About six months ago, Ryan Lay threw out a date for his first Slow Impact event in his hometown of Tempe, Arizona. It was not quite an academic conference but not quite a traditional skateboarding event either. It was pitched as a winter warm-weather skate vacation. Hell, there was even a skateboarding spoken word night and a street contest.
The talking portion was based around three different panel discussions on the topics of “You’re Skating on Native Land,” “Making It as a Women or Non-Binary Skateboarder,” and “Intersection of Skateboarding and Art.”
Whatever it was, it was a gathering of people who may feel uninspired by your everyday skate events either because they aren’t “traditional” skateboarders from Orange County or because they enjoy talking about skateboarding on a slightly deeper level than just repeating, “yeah, that was gnarly, man.”
A large contingent of attendees were members of the #skatetwitter community and was meeting in person for the first time after many years of online banter. The energy this group brought to the proceedings was infectious.
Along with the CSEF crew, I headed out to see old friends, make new ones, and get inspired by other members of the social skate movement.
Both Perry Skatepark and Mitchell Skatepark were the stars of the weekend.
Skate After School used grant money from the Arizona Lottery to help turn two unused courts into some of the most fun skateparks in the world, in my low impact opinion. Nothing is over two feet tall. These parks are a model for the future of skateable space. They cost a tenth of what a usual skatepark does and are 10 times as fun. It doesn’t matter if you’re a pro like Ronnie Kessner, pictured here, or someone who just got their first board — you will have fun at these parks.
Hit your local city council meeting and start annoying them with pictures of these parks.
This is Mitchell Park’s newest addition, and future obstacle in my backyard, being skated by Cameron Jimmo, who was the perfect example of a Slow Impact attendee. He is an environmental lawyer based in Anchorage, Alaska who used this as an opportunity for a much-needed skate vacation to escape from the Alaskan winter. Coming from California, where all skaters care about is how many plays their Instagram Reels get, it was very odd being around this many well spoken skateboarders who also all ripped.
This is Poe Pinson. I will admit, I was dubious of what a 17 year-old contest phenom could bring to a panel discussion on such a heavy topic, but she more than proved me wrong. When asked what the responsibilities of being a pro skater were she replied bluntly, “You gotta skate, and you gotta pay taxes”. Genius.
Her stories from being in the public spotlight were both hilarious and terrifying, like how odd she found it when a random man DM’d her to tell her he named his kid after her, or her frustration every time a male skater says to her, “I can’t even do that!” She brought levity to navigating life as a professional skateboarder and a woman in the public eye in a way that was wise way beyond her years. Shout out, Poe!
One night Ryan [Lay] hosted spoken word readings followed by a skate video tribute band at his own house. To say he was nervous about this decision was an understatement, but if there was ever a group of skateboarders that would be equally psyched and respectful of someone’s house, it was this group.
The readings were organized by author and professor Kyle Beachy. We heard from people like Jim Thiebaud, our friend Christian Kerr, and There Skateboards riders Chandler Burton and Marbie. Vulnerability is not often associated with skate events, but these readings were impactful. My favorite of the night was Cole Nowicki reviewing product reviews of skate gear on Amazon. He had the entire crowd crying.
Marbie sat on Alex White’s panel “Podium or Per Diem: Making it as a Women or Non-Binary Skateboarder.” The panel was half a celebration about how far the community has come in the last five years inside skateboarding and half a reminder that we still have a long way to go. Marbie expressing her frustration that LGBT skaters get considerably more support from brands during pride month but not necessarily during the rest of the year is a perfect example of this dichotomy
The final panel was on the intersection of skateboarding and art, where they wrestled with the age old question, “is skateboarding art?” Most panelists landed on the side that it’s not really but I tend to disagree. If you don’t think Josh Kasper’s The Storm part is art I can’t help you.
With the majority of the Sci-Fi Fantasy team in attendance, I began calling it the Sci-Fi Fantasy Convention. Jerry was super sweet with the attendees all weekend and hooked up just about everyone with Sci-Fi Fantasy gear but there were times you could tell being around 100+ skaters who all considered him one of their favorite pros and had little-to-no prior experience meeting a pro before was an awkward experience for him, to say the least. Despite being bombarded, he handled each conversation with the grace of a veteran.
The talks were cool too, but I don’t want to spoil it for when you are able to watch it and the rest of the panels online at @slowimpactaz on Instagram.
Along with Jerry Hsu and the Sci-Fi team was Gifted Hater. There’s skate stardom and then there is YouTube stardom. He was hands down the most recognized person at the event, signing stuff and taking selfies with fans around every corner. This fan in particular made him sign his shoe and then take a photo with said shoe. He was adamant that just a photo or an autograph was not going to be good enough for him.
You would normally expect a skate event to be blasting the usual barrage of Metallica and Pantera, but at Slow Impact the song of the weekend was no lie “We Found Love” by Rihanna.
The final event was at the world-famous Wedge. These events were interesting because most attendees were the type of skaters that don’t skate around people or in large groups, which made these the most polite skate sessions I’ve ever encountered. That is until the 30-foot custom-made Blunt Steel was brought out.
During the “You’re Skating on Native Land” panel Douglas Miles, owner of Apache Skateboards, made a point about the future of professional skateboarding including pros that are pro for being good humans. A bit of a wild concept, but it would be nice to reward skaters for acts off their board as on their board.
I hope this weekend counts for Ryan’s SOTY campaign because he deserves it. He not only set up and ran the entire event, but brought everyone together, and opened his house to skaters from around the world. He’s also the only human I’ve ever seen do 102 tricks in a row.
Thank you, Ryan, Adriana, Tim Ward, Zamara, ASU, New Balance, Cowtown, and everyone who made this event so special. See y’all next year.
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