Like the 411 commercials of old, ESPN’s annual round-up of Real Street skate parts are made to be forgotten. Not extreme enough for the mainstream X-Games home audience, not associated with Thrasher enough to count towards Skater of the Year, not long enough to be considered a full part, not core enough for skating’s core to care, library track music too generic to ever be mistaken for a classic track, and usually the whole minute disregarded out of hand.
Why would skateboarding’s top professionals dedicate precious footage towards such an ephemeral outlet? The prize money, of course. We’re talking an alleged $17,500 Disney dollars for first place, with a solid $2,500 just for entering. Worth a footage dump for sure.
Hidden within the Cobra Coles, Cole Wilsons (two time reigning X-Games Real Street Gold Medalist), and Jumpin Joslins of 2018’s competition we discover Bobby Worrest taking us on a trick filled tour of his previously killed hometown turf. Bobby charges the obstacles of Washington DC’s Freedom Plaza like General Casmir Pulaski charging against the British forces (look it up); But this is more than a one-spot-one-day gimmick.
“So our original idea was to do one long line that’s a minute long through Pulaski [Park],” tells filmer John Valenti. “We filmed our edit during peak summer and it was so hot and Bobby was trying the long, difficult line. It wound up being too much with the heat. We then realized it wouldn’t work after a couple of hours trying. So we settled on a different concept. We planned on starting on one end of the park and beginning each line where the last left off.”
The 6 lines in the part draw a definitive path on the map through the spot starting from the northwest corner and heading east. Ledges, stair sets, and an overturned plastic traffic barrier serve as anchors in the geography, connecting the end of one line to the beginning of the next. The obstacles’ matching spacial orientations gives continuity to the scenery.
It’s a video concept perfectly suited to such a storied skate spot as Pulaski Park. When we watch skate videos, we mostly get distorted images of single obstacles. And even the long-lens establishing shots rarely give us a perspective of the spot as a whole. Even the recent use of drone footage is more often than not disorienting and fails to convey a relatable skaters-eye-view of things. Most spots are legendary not for a single obstacle, but for the collection of great obstacles. While some attempts have been made to convey a larger sense of the landscape (Ricky Oyola’s real time narration of his line through Philadelphia’s City Hall from 411 #13 comes to mind), it is shocking that a concept as obvious as ‘linked lines’ hasn’t been put out there.
Of course, all this high-minded analysis gets us nowhere without the self-assured style of Bobby Worrest. Our familiarity with the image of Bobby skating Pulaski gives a casual confidence to all 17 tricks (I’m including the ollie onto the ledge). The switch pushes and planter ollie invoke the power, mirrored 360 flips over tipped obstacles conjure the Underworld Element nostalgia, and that backside lipslide just overflows with that Worrest nonchalance.
When Bobby kickflips over a handrail and rolls into Pennsylvania Avenue I find myself wishing he had taken a left turn before heading out of the park. Certainly a few more tricks and something on that out-ledge were to be had over towards the General Pulaski statue. But time had run out. John Valenti reveals, “The hardest part was squeezing all the lines together to make sure it was exactly one minute. I wound up filming the view finder from my camera and editing on it to see if we had enough or was over the time limit. We had to re-film two of the lines to get a couple of seconds shaved off.”
As far as I was aware (until some know-it-all on the SLAP Boards pointed out Dane Burman’s 2012 Volcom to the Team clip), Bobby Worrest and John Valenti have delivered the first topographically sequential skate part ever. The jaw dropping yet yawn inducing Miles Silvas One Stop part released 3 months before the Real Street drop similarly draws an unbroken line through the entire part, but the slant with that video is clearly the single unedited 5-minute take. With Silvas’ line in mind one can imagine how a single, relaxed, multi-minute line through Pulaski would feel when compared to what we got. For my money, one long lazy line doesn’t contend.
The constraints of summer heat and a time limit made Bobby’s part something different, something better. It is about a spot, but unlike Worrest’s previous single-spot part at Pulaski, this one places the obstacles within the context of one another. The opening curb hop and final pushes away from the camera place Pulaski Park within DC’s surrounding streets. The progression of tricks chart a path through the plaza and out into the city.
As more and more legendary American skate spots fall under the jackhammer of development and skateboarding intolerance, I find the video preservation of such things all the more crucial to our culture. How could a kid whom has never been to New York understand or appreciate the layout and connection of all the obstacles of the Brooklyn Banks? Is it possible to convey the utterly stupefying architectural layout that was Philly’s City Hall and Love Park being right next to each other? Is there any way for a video to communicate the thrill of skating from Hubba Hideout through EMB and over to Pier 7 in a matter of 3 minutes?
Perhaps not, but videos like Bobby’s Real Street get us as close as possible.