Over the last couple of years, while you might have been watching the newest Thrasher web clip, a few editors have made some strange and quirky skate videos still unknown to most of the skate public. Their projects (the Beez Trilogy, the Fancy Lad trilogy, and the Golden Egg) all take unique approaches to the skate video format, breaking the editing/skating formulas we’ve grown used to. In these videos, skaters in bread-loaf shoes, on boards made from roller skates and ice blocks, try tricks impossible to convey in writing.

Although these crews take it to the extreme, throughout skate history there have always been pockets of innovators who broke away from skating’s athletic and perfectionist tendencies. Innovators who put an emphasis back on fun. We can look to Neil Blender, Lance Mountain and John Lucero and find in them the beginnings of this sort of unorthodox approach. Years later, we had Simon Woodstock, one of the forefather’s of “weird” skating take it to new heights.

I wanted to find out more about the current leaders of this movement (dubbed “Avant-gnar”) to see where, when, and how they came upon their styles.

Russ Clark, the editor of Beez, seemed like the right first choice, as his trilogy gave me my first exposure to this kind of skating. Via email, he explained that Beez came about from a conversation with his friend Josh; both of them had gripes with the sameness of early 2000’s skate coverage, and favored instead the freedom of older videos like Hokus Pokus, like the Lance O’Neill part in Ban This, and like Neil Blender’s legendary spray-paint contest run.

Instead of trying to one up each other with progressively technical or gnarly skating, he and his friends tried looking for tricks that provoked the most laughter possible. The result was, in his words, “lawless, comedic idiocy.” Beez’s purpose was to document this kind of skating and, as Russ admitted, partially to “torture the sort of people who adhered strictly to the rigid, dead serious handrail and stair skating of the time.”

The Beez Boiz / photo: Josh Ellis

The Beez boys / photo: Josh Ellis

The Beez trilogy (the third installment can be seen in full here) produced a few mildly popular off-shoots, including parts from its alumni Tim and Eric, and also from John McGuire (who you may know as the Cosmo Kramer of skateboarding.)

Jesse James and Chris Atherton’s “The Golden Egg” stays true to the Beez spirit and expresses it in a concentrated form. Within the seven and a half minute video, we see a museum’s worth of clownish outfits, homemade boards, and tricks beyond comprehension. Jesse helped to make the video, and has a lot of footage in it. He explained that part of the video was simply about creating chaotic excitement, about “watching something and being totally confused by one clip, but by the time you figure it out you have already been confused by 5 more.”

The third experimental collective, Fancy Lad skateboards, maintains close ties to the Golden Egg boys and is, so far as I know, the only skate company committed to “avant-gnar” skating. Fancy Lad founder, Nick Murray, likened his company’s skating and videos to “throwing a child into the pool, who has not learned how to swim, and watching them fight their way to safety.”

A lot about Fancy Lad, he explained, comes from a lack of talent. He and his friends recognized how they “would never be the best, would never even be contenders,” but nonetheless, “loved skateboarding” and saw that “no one needs to be an athlete to be creative.”

This shows through in Fancy Lad’s editing style, which Nick said was inspired by hijinx-focused videos like CKY and the un-talent and poor production values in B-Movies. In these films Nick saw a kindred genre, something “consciously not as good as anything in the mainstream,” but nonetheless “infinitely more interesting than cookie cutter blockbusters.” From what I can tell, this idea – of using their athletic limitations to their advantage – is central to this movement.

photo: rob collins

the fancy lad magic / photo: rob collins

In Beez, the Golden Egg, and the Fancy Lad videos, athletically average skaters find ways to skate giant spots. It’s always very funny when this happens, but as I think more about it, there also seems something just right about it, and necessary too.

At one moment in Beez, the camera zooms in on a huge stair-set, creating the expectation that someone might jump down it. Instead, Russ ollies up the first three steps and stalls there before the clip changes. To me, this trick presents, in a short moment, what the whole approach is about.

“We partially wanted to torture the sort of people who adhered strictly to the rigid, dead serious handrail and stair skating of the time.”

By doing a laughably small trick on a large obstacle, Russ seems to highlight his own smallness (in fame and technical skill) next to the giants of skateboarding. What’s odd is that, at a certain point, this trick becomes more interesting than an ollie done down the same set by a more athletic skater.

We all know what success looks like in skating. In fact, before these videos, before I became familiar with these crews, I only knew what success looked like in a video. I never knew what “not success” looked like, and that it could, in it’s way, be more successful.

