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A few days ago, Activision released an update for the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2. Although I haven’t had the chance to enjoy the game, I’ve been thinking about how the remaster has changed in ways that the skateboarding community—and the world—has changed. You can see it in the new skaters added to the roster: there are more women and POC, and we have the first non-binary skater, Leo Baker, who was able to work with the game developers to change their name. None of these additions are tokens either; they’re all some of the best.

Tony Hawk himself epitomized the more socially aware attitude in announcing that the mute grab will be renamed for its pioneer, who was deaf and not mute. As he indicated in his post, he listened to advocate/skater Darrin de la O and decided the game would be a great platform for change. Tony could have started using “Weddle grab” while announcing for a contest, but aside from X Games, they don’t have the reach that THPS does. Plus, the game allows for repetition on a level that can’t be replicated in real life skate commentary.

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For nearly 40 years, we’ve shamelessly referred to this trick as the “mute” air/grab. Here is the backstory: around 1981, a deaf skater and Colton skatepark local named Chris Weddle was a prominent amateur on the competition circuit. The “Indy” air had just been created & named so somebody proposed that grabbing with the front hand should be known as the “Tracker” air. Others countered that Chris was the first to do, so it should be named after him. They referred to him as the “quiet, mute guy.” So it became known as the mute air, and we all went along with it in our naive youth. In recent years a few people have reached out to Chris (who still skates) about this trick and the name it was given. He has been very gracious in his response but it is obvious that a different name would have honored his legacy, as he is deaf but not lacking speech. I asked him last year as I was diving into trick origins and he said he would have rather named it the “deaf” or “Weddle” grab if given the choice. His exact quote to me was “I am deaf, not mute.” So as we embark on the upcoming @tonyhawkthegame demo release, some of you might notice a trick name change: The Weddle Grab. It’s going to be challenging to break the habit of saying the old name but I think Chris deserves the recognition. Thanks to @darrick_delao for being a great advocate to the deaf community in action sports, and for being the catalyst in this renaming process. I told Chris tecently and his reply was “I’m so stoked!” And then he shot this photo in celebration yesterday. 📷: @yousta_storytellers_club

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Change, however, doesn’t have to be followed by ceremony, and sometimes it can even be unconscious. Brian David Gilbert of Polygon noticed that THPS2‘s skate park creator had an element with a horrifying history: the “pungee pit” (also punji pit).

Although the developers might not have known how this type of trap was banned by the UN’s Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, nobody in the revision process or in the game reviews called out the problematic history. It took 20 years and a vlogger known for deep dives into video games to make the connection. Nevertheless, the remake doesn’t have the pungee pit so maybe somebody realized the implications. Or maybe developers decided that it was unnecessary and we just happen to benefit from no longer joking about war.

The success of the remaster has shown that changes to be more accepting and less harmful (even unintentionally) doesn’t make you less cool. It’s something that skateboarding is starting to realize, and while terminology and video games are small potatoes compared to economic inequality or the violence towards marginalized groups, every step towards progress counts. Hopefully we continue to see these little changes (maybe the next two terms to changed are the ones Skate Like a Girl’s Youth Advisory Board proposed below), and they’re build an even better community.

Quarantine has allowed me a little bit of time to finally edit and upload my photos, and I found some from the 2018 Skate 4 Life event, specifically the bowl contest.  It was a charity event hosted by 4DWN and Crosseyed Skates (a Christian skate ministry) to raise money for a family affected by suicide.  I didn’t get to stay for the whole competition or catch names of skaters, but it was rad seeing different divisions for assorted age groups and skills.  Check out some below:

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Click here for more photos. 4DWN has been remodeling currently, but check out photos from past events there, including a couple shots I grabbed from the 2019 Zumiez Best Foot Forward finals.

Last Tuesday was International Nonbinary Day, and it reminded me of the multiple tags I got on the news of Leo Baker being the first enby skater in the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater video game series.

Of course, that was old news to me since the announcements of new additions to the THPS1 and 2 remaster came a bit earlier in the skateboarding world, and I had realized the significance of Leo’s inclusion (notably THPS had a queer skater in its original line-up, Elissa Steamer).  Queer identity in skateboarding has always been downplayed— at least before Brian Anderson’s coming out.  Therefore, I’m glad Leo is talking about their early struggles in being enby, and mainstream queer media is highlighting the significance.   Seeing Leo in the game is really going to empower a lot of kids, who are nonbinary or just don’t conform to rigid gender roles.

More recently, I saw some friends share an article from Black Enterprise about the first and only Black woman-owned skateboarding company, Proper Gnar.  Artist and skater Latosha Stone started the company in response to the lack of designs specifically for women and the lack of sponsorship women still face in skating.  Her boards and apparel are unapologetically feminine and Black.

Photo from The Daily Quirk

Proper Gnar has gained recent popularity in being featured in the HBO skate show, Betty.  They’ve also gotten a shout-out on Beyonce’s Black Parade Directory of Black Owned Businesses.  It’s rad seeing skateboarding making strides to be more inclusive even if it’s up to people like Latosha to take matters into their own hands.  Hopefully I’ll continue to have more Facebook Findings supporting queer and POC athletes and creators.

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. (more…)

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.
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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. (more…)

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.
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