Making me feel PRO AF (Preciously Reliable and Obviously Authentic Feelings) | Simply Ranked

Plus: Olympically qualified, BATB: good or great? Akwasí reinvents skateboarding, and more.

Making me feel PRO AF (Preciously Reliable and Obviously Authentic Feelings) | 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.

Making me feel PRO AF (Preciously Reliable and Obviously Authentic Feelings)

Rank: 1
Mood: 🥺🥲

PPP (Patrick Praman is PRO). Photo: Michael Burnett

There are few moments in the career of a professional skateboarder that spur genuine human emotion in the audience beyond the generalized excitement or awe of watching them perform. A video can get there sometimes, especially if weighty storylines are attached, like Guy Mariano’s comeback in Fully Flared or Heath Kirchart’s retirement in Stay Gold.

Tony Hawk riding away from the 900 at the X Games all those years ago, and more recently, his first public 540 after breaking his femur doing the same trick are undoubtedly special, but aren’t replicable by others at scale. It’s often the individual personalities involved that create those outsized emotional experiences, for better or worse, like Josh Kasper failing to ollie over that DJ (which was awesome and “better,” of course).

The PRO AF surprise is the one universal career highlight that consistently hits an emotional chord. The moment when all of the hard work and dedication an AM puts into their burgeoning career comes to fruition in a swell of family and friends screaming and waving skateboards that, for the first time, bear their name. Sometimes there are tears or awkward modesty amidst the spray of champagne or beer poured over the heads of the celebrated, both equally affecting.

Last weekend, REAL Skateboards’ Patrick Praman was the latest AM to get PRO’d. He was initially led to believe he was meeting his fellow skateboarding colleagues at the USC ledges in Los Angeles, California. After being nudged towards a food truck for a pre-skate bite, he was suddenly bombarded by bodies, and the people in the food truck turned out to be his parents and grandmother, who handed him his first pro-model boards through the window — a meal to think back on fondly, no doubt.

The emotion was apparent throughout Michael Burnett’s “Burnout” photoblog1 of the event on Thrasher’s website. Another beautiful rendition of a tradition that I hope continues.

PPP (Patrick Praman is PRO). Photo: Michael Burnett

It’s also another reminder that we don’t celebrate the careers of the PRO (and AM) skateboarders enough while they still travel that career path. In a generally thankless pursuit, it’d be nice to spread the love around a little more to the names that aren’t already firmly entrenched in skateboarding history. What that looks like, I’m not exactly sure. Awards? Anniversaries? Can someone renew their PRO-ness like wedding vows so their friends can all re-celebrate their successes every 5-10 years or so? That’d be nice. Let’s try that.

Good or great?

Rank: 13
Mood: ⚖️

At the five-minute and six-second mark of the 11-minute and 11-second long video of a flatground game of S.K.A.T.E. between Chris Cole and Mark Suciu that opened “Battle at The Berrics 13,” someone finally got a letter. That’s why this was the exact right match to start the tournament with: two big names, former Skaters Of The Year, and consistent top-tier technicians — it promised to be a good contest, and it was.

While long in the tooth as far as PRO skater years go, Chris Cole is still very much Chris Cole, and in one particularly impressive defensive sequence, countered Suciu’s equally impressive offensive salvo of frontside bigspin heelflip, laserflip, switch bigspin heelflip, and switch laserflip. It was a marathon game in the vein of classic BATB matches like Cole and Dennis Busenitz, both skaters panting by the end as Cole emerged the victor.

And yes, it was a good game, but was it a great game? Perhaps a silly, subjective question, but with this tournament entering its 13th iteration and skateboarders having played S.K.A.T.E. since time immemorial, we should have a loosely agreed-upon rubric to answer that question. At the very least, when it comes to grading a BATB match.

With that in mind, what are the general ingredients required for a great game? I humbly suggest:

  • Length of game (long)
  • The difficulty of tricks performed on offence
  • The difficulty of tricks performed on defence
  • A back-and-forth affair
  • Your investment level in the skateboarders involved

Chris Cole and Mark Suciu’s match almost hit all those notes. While a long game with a high difficulty of tricks performed on offence and defence between two supremely talented skateboarders, the end result wasn’t particularly close. At one point, Cole came close to skunking Suciu, with the final letter count being S.K.A. to S.K.A.T.E for the Zero Skateboards PRO.

So yeah, it was a good one. I’m glad we finally hammered this out.

Just reward

Rank: 1
Mood: 👟👟

Since DC Shoes’ pivot to focusing a significant portion of its skateboarding product and marketing efforts on reanimating its late ‘90s early ‘00s self, there hasn’t been a skater as committed to that aesthetic project as John Shanahan. From sourcing decade-plus old pairs of Lynx online to draping himself in wide, era-authentic clothing that whips around his person like a flag whenever he picks up speed, Shanahan is certainly the figurehead of this movement, at least from a brand perspective.

That’s why it feels deserved, if not overdue, that he would get his own pro-model shoe on DC, designed in the vein of that pocket of skateboarding history he finds himself so drawn toward. Look aside, his on-board abilities are what have kept Shanahan at the dance. Over the last number of years, we’ve watched him grow from a very good skater often overshadowed by critiques of cultural cosplay to a top-tier PRO who’s undeniably carved out his niche to such a degree that he can start a line with a massive Japan air as his massive pants flap and wave in the wind and it’s immediately another quintessential Shanahan clip — more evidence of the guy just being himself to the umpteenth degree and finding success, which absolutely rules.

