Ridiculousmess | Simply Ranked

Plus: Joseph Campos assembles the Tri-Force, Ryan Decenzo's ageless ACLs, death by unpaid licensing fees, and more.

Ridiculousmess | 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.


Rank: Not great, Rob.
Mood: 💸💸💸


Via the Writers Guild of America West on Twitter.

Last week, the Writers Guild of America West posted a video online of the Ridiculousness writing staff‘s attempts to contact former professional skateboarder Rob Dyrdek, who has long been their boss and the show's host, to ask that he support their union effort and push to get a fair contract negotiated.

The Ridiculousness writers first voted to join the WGAW back in September, and according to comedian, writer, and WGAW member Adam Conover, in retaliation, “the company [MTV/Viacom] took away their holiday bonuses and year-end raises. And the company's lawyers still haven't even responded to the writers' bargaining proposals.”

Those bargaining proposals would include pay raises to compensate the writing staff fairly, some of whom have to take on second jobs despite working on the show full-time. It’s an increasingly intense and demanding workload that requires staff to help write, produce, and edit 336 episodes of television for MTV per year. MTV recently ordered another 1000 episodes due to the show’s consistent success, with Ridiculousness becoming almost the only programming that MTV airs.

Image via Adam Conover on Twitter.

Despite the network’s clear dependence on their show, most of its writers can’t afford healthcare and don’t receive any residuals. This isn't entirely surprising given the way the world works, however, it's still a shocking display of greed, indifference, and inhumanity on the part of MTV/Viacom execs and Dyrdek himself to treat their workers so poorly while continuing to make millions off of their backs.

This show is what’s helped fund Dyrdek’s current "entrepreneur" phase, where his whole public persona began to revolve around accumulating wealth (he’s apparently worth around 35o million... and has designs on being a billionaire by 2050. lol). It‘s why he now presents himself on social media as a self-styled life coach and financial guru, imploring people to embrace the proverbial grind, to hustle and sacrifice a normal, enjoyable life in service of making the only thing that matters: money.

Given his cosmic attuning to the universal Grindset, it's interesting that he then doesn’t appear to understand or appreciate how hard his staff works, how they are all forced to hustle and take side gigs on top of their 9-5s just to live in Los Angeles, not to mention save for retirement, a home, or healthcare. They’ve all been grinding for years, sacrificing their personal lives to produce thousands of episodes of television that would be unwatchable without their work, making ungodly sums of cash for everyone but themselves.

While Dyrdek might spout profundities on social media about how you and your actions are the only thing standing in the way of financial success and freedom, in reality, for his writing staff, the only thing standing in the way of theirs is him.

Overworld and off the roof

Rank: 1
Mood: 🧝

To attempt even a fraction of the things that young Joseph Campos does (or attempts to do) in his Shocking Moments Caught On Video video part for Hockey Skateboards would require some level of heroics. From the sharp-kinked handrails, the walls he's somehow able to navigate his skateboard onto and off of, to the roof rides he survives (and one, in particular, he doesn't) — it's an approach to skateboarding that demands a fortitude reserved for a special few.

It's likely why Campos skates to a cover of a song originally composed for another similarly statured hero. That isn't meant to be a jibe but an observation of how such vast potential fits into a condensed frame. Ready and waiting to break free and effect change of some sort, whether by shifting our understanding of what's possible on a skateboard or saving a kingdom from the same unfriendly demon over and over again.

Koji Kondo's "Overworld," the song that defined The Legend of Zelda (1986) and the decades of franchise titles that followed, is precisely what Campos should be skating to. And considering how many hellacious slams he takes and survives throughout Shocking Moments Caught On Video, you have to imagine that Campos has collected all of the heart containers in the kingdom.

Probably forever

Rank: ♾️

Skateboarding, being the relatively young thing that it is, means that we still don't have a great understanding of what age and its potential limitations are for the humans that partake in it. On the highest professional level, a Tony Hawk can release a new, incredibly impressive, and allegedly final video part at 55 years old. Elissa Steamer just nabbed her first Thrasher cover at 48. One Guy Mariano is still out in these streets at 47, teasing us with drips and drabs of his absurd technical maneuvers that one hopes are b-sides from a forthcoming full video part.

That sort of longevity wasn't even considered in the 1980s when a PRO career was often assumed over by the time a skater's teenage years had elapsed. But then the industry slogged along, grew, and eventually making a legitimate career out of skateboarding — or at least having the ability to hang around in the industry — seemed possible for some. And now that skateboarders have started to treat themselves like the athletes they are, you see those bodies that have incurred decades of skateboarding-related damage begin to strengthen, adapt, and not just soldier on but excel.

Excel to the extent of surreality. Now we watch a 37-year-old Ryan Decenzo throw a frontside flip off a second-storey walkway like this — for an ad! A throwaway internet clip! This trick would close the show in most people's video parts, but here's Decenzo giving the clip to his truck sponsor. But that's just a regular day's work for the consummate veteran who has been hurling himself down these cavernous structures professionally since 2010, with years spent toiling and hucking as an amateur before that, including a 14-stair hardflip in 2005. That's nearly two decades of the highest-impact skateboarding imaginable. Yet, here he is, still at the top of his game and potentially qualifying for Team Canada at the Paris 2024 Olympics to boot.

If this is the level that these PROs are skating at their respective ages, I imagine casual joes like myself should be able to keep grinding my lil ledges and slashing my lil quarterpipes for, well, probably forever.

