Preparing your parachute | Simply Ranked

Plus: Matt Militano, Red Bull goes to Rio, Stevie's next level mood, and more.

Preparing your parachute | 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.

Sharpen and dither

Rank: 1
Mood: 👰‍♀️ 👰 👰‍♂️

In 2019, in the wake of Matt Militano’s excellent ender section in Zach Sayle’s Vanish, Boil The Ocean wrote this after declaring it their #1 video part of the year.

Whether or not the 5Boro hookup proves as lucrative and titillating as Habitat flow or the pizza delivery game remains to be seen, but the late-arriving development if nothing else suggests that intergalactic powers are beginning to exercise their might more responsibly with regard to the fate of lanky and laconic Matt Militano, whose tricks seem only to sharpen as potential sponsors dither, seasons change and the expanding universe challenges mathematicians to keep up.

That theory has only become more credible with the release of Sayle’s most recent offering, Veil.

In it, Militano’s abilities have only become clearer and sharper since we saw him last. So much so that it appears he’s no longer on 5Boro or riding for any brand besides maybe Jessup. I know that I have a tendency to equate “good skateboarder” with “sponsored skateboarder,” as if talent should always beget corporate allegiance. I am then surprised at times when they do not overlap. Perhaps that’s a conditioning of following skateboarding media for so long and the intrigue and meaning we assign to a skateboarder’s brand alignment. Or it’s my short-sightedness. If I had to guess, it’s probably a fair combination of the two. Because Militano clearly loves doing this and seems happy to put out era-defining video parts without a closet full of product and a couple of hundred bucks from a board sponsor here or there, which is a beautiful thing.

That said, I could definitely see him on Limosine.

Red Bull Rio Conquest - official Simple Magic recap & analysis

Rank: 1 through 3
Mood: 🥇🥈🥉

Over the weekend, Red Bull’s “Rio Conquest” contest (brought to you by Prada) took place on the beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The competition format featured head-to-head three-minute jam-style matchups between pairs of skateboarders from wildcard qualifiers up to the deciding bout for both men’s and women’s divisions. In a fun homage to its host city, the contest course was comprised of replicas of famous street spots around Rio.

As a spectator, it was a solidly entertaining affair, despite being a somewhat frustrating watch as the broadcast struggled to balance its coverage of two skateboarders skating at once — the truck often cutting to different cameras before skaters attempted tricks and lingering too long on one skater to the detriment of the other’s screen time — which is, you know, understandable. Thankfully, the broadcast team of Alex White, Pipa Souza, and Chris Cote did a good job of making things feel cohesive in moments where the on-screen action was less than clear.

In a novel bit of format experimentation that I’d personally like to see more of, the broadcast alternated between men’s and women’s heats (i.e. men’s quarterfinals followed women’s quarterfinals, women’s semi-finals were followed by men’s, etc.), which seems like an effective way to keep the audience invested in both fields while also giving the advancing skaters a decent rest period between subsequent heats.

Rio’s Vitória Mendoça had a bit of a shaky start but ultimately found her footing and third place with a great showing against Leticia Bufoni, landing a wild heelflip-to-manual on a manny pad to drop in the waning seconds of their heat. Gabriela Mazetto and Roos Zwetsloot went back and forth for the top podium positions, with Zwetsloot’s overall consistency and bevy of tricks on the big handrail giving her the victory. Mazetto also did a bunch of benibongas1 — a bold choice that nearly gave her the crown. Or it took it away. Who knows.

On the men’s side, Gabryel Aguilar worked his way up from a wildcard spot to the finals, where he faced fakie-gawd Giovanni Vianna. Despite breaking his kingpin in the final minute of their heat (and landing a front-nose-to-fakie on the big out ledge despite the broken truck), Aguilar still performed well enough to take the number one spot. The ol’ underdog story. Love it.

Wherever Red Bull’s Conquest series lands next, I’ll probably watch it, which is the best review I think a skateboarding contest can receive. But, most importantly, it was a great way to fill the time as I waited for my friend, whose Crave account I’m leeching off of, to finish watching the series finale of Succession so I could have my turn.

Next level mood

Rank: 10
Mood: 📉

There is something morbidly fascinating about Stevie Williams’ focus on “Web3.” From his “SK8PES” NFTs to that time he bought “property” in the metaverse and tried to convince his followers to buy “real estate” from him, captioning one post with the hashtag “#MetaVerseMogul.” Has the reality of skateboarding become so stale and unprofitable that NFTs and other sundry grifts are the last remaining avenue to keep things interesting for him? Or maybe the real world has become so bleak that even obvious garbage like this seems better than whatever societal morass we’re stuck in now.

That could explain why he’d share a clip to his over 400k Instagram followers of a corny digital avatar slapped over his IRL self in one of his most iconic career moments. Appealing to that audience must offer something meaningful to him; why else would he risk his reputation in skateboarding to do so? In an Instagram post in March, Williams said the Web3 community “Reminds me of how real and authentic skateboarding used to be back in the day! Real core values on some underground shit!” Hopefully, that’s true for him because, man, this shit is wholesale wack. And it’s all the worse when you consider that he’s trying to sell his fans digital collectibles—air, essentially.

Although, SK8PES does now appear to be selling — or at least making — some hard and soft goods. They even have a “SK8PES Ambassador” in Jordan Mourning. It’s unclear what that means, but they released a little introductory skate video part for him a few weeks back on Instagram.