Stick in the brain

Rank: 1!
Mood: 🤯

Skateboarding’s steady growth in practitioners. The continued evolution of said practitioner’s skills thanks to an unending flood of inspiration and bar-setting provided by social media. The subsequent natural progression of the collective due to that previously unknown level of connectivity and engagement — there are lots of things that could be responsible for it; how it’s not too much of a stretch to claim that everyone is good at skateboarding now. Or, at the very least, there is a well of talent deeper than we’ve ever known.

That’s certainly a significant development for our little pocket of the world and is great news for fans of high-level skateboarding. However, with so many good skateboarders and the unfettered ability to watch them be good at skateboarding any time we refresh our feeds, I find that it all tends to blur together. Desensitizing. A usually impressive sight becomes ordinary and struggles to stick in the brain.

However, there is no issue with retention when watching Akwasí Owusu skate, as his recent video part for Sci-Fi Fantasy attests. At times, it’s like he’s figured out entirely new ways for the human body, skateboard, and the built environment to interact.

Does Akwasí‘s level of interpretive engineering happen without the burst and rush of talent we’ve seen over recent years? Did it evolve as a response to the mundanity of premier ability? Whatever the case, I’m thankful he’s arrived so we can witness it.

When in Rome, do as Liz Akama did

Rank: 1-3
Mood: 🥇 🥈 🥉

I finally got around to watching the finals of the Paris 2024 Olympic street skateboarding qualifiers in Rome, Italy, a couple of weeks back. TL;DR: They were fine! Fun, even. The women’s finals were a heated affair that saw Japan’s Liz Akama and Australia’s Chloe Covell jockey for the top spot throughout the contest. Covell’s progression is pretty astounding from event to event. Here we saw her 50-50 kickflip out the course’s big handrail first try after a solid run section that mixed regular and switch tricks in a way that none of her fellow competitors do, all of which seemed to seal the deal for her — if Akama wasn’t so dialled in. From Barley grinds to boosted frontside bigspins, she had the performance of her young career. A clutch frontside feeble front 180 out down the big rail on her last attempt in the best trick section gave her the gold and deservingly so.

The men’s side was more ho-hum, as Nyjah Huston dominated and was under no real threat at any point. One of the only other interesting happenings was the arrival of Cordano Russell, a shockingly talented young skateboarder built like an NFL linebacker whose hometown is listed as Carlsbad, California, but is a member of Canada Skateboard. Whatever his connection to Canada is, we’ll take him ‘cause he’s good as all hell. He did a nollie three-shove boardslide down the biggest rail on the course! Disgusting! Beautiful! Cordano made such an impact that he even had the national public broadcaster take notice.

His efforts eventually landed him in 7th place, which is nothing to sneeze at, given he had to work his way up from early qualifiers to reach the finals. Beyond Russell, my only other takeaway was the reminder that being a play-by-play or colour commentator for any sporting event is hard. It takes a polished professional to speak for hours on end and successfully and entertainingly articulate what is going on for the audience at home. That’s why it’d usually be unfair to lambast the untrained Manny Santiago too heavily for his work on the mic in the colour commentator role.

I imagine he was brought on to offer the perspective of a high-level skateboarder who can relate to the athletes he’s calling. He does have an infectious, positive energy and, by all accounts, is a good dude. But if you can’t apply that experience or energy effectively to the call, it becomes a distracting mess. And here it was. There were multiple moments where Santiago rambled on over the action with thoughts or jokes that went nowhere, and he repeatedly made references that were either unfinished or unconnected to the moment.

At one point, when commenting on Gabi Mazetto returning to competition from injury, he quoted Conor McGregor on the Irish fighter’s mindset while recovering from a broken leg — a McGregor who was very recently and very publicly accused of rape (not for the first time either). During another moment, after a skater rode away from an impressive trick, Santiago exclaimed, “Joe Rogan moment!” If you weren’t familiar with how the camera cuts to Rogan as he overreacts to big moments while commentating UFC broadcasts, that reference would make absolutely no sense and might even lead you to believe the unfortunately popular podcast host known for “just asking questions” around everything from vaccine efficacy to whatever the latest right-wing culture war cudgel is, had some sort of connection to skateboarding. Then, when positing a theory about Aurélien Giraud’s struggles throughout the event, Santiago said that the only time he’s seen the Frenchman “huffing and puffing and kinda show a little bit of a chink in his armour, no pun intended, is when Njyah or Yuto or someone does a run where he knows he has to super overscore it.” Where’s the pun in relation to that outdated idiom, Manny?

So, maybe in the future, give the skateboarders brought into these roles a bit of training first. Or, at the very least, a list of shit not to say.

Something to consider: Got ‘em (me). RIP Twitter.

Via @/brucedaddy on Twitter.

Good thing: Finally confirming the move he’d made vibe-wise many years ago, Dustin Henry now rides for Frog, and they welcomed him to the team with the most feel-good video possible.

Another good thing: 4PLY breaks down “The Tom Karangelov Guide To Success.”

An inevitable thing: The gritty big-screen adaptation of “Z-Rollers.”

Until next week… if you use aerosol sunscreen, make sure your eyes are closed nice and tight before spraying it into your face. If they’re not, you’ll know. And, on the off chance that you’ve done this while standing on your balcony in preparation for a big day out in the sun with your pals and you’re looking for a way to spin this newfound agony in a positive light — no. Your eyes are absolutely not protected from the sun now. Do not stare directly at it.

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.

  1. While growing up in rural Alberta, I’d regularly visit Patrick O’Dell’s Epicly Later’d to get a glimpse of what the cool skateboarders were up to in New York City. Ever since I’ve loved a good photoblog. We need more of those, imo.