Lurpiv > Boeing | Simply Ranked

Plus: Rayssa Leal is having a moment, same with TJ Rogers, and is skateboarding just a vibes-based industry?

Lurpiv > Boeing | 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.

Four more years

Rank: 1
Mood: 🧚

In 2019, after Rayssa Leal's first Street League Skateboarding victory at only 11 years old, I wrote about Leal's expedited journey from meme to podium in my old King Skate column.

...Rayssa Leal paid no mind to the numbers at Street League’s Los Angeles stop this past July. She took on and took out a field of competition that included the likes of Leticia Bufoni and Alexis Sablone, who are, respectively, more than double and nearly triple her age. Legends of skateboarding with collective decades in the game ceding ground to an upstart.

The podium Rayssa eventually stood on, first-place trophy in hand, would raise her small person up to the height of an Andrew Reynolds or so. But again, those inches are just numbers and not something Leal is too concerned with. They don’t stop her from kickflipping 10 stairs or backsmithing down rails in front of crowds of hundreds in London, thousands of miles from home in Brazil.

If you weren’t paying attention, it might seem like she came out of nowhere. Another phenom shot into the collective conscious by virtue of a singular astounding feat, like Felipe Gustavo winning Tampa Am or Dave Bachinsky kickflipping El Toro all those years ago. But Rayssa isn’t that. You were probably already aware of her whether you were aware of it or not. 

Yes, 2015 seems like a world away. An idyllic time that may or may not have existed. Who’s to say — it’s been a long four years. But if you were on the internet at that time you might remember a certain tiny viral skateboarder in fairy wings heelfipping a set of stairs. The clip was everywhere. It got millions of views and was picked up and shared wide by the blogosphere. That was a seven-year-old Rayssa making her first appearance on the public stage.

What some folks at the time seemed to miss from the viral clip — blinded by its view numbers and Leal’s two fairy wings, perhaps — was that that was an amazing Heelflip. Tweaked and caught with the back foot, showcasing style far beyond her seven years. It’s moments like that where you feel like you’re getting a sneak peek at potential greatness. But what can one Heelflip portend?

Whether Leal minds them or not, all those numbers mentioned above are actually hard to ignore — and not to sound conspiratorial or anything, but especially when they start aligning with others. Four years after going viral, Rayssa would win Street League, her first major contest crown. Who else won their first major contest at 11 years old? Nyjah Huston. His was Tampa Am. Now, whether you’re a fan or not, he’s arguably the best skateboarder on the planet. 

Is this a suggestion that Leal could be his successor? A prognostication detailing the future arrival of a new skateboarding icon? That it’s only a matter of time before Rayssa reaches the heights of greats like Reynolds, without podium assistance? Could be. Or it might just be a heads-up to start paying attention now, because time is a slippery thing, and if it only took four years for her to move from meme to champion, who knows what the next four years will bring.

Now, four years and change later, Leal is a burgeoning sports superstar, a few years and accomplishments shy of an icon. She's amassed an impressive collection of trophies and medals, including an Olympic silver, and is pining for gold in Paris this August. She's caught the attention of major fashion houses like Louis Vuitton and is currently receiving a serious push from her shoe sponsor, Nike, who recently gave her a signature Dunk.

That shoe release was followed by her feature in Thrasher's "Out There" series, another cannily-timed bit of promotion. In the piece, we're once again taken back to the set of stairs Leal heelflipped while in costume all those years ago. It's a marketable origin story that's been repeated endlessly since, but it doesn't seem to bother Leal. She becomes visibly emotional when talking about how that brief clip (that she had landed it first try, but her mother made her try it again for a better angle) quite literally changed her life after Tony Hawk shared it on social media and caused an avalanche of attention and endorsements to follow.

We also learn that her parents, who used to grind away at minimum-wage jobs to support the family, have turned their attention to their daughter full-time, working as her managers, handlers, and anything else she needs. It's a choice that seems to have worked out well for them. When you pull out on this moment, it's a bit mind-boggling to consider that the course of all of their lives was changed by a single heelflip and a few taps of the Birdman's fingers.

Illustration from that ol' King Skate piece by Chelsea O'Byrne.

In an Instagram post uploaded on Tuesday, Leal reacted to her shoe reportedly selling out online in 20 minutes (translation via the Instagram app).

Now I'm here on the frozen floor of my room, crying and still in shock, because now I really understand what Titati [Leal's manager] always told me, that sometimes we have to give up something that is missing, sometimes travel without family, or stay far away of friends, but it's always worth it in the end.

