As skate nerds, we never get tired of getting off to skateboarding’s golden years.
“Remember 1998? Jump Off A Building? Fucking epic.”
“Yeah but remember 2000? Menikmati, Photosynthesis, Baker2G! That was actually the sickest year for skating.”
But as 2018 comes to a close, we found ourselves looking at all the things happening right now and realizing that we’re living through a pretty fucking good era in skateboard history. Arguably one of the most exciting, diverse, and healthy years for skating in over a decade, although it may not feel that way because it took the last couple years to get here.
About five years back, skating fell into a really uncertain place. Legacy figures — Jason Dill, Anthony Van Engelen, Alex Olson, and Brian Anderson — left legacy sponsors — Alien and Girl — to explore their own brands. European companies were just beginning to make U.S. companies jealous. Corporate-sized money was establishing a foothold that would push out smaller brands and terrify everyone with thoughts of a world run by energy drinks and Street League.
Every facet of the industry was being shaken up, and a lot of pieces felt out of place.
But 2018 was the year where we picked up those pieces and reassembled ourselves. We’re back in full force, and I would argue, we’ve never been better. Let’s look at why:
THE BOOM OF THE FULL-LENGTH SKATE VIDEO
To start, let’s rejoice for the sheer number of full-length videos released this year. In 2018 we were graced with:
Supreme – “Blessed”
Polar – We Blew It At Some Point
Quasi – Mother
Converse – Purple
Foundation – Souvenir
Bronze – It’s Time
Alltimers – No Idea
GX1000 – Roll Up
Element – Peace
Girl – Doll
Primitive – Never
Transworld – Duets
Etnies – Album
For a format that many considered to be on its way out a few years ago, we saw more notable full-lengths in the last 12 months than we have in the last 5 years.
The “straight-to-web” mindset did not have the negative effect that some envisioned it would. The idea that web edits and solo parts would kill full-length videos, or at least render them irrelevant, turned out not to be true. Skate companies in 2018 have recognized the enduring value in delivering an impactful full-length, and we avoided a dystopian future ruled by Monster Energy-branded solo parts.
SKATEBOARDING HAS NEVER BEEN AS DIVERSE
We also saw more types of people take part in skating in 2018 than ever before. Crews like Brujas, Unity and Skate Kitchen hosted events specifically for women, people of color, and queer folk, inspiring and encouraging them to get involved and feel welcome at skateparks and in skateboarding in general.
Quell, a female focused skate publication, launched this year and focuses on “providing access into the past, present and future of women in skateboarding.” Similarly, Skateism.com, which calls themselves “the diversity skateboard magazine,” started putting out a print version this year.
Publications like these are giving more people the platform, freedom, and ability to dictate how they are represented and remembered in skating, rather than being filtered through the male gaze of all the other skate publications (Jenkem included).
Skateboarders have been saying “skateboarding is for everyone” for a long time, but now it finally feels like we’re starting to live up to that by putting our money where our mouths are.
Whether it was skaters urging NHS brands to drop Jason Jessee or calling out Bobby Puleo for slandering Steve Brandi, questionable actions were all under skateboarder’s scrutiny. Except when that hate was directed at Richie Jackson (sorry).
SKATEBOARDING IS MORE GLOBAL THAN EVER
After years of U.S. skateboarders overlooking pretty much everything about Europe (except for its very best spots), the skate industry finally underwent a serious shift to more fully and accurately represent its global audience.
European, Canadian, and Asian skaters and brands that were relatively unknown outside their local scenes just a few years ago, are now becoming household names everywhere. Brands like Polar (Sweden), Palace (England), Sour (Spain via Sweden), Dime (Canada), and Evisen (Japan) have helped create what is essentially a new, globalized skate economy. They’ve exposed people around the world to cities and spots they may have otherwise overlooked, and they’ve uplifted skaters that, in an older, U.S.-centric market, may have never had a chance to properly shine.
Dime also continued to grow what may be the best contest today, bringing people together to celebrate the absurdity that keeps skateboarding fun. Copenhagen Open, the other contest carrying on the anarchistic nature of skateboarding, expanded this year into a three-city, nearly month-long ordeal. As we inch closer to whatever fresh hell Olympic skateboarding brings, gatherings like these will become even more necessary and refreshing.
Sure, the biggest players in the skate industry, like the primary media outlets and manufacturers, still operate out of California. But having more options that reflect the experiences and tastes of the entire world, rather than just what sunburnt white dudes deem cool, is healthier for everyone.
This year we watched some of our long-standing heroes, despite being well past their prime, extend their careers (and relevance?) just a bit longer. They made podcasts, started small clothing brands, or retained a paycheck from their shoe or board sponsors by giving up their “pro” ranks for “legend” status.
While hangers-on are always one small step away from officially milking it, we should feel proud that some big names from the past have enough opportunities to continue subsisting off the thing that taught them everything they know.
And for those realizing their DMs to the TMs will never get them hooked up, the options for contributing to skateboarding without getting sponsored have never been better.
Instagram pages like Feedback Ted, The Nut Daily News, and Weckingball have carved out a niche for skate-tertainers by poking fun at anyone taking themselves too seriously or spending too much time online. Companies like Handbros and Milksaggers proved the market for novelty skate toys is bigger and weirder than expected. And with publications like The New York Times, The New Yorker, and GQ printing skate-centric content throughout the year, nerdy writers can express themselves with their words (rather than their shitty kickflips).
You won’t make a living off any of these creative endeavors, but you also don’t have to be as out there as Todd Falcon just to get noticed.
Skateboarding looks a lot different today than the way people 30 years ago imagined it would, but I’d like to believe that’s a good thing.
The ’80s and ’90s will never be forgotten, but since then, the world has become a much more decentralized, digitally savvy, and inclusive place. So shouldn’t skateboarding reflect that?
Skateboarding was overdue for another golden era, and even if next year everything suddenly goes to shit, we’ll be able to look back on 2018 as one of the best years in skateboard history that we all got to experience. As the wise scholar Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”