification events, the organization not understanding skateboarding or listening to the skateboarders in its ranks, and missing the deadline to register skateboarding for the 2024 Paralympic games. This dispute ultimately led to the cancellation of the World Championships that were scheduled to take place in Rio de Janeiro (the event still went ahead, just without World Skate’s official recognition) and Musa being suspended by World Skate (through the Brazilian Olympic Committee) for three years for violating their code of ethics.

The situation has become so strained that it’s rumoured some member countries are considering pulling their affiliation from World Skate entirely due to what they see as their international governing body’s poor leadership and general incompetence. If this trajectory continues, it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine that this is how the Olympic skateboarding experiment could end. Ironically, at the hands of a bumbling cabal of rollerbladers.

While it doesn’t appear that any countries have severed their affiliation with World Skate, that frustration remains. Especially for the CBSk and its athletes, with Brazillian stars like Rayssa Leal and Giovanni Vianna — who both just won their respective SLS Super Crown events — publicly posting in protest of the proposed merger, whose deadline has been set for December 31.

When I reached out to CBSk for comment, they shared a quote from Musa, who is still the organization’s president.

"Merge doesn't exist in our words. What we accept is shared representation, but specific to the modalities. We don't want to represent other sports and we don't want other sports to represent us. We want independence in statute, administrative, financial and sports. Any other arrangement that creates shared representation, especially in matters of other disciplines, we will not oppose. What we want is not to share skateboarding's management."

According to Brazillian outlet UOL, if there isn’t a merger agreement made by December 31, [translation via Google] “World Skate… will choose an entity to remain affiliated with. And, in the decision process, he will listen to ‘the country's sports authority.’ It is understood that, in the case of Brazil, this entity is the Brazilian Olympic Committee (COB), which will hold an assembly next Friday (today). Hence the timing of this new move by CBSk and, by extension, the skaters: pressuring the COB to say what it will respond to World Skate when asked.”

Doesn’t seem great! While there was a lot of hand-wringing and pearl-clutching about how skateboarding being in the Olympics would somehow irreparably damage skateboarding itself, this was always what the real threat was: toxic bureaucracy that ruins the Olympic experience for athletes and staff, the ones who’ve actually dedicated their lives to this.

Tearful, toothy relief

Rank: 1
Mood: ❤️

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched this video of Glen Hansard and Lisa O’Neill’s performance of the Pogues’s “Fairytale of New York,” a song written by the late Shane MacGowan, at MacGowan’s funeral last Friday. That day, the pews of St. Mary of the Rosary Church in Nenagh, Ireland, were full of the mourning. Those who were there to pay respect to a person and their contribution to this world, a world that can often feel like it forgets things like that.

But not here. As Hansard and O’Neill quarrelled in the lyrics, and the guitars crashed as the song reached its crescendo, those mourners clapped and sang, and some stood and danced, bringing raucous life to a final farewell. There’s an odd kick to seeing the priest sit stoically as Hansard belts, “You’re an old slut on junk.” Joy radiates through the screen. This is the apex of our potential. When meaning, creation, and humanity — those pure, desperate things we all grasp for — are not just celebrated when achieved but revered and shared when we are gone.

That’s when life becomes more than days and tragedies strung together, even if it’s just for five minutes. That’s all the time needed for the reason we’re here to reveal itself in tearful, toothy relief: to persist, push, create, belong, and love together.

Somethings to consider:The Voice Notes Poet Refaat Alareer Sent Before His Death” by Yasmeen Serhan in Time.

Palestinian Suffering Is Never As Urgent As The Counterfactual,” by Samer Kalaf in Defector.

Good thing: ‘sletter friend José Vadi is the latest guest on Beyond Boards (and remember to pre-order José’s excellent new book!).

Another good thing: The Definitive Guide to Starting Your Own Media Company” by Kelsey McKinney and Aleksander Chan for The Nation.

A starchy, celebratory thing: DOOM turned 30 this week. Celebrate by finding out how many potatoes it takes to run the iconic shooter on a graphing calculator.

Reposting a thing:

Until next week… if your local skateshop makes a limited run of Barbie-themed camo hats, you are obligated to buy them.

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. Right, Down + Circle is in stores now and you can also order it from your favourite local bookshop, my publisher ECW Press, or all of the usual devils (Amazon, Barnes & Noble). I think you might like it.

Also, if you like book clubs, you can join the inimitable Ted Barrow in reading Right, Down + Circle on his Berate The Birds Patreon, which you should also subscribe to because it rules. He just finished with the last chapter, so you’ve got a whole companion pod to listen to whilst reading. Ted goes on some fun, interesting detours while reading/talking about the book. It’s a nice time.

  1. On the platform that banned me, no less #Me4SOTY2023