Searching for and reaching your limit | Simply Ranked
Plus: Stenger sighting, schemin', SOTY season rumbles to life, and more.
The definitive weekly ranking and analysis of all the skateboarding and other online things that I cannot stop consuming and how they make me feel, personally.
Searching for your limit
One of skateboarding’s special cultural features is that its practitioners have the power to imbue nearly any object or space of mild architectural intrigue with a sense of import and historical relevance. From a curb to a towering two-story set of stairs, people will visit these spots with reverence and, in some cases, a willingness to throw themselves from life-changing heights.
Since Ali Boulala attempted the “Lyon 25” in Flip’s Sorry (2002), just a handful of others have tried it, with even fewer riding away. Aaron “Jaws” Homoki famously melon-grabbed it with pads on. It turned away French hucker Aurelien Giraud. But those who’ve found the most success on the Lyon 25 haven’t been skateboarders, the people who first asked if it was possible to throw one’s body from the spot’s top to its bottom 14 feet and nine inches below.
A BMXer, Courage Adams, did a barspin down it last year. Another recently tried to 360 it.
Freerunner Dominic Di Tommaso front-flipped it and obviously broke his foot, but I assume it still counts as a make. Multiple scooterers have hurled themselves to imminent doom, with Jared Adelson coming closest to riding away.
When viewing this stunt through the efforts of another subculture besides skateboarding—BMXing, Scootering, freerunning—something interesting happens. The bias of being a skateboarder no longer clouds the vision, and it becomes clear how asinine attempting this is. It also shows that finding the limit of what’s possible is often a clumsy, painful, and thankless endeavour. But still, we try. This hubris drives an inescapable paradox. Would I watch if someone were to kickflip these 25 stairs? Absolutely. Do I actively want to see it? No.
SOTY season rumbles to life
This year’s SOTY race feels more subdued than the last. There’s no tumult like there was around Suciu’s weekly video part output, no uncontestable frontrunner going into the final stretch—though all of that might change in the coming days. As it stands, we have Louie Lopez’s multiple excellent video parts with another assumed to come, Tyshawn Jones teasing us with that subway track kickflip in The General part two, Tristan Funkhouser with a wild Baker part and a mind-bending ollie at China Banks (which we know was landed in 2021, if that were to be a disqualifying thing), and any number of other standouts as the level of skateboarding in our current age sits at an absurd level and refuses to plateau.
Thrasher’s 2021 SOTY announcement came on December 9th, so if we stick to a similar schedule, we have approximately 43 more days for industry leaders to champion and pump out supporting evidence to prove that their rider has been the most impactful on a skateboard this past year. Of course, a lot can happen in 43 days. Tyshawn could backside flip those subway tracks. Salman Agah could drop a comeback part for the ages. Rayssa Leal could release all that street footage April Skateboards has to be sitting on.
It’ll be an interesting next few weeks, but if I had to make a prediction now: you’re all SOTYs to me (Subscribers of The Year).
Reaching your limit
Mood: 🌾 🌾
Karl Berglind hadn’t posted on Instagram in months, and people began to notice. It was an unusually quiet stretch for the Welcome, Red Bull, and GUESS Originals rider, who generally keeps an active account populated with skateboarding edits and lifestyle shots—the usual fare of the pro and amateur skateboarder. These curated pages have long been an expectation of the profession, used as a tool for personal brand building and corporate brand promotion. And often, a skater’s worth to a brand is judged by the size of the online followings they’re able to maintain and how far the shoutouts to the brand’s products can reach online.
So it’s noticeable when a skateboarder of Berglind’s level doesn’t post. Fans want to see tricks; sponsors want to see their products featured in those clips. For those of us who aren’t pursuing professional skateboarding as a career, it’s difficult to know what toll it takes on the body, mind, and spirit to have to constantly make content of yourself in this way. To create a version of you for continuous public consumption. And that’s in addition to the travelling, filming, contests, and commodification of your relationship with skateboarding itself—the thing you grew up doing for fun now required for you to pay your bills. On top of those pressures, the compensation for putting your body on the line for a brand’s promotional materials has been declining for years.
Most pro skater’s careers are so tied to social media now, that it makes sense that when Berglind’s fans started to publicly acknowledge how strange it was that he wasn’t posting and started to express concern he might not be well, he wasn’t, as he shared on his dormant Instagram on Wednesday.
