Just some buds being pals | Simply Ranked

Plus: Brand authenticity, SOTY season sputters to life(?), Rayssa Leal appreciation, and more.

Just some buds being pals | 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.

Just some buds being pals

Rank: 1
Mood: 🧑‍🤝‍🧑👭👫👬

Pals hanging out. For me, that’s the ideal theme for a skateboarding video. The self-serious is fine, too, but it grows tiresome and is certainly not in favour at the moment. But a group of friends yuckin’ about, having a good time, and doing some incredibly high-level skateboarding? That’s it.

This is also where the filmmaker’s relationship with the skateboarders comes into play. Ryan Lee, who’s behind the camera and in the editing suite for Spitfire Wheels: Louie, Mason, Jake, Curren, has long been friends with Louie Lopez, Curren Caples, Jake Anderson, and Mason Silva. That relationship comes through in the edit. From the use of b-roll to the gag at the end where Anderson is chastised by a who’s who of skateboarding for dinging Lee’s fisheye lens. It sets a nice, fun, and relatable mood for a video full of completely bonkers tricks.

But more importantly, why are wheel companies releasing so many videos lately? And not just footage dumps, but real-deal, high-quality video parts from some of skateboarding’s biggest names. Spitfire has a whole YouTube playlist dedicated to them. OJ Wheels has released a new video part a week for nearly the entire last month.

It’s not just wheel brands, though. As I’ve touched on recently, tertiary sponsors of all stripes — trucks, griptape, bearings, hardware — have been releasing full video parts with much higher frequency and quality, which is notable because board and shoe brands, a sponsored skateboarder’s defining backers, are where their best footage would historically be allotted.

What does this slow but noticeable shift mean? Are contemporary PRO and AM skateboarders just more productive and have a surplus of high-quality footage to dole out to their sponsors? Does a wheel or truck sponsor pay a rider more for a video part than a shoe or board brand? It’s not clear, but a reader in the know responded to the SkateTuber piece I wrote a few weeks back, saying that Vans pays its riders higher incentives for Instagram Reels than full video parts. If true, and there are similar trends across the industry, I wouldn’t be surprised that professional skateboarders — who are independent contractors — would give their best clips to whoever will pay them the most. Without the protections or benefits of being an employee, you need to get that money where you can.

Or maybe skateboarders finally realized how important wheels are to this whole skateboarding thing. Who knows!

SOTY season sputters to life…?

Rank: ‘23
Mood: 🏆

As we move into the last dregs of November, it’s been conspicuously quiet on the Thrasher Skater of The Year hunt front. In the last half-decade plus, we’ve seen significant campaigns from skateboarders and their sponsors who hope to earn the title and accompanying trophy for the-years-best(?)-skateboarder-that-calendar-year. Usually, this looks like a sustained barrage of video parts, interviews, and other sundry coverage. Does this relatively low-wattage end to 2023 indicate that the industry, and perhaps even the fans, have finally grown tired of the SOTY push?

To note, I had all of these same thoughts last year. However, that was on October 28. By the time SOTY was crowned on December 8, 2022, Tyshawn Jones, Nyjah Huston, and Louie Lopez had released near full-length movie levels of footage, with Jones even one-upping his instantly-iconic and horrendously-filmed subway tracks kickflip to put himself across the finish line once more.

So, with about two weeks to go until Thrasher likely declares its next champion, are we about to be awash in our annual flood of footage, or will we continue along at the same even pace we have, forcing us to look back over the year that was, straining to recall who did what as if the world even existed before November. I mean, did it? On Wednesday, Ian Browning asked us to remember August in an excellent piece for Quartersnacks, which, and it’s coming back to me now, was haywire as far as months and video releases go. Did the industry blow its wad over the summer? Maybe. But my guess is that the wave is coming; the tide is only out as a warning. I imagine the rush of SOTY campaigns will have started in earnest by the time this post goes live on Friday. Or not. Either would be in observance of Murphy’s Law.

Whatever happens, though, I’ve already made my SOTY pick. A couple of weeks ago, in an effort to contribute to the discourse, I stumped for a Leo Romero repeat win. While that would be nice, I’ve since changed my mind. TJ Rogers is the Skater of The Year.

