I’m convinced that the internet and it’s constant flow of clips have ruined the way we enjoy skateboarding, but being a web editor myself puts me in a bit of a paradoxical situation. I can’t legitimately defend such a point of view when I’m posting 5 videos a day. This is why I’ve tried to assume a slightly more balanced position, and believe me it wasn’t easy. I guess at least it’s a good way of covering my ass, I don’t want every skateboarder who reads this to think I’m a part of what’s diluting our culture, otherwise I’ll get beaten up next time I go to South Bank.
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about this topic is the frustrating feeling of slowly scrolling down Hella Clips and and asking yourself what the hell you are supposed to click on. Why does it have to be so painful? All you want to do is watch some new and interesting skating, so how do you somehow always end up staring at an American twat teaching you how to yo flip in tights? You are probably wondering why I’m complaining about the fact that every single day I get to choose from 50 new skate clips. Indeed I love watching skate videos, I should be hyped. Sadly for a certain number of reasons, which I’ll go on to explain, it’s quite the opposite.
The first problem is that a lot of skaters feel drowned by the amount of skate-related media produced everyday and I can’t blame them, it really desensitises us. Not that long ago, when people were still buying DVDs or VHS tapes, if you were lucky enough to own a good one, you would watch it everyday for months, spend hours analysing each skater’s style. Every time you would see that one flatground trick you particularly like it would send chills down your spine, making it suddenly unbearable for you to stay in your sofa, filling you with a sudden urge to go outside and play with your favorite toy. There is a reason why we don’t get that sort of feeling anymore; we are spoilt. Everyday we are introduced to too many new skaters, styles, spots, to take it all in properly. It’s undeniably harder to appreciate the little things in skateboarding such as a nice flick or a good push when you are watching yet another guy you have never heard of switchflip back nose blunt a californian picknick table. Sure you can be entertained by the difficulty of the manoeuvre, you might even think it looks good, but it’s so far-removed from what you experience with your skateboard on a daily basis it’s hard to truly appreciate it. Maybe, it’s easier to get hyped from skateboarding when you can relate to it?
The internet has also changed the rules of the game. It’s now so easy to count how many people click on something that companies use this number to judge if what they are putting out is good or not. For many of them, the bigger the “buzz” means the better the clip. Ten years ago the only people who could give you a career in skateboarding were the skaters who ran the magazines and chose to run your photos and the board companies who chose to turn you pro. The internet has changed this all. Many will say it’s fairer now and to a certain extent they are right; it’s a lot more democratic. Thanks to social media it’s only a matter of days before an unknown ripper gets sponsored when his part gets a lot of views. The problem is that most of the time nobody knows (or cares) who clicks on something. This means that although I quite like the idea that the kids from my local skatepark are helping Madars Apse make a living from skateboarding by sharing his parts on facebook, I’m not so stoked that someone like my aunt could be helping this stuntman’s career by sending his circus act around in a group email. That’s not the worst part though. Throw a bit of advertising into the mix and that’s when things take whole new proportions. Views become financially quantifiable and the fight for clicks become ruthless. Companies will do whatever it takes to get those clicks and usually that implies posting the most “extreme” or technically difficult clip they can get. In turn focusing the attention more on the athletic aspects of skateboarding and marginalising the creativity of people involved in its artistic side, the ones that actually care about the way it looks.
It still takes at least 3 years to make a proper full length skate video and that’s one thing that’ll probably never change. On the other hand, pretty much everything else about them has. These days if you decide to watch a video, it’ll take you 10 minutes to download it, half an hour to watch it and two minutes to figure out which one you want to watch next. Isn’t there something wrong here? I’m not even going to go into how long it takes for you to forget all about it. The fact that the internet makes everything available instantly means that companies have to churn out videos as regularly as they can if they want to stay relevant. Trying to produce more videos in a shorter amount of time will inevitably have a devastating impact on quality: nobody will want to “waste” time perfecting the video’s aesthetic. Filtering footage becomes irrelevant: it’s so difficult to film anything in such tight time constraints that it would be stupid to take tricks out and with kids watching your every move, you can’t afford to seem unproductive. You can also forget about deadlines being pushed back and this implies that a lot of the time the pros you actually want to see (the ones that aren’t robots) end up not having parts in the full video. The worst thing about this new trend, is that what I have described above only applies to an elite of companies, the ones that still bother putting out full length videos in a time when it so much easier to release a lifeless 3 minute part from some boring super-am every month.
What’s wrong with isolated parts? Well that depends on what you want to get out of a skate video. An isolated part is practically an evaluation of how technically good, stylish and tasteful a skater is. Personally when I watch a skate-video, I’m hoping for a little more, otherwise I’d just look at this. I want it to transport me, I want to have an idea (even if it’s an illusion) of what it’s like to skate with them and I want to be able to compare how the different team riders approach the same spots. In the VHS days it was so annoying to fast forward parts that you would often end up watching the ones you initially disliked. For those of you who didn’t skate back then, it may sound like torture but it’s quite the opposite. Very often is takes a few viewings to appreciate the subtleties of certain styles, and more than once I’ve found myself being stoked on a guy I used to find stinking. These sort of guys don’t stand a chance on Hellaclips, most people would just close the window after 30 seconds of watching a skater they aren’t backing.
On the bright side, I can’t see how things could get much worse, we’ve pretty much hit rock bottom. Most of the people who truly appreciate skateboarding and its culture will try and do whatever they can to make the most of this crappy situation. People who want to keep up to date with current skateboarding are realising that a filtering process is vital. Without it, appreciating the legit skateboarding that makes it’s way onto the web is practically impossible. This is exactly why a number of core websites run by skateboarders for skateboarders have been popping up over the past few years. Sites like Liveskateboardmedia, Quartersnacks or Grey, whose targeted audiences may differ, yet ultimately share the same goal; sharing their interpretation of skateboarding while filtering out what’s poisoning it. The people behind these site love skateboarding as much as we at Kingpin do and that’s exactly why you can count on all of us to continue supporting whoever we think is bringing something refreshing and positive to our culture.