For the intro of Plan B’s 1992 Questionable Video, Matt Hensley was more-or-less forced to ‘retire’ from professional skateboarding by revered showrunner Mike Ternasky. Apparently Matt was getting too old and wasn’t progressing enough. He was 23. Ternasky did the same thing to Sal Barbier the next year in Virtual Reality. Part of what prompted the launch of Girl skateboards was Mike Carroll’s fear that he might be told to retire next.
Back then professional skateboarding was a very young man’s game. Nowadays, we have the opposite problem. Few skaters definitively announce their retirement from professional skateboarding. Instead, they hang on to such life-preservers as the legend/reissue vortex, vanity company after vanity company, the “I stopped skating at a professional level long ago but still have my name on a board somehow ” limbo, or the old “board-royalties only” program. Nowadays, some pros aren’t even pro.
A pro skater’s mid thirties are where the line gets drawn. Like it or not, if we were to measure rails, count stairs, and tally-up improbable tech consistency, you will lose to the younger generation. You can cling to the professional purgatories mentioned above (go ahead and click those hyperlinks), you can join the literal handful (Heath, Scott Johnson, and -um- maybe Cario Foster) who actually went out with agency and dignity, you can have your board unceremoniously dropped without fanfare, or you can do like Leo and go out there and skate and make a great fucking skate part for your board sponsor.
Certainly Toy Machine’s Programming Injection wasn’t the best full-length skate video of the past year. Leo Romero’s part in that video part wasn’t the gnarliest, or the techest, or the most relevant of his career. Heck, it wasn’t even the gnarliest part of the video. It didn’t even get one of the 27 nomination slots in Transworld’s Best Video Part of 2019 online poll. But I watched it a lot when it came out a few months back, and I still enjoy watching it now as I write this.
Leo’s part was the sum of a lot of good things coming together to get the stoke flowing. Good trick selection, a decent song, not too much redundant footage, and a surprising discipline in the choice not to have cutaway shots of him playing acoustic guitar. Ed Templeton’s artworks and sarcastic word balloons, while being core of Toy Machine’s branding over these 25+ years, has definitely become a liability at this point.
Some of the joy is certainly derived from this part was that I was ready to count Leo out. He definitely could’ve coasted through this video with a few tricks in the montage section next to Billy Marks and Matt Bennett and we wouldn’t have been all the disappointed. He could’ve pulled a Janoski and cashed his signature shoe checks (admittedly not Nike-sized, but still) and maybe busted a slappy-crooks or something in the next Tum Yeto tour edit. But no. Leo locked into those rails straight up (none of the 90-10 shit), slammed onto his face while staring right at the camera, busted a line with two ‘uphill’ tricks, and still had enough in the tank to give us an ender worth talking about.
Looking at last years pick, I must acknowledge my own preferences for shorter, surprisingly catchy middle-of-the-video parts from regular-footers we didn’t expect much from. I clearly have a type.