When I was little I always imagined having a good sneaker for skating, which was comfortable, but unfortunately my parents couldn't afford to buy the best sneakers for me, I had a hole in the sole of the tennis shoe that sometimes even punctured my socks, it was the that I had, and I was already very happy with that, even because just skating was good for me.

Today I look at everything I have already conquered, I do not only talk about material goods, but about this whole story that I am building every day, every day I cover myself to make this story even more beautiful.

I'm very proud of my parents, because it's crazy to leave work to just go after your daughter's dreams, I'm eternally grateful for everything they've endured, as much as they've supported me, and even though sometimes with one family here and another there, they never let me down they left nothing out.

It is remarkable how much she's sacrificed and achieved at just 16 years old. In 2019, I wondered what the future would bring Leal, and it far exceeded my expectations. What the next four years bring is another unknown, but if we can expect anything, it's expectations being exceeded once more.

Lurpiv > Boeing

Rank: -737
Mood: ✈️⚰️

A portrait of and for our times.

The headline of a New York Times article from late January reads, "Boeing Faces Tricky Balance Between Safety and Financial Performance." The article's lede asks credulously, "Less than four weeks after a hole blew open on a Boeing 737 Max 9 jet during a flight, company executives face a thorny question: Should they emphasize safety or financial performance?"

Thorny is the question of whether or not the safety of the people flying through the sky in Boeing's products should be considered over the financial performance of Boeing as a company! Since that article was published, a wheel has fallen off a Boeing 777 as it lifted off the tarmac in San Francisco, a former manager at Boeing demanded he be let off a flight after he learned the plane was on was 737 Max 9, and another ex-Boeing employee, this one a quality manager who turned whistleblower, was found dead of an apparent suicide just days after "he gave a formal deposition in which he was questioned by Boeing's lawyers, before being cross-examined by his own counsel" in relation to his whistleblower case against the company, reported the BBC. A family friend of the whistleblower told the press that he was worried about his safety and that should he die, it absolutely wasn't a suicide.

As you might conclude, none of that is good! For Boeing as a company, it would seem a lot easier to just, you know, not cut corners and make a safe, quality product instead of continuously putting lives at risk and damaging your reputation in service of appeasing shareholders who do not care about you or your clients or the people riding in your metal tubes through the goddamn sky. And if they can't do that, they could always just go out of business or stop production. It's an easy, honourable demise, like what Lurpiv Trucks did when they couldn't figure out how to make a product that functioned properly. And you know what, after Lurpiv went under, they took that time off, worked on themselves, and are trying it again.

But, with so much money and outside dollars invested in the company, it makes it much harder to pack it in, especially if your leadership is preternaturally disposed to be dangerously greedy cretins. That's why I would like to suggest abolishing the stock market. It's a small step, nothing major, really, but I imagine it would do more to improve air travel safety than whatever Boeing is doing now.

TJ Rogers' ring and index fingers are officially together

Rank: 1
Mood: 🫱🫲

There's not much else I can say about TJ Rogers that I haven't already in this newsletter many, many times before, as well as in a feature I wrote on him for the upcoming issue of Neighbourhood Skate Mag (SUBTLE TEASE). I'm compelled to focus on Rogers because of his compulsion to push himself and his skateboarding ever forward. It's also his sunny yet reasoned attitude and next-level productivity — the man even has tricks in the new Happy Medium video, for Christ's sake. All of that has contributed to the way he's very clearly turned a corner in his career, from "just another Canadian" on Blind Skateboards to an increasingly beloved figure in skateboarding at large.

In other words, I keep writing about Rogers because he keeps giving me reasons to. There's a new video part every other month, a new sponsor, or some new, greater spotlight he finds himself in. And given that his Welcome to SK8MAFIA Part is likely his best work yet, and he shows no signs of slowing down, I imagine I'll be compelled to keep figuring out new superlatives to throw at him in the months and years to come.

A vibes-based industry

Rank: 1, 35
Mood: 🌊

Thankfully for us, and despite the demise of Vice and the boneheaded avarice of its private equity ghouls at the helm, Epicly Later'd continues on. The latest episode focuses on Nollie Gawd and consummate Nice Guy, Ryan Lay, and is the first of the latest season not to suffer from a ridiculous SEO-optimized/burdened title, opting for a more staid "The Journeyman Skateboarder: Ryan Lay." It's a great episode and is also one of the more in-depth pieces of skateboarding media in recent memory that looks at the reality and challenges of being a professional skateboarder.

