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.
To be fair, if we are indeed going to account for All the Gall, we should consider the bright but brief blowtorch of a career from Alex ‘Trainwreck’ Gall (no relation to Fred). It won’t take long, for his legacy was built on the weight of just 2 full parts. With such a strong impact made so quickly, only to disappear so completely, Trainwreck’s career path has become the archetype of the explode then vanish what-ever-happened-to skater.
As awesome of a nickname as he posses, Alex Gall didn’t earn it from his aggressive skateboarding or monumental slams. He got literally hit by a train as a child. His skating wasn’t on any radars at all as he grew up and he emerged fully formed as a ball of destruction in his Jamie Thomas produced Wheels of Fortune part in 411 #39 from 2000. He went pro for Zero not too long after, but quit the team while on a trip to New York, thusly never having that Zero part you swore he did.
Fred Gall doesn’t really seem to worry about the past too much. He is celebrated because his friends and fans celebrate him, not because he is a self-promoter. Even in the midsts of his present comeback (which feels like a beautifully collaborative happening with his New Jersey crew), Fred seems more interested in shining light on the spots he is skating than himself.
And so, until the next part comes, we end this fantastic voyage of Freddy. I saved the 2013 Thrasher retrospective, Dirts Win, for this final post. It’s a very solid celebration of the career of Fred up to that point and even features a few never-before seen tricks and angles. Plus Brian Wenning chilling on the stoop in sweatpants. I asked Fred who made this video and he told me, “Dude. I think Brennan [Conroy] might have made that cuz I don’t know who else would have.”
With Habitat reunited to Alien Workshop and rebuilding on the backs of SOTY Silas Baxter-Neal and SOTY contender Mark Suciu, Freddy found himself relatively out of the spotlight for an extended period of years here. He might have been down, but he certainly wasn’t out. Habitat released boards with his name on them here and there, but he was seemingly being transferred to unspoken ‘Legacy’ status, where the respect is high but the pay is low. “I got bummed out, too, because Habitat, when it got sold and all that shit happened I kinda lost my place, you know what I mean. I was like ‘Fuck, I gotta get a job now.’“
Fred Gall and friends (specifically Joe Dorsi) started Domestics as a skate shop at some point in the early years of the 21st century in Carteret, New Jersey. Finding more success with making clothing (and not properly zoned for clothing production at the shop), it eventually moved to a warehouse where it continues churning out screenprinted shirts and hand-sewn jackets, bags, and other soft goods to this day, made right here in the US of A; Including the Fred Gall Signature Lightweight Work Pants. They also make pandemic face masks. In 2013, they released a little Fred Gall promo part. It’s pretty badass.
It’s got some all-time Freddy moments in there like the kickflip backside noseblunt to backside revert, a dump truck into a dump truck, and a heavy gap into bank ollie in front of a dozen mesmerized Cambodians. And I bet you missed that crustition fakie kickflip.