Team bloat is a real thing. Even once small, independent brands, should they be fortunate enough to taste real success and grow into global legitimacy, quickly face rosters that can expand unruly in size. Positive trends towards diverse teams that appeal to diverse demographics, not to mention international riders, can swell professional and paid amateur head counts to impractical levels.
Many young skaters learning the craft in the early 1990s, like myself, had a ‘crew’ consisting of every skater in every high school in not only my town but all the neighboring towns. For me and the baggy-pantsed brethren this meant there were maybe 8 or so of us, not including the random dabblers and sit-boys. We would take turns purchasing the latest skate video on VHS and then, connecting two VCRs, record personal copies (usually in EP mode so you could fit a whole bunch onto one blank tape).
Some of the crew would make friends with some kids from New Haven or Hartford or New York and the extended network of spot access and skate gossip would steadily grow. As luck would have it, eventually the network included someone who was getting pretty ensconced in the national skate scene as a filmer, thus gaining for himself entry to insider events like video premieres and even invitations to California. From this connection we procured, sometime in the summer of 1996, a bootleg copy of Welcome to Hell.
As discussed previously and will surely be brought up again, Transworld Skateboarding was on quite tear there in the years surrounding the turn of the century. Releasing at least a video every year, often two, sometimes even three, and all of purchase-worthy quality. John Holland, Ty Evans, Greg Hunt, and Ewan Bowman were locked in pretty tight through this time and a lot of future legends had a chance to build their legacies in the new digitally recorded video format. While these videos may have started as simply the video documentation of the tricks being photographed for interviews and contents pages, their importance in the preservation of skate heritage has, in most cases, surpassed the (now scanned) printed page.
These videos aren’t perfect. The mumbling intros are lucky to be forgotten. The insistence on using Atiba’s puttering attempts at electronic music for the closing credits is a continually wasted opportunity. The overenthusiastic editing and slow-motion can be a bit dated. But there is so much right about these videos it is easy to not concern oneself with these trifles. And take a look the VHS releases the competition was trying to sell around this time: Do you remember who skated in the Thrasher’s Go For Broke video? Neither do I.
It is just so easy to lose hours or even days going down the internet rabbit hole in the name of research. Looking for that long lost skate graphic or trying to confirm who filmed that clip. And with the bottomless skate video machine that is the internet, you can believe that for every word I’ve typed here at least ten minutes was wasted consuming ephemeral content in the name of skate history.
But occasionally our meandering minds stumble upon pure fucking gold and one wonders how such a shiny piece of treasure has been hidden all these years. Such is the case with Fred Gall‘s part in the 2009 Frontside Skate Shop video Pasado Presente Futuro.
As far as I can tell, Frontside uploaded this video to Vimeo within a year of its release over a decade ago and (as of this writing) it has only been viewed 2085 times. And at least 20 of those are me! For a comparison, the Nine Club Experience episode where Freddy facetimes in for a few minutes has been viewed over 36 thousand times in just 2 years.
Now, this part isn’t just throwaway excess from some trip to South America. In addition to what I assume are clips of Fred skating spots that are local to the shop and some demos, this part is chock full of never before seen US of A footage, some dating from all the way back in 2003. There’s Pyramid Ledges footage here and wallride variations from that Mosaic opener spot. So how did a skateshop in Medellin, Colombia get all this gold?
Fred recalls: “My boy Hector from Colombia started a skate shop there. And my boy Don La from Jersey is Colombian, so that’s where that connection came. And then Hector came and stayed with us, and then me an Tim O’ where like ‘yo we gotta go to Colombia and skate.’ So we went to Colombia. We paid for ourselves. And we were like, holy shit, this place it rad. And we went back a little while later to do a Slap article. So that’s how that came about. We had Brennan [Conroy, Habitat videographer] with us. So that shit should have made it somewhere but I guess it didn’t.”
Snooping around on Instagram, it became clear that Frontside is a force in South American skateboarding and has been a regular stop for Freddy, the Habitat team, and lots of other professionals for a while now. A side note that Frontside, despite being from his hometown, does not seem to have any association with David Gonzales.
Pasado Presente Futuro video gives us a lot of the Freddy you didn’t know you needed until just now. Freddy ollies from the wall into the Brooklyn Banks again, but now that fence is there and it is filmed long lens. Freddy bombs into traffic switch. Freddy with the stalefish grab at a demo. Freddy switch frontside 180ing into a wallride down steps. The only filmed Fred Gall nollie 360flip in existence. Freddy skating to Kool Keith and Ultramagnetic MCs. And then this:
Pasado Presente Futuro is a gift for us Freddy fanatics. I hope you enjoy it as much as I continue to. If you find yourself in Colombia, tell Hector “Gracias” from us here in the Warm Up Zone.
Bonus Fred: You can watch the Freddy and Friends Frontside part in higher quality on Instagram here. Interesting to note that with the help of Google translate it seems while the release of the Frontside video was 2009, most of this footage was filmed in 2004. Here is a picture of when Fred Gall, practicante de skate, was in a Colombian newspaper in 2004:
Bonus Bonus Fred: I was going to delve into the whole moving-bus-wallride thing here, as that also went down in 2009, but let’s save that for next time. In the meanwhile, here is a picture (again from the Frontside IG) of Freddy holding a jar of Juan Valdez coffee wearing a Rodeo Time hat and a Hewlett-Packard parody shirt that says “Son of a Bitch”.
A standard feature of the skate video full length since the early 1990s is the montage or “Friends” section. Usually a song in length, we get treated to an assortment of tricks from skaters not featured elsewhere in the video and rarely even on the team in a pro/am sense. It is a highlight reel of geographic pals, sister-company associates, flow international team riders, and otherwise unclaimed ‘other’ tricks that went down during the filming sessions.
While occasionally refreshing and at random times containing a surprise banger, these parts are easy to forget. There are, however, exceptions.
For your consideration, the NYC montage from Transworld Skateboarding‘s 1997 Greatest Hits video (itself basically a 35 minute montage of montages). Note: Greatest Hits was the title of TWS’s 3rd video (4th is you count Dreams of Children) featuring all new footage and not a greatest hits video in the typical use of the word.
Filmed mostly by Ryan Gee (I assume), I’m looking back at these clips through a lens 20 years thick and thinking this part does a surprisingly satisfying job of encapsulating NYC skating in the mid 1990s. All the more unusual being produced by a magazine that is staunchly SoCal.
The spots, the skaters, the sounds, the grit, and the crowded, cavernous feel of skating in a pre-skate stopped (and pre-9/11) Manhattan… Huf is popping, Keenan is alive and well, Puleo is doing a variation of the cellar door thing, the Banks are covered end-to-end, and Quim is at his most Quiminess. Some tricks from obscure-only-if-you-weren’t-there legends like Chris Keefe, Ryan Hickey, and Peter Bici give the part a little more authenticity. Now, if only Transworld had sprung for a Mobb Deep track.
I also miss back when it was ok to put the skaters name on screen. Why did everyone stop doing that?