And so it was that in the year 2022 we witnessed the return on Frederick J Gall.
Over the 30 years since his skate video debut in 1991, through the streets of Philly, on magazine covers, through destroyed rooms in Spain, in burning buildings in Cambodia, on moving buses in Thailand, and back home in Jersey, Freddy somehow survived. As his cohorts dropped out of skateboarding’s gaze and the signature decks became less frequent and the hours got filled with day job tasks, Freddy just kept pouring concrete and riding.
Then, on July 29th, Spiritual Healing dropped. Fred full-on delivered.
Thrash metal legends Megadeth, condiment staple Kikkoman soy sauce, children’s television powerhouse Mr. Rogers, action movie blockbuster Terminator 2, cult cartoon Rick & Morty… these disparate cultural items come together as a sampling of the official collaborations of Primitive Skateboards. And they are just the tip of the iceberg.
Sailor Moon, Tupac Shakur, Dragon Ball Z, Corona Beer, Marvel Comics, Anna Nicole, Biggie Smalls, Naruto Shippuden, Sri Racha, Transformers… it appears no intellectual property is off limits for P-Rod and Co.
Despite the fact that all skate videos are, in a way, specialized music videos, it is still a risky proposition to attempt to make an actual skate music video. The most obvious precedent that comes to mind is Peter Smolik‘s ill-advised music video part featuring The Fedaralz in Shorty’s Guilty video. While not exactly career ending, it certainly is an embarrassing marker for the upcoming rugged descent that continues to scrape the real life pillage of rock bottom. The lesson is clear: Skate to the music, edit to the music, but don’t put the band in your part.
My opinions about post-Drehobl Think Skateboards have been discussed here on the Warm Up Zone before. I believe I called them a ‘minor league team’ where future talent got some swings in before moving on to The Show and others toiled for years in obscurity. By the time the second decade of the present century came around, Think was pretty far from the mind of most skate deck consumers. Their final contribution to their skate video legacy didn’t hit with a lot of impact.
For 2012’s Business As Usual, the team is a veritable who’s who of “I didn’t know they rode for Think”. Josh Matthew’s opened it solid enough, perpetually overlooked Adrian Williams delivered what could be considered an SF classic part, and pre-toothpicked Cody Mac and Russ Milligan and Bachinsky were all there. And then, of course, Danny Fuenzalida, who had been pro for Think for at least 13 years by this point if you can believe that. Unfortunately, young Joey Guevara and Kevin Coakley had yet to join the team. And Brian De La Torre had departed for greener pastures a few months prior. Interesting footnote, though not relevant to this video, Manny Santiago was also on Think as late as 2011.
But if you only see one part from Business As Usual, make sure it’s that of Canadian closer Lee Yankou.
The Foundation Super Company skateboarding brand, with over 25 years and 12 videos under their belts, once again found itself in serious rebuilding mode in the second half of the 2010s. Several years removed from the WTF! video, half the team had bounced or been dropped, and apparently Tod Swank didn’t really seem interested in utilizing tenured rider Corey ‘Duffman’ Duffel as the cornerstone of the latest iteration of the team. Could the big F, under the tutelage of TM Mike Sinclair, rise from the ashes yet another time?
It happens sadly not enough, but every so often, that you will encounter something that, even as it is happening, is glorious and memorable. It might not be a life altering there-was-before-and-there-was-after thing (then again it might), but it is a piece of something that will be with you forever and you understand this even while it is unfolding right before you.
It can be an incredible meal or a day of river swimming or an art exhibition or a film or a skate session or even just a song. But you get just a quarter of the way through and it just know that this could be IT. But will it sustain? Will it deliver on the promise it has set up thus far? The longer it continues the higher the potential for things to go awry but the greater the joy when it doesn’t crack. Each step further can transport us even deeper; Or will the next step be a misstep? But it doesn’t collapse into something merely impressive. The magic preserves and when it is over you know you just participated in, if merely through witnessing, something sublime.
While 1990 may have been the year that street style skateboarding eclipsed vert in progression and relevance, and 1992 may have seen boards gets symmetrical while tricks got big and dangerous, but, by my analysis, 1994 was the year it all came together. Raw East Coast skating started to get is proper documentation with Dan Wolfe’s Eastern Exposure 2 and Sub Zero videos. Over in Southern California, heavy skate parts like Kris Markovich in Prime’s Fight Fire With Fire and new-to-Plan B Jeremy Wray in Second Hand Smoke added significant nails to the slow-rolling-prayer-flip-to-curb-grind-combo coffin. But arguably the video that made the biggest impact in skateboarding during that significant year was Stereo’s A Visual Sound.
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.
A celebrated legacy can be a real weight for a skateboarding board brand. Sure, it may sell a bunch of logo boards and provide a lot of material to dig into for possible reissues. But it can be a real anchor around the neck of your current riders. Or perhaps more of an invisibility cloak.
No matter how good you skate and how much charisma you exude, people’s memories of the brand are locked into some golden years and golden teams of the rose colored past. You’re likely to be judged that much harder for having the audacity to think your name belongs among the hallowed firmament.
It’s easy, and usually totally appropriate, to celebrate the good in somebody once they are gone. In death, we remember their best qualities and finest moments. We can speculate on the great things that were to come but now won’t happen without having to face the reality that most of our heroes shine much less brightly through their second and third acts. It is safe to say that, while an early demise is always tragic, some legacies clearly benefit from ending before they can be diluted.
Keith Hufnagel‘s recent death after a private battle with brain cancer that lasted several years requires no selective retrospective. His life, his interactions, and his career(s) were simply all good. Unlike others in the skate-sphere who have passed away, where we have to choose to ignore some of their less savory moments and celebrate their skills and contributions in skateboarding while looking away from their less admirable sides, or having to face the question that if they had somehow altered a couple of decisions they would still be with us. There is none of that. Huf ruled on and off the board.