The Rise of the Young Amateur & Nocturnal Emissions (Special Report)
Written by Evan Shieflebine – Comic by Beardo (same guy)
Right now I am watching a thirty eight year old man just outside this fenced in skate park as he yells. He’s belting directions over the shoulders of several youngsters as a soccer ball bounces between scrimmages out on a field that lies just outside this fenced in skate park, at the city’s local athletic epicenter. Trust me, I get it, I am not gonna go off on this guy who is yelling at children. Team sports are great, as well as mentors with useful knowledge for any given sport, but let’s be honest, there’s some solid humor to be found in grown adults growing short of breath while yelling “shoot, shoot!…SHOOT!!!” You would imagine that the days of having to listen to such coaching techniques would be long gone since so much of skating exists in the chaos of the streets, but thanks to the large amount of skate parks built inside community athletic centers these days, this occurrence ain’t all that rare. And while the mental chuckles about all this huffing begin to quiet down, a thought occurs; no wonder so many individuals opt for the coach free road of skateboarding. I mean with skating you may have to absorb the usual taunts of your crew, but dealing with your friend’s dad demanding you stick a kickflip just isn’t happening. If it is, seek help and do so quickly.
Just as noticeable as the screaming coach, is the current generation of talented amateur boarders that are choosing to bust out nice on board. But where the coaches banter strikes those within earshot in a similar fashion to nails on a chalk board, this new generation of amateurs is an impressive delight. Like they say how Mozart is to babies’ brains, or something like that. From Public Domain to Fulfill the Dream and on, amateurs have always pushed skateboarding and the expectations of what is possible on board. A new defining aspect of the current next-generation is the fact that they have compressed the contents of the past and are taking all genres of skateboarding and incorporated them into their hefty bags of tricks. Which is rad, but actually quite disturbing to Useless Wooden Toys fans like myself.
This new generation is not bound to busting nice on just rails, only benches, or strictly bowls. They are displaying a respect for a skill set that reaches beyond one style of terrain, and that reaches to master a wide set of terrain and trick choice. Dudes like Jay Adams and Guy Mariano are examples of AMs that pushed skating in a way that set the standard for up-and-comers that would follow. They even set new standards for that era’s pros! All the way up to Sean Malto, the expectations of the AM is to continue the quick evolution of skateboarding…. which is no small task, friendos. And although AMs have always faced the challenge of excelling above the expectations of their given era, our current skateboard culture has produced a generation of amateur skateboarders who appreciate a more broad and historical perspective, and do so with never before seen levels of versatility. Welcome to the amateur discussion nerd-fest. It only gets nerdier from here on-in so watch your step and look out for falling Ron Knigge references.
The existence of talented up-and-comers is not anything new, right? Okay. A solid example of mind blowing talent from the past can be found in Pat Duffy’s explosive moves in Plan B’s Questionable video. Not only does Pat push the current comprehension of handrail possibilities, but he also demonstrates a mastery of technical tricks as well as total comfort while in transitions. And while comparing Duffy to the new boarders on the block it should be noted that his level of talent and innovation cannot really be compared to any skateboarding because he furthered skateboarding long before skateboarding caught up to him. But it should also be noted that it’s pretty goddamn nuts to see Duffy’s innovations becoming common practice among many sixteen year-olds skating your local park as we speak.
One interesting element of the new talent in skateboarding comes by way of trick choice in today’s skate world. Not all tricks are totally going to be embraced (no pressure flips just yet people) but you’ve got to admit that there is a new freedom in skate culture as far a trick choice is concerned. Now the Gonz is not the only one utilizing tricks of a forgotten age, but dudes of the now like Silas Baxter-Neal (not to be confused with Noob Saibot) and Bobby Worrest can be seen doing switch three sixty flips and no-complies within the same line. All these new applications of past tricks by influential riders, create a new directional effect. Where youngsters of the mid nineties may have spent their days toiling on small picnic tables to mimic the moves of Eric Pupecki, as yours truly did, this new generation has grown up watching Twenty Shot Sequence, Mislead Youth, and Yeah Right… and Welcome to Hell, Video Days, even Snuff. All of these historical productions that have acted as individual milestones throughout the past, are now collected together as ingredients in a delicious beefy stew of possibilities. An increasing trend of creativity has taken hold over the past several years and it has caused up-and-comers to appreciate all eras and genres of boarding, not just a single hot sub-category, like the hubba craze years ago. Talent has been around in AMs for a long time. Ever seen Guy Mariano’s part in Video Days? The difference between then and now is that skateboarding has matured in multiple areas up to this point, and it seems for the time being, it will reflect on the past, before pushing further into the future.