The caption of another recent SK8PES Instagram post reads:

🎱🦍 8PE - Unleashing your inner beast to reach the greatest pinnacle of your life, only to keep pushing the boundaries so you may never fall back in the trenches.

Which, in the hollow but fitting parlance of everyone running this grift, is just a bunch of words pushed together that mean nothing at all.

Preparing your parachute

Rank: 1
Mood: 🪂

Speaking of the overlap between “good skateboarder” and “sponsored skateboarder,” Simple Magic favourite and Sour Skateboards PRO Oscar Candon dropped a new video part this week. Filmed and edited by Romain Batard, it’s full of the power, grace, and creativity of trick and spot selection that we’ve come to expect from the Frenchman.

Accompanying the release of Giddy #13: Abseiling Down was a remarkably candid interview with Candon by Arthur Derrien in Free Skateboard Magazine, issue 48. In it, he details how he stopped skateboarding for a year in an effort to heal his body and work through the various stressors that had been wearing him down mentally — including that of being a professional skateboarder with all of “their eggs in one basket.” This isn’t an unusual refrain from PRO skaters, but it’s still an important one that we don’t hear them talk about often enough.

Since the age of 17, all I’d done was work on video project after video project, travelling, just non-stop moving things along in the same direction without realising that there were lots of other aspects of my life that I’d completely neglected, and this was affecting me a lot more than I’d realised…

…it had gotten to the point where it was like, okay now it’s my work, and my work is to do the hardest tricks I can. I just couldn’t find pleasure in it in the same way… And I could feel that something wasn’t quite right, that something was missing, but I’d double up and put even more of myself into skateboarding and then trips would go badly, my ankles would be playing up, and my whole world felt like it would be crumbling because it was all I had. Just like how sometimes you feel on top of the world when trips and stuff go well. And I’m sure I’m not the only sponsored skater to go through this but yeah, when we did the interview last time I’d reached a tipping point. I knew I needed to make changes in my life because I really wasn’t well.

Those changes would include moving out of Paris and returning to carpentry as a secondary career, one that he can transition into full-time once professional skater-dom runs its course.

…what really helped me over the past year was working in carpentry again, working with all kinds of people on lots of different projects, learning a lot, and eventually opening my little workshop in Biarritz, which essentially felt like I was slowly building myself a parachute, to not be completely free-falling if skateboarding were to suddenly stop working for me. And obviously, it’s a lot of really physical work, but it’s a parachute I’ve genuinely been enjoying building.

Candon also dives into the psyche of the pro skater and how today’s absurd level of skating can have a debilitating keeping-up-with-the-Joneses effect.

We’re all so passionate about skateboarding that it’s easy to hyper-focus on it until we implode. Like honestly a few years ago it got to the point where I’d think of a trick, and before even bothering to try it I’d convince myself that it wasn’t good enough and leave it at that. And before I’d know it, it would be three months since I’d last tried a trick because nothing was hard enough according to this imaginary bar I’d set myself. So you think you’re really ambitious but actually, you aren’t even skating. It’s not viable…

It’s heartening to read that Candon seems to have righted the ship in the increasingly turbulent skies of his chosen career path, charting a course that works best for him. He’s back skating, now rides for Converse, and is filming for another new video part. And eventually, once he’s had enough of it, he can pull the ripcord and float on safely to the next chapter.

Crank it, plunge it, tag it, post it

Rank: 1
Mood: 📻

Chandler Burton recently demonstrated a next-level approach to the “sponsored post.” In it, their personality remains at the forefront, there is no deference paid to the product being promoted, and one could even consider it a subtle dig at the concept of the sponsored post itself, a thing we’ve all grown tired of by now. Yet, it’s that fun sense of self-awareness that makes it work. Fantastic execution. Get that money, Big Nakie.

Something to consider:

Good thing: Ed Templeton in The New Yorker

Another good thing: Friend of the newsletter, Adam Abada, talked to Kyota Umeki about opening the Star Team shop and more for Quartersnacks.

A good, aspirational thing: In the grabbag section of the newsletter, I often post articles from Defector, the subscription-based, worker-owned sports and culture site. That’s because they do good work. And they’ve been able to do good work because they’ve built a self-sustaining company free of the mercurial whims of disconnected tech execs, private equity firms, and the editorial constraints of advertising deals.

It doesn’t seem like an easy project, but it appears to be a fulfilling one. Danny Funt has a great look into its inner workings with “The last good website” for the Columbia Journalism Review. Skate Grantland, anyone?… anyone?

The ideal thing:

Via @/mikeheikkila on Twitter

Until next week… if, like me, the birds that eat from the feeder on your balcony leave a mess and refuse to clean it up — the ground greasy with suet or crunchy with seed — don’t publicly admonish them or refuse to refill until they pick up after themselves. It may seem selfish and boorish on their part, but that’s just a part of the deal. We get to see them flit about in their natural glory and they get to gorge and shit as they please. Gross but fair.

The video above is a trailer I made for a book I wrote about the history and cultural impact of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. You can pre-order Right, Down + Circle now from your favourite local bookshop, the corporate behemoths, or my publisher ECW Press. I had a good time writing the thing; I think you might have a good time reading it.

  1. I originally called Mazetto’s benibongas “benihanas,” which is incorrect according to their inventor, Lester Kasai. A regrettable error that I will atone for.