Generally, we get those types of insights in drips and drabs, like Chico Brenes sharing a rather depressing story on Monday's episode of The Nine Club about how Chocolate used to delay his monthly cheques for up to two or three months at a time, over the course of years, and how he'd be nervous to call and follow up in case he'd let go from the company.

The theme running throughout Lay's Epicly Later'd, besides the literal trail running, is his start-and-stop career, intersected by stints at post-secondary and multiple sponsorship droughts. Starting from his teenage years, he'd go from Krooked and Nike flow to Rasa Libre, IPath, Zero, Enjoi, Etnies, Welcome, and more. Now in his mid-30s, Lay's current slate of backers, including Sci-Fi Fantasy and New Balance, is his most solid to date. Money-wise, he can "piece together" what he needs to keep skateboarding as his primary career path for the next few years, at least.

By his own admission and backed by his peers interviewed throughout the episode, Lay's principles didn't make things easy on himself, as he'd rather go sponsorless than promote a brand he wasn't excited about. That's genuinely admirable and also demonstrates the distinct lack of opportunity and options available to those looking to make skateboarding their profession. Think your shoe sponsor is wack? Good luck surviving on the less than $1000 a month from your board sponsor (assuming you have one) if you quit and can't immediately jump ship to another. Want to air out your grievances with a sponsor who isn't paying you? Like Brenes, you'll likely have to wait until decades later, once you've left the company and are comfortable taking the risk to your career that comes with holding your employer (and friends) in a small, insular industry to account.

Even for a skateboarder as dynamic as Lay is (on the skateboard and with his many pursuits off of it), before things took off with Sci-Fi, he was ready to call it a career as skateboarding wasn't paying the bills or getting him excited in a meaningful way. The fact that brands like New Balance weren't willing to pay the man before Jerry Hsu co-signed is another strange quirk of the industry. Everyone knows that Lay rips and is a compelling person that people would be more than excited to support, but that still wasn't enough.

It makes you wonder how many careers have been cut short due to this brand hesitancy and what metrics gauge a potential sponsee's viability. The projected sales of signature products? Social media relevancy? Positive sentiment in the YouTube comment sections? If we're being real, it's probably just vibes. Now that I type it, that seems to be how all of the skateboarding culture and business functions. There are no standardized criteria used to decide when someone should turn PRO; it's just vibes. What makes a brand popular? A trick trend? A city the new hotspot? Vibes.

That isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's good in a lot of ways. It means change is always possible because vibes are malleable, like people. Ryan Lay went from donning a fedor in Filmbot Files to riding for the coolest board brand going nearly two decades later. Unfortunately, what seems to be vibe-resistant, in terms of who gets it and how much, is the one thing that really matters for an industry of athletes as independent contractors whose services rendered means putting their health and safety at risk: money.

"Your body isn’t invincible" 

Rank: 1
Mood: 🏋️‍♀️🤸‍♂️🏃‍♀️

As I've written before in this newsletter, it's still too early to say what, if any, long-term effects that skateboarding becoming an Olympic sport will have on skateboarding itself. That said, it has most certainly fueled the sport in a number of new and generally positive ways. Women's competitive skateboarding is currently at its peak global popularity, with the stage, support, and potential spoils for athletes being the biggest they've ever been. The Olympic rub has also opened the door to new blue-chip sponsorship opportunities for top competitors, with those like Yuto Horigome making news for inking deals with Delta Airlines and tech conglomerates like Rakuten.

It's also legitimized skateboarding in the eyes of governments, federal, provincial, and local. This past winter, I sat on the committee for the new skatepark slated to be built in my hometown of Lac La Biche, Alberta. This project had been rumoured for years but was finally hammered out in recent months and is due to be completed this summer. During one of our committee meetings, one of the city council members noted that they wanted at least some of the obstacles to be in the style of an Olympic skateboarding course, as who knows, maybe a future Olympian will call rural Alberta home. I'm sure that reasoning has and will get a lot of skateparks built around the world in the years to come.

One of the more interesting effects of the Olympic rub has been professional skateboarders, who have always been professional athletes, finally treating themselves and their bodies like those of professional athletes. One of the big names behind that wellness push is Nike SB and Team USA Skateboarding's athletic trainer, Jessika Alexander. From Olympic athletes to Grant Taylor, Alexander has helped a wide swath of skateboarding's elite take their bodily health seriously, as a recent interview by Davis Campbell for Jenkem details.

“Someone had me pull up to Hollywood High with my table!”

Whether this type of care and training becomes the norm is a matter of budget. Nike and USA Skateboarding have the coffers, but will other brands with the means follow suit? Alexander would like to see it.