Cause of death: Unpaid licensing fees

Rank: Blerg
Mood: ⚱️

Last week, as many outlets reported and many people online lamented, Sports Illustrated appeared to finally, unceremoniously, probably(?), be done. Kathryn Xu wrote in Defector on Friday:

"Earlier today, The Arena Group gave notice over email that it would be conducting layoffs at Sports IllustratedA statement from the Sports Illustrated union revealed that 'a significant number, possibly all' of the magazine's staff would be losing their jobs as the result of Authentic Brands Group's decision to revoke The Arena Group's license to the SI brand.
The confusing and absurd nature of those previous sentences—The Arena Group pays a licensing fee to Authentic Brands Group in order to continue publishing the most prestigious sports publication in history? What?—pretty well captures the grim nature of SI's recent history. That history, and the publication itself, now might be coming to a depressing end, all because one faceless corporation failed to make its payments to another faceless corporation. Earlier this month, The Arena Group revealed in an SEC filing that it had failed to make a quarterly $3.75 million payment to Authentic Brands Group, which was the cost of licensing the Sports Illustrated brand."

Confusing and absurd is the correct way to describe what's happened to Sports Illustrated and the media industry at large these past weeks (months, years, decade), from Pitchfork being absorbed by GQ to the LA Times laying off a reported 115 staff — things are not great.

Most of these troubles come from the once-understood problem that no one can seem to figure out anymore: how do we make money doing this? In Sports Illustrated's case, they eventually sold their brand to Authentic Brands Group, a "brand management company" that did everything from selling SI-branded supplements to pitching an SI-branded resort in Ann Arbor, Michigan and licensing the magazine rights to The Arena Group, who is, putting it mildly, a publishing chop-shop. These are desperate, coldhearted attempts to —not put out quality sports writing — but to juice whatever money they can out of a known name.

That once-understood problem has become so difficult to parse — due to a mix of a fractured media landscape and social media stealing views and ad dollars away from outlets and turning the industry inside out in a mad scramble to appeal to their algorithms — that the problem is now all there is. It's since hollowed out institutions and left them vulnerable to these monied opportunists to whom a "brand" is more desirable than its ideal. Now, the vultures are fighting among themselves over who is allowed to pick at the rented bones.

Last month, I (once again) wrote about these characters, Authentic Brands Group and The Arena Group. The former recently acquired DC Shoes and axed much of their skateboarding team. The latter is who owns the digital assets of TransWorld Skateboarding and has turned it into a content farm that churns out aggregate chum posts for MSN, Microsoft Start, and the like. These organizations do not care about or respect the "brands" they acquire. It's just hack-and-slash and point whatever's left of the maimed entity in the direction they think it might stumble across some cash.

While I've whinged out a few thousand words about this already in previous newsletters, it's still a gut punch to see how obvious this is and that no one can do anything to stop it. I felt that fist dig a little further into the breadbasket this week when I went to "skateboarding.com," TransWorld's domain that I assume probably felt like a get for The Arena Group ghouls, and noticed something tucked into the corner of the site's footer that I hadn't before:

The once venerable and culture-defining TransWorld Skateboarding has been reduced to "A channel by The Arena Group." Given how The Arena Group operates, I imagine it's only a matter of time before that channel is changed.

There are still beautiful things

Rank: 1
Mood: 🌇

Today's newsletter focuses on some rather unpleasant skateboarding-related or adjacent things, like union-busting efforts, the impact of unfettered corporate greed, the slow death of the media industry, etc. While that all deserves time and attention, it's also important to note that there are still beautiful things:


Knucklehead Tom in Satan's Drano's Dranochugger IV: Capsaicin Warpath

The new Satan's Drano video is chock-full of them, including a nunchuck wielding kickflip-boardslide down that long-ass curb everyone has been skating by a gentleman named Knucklehead Tom and a darkslide down that very same curb by Kyle Walsh, which is actually the third(!) darkslide to take place on said curb, behind Andy Anderson's and Ricky Glaser's. Weird. Beautiful.

What else is beautiful? Hayley Wilson is Slam Skateboarding Magazine's Skater of The Year. This KALW radio piece on Lower Bobs by Alastair Boone. Village Psychic had a nice time hanging with Dan Mancina, likely timed with the release of Dan's adidas Busenitz shoe colourway release.

Beauty. And I haven't even mentioned that Slow Impact is happening again next month, and the lineup is absolutely nuts (and hopefully see you there).

Image via Slow Impact on Instagram.

So, yeah, there still are and can be beautiful things. Something to hold onto when it's often so easy to forget.

Something to consider:

The New York Times’ David Leonhardt Turns In A Nasty Piece Of Work | Defector
David Leonhardt’s self-appointed job, as writer of a daily newsletter for the New York Times, is to make things seem better than they are. This is often misinterpreted as “objectivity,” but it’s actually even less helpful than that: Leonhardt is there to allay the concerns of a certain subscriber who pays vague attention to the […]

Good thing: Skate Twitter all-star Zach Harris with an excellent profile in Rolling Stone.

Meet the Gen Z Hothead Burning Up Pro Bowling
The 27-year-old bowling phenom’s dynamic record-shattering talent are tailor-made for him to take the PBA to the next level

Another good thing: Skate Twitter observant Conor Dougherty with a bleak and fascinating piece in the New York Times.

Yes, another good thing:

Episode 222: Skin Phillips - After The Goldrush
Listen now | One of the UK’s greatest ever skate photographers on his amazing career, and how he’s coping with a life-changing diagnosis.

A terrible transit-related thing: So... a bus drove through the wall of Skate Like a Girl's warehouse and skatepark in Seattle. Thankfully no one was hurt, but it's unclear what the next steps for the organization are. If you're able, I imagine a donation to support the amazing work they do would be helpful.

Until next week… try a new outfit combination, like that top with those pants. What about that sweater with a collar poking up from underneath? Tights and an XL t-shirt? Tube top and baggies? The world is yours.

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