The king reigns, but he does not rule | Simply Ranked

Plus: Primitive's "Daydream," RIP Vice, some new product innovations, Slow Impact, and more.

The king reigns, but he does not rule | 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: 1
Mood: 😶‍🌫️

It's something of a comfort to watch a Primitive Skateboards video. To see that the board brand that holds in its dominion many of the industry's most talented skateboarders can, will, and with consistency give those team riders a substantial platform and marketing push so they can succeed in their careers to the best that this fickle business allows.

Sure, PROD may use a Tesla giveaway as a corny marketing gimmick, but he also uses the AM video as a marketing gimmick — which absolutely rules. The AM video, as Monday's release of DAYDREAM demonstrates, is a powerful tool for aspiring amateur talent in their pursuit of professional status. To dedicate a half-hour feature to the next generation of your team means that you are serious about them being your next generation. That these are the skateboarders you, as a brand, want to carry the torch for your company and who you believe can be its potential face(s) for years to come.

Beyond the idea of the AM video, DAYDREAM itself is a feat. Alan Hannon once again works within and often beyond the constraints of the highly polished, somewhat sterile Primitive aesthetic to deliver a video that has its own distinct vision. At times, it rings of Jacob Harris' Atlantic Drift; at others, the time-lapsed artscapes of Jon Miner — but still, it remains its own.

Then there's the skateboarding. Filipe Mota, Kyonosuke Yamashita, and Dylan Jaeb are each reaching toward the peak of known on-board ability. At just 17 years old, Mota revels in the tired genre of handrail excess — the flipping into and out of — but makes it feel fresh, tasteful even. This very recent child attempts and lands everything with a poise that belies the gangly growth spurt he appears to be in the middle of.

Yamashita carries that same level of technical ability but allows himself the room to explore further. To wander into the creative. Odd banks, ledge arrangements, an ender that is as unique as it is burly. Finally, Jaeb, Dylan. The skatepark wünderkind who has taken to the streets with historic force. An unusually grounded young man who's gone from filming daily Instagram clips to taking the role of additional filmer on the session when he's not landing shocking never-been-dones down Wallenberg.

Each member of the trio delivers. Each is PRO in everything but official designation. One imagines that'll change in short order — which is the power and purpose of the AM video. It's not just entertainment; it's an investment.

15 stairs and I'm gonna slide 'em


As I started to write this section of the newsletter on Thursday morning, rumours began swirling that Vice, which was recently in the throes of bankruptcy and is now in the pocket of private equity, was on the verge of deleting its entire website. The staffers that the once culture-defining media outlet and news organization had left began warning others to archive their posts in the Wayback Machine and download their clips as PDFs in preparation (I freelanced for Vice for a few years, and while archiving my articles, I got a warning from the Wayback Machine saying it would take a while due to all of the other people doing the same).

By Thursday afternoon, Vice was officially done — or at least, as Chris Thompson writes in Defector.

Then, at approximately closing time Thursday, [Vice] CEO Bruce Dixon distributed a memo confirming everyone's worst fears. Vice, a good and often essential digital publication in operation since all the way back in 1996, will be nuked, and hundreds of staffers will be laid off. The band of worthless but extravagantly overcompensated executives who seized the Vice ship from its previous regime of worthless but extravagantly overcompensated executives have decided that the business's new direction will be in content licensing and re-emphasized social media channels, and that's that.

Initially, this bit was going to be about Stefan Janoski's recent episode of Epicly Later'd, a Vice production, and how this is perhaps the most positive, fun, and entertaining installment to date (until — or if ever now, I guess — Ryan Lay's comes out, which we all got a sneak peek at during Slow Impact last weekend).

While talking about the struggle to align with Nike when designing his now platinum-selling signature shoe, Janoski offers memorable quotes like, "Protection compromises performance" and "When I put my shoe on, I need them to be my foot." You tell 'em, Stefan! He also says the Jordan (shoe) and Janoski (shoe) have their own production wings in Nike's shoe factory in China. Flex much?

It's a great watch, and Janoski seems like a lovely person, but now, I can only wonder if this is the last Epicly Later'd we'll get and how far the current collapse of digital media will go. If Vice's website goes poof, will Patrick O'Dell's entire documentary archive vanish with it? Will it continue to live on YouTube? Will it get "licensed" out? And if so, to whom?

(The only way to save what exists online now is to start a mad scramble to archive and download. When we "purchase" something online, if we don't have a hard copy or a copy on a hard drive, we simply license it. The provider — Apple, Amazon, PlayStation, etc. — can remove it from their libraries at will and it's gone forever. Good times.)