The ever decreasing age of AMs demands a bit of attention as well. While AMs today are not drastically younger than young rippers of the past like Guy Mariano, Daniel Castillo, or even Jason Dill, they are dealing with larger career options than any of the aforementioned dudes did in their formative years. Now skate companies are not the only organizations looking to do business with young rippers. Now energy drinks, cosmetic products, and various large brand names are becoming a common face at the dinner table of skateboarding. So not only do young riders deal with the pressure of excelling with their physical abilities, they also are in need of managers and even lawyers. As the skateboard evolves so does the industry and now young adults are faced with larger financial opportunities and outside influences.
The good ol’ Internet has done a wonderful job of contributing to the young boarder’s progression with various links that update by the minute and, of course, Youtube. Anybody that has a mind to do so can access Andy Stone’s SNUFF part and Marc Johnson’s Seven Steps to Heaven part within a few seconds. Then they can watch Rodney Mullen and Jeremy Klein followed by Coco Santiago. Along with the brain melting amounts of past archives, new documentation pops up in mass amounts daily. The combination of the internet’s magic ability to present the past and present allows this generation to see evolution as it happened – without having to experience the slow process. They’re not seeing the dude with a beer belly at the park aimlessly attempt late shuvits off the bump. They’re able to see Sean Sheffey when he blew minds with that oh-so-late shuv at the Back to the City contest more than fifteen years ago. Seeing tricks done in their era of creation immediately presents the trick with its original spirit and excitement. With that factor there are tricks that are dug out of the dirt, and brought back for new applications.
Don’t forget about the surge of public parks over the past decade, either. For a decent amount of time one’s only hopes for skating transitions of any kind were limited to those oh so shameless worship-fueled skate parks. When this was the case, skating existed almost only in the streets. But when public parks became a necessity to so many urban and suburban areas the day to day session habits changed. All of the sudden sessioning pyramids and spines became a common activity at the local park. And just like the delicious stew of multiple classic videos, these locals parks, though far from ideal, allow riders the option to not only hit the “euro-gap”, but to attack a hubba before charging the bowl. Still bugging on Gino’s part in Trilogy? Go hit the bank to ledge. Bugging on Jimmy Greco’s part in Misled Youth? Get hubba proficient. You get the idea. The roll of the amateur remains about the same as it always has but the game has changed, as they say.
The influential contributions of the current pros, the internet, and the availability of influential videos does not do it all though. There will always be the adults charging out of the quarter pipe with hopes of catching maximum air and landing from their flight at a total dead-stop. There will always be the kids that are influenced by those oh-so infamous quarter-pipe to flat deck chargers. And how have kids been so set on the individuals ability to execute the “900″, or the “dark-slide”? Clearly video games have not given the masses, and the enthusiastic new-comers, a realistic approach to the aesthetic forms of skating.
And that is why the new generations of true-skaters are always exciting to see. Yeah, I know, a true skater is anyone that is riding a board and digging it, but you know the type that we’re classifying here. There are always new faces coming into the community of amateurs and professionals, and usually there are a handful that have taken up the burden of pushing themselves to master the standards placed in front of them. The current AM is exciting to watch because the demands of skate culture at the present are extremely high. And what results in the mastering of the current demands of skateboarding is a teenager that has mastered a timeline of tricks that span further back in years than their date of birth. Skateboarding, as an aesthetic practice is young itself, and what appears to be taking place now, is a clear point of the art’s maturity. While so many pros banged shins and rolled ankles through many years of progressive growing pains, they have pushed to place skateboarding at the impressive level where it currently sits. I think skateboarding’s voice is starting to crack.