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Vol. 4, No.1
By John Smythe
THE CLEANING UP OF A SKATE GUERILLA
Home of the unsung heroes, it's the other side of pool riding, the unadmitted and unspoken one. Where do all these swimming holes come from? How do you find them? How do you gain access? How do you escape when the going gets tough? Such are the realities of the oval-obsessed skate guerilla. A vanishing breed, perhaps, but a resourceful and perseverant one nevertheless. They are the frontiersmen of the sport/art, always pioneering new ways to skate even newer places.
The infamous Red Dog and Bull Dog are typical of the kind. Otherwise known as the Dog Brothers, these gents are among the elite vanguard of the pool-riding movement. Members of an elaborate communications network which stretches from border to border and coast to coast, the pair are continually exchanging information and locations with their numerous cohorts in bowl detection. The Brothers, over the years, have gone to incredible lengths to locate the paramount skate riding environments. They made numerous trips to the Hall of Records and to the Department of Building and Safety to obtain much needed blueprints and diagrams. Another time, Bull Dog and an unnamed female accomplice posed as a house-hunting married couple, and were taken on a tour of pool-riding mecca by a Palm Springs real estate agent. The salesman thought Bull Dog a bit eccentric to insist on testing all of the pools for stress by using a 27-inch board with wheels on it, but he realized that a gentleman with such exacting standards was the ideal customer.
Then there were the three days Red Dog spent aerial charting and photographing all of the basing (in conceivable traveling distance) from an Aero-Rents helicopter. (Red Dog had worked out a rather exotic trade with the copter's pilot.) Of course, for sheer bravado, who could forget their memorable exploits at a high-security federal government pipeline project. In this episode, the Dog Brothers, armed with only dime-store variety tin sheriff's badges, obtained access to the site on the pretense that "they were undercover agents" on patrol to keep out the skaters who had been assaulting the project's cylindrical surfaces. The Brothers, not being the sorts to let a good thing die, managed to keep up the charade for fourteen days. Red Dog, feeling exceptionally pleased and confident, felt no threat as the fellow wearing the Ban-Lon sports shirt with button-down collar and wingtipped shoes approached, carrying a walkie-talkie. Probably another surveyor, he reckoned. Unfortunately, he reasoned incorrectly, for the person in question turned out to be the real undercover agent assigned to skate patrol. Red Dog and Bull Dog, being very personable types, managed to talk their way out of certain confinement, but they still had to turn in their badges.
Some time after this encounter, Bull Dog mentioned to his partner that perhaps they should both find a new line of work. Brushes with the law had been commonplace; it was just that now the law knew who they were. The jig was up; the Dog Brothers figured that they had pushed it further than they should. While the last time had been cool, the next time definitely wouldn't be.
Taking inventory, Red Dog wondered what they would do with their completely restored war surplus German command car. The unit was equipped with police band, citizens band and short-wave radios, quadraflex tape player, auxiliary night lights, power generator, complete wardrobe changes, and their most prized possession-a high capacity silent-running portable water pump. Bull Dog commented that considering their vast experience at emptying out pools, and since they already owned the uniforms emblazoned with the Pinnacle Pool Maintenance insignia, that perhaps they should go street legal.
Currently, the Dog Brothers can be found conscientiously working the pools on their appointed rounds. Being experts in their field, they frequently advise their clients to let the now-drained pool dry out a few days longer before replastering. Red Dog says that he missed the old days, since now they must work so hard. "Some days we have to ride three or four pools." Bull Dog advises that "the money ain't bad."
THE FUTURE IS NOW
While the Dog Brothers and others like them indulge in the laissez-faire style of skating, others labor to "clean up the sport." Now everyone digs a truly clean scene, but there exists much confusion as to exactly who is doing what, and for what reasons. The future being now, maybe everyone ought to wake up and get on it. We've all got a stake in skating, and the better the sport/art as a whole does, the better everyone does. Whether you skate for pay or play, it's all interrelated and interdependent. At present, in certain quarters of the skate phenomenon confusion, greed and dishonesty threaten to displace the essential essence of skating itself. . .enjoyment.
The proliferation of conflicting and competing governing organizations seems to be strangling the skating community in their struggle for power. How many organizations do you really need? How many do you really want? While some undoubtedly strive to improve the lot of the skater, others' motives are open to question. With similar names and similar claims, yet with different intentions, it is at this time impossible to figure out. It's becoming a question of which side you are on, yet the unwilling player/participant is unable to discern the nature of the games.