“Skating is not very fun anymore or has been for years. It’s been something I feel obligated to do. This summer I started feeling more and more anxious by the day and I wasn’t sure why. My body would ache from stress and emotions but I kept going. After I finished a project of mine I got severely depressed and pretty much lost my will to keep going. Months later I reached a point and realized that skating as a profession was not sustainable nor worth the pain for me. Skateboarding has been a huge part of my life and will continue to be so but in a different way now. I’m very happy and proud of my decision and looking forward to what’s next. I’m eternally grateful for all my sponsors who has supported me throughout the years. It was tough to write this but I’m glad I did.”
This isn’t an unusual experience by any means. Longtime pro Tyler Bledsoe shared his own of how the industry treats skateboarders and the effect it had on him in an interview with Jenkem on Thursday.
“I feel like you’re so disposable as a skateboarder, it’s kind of sad. If they want to kick you off they’ll find a fucking reason. It doesn’t matter. It’s a little bit ruthless. Skating is kind of like the music industry, but you don’t even make as much money so like, even worse [laughs]… It got to a point where I was like, ‘I could fucking go film five parts this week and I’m still not going to be able to pay my bills.’ I wasn’t even enjoying skating. It was like torture. I started feeling that bitterness and I was like, ‘Fuck, I want something that I have more control over.’ I didn’t want to be a victim of the skate industry anymore.”
Bledsoe goes on to say that getting into tattooing, as another form of income and a creative outlet, has helped him enjoy skateboarding again. Hopefully, Berglind can find that same relief down whatever path he chooses next. And as more pro and amateur skaters inevitably voice how untenable and unhealthy their career path can be, we can only hope the industry considers making positive change instead of demanding more and more from riders for less and less.
Important CanCon update
If you were a skateboarder in Canada in the early-mid aughts, Travis Stenger was a name that loomed large and likely still has a substantial space carved out in your hippocampus. His video part in Green Apple’s Modern Love (2005) was an instant classic and showcased power and technical ability on par with any other skater of the day. His ender is why skateboarders country-wide refer to the front shove out of a backtail as a “Stenger.” Unfortunately for us fans, besides a few other (quality) drips and drabs of footage in those years, Stenger all but disappeared.
Then, as Watson detailed earlier this week on SLAP, “Back in July, our shop received an order from a Travis Stenger for two 101 Gino Bel Paese 7.5 reissue boards, two sheets of grip, hardware, and 5.0 Low Venture V-lights.” But it would be months until anything more would come of it, when “… last weekend we held an event in Edmonton and Stenger was there and his shoes are wrecked so he has been skating.”
Stenger, in the flesh, as if released from the amber encasement he’d been in since 2005, wearing a ‘fit straight out of Modern Love. Does this mean we’ll see current Stenger footage? Do we even dare type “new video part” into the ether? The desire of our fandom along with such a potent nostalgia trigger would make most of us certainly goddamn hope so. But realistically, all we should really want is for this veritable legend to enjoy his time back on board.
A startling disconnect
When your first real introduction to skateboarding is a thing that is a reflection of skateboarding, a disconnect occurs when trying to actually skateboard. At the turn of the millennium, after 9-year-old me had spent hours upon hours playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, I finally stepped onto my older brother’s skateboard. I encountered an experience that, if I was not a child, would’ve been humbling. Instead, it was infuriating and, if I’m not mistaken, brought me to tears in the driveway.
This thing that was so easy on screen—a simple series of buttons sending me flipping, spinning, and grinding in ways I could not even comprehend—was lifeless under my fight. No longer was my biggest obstacle finding five mall directories to smash; now, it was staying upright. What I’d known to be automatic now required every piece of me to work in concert just to ride down the sidewalk. The bug unwilling and unresponsive when it used to simply fall down the gullet.
Something to consider: A free download of a classic (US Only).
Good thing: Linkin Park renaissance?
Another good thing: The satisfaction that comes with schemin’.
Until next week… if you have a knit turtleneck sweater, put it on and step outside. Crunch your way through the fallen leaves. Say “ooh, how spooky” to yourself as you walk past your neighbour’s Halloween decorations. Appreciate the carved pumpkins standing sentry on porches. Soon they will begin to slump and sag, but for now, they are perfect. Especially the one that has been made to look like it’s smoking a cigarette.