His Toronto-centric video part released on Tuesday is excellent, in typical Rogers fashion. It’s one of several he’s put out this year. His strength of schedule is such that I’m actually tired of writing about the guy. The issue is, the experience is the same every time: Rogers drops a new video part, that one somehow more impressive and refined than the last; I ask how this guy so thoroughly slept on, and then he releases another video part that’s somehow more impressive and refined than the last and I’m forced to write it all over again. I’m tired of it! Just give it to the man. Please, do it for me, Thrasher. And do it for my beloved readers who are probably also tired of this.

And if you need any more encouragement:

Let’s take a moment…

Rank: 1
Mood: 🕰️

…to appreciate how fucking good Rayssa Leal is at skateboarding. I imagine this is a moment most of us have had, and relatively often, but let’s share in this one together as we watch April Skateboard’s latest Nike-Dunk-driven edit, Turbo Green. 16-stair backside smith grind? No problem. Flawless kickflip-backside-lipslide with a confidence that radiates off the screen? Sure, why not? A unique, clearly defined style which is so unusual for a skateboarder of such a young age? She’s got it.

Sometimes, it can be hard to square away the talent of skateboarders we see most often in the contest circuit, so these clips are another welcome reminder that Leal is one of the best we’ve got. SOTY run, 2024?


Rank: 1
Mood: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

My life is governed by a set of consistent yet unofficial daily routines. Most of these involve moving back and forth across the same few city streets and stopping at the same few outdoor and indoor locales. There’s the cafe/bar where I spend many afternoon hours each week typing away on this very keyboard, the bartender ready with my usual order before I’ve finished setting up at my now designated seat. The restaurant where I treat myself to brunch each Friday is much the same, as the staff and I catch up on all the gossip that’s fit to share. On the far end of this street is a DIY skatepark where I (attempt to) get my licks in after the work day is done.

Sometimes, it can feel like a blur: the restaurant, the cafe, the skatepark. One leads to the next, and the days bleed into weeks. Months. Years. Is this stagnation? I sometimes wonder. Can one progress if they do the same thing over and over again? Is being a local a form of stasis? Arrested development? Just another rung on the hamster wheel of our ever-hungry capitalist system?

Mmm. Nah. Being a local is fine. Great even. A routine is simply a framework. Guidelines. Within them, you can play. Grow. Probably. I’d like to think so, anyhow. Weekly pitstops at the DIY is where I (try to) learn new tricks to take to the weekend’s street spots. The well-worn chair at the cafe is where I let new — and likely stupid thoughts like these — flourish and weed themselves out. The restaurant stays the restaurant because I want my weekly omelette, no surprises, please.

Of course, it’s important to step outside those routines to allow yourself the flexibility to change. Become too rigid and you’ll break. Have no structure and you’ll be unable to move. It’s a balance. Strike it well enough, allow yourself the freedom it offers, and you may just find yourself with an enjoyable and stable system, the type that gives you the room to write a few hundred words of bullshit to fill up your newsletter when you’ve got nothing else to write about.

Brand authenticity

Rank: 2
Mood: 🪞

If you are a public-facing person or entity, you will inevitably come to have a “brand.” A lens through which people come to see and understand you or your organization’s motivations, ethics, aesthetics, and so on. Most often, a brand is maintained in an effort to assert narrative and marketing control. “This is why we as a company do this, and it’s why you should feel good about buying our products.” “This is why I as a person say and do this, which is why you should feel comfortable listening to and believing what I say — and also buying whatever I’m selling.”

Ultimately, this is not great, especially on the individual level. In author and activist Naomi Klein’s seminal book No Logo, published in 1999, Klein documented how corporate interest and manipulation have coopted everything from people to grassroots social movements into branding opportunities. In her 2023 book, Doppelganger, Klein laments and struggles with the fact that in the wake of No Logo’s success, she herself became a powerful brand, one that she felt compelled to maintain.