If people desire to form an association, that's fine; the problem is that many of these outfits drag the skater into needless unwanted political head trips. A typical way is by forcing the rider into dealing (joining) with them in order to skate competitively. In the contest sphere, there are so many differing and often opposing governing bodies, each with its own rules, sanctions, approvals, judging "systems", awards, rankings, classifications, professional and amateur distinctions, equipment guidelines, protocol mandates, etc., ad nauseum, that the individual skater finds himself alienated and excluded from the very same factions which are presumably acting for him. People have got to start asking who some of these rulemakers are, and whom they answer to.
STRANGE GOINGS ON IN
Promoters who desire to get in on some quick action initiate their own supervisory group, which in turn sanctions its originators' various scams. Contests, magazines, television package deals, motion picture enterprises, and commercial endorsements are their most common areas of involvement in their not so subliminal seduction, the promoter often wines, dines and shines the skater. One continues to wonder if each successive enterprise will turn out to be another "eevil" soggy rocket snake shot.
The antics of these shuck and jive masters are quite humorous (if you ignore their more sinister implications). Consider the case of the promotional czar who, in public, adamantly advocates the use of protective gear (a good move, for sure), yet in private eats it at 35 plus, without helmet or pads. Another interesting fellow, who was backed by an impressive array of establishment approvals, claimed to be an emissary from the Magic Kingdom. He recruited an assortment of big-name skaters to appear in his feature-length film, a TV show, and special appearances. This gent rapidly became the darling of many until someone had the foresight to question his credentials. Everyone at Disneyland was queried, and no one from the head mouse to Tinkerbell had ever heard of the guy.
While we're at it, let's not forget the man with the applause meter in one hand and the sixteen-page contracts in the other. Or how about the boy from the Big Apple with his big talk and his low pay (less than union scale)? Each of them tell you that their truth will set you free, but the only constant truth is, fifteen will get you twenty. Can this be the law of the excluded middle, or is it only the sound of no hands clapping?
The dealers have given us so many current world, international, interplanetary, national, multi-continental champions, that rational thought precludes the possibility that they all are residents of this Earth. Things have gotten so shockingly bizarre that, as rumor has it, a certain governing group is going to stage the qualifications for its heavy duty championships at a remote location thousands of miles from any major continental U.S. population center. If that isn't strange enough, no one seems to know how to qualify for these qualifications.
The continual media barrage of skateboarding material remains astounding. An abundance of diverse quality pieces frequently appear in both print and film. On occasion, the perpetrators of these works seem concerned only with getting the job done as swiftly and cheaply as possible. In print, the objectivity levels can be particularly low. Sensationalism appears to be many tabloids' rule, but if you want to really read about skateboarding, you go to a skating periodical, not to some chickenhawk journal or women's skin rag.
The greatest potential public exposure of the sport/art undoubtedly lies in television. The medium of the present, it offers widespread, easily accessible, instant communications. TV coverage, at present, leans toward flat-land freestyle contests that visually are little changed from the 60s' documentations of the Anaheim Championships. Besides the occasional skate stuntmen who are "bonged" on the Gong Show, there have been little diversions on the old cathode ray tube. Bank, pool and cylinder action is reportedly in the works and should completely restructure the thinking processes of the general video public.
Properly directed, television has the inherent capabilities to revolutionize competition as we know it today. Record the meet's action with multiple cameras on video tape and then replay it. The participants could also become the judges by reviewing the tape. Collective judging and video analysis would lead to fewer disputes and a greater common understanding. A commercial TV production of such a process (i.e., skating, filming and reviewing) could have wide-based public appeal. The public's awareness of skateboarding's finer points would be vastly improved by such an undertaking.
The future offers a kaleidoscope of opportunities. The possibilities of quality equipment and combinations of the same are nearly limitless, and things will only get better. The progressive skatepark operations have begun to approximate more advanced riding terrains. Banks, pools, pipes and such will shortly be widely available. The further the skaters push it, the further the enterprising park operator must go as a matter of economics. More radical moves require more radical parks. The great thing about skating is that you can do it anytime and anywhere. So take it wherever you find it, and work the hell out of it. Second best isn't fun at all. If you can't be bad, be good. Your galactic tomorrow are on the line now, so do it up right.