Roughly a decade ago, while still riding for Alien Workshop and living in Basquiat’s old apartment in Downtown Manhattan, Jason Dill talked in an early Epicly Later’d episode about the challenges of being a pro in NYC:
“What percentage of working pros live in Los Angeles? About 75% percent,” he told Patrick O’Dell. “How many pros live in New York? There’s about 5.”
Dill also mentioned how difficult it was to get coverage while living in NYC, let alone get the cover of Transworld. Flash-forward to today and his FA teammate Anthony Van Engelen is on the cover of Thrasher Magazine skating a handrail in New York. (OK, it’s not TWS, but you get the drift.) Moreover, as New Yorkers deal with the brutal winter cold, Huf and Levis just hosted a skate session at a bar in Williamsburg that houses a giant bowl, and just recently many industry heads converged at Max Fish for a Tommy Guerrero pop-up show. This kind of activity isn’t unusual for NYC in 2015, but 10 years ago? Fat chance.
These days, New York coverage is common, and Dill’s interview — by no fault of his own — seems ancient. It’s no longer a necessity to move to California to have a skate career. Yeah, there aren’t really any Nike SB sponsored bro videos coming out of Alaska (yet), but the eyes of our collective culture are no longer focused on one state. So, why did it take so long for a career in skating to be viable outside the West Coast, and why is NYC becoming the next hub of skate culture?
One word: technology. In the years since Dill’s interview, traditional skateboard magazines and media have been heavily disrupted by web and mobile phone content. Getting a pic in a big magazine or having a marquee part in a DVD is no longer the only way to get recognized. In fact, a good amount of Instagram followers and a steady flow of content will keep your name buzzing much longer than a print ad in 2015. Because of this shift in how we receive our skateboarding, California, where all the media (Thrasher, Transworld, The Skateboard Mag, the Berrics…) resides, is steadily losing its monopoly on the skate industry. Print’s decline and the rise of the web have forced the notoriously insular skateboarding industry to open up and become more democratic. You no longer need to be skating in SoCal with the “right filmer,” the “right photographer,” and schmoozing with the big magazine editors just to get some coverage. Instead, you can upload a trick from Bumfuck, Nowhere that can go viral way before that mag could even get to press.
”Print’s decline has made skateboarding more democratic”
The skate industry’s decentralization is being felt first and most strongly in NYC because it’s New York City – the epicenter of American art and fashion at a time when those things matter more than ever in skateboarding (and money can be made off of them). The city that used to turn almost every aspiring pro skater who moved here into a penniless part-time bus boy, has become the new mecca for skate brands and individuals alike. Brands have established NYC offices, Nike has decorated a floating barge with logos and skate obstacles for “Go Skate Day,” and the British brand Palace picked the Big Apple to host their high-priced pop-up shop instead of Los Angeles. Skaters are actually giving up the perfect California weather and spots to move here. Longtime pros like Mark Gonzales, Brian Anderson, and Stefan Janoski all live in New York now. And up-and-comers like Yonnie Cruz, Aaron Herrington, and Gavin Nolan have all left their homes for the rough streets of NYC. Instead of forcing people to move to California, major sponsors are now letting and even encouraging that their riders reside in NYC.
Steve Rodriguez, founder of 5Boro, recently said something that shed some light on this shift from the perspective of a longtime NYC local. “Four or five years ago,” he told me, “you couldn’t be the solo dude living in New York because your brand and sponsors weren’t here and your brand wasn’t supporting you to be here. But now, with social media, it’s also more about the individuals. These individuals have become brands themselves. Brian Anderson, Alex Olson, you know, they are brands. It’s almost like, let these guys live where they want to live. The companies and sponsors understand that that’s the way things are going. That they should support them and back these leaders in the skate culture and as a result, they get some marketing off of that. They are allowing the skaters to be themselves in a way. I truly believe that.”
”Skaters no longer move here and watch their careers slowly fade.”
NYC isn’t relevant because of the Element store in Times Square or the Dew Tour taking over a Brooklyn block for a contest. New York’s prominence has risen with the momentum of small companies and local videos: Theories of Atlantis, Bronze, Supreme, Mandible Claw, Quartersnacks, Johnny Wilson’s videos, LurkNYC…etc along with heritage brands 5Boro, SHUT, Zoo York are the leaders and inspiration of a kind of dogged persistence to make shit work even when the odds are against you.
