I’d like to spill the beans and say that I’m more interested in how skateboarding’s done and the way it looks than I am in the person or people doing it.
I’d also like to be the man on the mountain, inviting you to come on up and listen to the incredible ways I see things, how they should be, and what’s best—showing you the light in a perfectly anonymous back lip down fifteen and how it’s just as jaw dropping (if not more so) as the super pro’s complete and total grasp of everything from the trick to the style to brushing off the focused limelight like so much flaky white stuff.
But if likes were like mics, we’d all be emcees.
Mike Youssefpour comes up quick and gets the bends. Andrecht at McGill’s. Photo: Bernie McGinn
While I have a moment of your inattention, though, I will tell you my like and dislike of things is as fleeting as time itself. Like farts in a skillet. One thing’s for certain: Being surprised by something great and not knowing exactly what you’re seeing is better than decades of familiarity and known qualities and brand recognition.
Yes. It’s rare—this surprising ideal that I’m having trouble typing about. So rare, in fact, that I clearly remember the first time I was really staggered by skateboarding. It was one fine fall day somewhere far from your homes, and as I casually mall grabbed into my friend’s backyard, I witnessed what I’d seen in magazines hundreds of times, but up until that moment it had never really got ahold of me properly: Some shit-bag-looking dude—grandpa shorts, old yeller shirt, chewed-up kneepads, no helmet, but atop a brand new board—was doing inverts, one after another after another. Just fucking parking them. And like I said, I did not understand what I was seeing.
I found out later the guy was Lance Mountain. Never heard of him before that, but I guess he’d just gotten on Powell-Peralta—I didn’t really know what that meant, either. I just sat there, let my jaw drop, and waited restlessly to be amazed by what came next.
It was the first of many of times I’ve been happily slapped in the face by skateboarding, but as I’ve gotten more familiar, more cynical, and more spoiled by skateboarding’s best, I’ve also looked more intently for what I don’t expect to see. And that’s hard, because after the first thousand seven-year-old savants, the first thousand dudes with waxed moustaches, and the first thousand padless 540s, your expectations change a little.
And so looking to whom you don’t know sometimes feels like the only option for seeing something new. ’Cause while a nollie nosegrind should always elicit a hoot or two, the yelling’s even louder when you get to a spot and see a stranger finishing one off. And if it’s done properly—no abracadabra windup, easy on, easy off, and a humbly believable roll away—I’ll buy it. Hell, I’ll even pay extra.
But that’s proven to be a bit of a mistake on my part, and on everyone’s part, at one time or another—this vain search for only the new, only the rare, only the surprising. In doing so we easily miss the nittiest and the grittiest who’ve surprised us in the past. Because as sure as eggs is eggs, skateboarding’s best have been labeled as such not because they brought us surprises when we ain’t got none, but because they continue to surprise us by finding new ways to surprise themselves—day in and day out.
So let’s raise our cups to skateboarding—to its new friends and its old familiars—and take just one drink to always finding ways to shock and awe. And then let’s raise our cups again and take one more drink to real skateboarding being real surprising.
What a beautiful buzz.
Thanks to Bernie McGinn for his visual contribution to this week’s post.
To see more photos or to buy prints of Bernie’s photographs, visit Debris.