One of my biggest pushes behind the scenes is to get more sponsors to cover care for their athletes. It’s not like the NBA or MLB where when you get injured, you go to your team and you’re on a path to proper care. If companies are asking these athletes to put out video parts and go to contests at this volume, injury is inevitable – they’re smashing themselves against concrete all day. So I’m trying to get the industry to see the value in training and care, as Nike does.

However, while these are all great things for the skateboarders involved, I'm not ready to call any of these changes "long-term" because all of this — the money, support, legitimacy — could very well evaporate if skateboarding is ever booted from the Games. Its inclusion isn't a given. Karate, which was added in 2020 along with skateboarding, has since been axed. Sure, skateboarding would appear to be more popular than karate, but the IOC is a notoriously money-hungry and crooked organization, so if viewership lags for skateboarding in Paris this August, who's to say they won't swap skateboarding with something more exciting, like Slam Ball (WOULD WATCH).

Whatever happens, one thing we can take away from this Olympic era is that we should all be taking better care of our bodies, even if it's just stretching more. C'mon, it's easy. Seriously. You can do a squat right now. Are you doing it? Nice. Great form.

Something to consider:

US and UK doctors in Washington to warn of IDF’s ‘appalling atrocities’ in Gaza
Doctors who have returned from volunteering at besieged hospitals to tell officials aid is meaningless without a ceasefire

Good thing:

Episode 74 - Carolina Gamboa | Ausha
Episode 74 with Carolina Gamboa, skateboarder and artist from Santiago, Chile.Together we talked about her life, from growing up and picking up her first board in Chile in the mid-2000’s to moving to Berlin in 2018, getting on the Poetic Collective team in 2022 and developing her art practice aside from skating through surprise questions from friends of hers: Carmen Benito, Dave Morgan, Domi, Gabriel Bjørsvik, Joseph Biais, Franziska Datz, Aleksi Suovaara, Roland Hoogwater, Markus Bengtsson, Kotte, Jenne Grabowski, Marbie Miller, Tom Botwid, Max Schofer, Lucía Cortés, Helena Long and Paula Umaña.(00:13) – Intro(01:13) – Carmen Benito(09:11) – Dave Morgan(12:28) – Domi(17:13) – Gabriel Bjørsvik (20:20) – Joseph Biais(23:37) – Franziska Datz(34:50) – Aleksi Suovaara (41:33) – Roland Hoogwater(43:19) – Markus Bengtsson(49:06) – Kotte (56:53) – Jenne Grabowski(01:01:27) – Marbie Miller(01:03:20) – Tom Botwid(01:08:22) – Max Schofer(01:09:31) – Lucía Cortés(01:10:17) – Helena Long(01:12:17) – Paula Umaña(01:13:46) – ConclusionFor more information and resources:

Another good thing:

Surprise! Another good thing: Maxwell Neely-Cohen's HTML Review is back for its third installment... issue... drop? And it rules.

the html review 03
the html review is an annual journal of literature made to exist on the web

Good, albeit unsettling thing:

Jacob’s Dream, by Frederick Kaufman
MAGA meets the Age of Aquarius

Good execution and an interesting development thing: Skullcandy's recent, concerted push into the skateboarding market is something to keep an eye on. From Justin Regan to Drew Williams (both formerly of Vans), they've got some solid people behind the wheel of their marketing efforts.

A helping hand thing: If you've got a few bucks to spare, consider sending them to Skate Like a Girl, who are looking for a new space for their indoor park after a goddamn bus crashed into their facility back in January.

A me thing: Catch me in the Edmonton Journal, where I talked to Justin Bell about my new book and was also tasked with standing in a park, holding said book, and having my photo taken. I also tease a new project in the article...

Book marks: Essays on life in Western Canada, new works from Edmonton publisher
Highlights include books from Cole Nowicki, Karen Hofmann, Ellen Anderson Penno, Florence Ashley, The Nomad Cree, and Myrna Kostash.

Until next week… time can be a place. If you need to, sit in it. Stay for as long as you can. Eventually, you'll need to leave because you only lease this place, but for now, it is quiet here. Let that silence fall over you. You'll know when it's time to go because the world will start to seep in under the door — all that noise, light, and feeling. Don't be afraid to open it, though. Just grab the handle, twist, and pull.

Laser Quit Smoking Massage

NEWEST PRESS, available April 1, 2024


I have a new collection of essays coming out this spring that you can preorder now. I think you might like it. The Edmonton Journal thinks it's a "local book set to make a mark in 2024." Please do not tell them that I no longer live in Alberta.

Book cover by the wonderful Hiller Goodspeed.

Preorder 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