That’s not to say that skate culture in California is over, or that the scales have tipped totally to the East, instead it’s an example of a determined change that’s taking root throughout the skate world, starting in NYC. What do you do when it’s too cold to skate? You layer up and put on some fucking gloves, not quit and start snowboarding. If Ty Evans isn’t coming to your city with a giant crane and production crew to film you, then you go get a shitty camera and film your crew. Think Blades is corny? Start a shop. Nowhere to skate? Lobby to get the money you pay in taxes back for a park.
NYC has long been on the forefront of the do-what-you-can-with-what-you-have mindset that makes any culture exciting and ever-evolving, and skateboarding is nothing if it’s not in constant flux. This recent shift in focus, from the California coast to the five boroughs, may be just the beginning of a widespread decentralization of the pro skate world. As the big brands look to extend their reach, they hit the major markets first.
It goes back to something that Steve Rodriguez mentioned in our conversation: “As a lot of the bigger brands get involved with skateboarding, they need to hit the big markets. Yes, there are the core sales from skateboarding and skateboarders, but there’s all the fashion, music and scene around that. And what drives their sales isn’t the core skate markets, it’s the fringe around it.” As crews from other markets like the Southwest deserts (Pyramid Country), Appalachian hills (Bust Crew) and the Scandinavian mountains (Polar) continue to gain global recognition, we may see many other cities start riding the wave that New York has been enjoying over the last couple of years.
February 23, 2015 5:35 pm
Pops always says it best!
February 23, 2015 7:54 pm
It’s a lot easier to be “relevant” in NYC these days. You only have to know how to wallie and no-comply an BAM, you’re pro.
February 23, 2015 11:21 pm
Anthony Pappalardo is still bitter because he didn’t play his cards right in skateboarding, and as a result that was his bias.
All those guys like AVE or Dill or Gonz or Olson already WERE their own brands long before NYC and actually earned their stripes elsewhere, so just because a bunch of hipsters jumped on the trend of skateboarding and bought a bunch of hats doesn’t mean NYC is calling any shots. It’s simply where the money is, and those guys are following the money. If my need to skateboard decided where I’d move, I wouldn’t move to a place that is skateable only 70% of the year, or even 65% sometimes, I’d move to a place where I could skate damn near a 100% which would be LA or whatever. Pappalardo is bitter because he didn’t have as much pull in the industry and tried to make a power move, like relocate to New York, which resulted in him being broke and falling off the radar because SURPRISE! Nobody gave a fuck! If he had held out some more, I’m sure he would be able to market himself more successfully and would sing a different tune. Has anyone actually tried to skate in sub-zero weather? It’s not just about “layering up and wearing gloves” like Pappalardo says, it’s a pain in the fucking ass. There’s snow, and if there isn’t snow, there’s salt. Boards break faster because they get more brittle in the cold, and your muscles don’t work like they’re supposed to because in order for a body to move at its full potential, you need to warm up–and no amount of warming up will ever make up for -15 outside (not including wind chill).
So no, it’s not about “decentralization of the pro skateboard career”, it’s about the shift of focus from actual skateboarding to simply marketing yourself as a skateboard brand or skateboarder. Even Palace, a foreign brand, set up shop in NYC because they made the smart move of following NYC hipster money and not because they care so much about skateboarding. If they cared about skateboarding, they’d go to a place where people have the opportunity to skateboard all the time like California or San Francisco or whatever, but then they would just become irrelevant because they’re entering an over-saturated market, and a foreign company wouldn’t possibly try to risk their ass on a gamble like that. No, they open up in NYC: where people don’t give a shit about skateboarding because it’s too cold, but they DO give a shit about overpriced clothes and accessories–as long as the right people wear them, of course.
In short: nobody gives a shit about skateboarding anymore; but a large majority, with deep pockets and absolutely no sense of belonging or self-awareness, will pay big money to pretend to. Nobody gives a shit about instagram or facebook as much as people think. So what if some kid did a switch 540 flip revert 5-0 laser flip out? He’s not a threat to anyone in the industry because odds are, he’s not consistent. Let’s see him do something he didn’t practice for 50 hours–namely stuff he has on lock–and let’s see him do that in 20 different spots, under pressure, and for a solid 3 minutes of footage.
And also: Fuck Janoski. Stop namedropping him every chance you get, he is not a staple to skateboarding. He’s just some asshole who had a shoe design that sold well. 80% of people who wear Janoski’s shoes don’t even skate, and yeah I have a pair, and you know what I think? I think they SUCK. I had more fun skating in my old Nike Air Zoom Tokis than I ever did in Janoskis, and whenever you drop his name it just further proves how much that guy benefited from skateboard culture just on luck alone. Well, luck and selling out.
