If you’ve followed this blog or known me, you know I’m an advocate for social justice.  I have long wondered if I should talk about racism in action sports, but that’s a tricky one because some sports are more diverse than others.  There are programs like Burton’s Chill Foundation and Black Girls Surf addressing the inequality, but the industry as a whole, like the majority of America and the rest of the world, has remained mum about systemic racism, notably the unjust killing of Black individuals by police.  Until now.

Even though #BlackoutTuesday was mostly an act of performative allyship, it’s a step.  Non-Black athletes who have never brought up race posted a black square in solidarity.  The message did get lost when Black athletes posted the square too.  We should be hearing from them.

X Games recognized this need to amplify Black voices, and they doubled down on Instagram after getting criticisms for their support of the Black Lives Matter movement with quotes from their Black competitors.  The boldest was this quote from skater Ishod Wair:

This country is so disgustingly and blatantly racist. The vale [sic] has been pulled for the world to see once again that the system never meant to protect us. Failing to put rules in place to stop the madness not even acknowledging the serious issue at hand. If we don’t come together things won’t change.”

X Games have since gone back to their regular programming, but maybe we’ll see a bit more diversity in the athletes featured and invited.

Another skater they quoted was Nyjah Huston, who went out to protest.

 

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WE WONT BE UNHEARD!! JUSTICE IS A MUST😤

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Nyjah has also talked about being 1/4 Black yet raised in a Rastafarian household and what that has meant in terms of identity. Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve debated whether I wanted to bring up COVID-19 on this blog.  However, I am connected to the medical community (I’m just on the non-human side of things), and I felt it would be irresponsible not to speak up.  I have been disappointed in the lackadaisical response to the pandemic by some members’ of the action sports community in the U.S.

Although local governments have started reopening measures, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to grow.  If you look at the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, which compares cases within the U.S. and with other countries, the U.S.’s number of confirmed cases per 100,000 people (dark green) is still trending upwards.  We have yet to truly “flatten the curve”.

Even though most action sports athletes are young and healthy, there are those who have survived battles against severe illnesses and may not have as strong of an immune system.  Heck, asthma will increase your chances of being more affected by COVID-19 since it attacks the respiratory systems.  Then there’s the older legends of the sports, and family members who may not be as healthy.  Over 1.5 million people have died from the virus in the U.S.  We don’t need to lose more.

I recognize that the spirit of action sports revolves around risk taking, but as many professionals will maintain, it’s a calculated risk.  It’s fine to go surf, skate, or ride, but it’s unwise to hang out with your crew afterwards. Surfline did a feature about how some areas were more successful in maintaining social distance and how closing beaches didn’t solve the issue. A lot of it is personal responsibility.

 

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Cody Thompson offers great advice for anyone catching waves.

This weekend, my Instagram has been filled with announcements of skatepark opening and videos of private gatherings.  I know parks can insist on temperature checks and reduced capacity like my workplace, but I worry about how these rules are going to be enforced. That’s been hard to do at my job, which is an essential operation (in terms of how we have very expensive things and organisms that need to be maintained). Conversely, this may reduce the crowding on sidewalks and in neighborhoods because everyone wanted to get a bit of fresh air while sheltering in place.

I take issues with private gatherings when pros start coming and going to each other’s houses. That defeats the purpose of the quarantine. You don’t know if your friends have COVID-19 unless y’all were tested so y’all may be spreading it. As I mentioned above, just because our local governments have started to relax certain rules doesn’t mean the virus has started to go away. Think about why events are still being cancelled rather than operating with 25% the amount of people (or doing what my mom suggested and filming without an audience for TV).  There’s a risk with gathering in groups, and corporations don’t want that burden. We as individuals should consider the same.

I don’t want to be a party pooper, especially since action sports athletes have done a lot of good in raising money or handing out masks for those in need. I know the culture likes to rebel and reject authority, but this virus has had devastating effects. Our sessions and parties can wait, and we can get creative with on-line content. Please stay safe and do the right thing.