Comments

  1. I didn't chose the thug life

    September 18, 2015 5:45 am

    “Leaders of the movement”,”Lucero/Mountain/Blender started that thing” blablahblah…the chief editor of Jenkem. I know what this poll next to the articles is: Now that the Muska came first, you know you cater to mostly teenagers or sincere 2nd generation skatejocks in their late twenties-early thirties, but you also have a strong following in oldfucks or wannabe-old senior students (hangover). So, the “stale” editing sucks huh? THEN WHY PRAISE IT ALL THE TIME? 80% of videos are edited “stale”, just look at the previous top ten article, I mean fuuuuuuck, is that a marketing strategy?? Just like Thrasher, “skate however the fuck you want, huuuuuurrrrr”, then feature all the stunt clips and/or the frontside noseslide-360 flip-noseblunt shuv-it out lines.
    LONG-LIVE-FANCYLAD
    LONG-LIVE-FANCYLAD
    LONG-LIVE-FANCYLAD
    LONG-LIVE-FANCYLAD
    LONG-LIVE-FANCYLAD

    • I didn't chose the thug life

      September 18, 2015 6:23 am

      I mean that you people are not sincere about this, you just do it to get indy cred, if I can put it in these terms.This is not “avante-gard” skating, this is skateboarding, as much as a kickflip, a natas spin and a crooked grind are and always has been.
      “What’s odd is that, at a certain point, this trick becomes more interesting and more important than an ollie done down the same set by a more athletic skater.” Exactly how? Explain. Not doubting, just tell us why. Why is it more important, if it is important at all? Why juxtapose this jab at seriousness to “athleticism”? You ‘d have to have some time and effort put to getting these sequences down, how is that not athletic in terms of bodily achievement? Are you trying to label it so you can make marketing become easier? I can only understand this if by “athleticism” you want to describe the tendency of the (moguls of) the industry towards more structured events and metrics. Other than that, Thomas, Cole,Hawk, Burnquist, Way, all have been in skate videos. It’s all skateboarding. There is NOT a norm to which the videos in this article are a deviation, the way you presnt them is as if you were caressing those guys’ heads telling them how cute they are.
      And you have a skewed perception of what success is; Is the Welcome-Adidas collab a success for Welcome? Is Fancy Lad’s cred success? Is Mike Carrol detesting the strive for better tricks to a part success?

      • Durrrr pg duurrr

        September 18, 2015 10:25 am

        Pass the crystal pipe

      • Cuntrol Tek

        September 18, 2015 12:18 pm

        Yr mad dum

      • Holland & Ferret

        September 18, 2015 1:25 pm

        Aye yo, chill

      • Shane

        September 18, 2015 1:47 pm

        Bitter keyboard jockies like you are the reason I’d never go into skateboard journalism.

      • Diuretics PG DURP

        September 19, 2015 1:35 am

        No I’m serious… Pass it I wanna
        Hit it !

      • I need some tums

        September 19, 2015 2:00 am

        I see what you’re saying about it being sort of silly or patronizing to comidofy this style of skating like its new. Weirdo skaters have always been around and everyone has a different style of skateboarding just like everyone has a different style of journalism.
        Jenkem is a magazine. They have more than one person writing for them. Surely some are beer-bellied soul skaters and some are tech jock dudes still hanging on to the late 90’s. Fuck it. Skateboarding diverse. Great. Is bitching about it a success?

      • Somenetdouche

        September 23, 2015 3:15 pm

        Exactly how tight is your butthole?

      • Hot Carl

        September 24, 2015 9:36 am

        chill out and go play golf or something.

      • Ryley Hughes

        November 9, 2015 5:11 am

        tell me if I’m wrong, but are you saying having a different style of skating is unsuccessful or stupid? because for those who think yes, and excuse my metaphorical technique, but in a way, you are agreeing that if red apples are more common, and if some apple were green, you’re agreeing that a green apple isn’t really an apple at all and that it is silly or worthless, no?

    • sprechenzedick

      December 11, 2015 10:35 pm

      i totally agree as far as im concerned the athletic obsession of modern skateboarding is about keeping it out of reach so u buy more t shirts

      fancy lad is where its at

  2. toy robot

    September 18, 2015 10:13 am

    Go play football

  3. Snake

    September 18, 2015 10:38 am

    “That’s my prosthetic eye! Uggghhhh!!”

  4. Nine Clubs Greatest

    September 18, 2015 2:27 pm

    This is like a more creative, gayer CKY. Second hand embarrassment from this one. And this is what the mainstream is seeing as skateboarding via Adult Swim? yikes.

    • Beelzebong

      September 19, 2015 4:05 pm

      Really dude? Like it matters how skateboarding is presented to the mainstream at this point? Did you see “We are Blood?” Plus after Life of Sheckster and Justin Bebier’s ugly mug all over youtube have already done skateboarding such poetic justice? No matter how it’s presented, your mom’s never going to get it, and your girlfriend is still going to think you’re gay for wanting to “skate with the bros” instead of servicing her clam for another hour… get over it.

    • Ryley Hughes

      November 9, 2015 5:13 am

      mainstream won’t care, they just take factors out of each group within society, obliviously and with no meaning aha

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