Let’s see everyone’s attitude about NYC when all those hipsters think it’s cool to blast crack rocks instead of wearing skateboard shit.
February 23, 2015 11:57 pm
There’s so many things wrong with your comment that I don’t have time to go through them all, but I will correct you on one pivotal misunderstanding: the Anthony Pappalardo who wrote this article is of no relation to the Anthony Pappalardo who used to be pro for Chocolate.
February 24, 2015 1:29 am
You know what? If that wasn’t even the REAL Pappalardo, then this piece is even worse than I was led to believe. At
least if the real Pappalarso wrote it, there would be an excuse for the constant name dropping and fucking shoe polishing, but now it’s just some random guy with the same last name who wrote a bunch of bullshit ass words that were used to justify some dumb shit that only new yorkers would agree with, and not even the native new yorkers–the kind that don’t give a shit about anything–but a bunch of naive young hopefuls who still haven’t gotten disillusioned with the fact that new york is just a place like any other, except it has more taller buildings than everyone knows what to do with (let’s not even TRY to fit all the collective unwarranted big egos into those buildings) but instead thinks it’s some mystical wonderland where dreams come true and cheaping out on shaving cream and disposable razors is a fashion statement.
The reality is, New York hasn’t been “cool” since Giuliani got through with it, despite what the latest masterpiece short film involving stefan janoski will have you thinking.
February 24, 2015 9:06 am
janoski was very lucky to have a shoe that sold well but just think why he ended designing a shoe for nike (although i hate the company i have to admit that together with dc they support the most elite skaters in the world and undoubtedly sell the most shoes – for watever reason that is). janoski was at the pantheon way before his pro shoe started selling out. one of the best styles in skating ever.
This Pappalardo is not the former AWS pro.
the rest Mitch Green says about hipsters and such, i totally agree with. i have nothing against certain brands but am pissed on how people’s opinions are influenced by whatever is written in magazines, forums etc. if you asked a 20yo skater who their favorite pros are i bet 50% will say the name Mark Gonzales, even if they could not identify MG from Richie Jackson or even recall a great rail that MG boardslid when he was young and slim. in the same tune, what the fuck is the score with palace, their graphics look like some kid tried to draw on an old computer and their wood is probably generic china or mexico with just shit graphics on. however, everyone keeps praising the brand and their riders. The same goes to polar and so on – great thing to happen to skating (their direction is genius indeed) but i dont think that many people can be arsed to watch one more no comply 180. its just that a lot of hipsters can relate to that level of skating and yes, NY is the city with the most hipsters so it all comes together. I do not wanna say that Leo Valls footage is boring or that watching nightime NY skating does not get me hyped to go skate, its just that id prefer to watch a skate vid with new and innovative tricks than watch a “creative” section with one million powerslides (and ive been skating since ’85). part of the industry has focused on and tries to promote stuff that are easier for skate upstarts to relate to. something like creating a new market withing an already existing one.
February 25, 2015 9:30 am
“New York hasn’t been “cool” since Giuliani got through with it”
alright, sick you’re not a liberal, no wonder you don’t like new york.
“what if some kid did a switch 540 flip revert 5-0 laser flip out?”
someone link me whoever does this first….revert into a grind!?!?
“I had more fun skating in my old Nike Air Zoom Tokis than I ever did in Janoskis, and whenever you drop his name it just further proves how much that guy benefited from skateboard culture just on luck alone.”
i guess mosaic wasn’t a big deal.
thanks to this dude for making my morning extremely enjoyable. i’m not one for internet hate but this one’s got so much wrong with it. Jenkem should do an interview with this dude.
March 3, 2015 10:58 am
I don’t believe you’re the real Mitch Green–the New York Golden Gloves winner that got his ass handed to him by Tyson in Dapper Dan’s. If you are that Mitch Green, then it makes sense why you’re such a bitter little ho.
