Instagram has already made tremendous impact on the way we see and consume skateboarding – it's even changed sessions and the way people skate. And with Instagram's announcement of 60sec videos and video channels in explore this may only be the tip of the iceberg.
The Green Zine's Daryl Mersom has written up a few of his thoughts for us, looking for a position. Let us know what you think.
Words: Daryl Mersom | Illustration: Greg Conroy
Growing up in the pre-Fully Flared world it was universally acknowledged that to get sponsored you had to film a sponsor-me tape. You would go out with a dodgy Argos camera and stack footage in local car parks and at grass gaps – no one watching this tape would ever appreciate how bad the run up was at the nearest five stair. At my school, there were always rumours that some small town hero was sending his tape to the nearest shop, or even to Blueprint. We would spend hours of our empty pre-internet time speculating about it all.
»You can now be internet famous!«
But skating has changed a lot over the past ten years. Social media and increasing camera phone quality have rendered the sponsor-me tape practically obsolete. You can now be internet famous (as Jerry Hsu’s Instagram moniker knowingly mocks).
For the Instagram savvy, skateboarding has become mimetic. Tricks, phrases, and in-jokes travel around the blogosphere in a matter of hours. For example, #lastdaysoflove returns 2,305 posts, and when Tom Knox posted this great “Dad Life" clip, my feed was clogged full of reposts for the rest of the day.
»The once out of favour “trick" is having its five minutes of fame«
One specific example of a trick thankful for Instagram is the body varial. The once out of favour “trick" (there was a time when jumping on your board without popping wasn’t even considered worthy of that label, think back to the strict Berrics rules) is having its five minutes of fame. Some of my favourites include this half cab flip body varial and this front shuv body varial, both filmed at the Bryggeriet anti-gravity training centre, and this ollie body varial at Lloyds in Bristol.
And skate scenes are blowing up, all down to the productivity of the locals. When I interviewed Soy Panday for The Green Zine, he told me that he was hyped on the Parisien scene and where the youth have been taking it. The fresh, avant-garde moves of The Blobys typify the new wave of quick cut, 15 seconds IG editing. Repetition, slow motion, and flatground are all hallmarks of the edits. This even made its mark on current full-length productions such as Converse's "#Pleasecharge" or the new Polar vid's Paris section.
In his recent Thrasher interview Guy Mariano suggests that Instagram has democratized skateboarding. He says that Instagram is “a great tool" for the up and coming skateboarder, and that it particularly helps those from under-appreciated scenes, who might not have been discovered otherwise.
»You could argue it devalues the content but it depends on what you want«
Stefani told me that “Instagram has been great for the female skate scene because it has allowed everyone to connect with each other and has also shown that there are actually a lots of female skaters out there. I think one reason for the growth of the scene is that, whereas generally females lack representation in skateboarding, we can now represent ourselves through this platform." The hope is that “other girls may see my account or someone else’s and be inspired to skate too."
She added that, “it has allowed me to show exactly what I want and how I am, and not what a brand thinks is relevant or what other people deem to be cool or acceptable in skateboarding. I feel that people can relate to it."
Discussing social media in the aforementioned Thrasher interview, Guy Mariano lamented our waning attention spans: “I think there’s a way you could do good commercials with quality filmers for good brands and post them on social media. Because the fact of the matter is a lot of people just view skateboarding from their phone now, and I don’t know if some people have the attention span anymore to get through some of these full-length parts. It’s sad."
Gregory Conroy, whose artwork can be found at seriousadultuk, tells me that our waning attention spans can in fact work to the advantage of the cartoonist. “You could argue it devalues the content but it depends on what you want to create and how important you feel what you’re doing is. I like drawing cartoons about flippant subjects in skateboarding, so a phone app that lets you flick through pictures and photos for some instant mindless pleasure is perfect for me."
»Imagine Jake Harris had spent all day on his smart phone«
He did however point out the pitfalls of Instagram by reference to Vase. “Imagine if Jake Harris had spent all day on his smart phone and instead of the Isle video, we just had a series of really good clips coming out daily from the Isle account? It wouldn’t have the same impact and you wouldn’t care about the company as much, as it would get lost in the deluge."
Whilst I agree that in general our attention spans are decreasing, I do not think that this is necessarily a bad thing. Edits are becoming more concise and, hopefully, I will not have to sit through any more grass skating interludes from local scene videos. What’s more, the fact that I read and discussed Mariano’s interview with Stefani and others suggests that there will always be an audience for in-depth interviews and full-length videos like Vase. And if we get all self-reflexive on this, the fact that you have read this further endorses my point.
In 2016 we choose who and what we follow, and so everyone is getting a chance at being noticed. If the body varial can be saved from obscurity this year, then I back Instagram, and look forward to the return of freestyle and downhill skating in 15 second bursts.