Who could have seen this coming | Simply Ranked

Plus: Leo Baker's new shoe, Jacuzzi Unlimited's new video, "Ridiculousness'" old labour practices, and more.

Who could have seen this coming | 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.

Colourways and enjoying the moment

Rank: 1
Mood: 👟 💞 👟 💵

The professional model skateboarding shoe has become somewhat of a rarity in recent years. Sure, you have your Tiagos, Crocketts, Sablones, Joslins, and the immortal Janoski, but compared to the 2000s and 2010s, not only has the number of shoe brands declined (Deklined?), but there’s been a notable uptick in shoe brands’ unwillingness (or inability) to give a PRO skater a PRO shoe.

This manifests most clearly with the “colourway,” a marketing gimmick where a sponsored skateboarder is given the opportunity to pick new colours and, potentially, the materials for an existing shoe model. It’s an obvious move to save money while still getting to market to consumers with a skateboarder’s name. A Jenkem article from last year stated that a “pro can expect around $5,000 flat for a colorway deal or sometimes $1 per shoe sold.” If accurate, that is a paltry sum. I’d even consider it insulting to the high-level professional athletes who sacrifice their health and safety to promote these brands that their ultimate reward is two months’ rent and their name printed on the insole of a Janoski or Old Skool.

That makes Leo Baker’s Nike SB React Leo pro model shoe all the more special. While praising a giant, unfeeling corporation with a long history of controversies does feel off and should be done sparingly; this is legitimately cool. An extremely talented, well-deserving skater who’s had an outsized impact on skateboarding and skate culture getting their flowers? And those flowers aren’t just another colourway but a rad-looking signature silhouette? Yes, please.

Nike describes Baker’s shoe as “the first signature shoe by a Trans athlete answering Leo’s need for high-performance functionality and relentless creativity.” In our sad reality where 2SLGBTQ+ people are increasingly demonized by politicians and pundits for personal and political gain (that, as recent election results show, isn’t even effective), it does feel important to have a brand as big as Nike highlight Baker in this way, even if it’s ultimately in service of a product needing to be sold. Will Nike stand strong if they receive the bigoted, conservative blowback that so many corporations have faced and bent to recently? That remains to be seen. But for now, it seems like a good idea to just enjoy this moment.

Who could have seen this coming

Rank: 911
Mood: 🤷‍♀️

“Unruly crowd sets fires at Hollywood skateboarding event”

“Car set on fire at gathering in Hollywood”

“Police swarm skateboarding event in Hollywood after chaos erupts among crowd”

Wow, completely unprecedented carnage. Who could’ve seen this coming. Also, who would expect that local news affiliates would sensationalize the torching of a prop police car and that the police would send officers in riot gear to make upwards of three arrests for “vandalism,” ultimately making the Fucking Awesome and adidas “Hollywood Skate Jam” event an even bigger marketing moment than it would’ve been otherwise. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like it all went according to plan.

The only truly surprising thing about all this is seeing Grant Taylor not just fall off his skateboard but get absolutely fucking bodied by Dylan Jaeb while both tried to air the car, pre-fire. Jaeb had even caught his frontside flip before maiming Taylor, which, for some reason, makes it all the more impressive.

Via @dylanjaeb on Instagram

Allow you to introduce yourself

Rank: 2
Mood: 📛

Jacuzzi Unlimited, the Sour Solution to zombie enjoi’s Sweet Skateboards, recently debuted their first video offering, Monnie. While Jacuzzi had been active on social media these last few months, pre-video, they hadn’t shown any real cohesive brand identity, strategy, or look beyond solid-colour team rider announcement posts that highlight each person’s apparent passion for partying and/or goofin’ around.

Via @jacuzziunlimited on Instagram

With the skate video being one of the most potent and effective tools a skateboarding company can employ to help establish its brand identity, Monnie would be the opportunity for Jacuzzi to truly introduce itself to the purchasing public. So, did it do that? Sort of! Skateboarding-wise, the video is a solid, fun watch. From Tony Latham to Louie Barletta and John Dilo, there is some seriously wild and high-level action. Aesthetically, the video sticks with its monochromatic colour scheme, Hardbody-esque italic serif font, and general party b-roll. On that front, as a viewing experience, it doesn’t really stand out in any particular way, good or bad. It has all of the ingredients of a skateboarding video, which are pieced together in a more-or-less enjoyable way.

If anything, it’s an aesthetic and editing style that feels like something my friends and I would make, which is to say, relatable. Comfortable. While generic in appearance, the “vibes” or energy of the video are uplifting and engaging enough to keep a person watching. As is the general curiosity of what a post-enjoi effort looks like. I still don’t have a good grasp on what Jacuzzi Unlimited is trying to be, but that takes time, and I’m looking forward to watching them figure it out.

Speaking of establishing a brand identity…

Rank: 1
Mood: 🥊🛹

To be fair, Beyond Medals, the Swedish snowboarding apparel brand now trying its hand in the skateboarding market, has been around since 2012, so it has long established an aesthetic and brand identity. However, I hadn’t heard of Beyond Medals until this week when I watched You Can’t Win, their first foray into the skate video space featuring team riders Gabriel Fortunato and Kevin Bækkel.

This meant that I went in cold to a high-production value, beautifully produced and edited affair that not only contained some otherworldy skateboarding from Fortunato and Bækkel but whose Rocky IV intro homage alone was clearly given the time and care needed to make it something special, a trait I then immediately associated with the brand, whether that was warranted or not — and, turns out, it is!