February 24, 2015 11:29 am
mitch, you blew it so many times there…
February 25, 2015 4:07 pm
I agree with you about the hipster shit, but Janoski didn’t get by on “luck”. Case in point: http://youtu.be/86IwWjn65Fg?t=3m44s
February 26, 2015 12:27 am
Oh he so fucking did! Compared to the other skaters that came up in the same era, janoski didn’t even stand out; he was just among the first to abandon the “core” skater mentality and wasn’t shy about selling out. Seriously dude, look back at all the shit that happened in the early 2000’s and late 90’s and tell me with a straight face that janoski is really that good and deserves all this praise. Everyone who praises janoski is the same fucking douchebag that bought his shoe, and only praises janoski because they want to separate themselves from that “other” douchebag who janoski’s shoe while knowing nothing about him OR skateboarding in general. You need a reason to wear his shoe? How about just because you want to, and not come up with all these fucking excuses about how he’s so great and visionary and deserves to be namedropped in every fucking article? I mean, it’s fine; we got a black man as a president, we elected a bunch of lesbians and gays in public offices worldwide, we’re thiiiiiis close to fully legalizing marijuana, so I really doubt anyone will look at you twice for wearing janoski’s shoes just because you like to (for whatever gay reason). Just do everyone a favor and don’t sit there and act like it’s a great shoe and janoski’s a great skater. It’s an OK shoe (if your feet are retarded and/or gay) and he USED to be an OK skater back in 2000whatever, now he’s a weird, fat ass hipster that smoked himself retarded and starred in a short film about a grocery bag caught in an updraft, which I’m sure he did for “ironic” and “creative” reasons that only a dumbass hipster could relate to.
And as far as New York not being cool anymore after Giuliani getting through with it, it has nothing to do with me not being a liberal; I’m not, because subscribing to whatever political spectrum a degenerate like you is capable of identifying with is insulting, but it’s also for the most “liberal” reasons that I think that which is what confuses me even more about your ignorant statement. Giuliani single-handedly scrubbed clean whatever grime and dirt that was on New York that made it so fascinating and intimidating and alluring and whatever else fucking adjective you wanted to use to describe New York in its heyday, meaning graffiti (especially on trains, with that whole “broken window” policy) gangs, and crime. In fact, New York is so safe that in whatever Borough you were likely to get killed or mugged in, is a perfectly safe place for a hipster mom and her asshole kids. More can be found here:
Everyone tells me I’m so wrong for writing whatever I wrote, but all of you basically got the same shit against it:
-I mistook one Anthony Pappalardo for a completely irrelevant one (as if the real one was relevant enough, heh)
-I underestimated janoski’s influence
First of all, WHY would you try to make a name for yourself in the skateboard industry, knowing damn well there’s another motherfucker with a name just like it?! Not only your first name or your last name, but both?! And that other motherfucker was there first!?
Second of all, the influence janoski has on skateboarding, that is skateboarding as a literal and physical act, is subjective. His objective influence on skateboarding, that is the uncanny ability to sell out to Nike and appropriating a shoe design, does not counteract his subjective literal influence on skateboarding to become an overall distinguished force.
February 26, 2015 4:42 am
Mitch Green –
never bought a pair of janoskis and i probably never will as long as he rides for nike (plus the new models look like runners). i very well remember when Janoski was just coming out in the scene and everyone was hyped to see any new footage of his. amazing style, amazing tricks, amazing skater in general. one of the best at that time.
the bit about pappalardo is totally insane. so you are suggesting that the guy should just not bother with skating, maybe get involved in rollerblading or bmx-ing? or would you suggest that he changes his name so that he does not confuse you anymore?
the shit you wrote about hipsters and all are true and i fully agree wiht it but what the hell were you thinking about the rest?
and the fact that everybody disses you for the exact same things should make you worry mate. its very possible that you might be wrong.
February 26, 2015 12:31 am
Did Janoski hook up with your girl?
February 26, 2015 10:14 am
Not much to say about this comment that hasn’t been said, but I feel like you’re missing the point about a lot of things. Palace set up shop in NYC? Mitch, aside from a pop-up in NYC, Palace is distributed in the USA by Baker Boys, which might be one (arguably) one of the most California-centric distro houses ever. Who even understands what Shake Junt is outside of Southern California? (I don’t, and I still like it).
If you’re saying Palace doesn’t care about skateboarding because they sell clothes that you perceive to be “overpriced” (which is nonsense-understand why things cost what they cost before deeming them ‘overpriced’), you’re kind of missing the point of how to manage and market a brand, that has riders to pay. If selling a bunch of club-goers Palace gear can keep money in Chewy Cannon, Danny Brady, Torey Goodall, and the rest of their pockets, then sell sell sell! Trends obviously come and go, so if they can make some money and support their amazing team in the time being, why does it bother you so much?
Also, as someone
February 24, 2015 12:32 am
“New York is now the new LA” – a friend of mine and long-term Brooklyn resident. New Yorkers don’t complain about the snow? Get the fuck out of here. You guys are the worst about it. New York snow isn’t even that bad, but by the way you guys bitch and moan you’d think you lived in Maine.
February 24, 2015 12:32 am
and his comment wasn’t intended to be a compliment on the state of the city