Vice absolutely had its issues, from rank mismanagement and serious cases of harassment and abuse to spawning fetid ghouls like Gavin McInnes. But the majority of people working for its website — the hundreds of staffers who just lost their jobs — did excellent work. Here in Canada, Vice was one of the only major outlets giving serious coverage to Indigenous issues, the toxic drug crisis, the rise of the radical far-right, and more. They consistently asked the tough questions that our white-gloved (and also disintegrating) mainstream media refuses to pose. It's a shame. There will be a void.

From Vice's 5.7 billion dollar valuation, near million-dollar executive bonuses, bankruptcy, and the picking of the bones that private equity firms exist to do, a lot can change in seven years, even if it wasn't unexpected, as one now-former staffer told Hellgate yesterday.

"We always joked that VICE would end up being 20 overpaid executives in a room saying 'why don’t we just pivot to TikTok' to each other and now it’s happening... These people managed to pay themselves outrageous bonuses while tanking the company, and I hope they get perpetual diarrhea."

Anyway, Janoski really does have the best nollie-frontside-kickflip, doesn't he?

More innovation, less stagnation

Rank: $1,000,000
Mood: 🔬

As money, power, and influence have continued to concentrate with the previously wealthy, powerful, and privileged, those who would once make fortunes devising, inventing, and solving do not seem inspired to do so in the way they once did. Rarely do we get new products that have the impact of, say, the combustion engine, penicillin, or duct tape — items that can help a person or contribute meaningfully to their efforts.

Instead, we've been subjected to decades of mind-numbing tech, the false promise of alternate currencies, generative "AI," and protein powders with names like "Wheybolic™ Ripped - Chocolate Fudge" that claim to offer "clinically proven muscle strength support." Our current universe of innovation has been stagnant for years. The promise of genius and invention was usurped by a desperate clawing for cash.

Research and development used to go towards things that would actually do something, not just replace a thing or job that already exists with an actively worse version of it, like large language models with writers or protein powders with the supple flesh of a once-living animal.

In skateboarding, innovation has long gone by the wayside. Once we'd figured out how to make hard and soft goods at a decent enough quality, we stopped thinking about what else could be done. Now, you might be thinking, "What about those weird Flip 'New Wave' boards or Powell's Dragon Formula wheels?" Well, are people still talking about them or choosing to ride them over a simple yet effective Generator board or a set of Spitfire Formula Fours? No. There hasn't been a legitimate innovation in the skateboarding product industry since, I don't know, Z-Rollers.

That's why I've taken the liberty to offer some game-changing suggestions that anyone from the industry is welcome to invest time and resources into making a reality — as long as they give me a cut of the proceeds if and when they become a raging success:

  • DomeWheels: A dome-shaped screw-on top that covers the bearing and axle nut of a skateboarding wheel. This will protect the bearings and allow for significantly longer coconut wheelies. (If these already exist, I came up with them first.)
  • Boardskin: Synthetic wood that replaces the standard seven-ply skateboard deck. This material will have regenerative properties, allowing a board to "heal" itself from scratches, chips, cracks, and breaks.
  • Trowsers: Pants! Pants knit with a special responsive fabric that the wearer can adjust to change their leg width along a sizing spectrum from "Gareth Stehr" to "Grant Patterson."
  • The Omni Tool: Tighten, loosen, rethread, cut, pince, solder, extinguish, calculate, track, text — the Omni Tool will do it all, and then some.
  • Shgoober: A refreshing sports drink that touts all-natural flavours, antioxidants, and the ability to mix the Shgoober with your saliva and spit it onto the toecap of your shoe, where its exposure to fresh air and rubber creates a durable Shoegoo-like substance that will protect your kicks for days, weeks, and months to come.

The king reigns, but he does not rule

Rank: -6
Mood: 🤴👸

This past week saw the debut of another edition of the popular online skateboarding contest series King of MACBA and Queen of MACBA. As of this iteration, the contest is now a Berrics-produced entity. Previously a product of Macba Life, the Barcelona-based media outfit is now only credited as providing "additional support" to the series, according to the "King Of MACBA 6: Angelo Caro Vs. Cody Cepeda - Round 1: Presented By Cariuma" YouTube video description.