The CW series In the Dark recently kicked off its second season, and I remember trying to figure out where I had seen one of its actors, Casey Deidrick.  The most likely answer would be on Days of Our Lives or Teen Wolf, but a quick search brought up the fact that he used to be an amateur skateboarder who competed in Vans contests and appeared in Transworld Skateboarding.  In interviews, Casey mentioned switching from a skate career to acting because of the injuries.  Although I could not find the Transworld spread, there’s this video of him on Youtube.  He also has a clip on him tre flipping on Instagram, showing that he still has it.

Casey isn’t the only skater with past action sports aspirations.  Austin Amelio was on the flow team for Osiris and appeared skating through the city he was named after in The Devil’s Toy.  After gigs in short films, music videos, and commercials, he landed the role of a lifetime in The Walking Dead as Dwight.  Nowadays he remains busy on the spin-off series Fear the Walking Dead, but he still finds time to skate and even made a film with Volcom spoofing his celebrity status (no skating in it though).


Austin was photographed by Drew Pickell for a feature in PUREFILTH Magazine about the skate scene in Austin, Texas.

Fans of another cult series, Strangers Things, might recall the punk girl with a fabulous afro named Mick in season 2.  She’s played by Gabrielle Maiden, who was the first black female competitive snowboarder ten years ago.  Snowboarding was a hobby that happened to give her new experiences and some success, but Gabby has said that her dream was always to become an actress.  Her recent work include Showtime TV series SMILF and horror anthology Scare Package. When she’s not acting, modeling, or playing the ukulele, she does occasionally snowboard and skate.


Gabby Maiden placed 5th in the Snowboarding Rail Jam at the 4th Annual Supergirl Jam.  Photo by Jason Lewis (L.A. Sentinel)

Of course, it would be remiss of me to not mention the original action sports athlete-turned-actor, Jason Lee.  After a stint as a pro skateboarder in the late 80s and early 90s, he got his big break in the movie Mallrats.  He’s a two-time Golden Globe nominee for My Name Is Earl and currently voices Charlie in the cartoon We Bear Bears.  Jason has also put on several photography exhibitions.  He still skates, having recently shared a video of a double line with his son on Instagram, and remains “co-captain” of Stereo Skateboards, which he founded with Chris “Dune” Pastras in 1992.

Oh yeah, did I mention that Jason was inducted in the Skateboarding Hall of Fame of 2019?

Dear Grosso,

I know you don’t start Loveletters to Skateboarding this way, and you’d probably make fun of me for being so formal.  You were never one for frills or euphemisms. Skateboarding is full of hard slams, and you definitely had your share, physically and figuratively.  Very few people can say they went to the “School of Hard Knocks” on Facebook without sounding like a poser, but you definitely went there (and maybe got held back a year or two).

For a while, I didn’t know about your career.  You were just some weird announcer guy who also made Youtube videos.  Those videos though had intriguing content, and pretty soon I realized the wealth of knowledge you held.  I learned about the skate scenes in my town and my grandfather’s homeland.  I learned about all the well-known skaters without the sanitization of mainstream media.  I learned what it meant to be a real skater.

As for your announcing, again your unapologetically raw approach brought energy and a realness—”color commentary” indeed.  I saw the rapport you had with skaters, particularly the women.  In supporting them, I felt like you’re supporting me… even though you’d probably call me a bunch of names I don’t generally approve of for chickening out of certain moves.  Tough love is still love.

Thank you for everything you’ve done for skateboarding.  You were a ripper even after the “end” of your pro career. While your official role might have shifted from pro to commentator and mentor, you were always a skater. Except when you became a father. I’m sharing the “Father and Sons” episode of Loveletters because I think it best embodies you, father and skater.