While spoofs on movies and other pop cultural touchstones is a direction WKND Skateboards has cornered in recent years and a staple of skate media at large, it still feels fun and novel here. Not only that, the purposeful contrasting of styles between Fortunato and Bækkel — an eerily smooth master technician paired with a fearless stuntman determined to take his skateboard down each and every handrail he comes across — is an interesting and exciting approach that worked well.

However, the ultimate test of any good piece of brand marketing, and one I often reference here in this very newsletter, is: does it make me want to buy your shit? For me, personally, no. But, like with Jacuzzi Unlimited above, it does make me want to tune in to whatever they put out next.

Scab and Big

Rank: 230+

In July, news broke that writers on MTV’s channel devouring program Ridiculousness were looking to unionize with the Writer’s Guild of America West. As the A.V. Club wrote at the time:

The clip show, hosted and executive produced by Rob Dyrdek, employs a number of “creative consultants” who “are responsible for generating concepts for segments, writing conversation starters and monologues,” according to a spokesperson for the WGA (via The Hollywood Reporter). The show’s “consultants” reportedly asked for voluntary recognition from management after signing union cards, but the request was denied.

Now, those consultants have filed a petition for a National Labor Relations Board election in order to organize with the WGA West, according to THR. The guild considers Ridiculousness on par with shows like America’s Funniest Home Videos or Tosh.0, which are both covered by the WGA. The consultant position is the equivalent of workers who are considered comedy-variety writers on those shows, per the guild, and the Ridiculousness employees now organizing are doing so to seek “parity with their peers in the industry and respect for their work,” the WGA said in a statement to the outlet.

Considering the show’s incredibly low production costs and high return on the hundreds of episodes they produce per year (with over 230 in 2022!), Ridiculousness writer Ally Maynard says it’s “the most profitable show currently on TV… and yet we are paid 60% less than WGA writers that work for America’s Funniest Home Videos… Unscripted television is very much scripted, and our writing staff is fed up with being abused and underpaid by Paramount, MTV and Rob Dyrdek.”

Then, on Monday, The Hollywood Reporter reported that eight Ridiculousness staffers voted to unionize.

“Yesterday, my colleagues and I voted in favor of joining the Writers Guild of America West by the widest possible margin, 100%. This result really matters given the scare tactics used by the company in an attempt to disempower us and break our unity,” said organizing committee member and Ridiculousness staffer Ryan Connor in a statement. “We expect the NLRB will certify the election results next week, and we call on the company to do the right thing and give us a fair deal.”

While neither Dyrdek nor representatives for Ridulousness’ production company have commented on their staff’s unitization efforts, given his recent social media posts, you have to imagine it’s something Dyrdek supports.

Because it would be much easier for his staff to lead healthy, “high-quality lives” if they were paid fairly and weren’t pushed to create such absurd levels of content year-round, no? In fact, as A.V. Club notes, one of the writers’ initial demands was for “‘MTV to order more shows,’” because it is presumably very exhausting to carry the entire creative output of an entire TV network on your backs.”

If Dyrdek has the “clear mind” he touts in his hustle-bro posting pablum, he and his colleagues at MTV and Paramount will come to the bargaining table in good faith and meet the writers’ demands, because beyond the simple act of allowing his staff to live comfortably, it’s going to be hard for him to continue his entrepreneur influencer schtick if the people whose work built and sustain his empire decide to picket instead of “consult.”

Something controversial to consider: Ryan Decenzo’s 360 flip is the greatest of all time…

Good thing: The apex of human achievement. Ars Technica breaks down a previously thought impossible Super Mario Bros. speedrun.

Correction: This is the absolute apex of human achievement.

A passion project thing: Jenkem with a fun piece on a DIY fingerboard park in Queens.

Pretty sure I’ve dropped this in the Friday Post before, but one of the most fun and fascinating things we explored while working on Post Radical was the European fingerboarding scene, focusing on the Blackriver crew in Bavaria. (You might need a VPN to watch this if you’re outside the United States — I do, lol.)

Another European thing: I’ll be at the Vladimir Film Festival in Fažana, Croatia, next week to read from my book Right, Down + Circle and take part in a cool workshop with real nice and talented writer and poet Sam Buchan-Watts. If you also happen to be there, say hello!

Important sticker update: The stickers have arrived. If you want some, reply to this email with your mailing address and I’ll send ’em your way. These stickers are my way of telling you thanks for reading this thing and that I love you. Yes, even you.

Shoutout to pal and talented graphic designer Allan Khorsheed for the new logo :)

Until next week… while it can be difficult at times to muster the energy and courage to make new friends, our connections to others are what keep us grounded to this earthly plane. So, if you’re up for it, try to strike up a conversation with someone new. Ask a skatepark acquaintance to skate street sometime. Pet a neighbourhood cat so well that they recognize your footfalls the next time you walk down their street.

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.

Also, if you like book clubs, you can join the inimitable Ted Barrow in reading Right, Down + Circle on his Berate The Birds Patreon, which you should also subscribe to because it rules.

I’ll also be back on the Mostly Skateboarding podcast this Sunday. I was stoked to chop it up with the gang about the book and other recent happenings in the world of skateboarding. Be warned: I went into the chat one Mango Tequila Smash deep, so if my takes are too hot or my tangents too long and nonsensical, I take full responsibility.