It's unclear how much "additional support" Macba Life has provided, but there is certainly an immediate and noticeable difference from King/Queen of MACBA 5 to its current run. Most apparent is that the contest is now presented by Cariuma, a longtime sponsor of Berrics projects. Monster and Volcom were the presenting sponsors of King/Queen of MACBA 5, and comparatively, those are blue-chip sponsors. It's important to note here that Berrics cofounder Steve Berra serves in a brand-manager type of role for Cariuma, which his content house rarely, if ever, addresses.

This is likely why the first matchups in both King/Queen of MACBA 6 feature Cariuma riders Cody Cepeda and Roos Zwetsloot, both draped in Cariuma logos. While that sort of brand promotion, prominence, and favouritism is not unusual for a presenting sponsor, it does feel icky when you consider the Brazillian shoe company's incestuous relationship with the Berrics.

Then there's the video edit itself. The series intro is a glorified commercial for another Berrics-produced series, "Skate Register," that we're prompted to watch via a link in the video description that, as of the time of publishing, isn't there(?!).

Screengrab from "King Of MACBA 6: Angelo Caro Vs. Cody Cepeda - Round 1: Presented By Cariuma"

The graphic design and edit pacing also feel like a step down in quality from years previous, where a polished intro and clean, easy-to-absorb design elements gave the series an air of legitimacy, and asides with the judges between trick attempts felt more purposeful and less like a gap that needed to be filled with commentary of any sort.

While this is all a bit nitpicky, to be sure, and it's only the first round of the contest, so things could pick up, it does just seem... off. King/Queen of MACBA was popular enough for the Berrics to identify it as something that could help them round out their content portfolio and potentially fill a calendar gap while they're in the midst of constructing their new indoor facility. Hopefully, they do right by it. I mean, it would be unusual for them to take over a beloved media entity, assume their vision for it is best, but actively make it worse and kill it, right?

* coughcough * The Skateboard Mag * coughcoughcoughsupblood *

Slow Impact 2: more friends, more impact

Rank: 1!!!
Mood: ❤️❤️❤️

From February 16-19, skateboarders from as far as Palestine, the United Kingdom, and Toronto, Ontario, converged on beautiful Tempe, Arizona, for the second edition of Slow Impact. An event that is part conference, part excuse to hang out with and meet like-minded skateboarding nerds and roll around in the broiling desert heat.

There were genuinely moving and enlightening panels about skateboarding and Palestine, sobriety in and through skateboarding, and architecture and urban design. A series of academic paper sessions highlighted work around female and non-binary skateboarding zine-making from the '80s and '90s, skateboarding as a movement language, how skateboarders and skateparks are used as a tool of displacement, the power of Google Earth in finding skate spots, and much more.

Another wonderful skateboarder-centric literary event pulled a person's emotions in every possible direction. Matt Price broke down his evolution as a skate photographer in beautiful, compelling fashion. There was a heated debate that settled, once and for all, longstanding contentions in our world. Skateboarders put on their musician hats and brought the House of Pasty down.

Max Harrison-Caldwell, Kristin Ebeling, Brendan Spohn, and I cheer on Zamara Fabela Marina after her destruction of our opposing team during "The Great Skate Debate" hosted by Sam Korman. Our team dominated, don't let anyone tell you any different. Photo: Ted Schmitz

If anything, the weekend was a reminder of the best parts of skateboarding and a look into what its better future could be. There were many friends, new and old, that made a few short days feel absolutely full of life. Not so much a distraction from the horrors of the day but a feeling that the collective can provide hope and tools in how to face them. Maybe that's a little idealistic, but I'm still riding high. Let me have this one.

Something to consider: 'sletter friend Chris Giamarino contributed to this sobering piece on America's homelessness crisis for The New York Times.

Good thing: Anthony P. talked to Matt P. at Artless.

A Rolling Conversation About Creativity Edited For Your Reading Enjoyment

Another good thing: Kyle Beachy blesses us again, this time with inspiration from one Ben Colen for Village Psychic.

What Blessing Is This #5: Ben Colen — VILLAGE PSYCHIC
“He was treated to free pizza and beers and endless other rewards, including an unbelievable discount on a used Toyota Camry.”

Yes, it's true, another good thing: I missed this one from a few weeks back. Jeff Haber with the history of the Con-Ed banks in VP.

Con Edison Banks: A History — VILLAGE PSYCHIC
“…a slickness that simultaneously, and almost immediately, eats all speed.”

Sure, why not? One more good thing: I was fortunate to meet the exceptionally talented artist and writer Sophie Yanow at Slow Impact. If you're not familiar, you should really check out her work.

The Contradictions – Drawn & Quarterly

Until next week… put a little wax in your wheel wells. Trust me.

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