Ride in Peace Jeff Grosso
April 28, 1968 – March 31, 2020
 

In addition to being the final day of competition, Sunday was Marvel Day.  As that was advertised beforehand, the cosplayer in me couldn’t resist tossing in my Loki horns made by Korov Creations.  I got interviewed by the Marvel booth, but maybe I was a little too much since I didn’t make the montage.   Oh well, I still got a free keychain.

My Moto X Seatgrab pass was also an invite to a special walk-through of the flattrack course, featuring Lance Coury.  It’s amazing how hard the staff worked to remove all the jumps overnight.
day4_4595 Read the rest of this entry »

My goal was to finish this before X Games Aspen 2020, but that didn’t quite happen.  Better late than never, right?  The trade-off is that you get a ton of photos because I was present at X Games Minneapolis almost all of Saturday and got great seats for some of the comps.

Saturday was Women’s Day, and I wanted to show my support for the female BMX riders boycotting X Games due to the lack of a competition.

I’ll make a different post about their fight, but my little form of protest actually led to me making a new friend.  So my plan kinda worked in that it brought women together in support of other women, yay!

BMX Park

  • The riders kinda had it tough because no one was pre-qualified, and the finals immediately followed the semifinals.  Everyone did well, but only half the field could proceed.
  • Larry Edgar blasted through the course, as expected, but he didn’t get the scores to move on.  We saw him go to the stands to watch the rest of the contest.
  • Two guys I was unfamiliar with, Jose Torres and Rim Nakamura, definitely impressed me.  Rim especially was on fire!
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  • Logan Martin definitely had his eyes on the repeat win.  He was solid all the way through, and now he’s the first BMX Park rider to get consecutive golds. Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve been neglecting this blog, but the X Games Twitter‘s year-end recap reminded me that I never did my recap of Minneapolis (i.e. I was slacking on photo editing).  As we near 2020, I’m making plans to start posting again.  Let’s consider it one of my resolutions.

Anyway, for 2019, X Games Minneapolis changed its ticketing format.  That led to additional passes being required for Thursday, which meant I missed out on the vert events and Moto-X Step-Up.  I was bummed since I liked watching those.  On the plus side, I did run into silver medalist Bryce Hudson while browsing X Fest on Friday.
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Another change was the scheduling so I also had Friday morning free to explore Minneapolis.  X Fest was open all day and had a bunch of things to do outside of watching the competitions.  However, that’s what we’re focused on so let’s get to it.
Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve been listening to The Monday M.A.S.S. podcast, and in a recent episode, the hosts Chris Coté and Todd Richards discussed the mandatory helmet rule for under-18 competitors in Olympics-sanctioned park and street skateboarding events.   Based on what I saw in the X Games Shanghai replays, X Games doesn’t have such a rule.  World Skate, however, does, and last year, Jagger Eaton was disqualified as a result of the head of delegation of the Brazilian Federation of Skateboarding filing a complaint.

There’s a lot to unpack with that particular incident, especially as Jagger’s DQ allowed Brailian skater Murilo Peres to advance to the finals.  The idea of filing complaints fuels the criticisms of skateboarding’s inclusion into the Olympics.  There’s bureaucracy, regulation, and competitivenessthings directly in opposition to skating’s free-wheeling, anti-establishment rules.  I’m not sure the complaint was filed out of concern for Jagger’s safety but rather a seizing of the opportunity to advance.  Not exactly cool.

However, safety is something to consider.  The brain is still developing in adolescents, and although helmets don’t prevent brain injury, they at least protect the skull, which in turn protects the brain and also doesn’t finish growing until adulthood.  Last year, a pilot study was published in Frontiers in Neurology that revealed adolescent mice with a mild brain injury don’t suffer worse effects from a subsequent injury.  Their skulls do get changed, which could be a means of protection from future injuries or a consequence of development being altered.  There isn’t a clear answer, and this is just one study.  Also, note that they specified “mild” TBI.