That can feel inescapable in the age of social media. It’s also a fascinating paradox. Our shared existential struggle to be authentic often feels contingent on doing what others expect you or your organization to do. That pressured vanity can work to keep one’s principles in check or do exactly the opposite. This week, the mayor of Vancouver, Ken Sim, continued a bizarre and near fatally cringe-inducing campaign to promote the fact that… the Rolling Stones are coming to town.

Is this what the leader of a major Canadian city should be putting his efforts toward as his community suffers from swirling housing, affordability, and toxic drug crises? A local government promoting private interests in a strange, misguided attempt to burnish the brands of its own figureheads (and likely distract from a second year in a row of historic property tax increases) instead of attempting to do anything material for its constituents is not just incredibly gross, but a stunning case of brand mismanagement, even for an administration of out-of-touch marionettes for local real estate developers.

This is part of the tragedy of our submission to branding: it can frame character, interest, integrity, and moral clarity as a coat of paint. Something to slather yourself with when in promotional need instead of it being a legitimate commitment. A commitment to anything besides the self.

Does that mean you can’t actively maintain a “brand” and remain authentic? Is it possible to be real when your real intent is to sell people on some shit? Despite everything written above, I think so. Look at DGK Skateboards. That is a brand that has remained nothing but consistent and true to itself for as long as it has been around. Their recent video, Amen, is a testament to that. From the hyper-technical skateboarding to the corny-ass edit, this is pure DGK, and it’s great.

DGK’s founder, longtime PRO Stevie Williams, will always give you what you came for when it comes to the media output of his skateboard company. It’s admirable, in a way. It also shows how complicated public displays of authenticity are, considering Williams’ own struggles with his personal brand. Not long ago, he was a self-described entrepreneur (true!), then a determined champion of Web3 who pushed his own line of NFTs (which he still does to some degree, calling himself an “NFT Lord”) and even tried to sell people suites in a digital apartment complex. Now, he’s a fitness influencer.

While there’s nothing wrong with having interests outside of the thing that gave you your platform, using that platform to boost grifts is when legacies get tainted and “brands” damaged. This is a natural result of what happens when we willingly become marketing assets. As we turn our lives and interests into a Brand Vision and algorithmic fodder, we can lose ourselves to the idea of ourselves, becoming abstractions. Tools. However, despite this mass confusion and conflation of self and brand, it’s important to remember that we’re still in there. That person, us, exists beyond our screens, and what happens behind them is what matters most. Amen.

Something to consider: If you’re able, supporting Kevin Wilkins, a stalwart of skateboard writing/editing, as he undergoes cancer treatment. (Via GoFundMe.)

Good thing: Katie Heindl’s writing on basketball, life, etc.

The radius of love
I’ve been having bouts of dizziness lately, holdover symptoms of a cold I just got over. Well, the dizziness came before the cold, so the dizziness is the through-line. The thing that alerted me the cold was on the way and now, the thing stubbornly sticking around.

Another good thing: The gang at the Mostly Skateboarding Podcast had Magenta’s Leo Valls on to talk architecture, urbanism, and general skateboardery.

I’ll take a Cariuma gibe wherever I can get it thing:

Official Bluesky invite mega-offload: Shoutout to reader @ososxe.bsky.social for offering up a good chunk of these invite codes. If you make it over to Bluesky, say hi. I’m not a big poster yet, but I’m working on it. Well, considering it.

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Finding the right word, acting before it’s too late, and the cowardice of censorship: “The Harvard Law Review Refused to Run This Piece About Genocide in Gaza” by Rabea Eghbariah in The Nation.

Until next week… put on your biggest, comfiest sweater and go outside. The wind is biting and the trees shake and shudder in their naked state, but in your wool or cotton armour, you are ready. Go as fast as you can in any direction. By foot, bicycle, skateboard — whatever you use, don’t stop until your body makes you. Feel the heat build and catch between your flesh and the sweater, a personal atmosphere developing, captured. Once your sweat begins to cool, start to move again, in the direction of the nearest hot chocolate.

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’s almost through the thing now, so you’ve got some nice stuff to listen to while puttering around the house.

Also, also, the Birdman himself has finally read the book (or at least took a photo of it). So if that doesn’t convince you to buy it, that’s okay. There’s no pressure. I just appreciate you reading this newsletter.