DC Shoes and Thrasher released Nyjah Huston’s new video part last week. It is bonkers. It takes some pausing and rewatching to really understand how crazy it is, because nobody should look that relaxed front blunting and flipping a board onto rails that big. Go watch it.
Now, maybe it’s because I’m cynical or jaded because I’ve seen so many “part-to-end-all-parts” announcement over the years – Jerry, MJ, Koston, Mariano, Koston again, Mariano again, Bob, Westgate, Jamie Thomas, Danny Way, Chris Cole, Rowley, Arto, Appleyard – you get the idea. And that’s just been in the past ten to fifteen years.
It’s a weird contrast – on one hand, I’m witnessing the literal progression of skateboarding. Nyjah is doing tricks that have never been done on spots that could easily kill you. But I keep catching myself drifting away. Am I… bored?
I’m not alone. In the age of film-quality-or-better DSLRs and pocket computers that shoot in HD, people are making skate videos with VHS camcorders and VX1000s. The popsicle shape is the pinnacle of functional skate deck design, plus or minus a few tweaks over the years, but companies are selling weirdly shaped decks and popularizing once-passé gear.
Like the musicians who have found (or kept) an audience for limited-edition cassettes and 7” records despite the ease and accessibility of digital files, skateboarding is developing a taste for the throwback.
It makes sense: there are only a small handful of people in the world who can skate like Nyjah Huston. To paraphrase Mike Vallely in The Bones Brigade documentary: a kid watching that video part might think, “wow, skateboarding is really scary and hard, look at that.”
So I put on the Polar promo, which I first watched because it’s named after all three tricks I can do: “No Complies & Wallrides +shuvits.” It’s a totally different experience. There are DIY spots, like the ones I’ve made with my friends. There are dudes hollering and making weird noises when someone makes a trick. People fall down. It seems… real. Relatable.
There’s been an element of that throughout skateboarding’s history, only now it’s not reduced to gang-style rivalries like Hosoi vs. Hawk or Ramp Locals vs. Daggers. The Girl/Anti-Hero tours parodied the idea, reminding us we’re all still a bunch of goofy dudes playing with toys, no matter how different our video parts look.
The surge of small skater-owned companies is heartening. I love that Colin Read put out a video filmed entirely as seen in a VX1000 viewfinder. The feeling of watching a new clip, seconds after finally making it, is something most skateboarders know.
Not every skateboarder has perfect schoolyards, a professional film crew, a TF, or paid travel to literally any spot in the world. Most of us spend a few months of the year skating in the garage or the basement, or shoveling spots and dealing with frozen bushings. We don’t have a budget to cover tickets, or “optimize” every skate spot, or bribe security.
”There’s a certain polish, an air of artifice to it; it’s perfect, but not in the way Nate Jones’ 360 flips are perfect.”
Nyjah is good, one of skateboarding’s best. But his skating doesn’t speak to me. There’s a certain polish, an air of artifice to it; it’s perfect, but not in the way Nate Jones’ 360 flips are perfect. It’s perfect like you got the green bonus on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. And sure, that’s great, but it’s not MY version of skateboarding.
But skateboarding isn’t about perfect. It’s about having fun. We’re all a bunch of weirdos. It’s cool seeing some of those weirdos do things that have never been done before. It’s cool seeing some of those weirdos printing their weirdo friends’ art on boards and shirts and selling them on BigCartel.
In that way, the kind of Northeast-inspired urban skateboarding that’s become so high profile is welcoming. It tells some little kid in Nebraska on YouTube, “We skate shitty spots, too, but look what we can do. It’s cold as hell here too, but we’ve got thermals and flannel and coats. Let’s do this.”
There’s a feeling of connection you get watching those lo-fi videos. The homie montages, back yard miniramp footage… you could be skating there with them. You feel like you’re at the session. That spot looks so gnarly. How did he even ride up that? HOLY SHIT he made it!
My favorite new video is that clip on YouTube of Pontus Alv cruising around. He doesn’t skate “spots” he just skates whatever’s there. It’s pure 100% down-for-life skate rat, compressed and stored in YouTube forever. When I watch that video, I get the same feeling as when I’m watching a friend make their trick.
Look, we all understand someone has to be “the best,” if only because of semantics. I appreciate that there are people out there who always strive for bigger, faster, longer, higher, and more. That’s progress. They produce people like Geoff Rowley, who famously assumed magazines and videos represented how all pros skate every day. But they also turn away a lot of kids who miss out on the simple pleasures of skating because they can’t live up to “professional” standards for one reason or another.
Serious, heavy-hitter video parts will always exist, but they aren’t the end-all, be-all of “good” in skateboarding. Nyjah’s part is a game-changer, but so was Louie Barletta’s Tilt Mode part, and so was Jason Lee’s part in A Visual Sound.
So, which is “better?”