Skateboarding is going to reach a broader audience with the Olympics.  Not everyone is going to have someone to teach them how to fall properly or access to skateparks where you don’t have to worry about cars and random obstacles (I mean, I used the back of the couch as a balance beam after watching gymnasts in the 1996 Olympics).  It’s better for the competitive skaters to set an example for young kids whose development may be impacted by injuries to the skull and brain until we obtain more information the consequences of early TBI.

References
McColl, Thomas J et al. “Mild Traumatic Brain Injury in Adolescent Mice Alters Skull Bone Properties to Influence a Subsequent Brain Impact at Adulthood: A Pilot Study.” Frontiers in neurology vol. 9 372. 25 May. 2018, doi:10.3389/fneur.2018.00372

Before I kick off my overdue X Games Aspen recap, I would like to congratulate Frank Bourgeois, William Demers, and Charles Demers on their Real Snow 2019 victory.  I also want to link this cool article about inclusion in the X Games.  It leaves out queer representation, which is still mostly just Gus Kenworthy, but their musical host Hannah Rad is openly LGBT and had a prominent role in the TV broadcast.

Best Female Athlete – Kelly Sildaru (Ski)
This year, the teenage ski sensation proved to be a triple threat.  Not only did Kelly Sildaru qualify for all three events, but she earned a complete set of medals this weekend. 

Best Male Athlete – Daniel Bodin (Snowmobile)

Daniel Bodin is no stranger to the X Games podium, but it’s been a hot minute since he got a medal in Freestyle.  The odds were against him, as he was dealing with an injury.  However, he fought hard and got that gold.

Read the rest of this entry »

While watching the stream of the Burton U.S. Open, I was getting very frustrated at the misogynistic trolls in the chat.  Then during one of the breaks, there was a beacon of hope.  I learned that for as long as women have been competing in the U.S. Open, they have had equal prize money.

Unfortunately, as common as this is in snowboarding, it’s not the norm.  From tennis to hockey to even skateboarding, there is a gender wage gap.  Hell the World Cup women’s soccer champions earned far less than their lower-ranked male counterparts.  Donna Carpenter, co-C.E.O. of Burton Snowboards, said that equal pay was an obvious choice, and so I decided to recognize the efforts of her and the company to elevate women in snowboarding.

This isn’t the first time Burton has come up in a Feminism in Action (Sports) post.  The company has sponsored many female riders and made sure that equal energy is put into promoting them.  The company has outreach programs, and Donna even participated in the Global Sports Mentoring Program.

A lot of discourse on sexism in sports focuses on ability of the athletes and harassment, but the business side is just as important.  Both Donna and Jake Burton Carpenter (obviously a great feminist himself, seeing as how he took her last name and worked with her to build his company) admitted that Burton wasn’t immune to the pitfalls of patriarchy.  Over a decade ago, they noticed that less than 10% of company leadership was female.  It reflected in their content, as their Love line of boards featuring photos of nearly-nude women drew lots of criticism.

After talking to employees of all genders, Jake kicked off the Burton Snowboards Women’s Initiatives in 2003.  Then a year later, Donna started the Burton’s Women’s Leadership Initiative to tackle issues women face in their careers, like finding resources for childcare, biased hiring processes, and lack of mentors.  Currently 45% of upper management at Burton is female.
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There’s nothing wrong with pin-ups on boards, but snowboards featuring iconic women like Salt ‘n’ Pepa in a non-objectifying manner are a much more welcoming sight.  This was created in 2014 and designed by JesseHectic. 

Even if they don’t explicitly use the word “feminism”, Burton’s blog affirms a mission to uplift women around the world. They even paid for employees who wanted to travel to the 2017 Women’s March on Washington.

Burton Snowboards wouldn’t be what it is without Donna Carpenter, and the company truly demonstrates words and actions that are feminist.

Check out some inspiring interviews with Donna:
REI – “Burton CEO Donna Carpenter Prioritizes Gender Equity On and Off the Slopes”
The Inertia – “Burton’s Donna Carpenter Is Changing the World”
Conscious Company Media podcast