A Fragmentary History of Skateboarding Videos – Chapter 5 - Video Days vs. Just Skating

Chapter 5 – Video Days vs. Just Skating

Fragment 27

In the first chapter of this series, I said of Mark Gonzales’ part in Blind’s Video Days [1991] that it was “usually seen” as the climax of a certain type of “apparently aimless street skating”.

Fragment 28

By “usually seen” I meant usually seen today. Remarks about the part’s “freedom”, or how it is “pure skating” abound. Judged in the light of today’s idea of what a video part should be, this one seems like an anomaly, like there’s no form to it. However, back in 91, there were some continuities that would’ve been easier to spot.

Fragment 29

As suggested in the first chapter, Mark Gonzales in Video Days is the heir of Lance Mountain in the Bones Brigade Video Show, but also of Tommy Guerrero in Public Domain or Ban This. If anything, Gonzales’ part from 91 has more single tricks, tricks that are harder or more elaborate and is more “apparently aimless” than his predecessors’. Yes, emphasis on “apparently”.

Fragment 30

Someone on youtube commented that this part had introduced him to the idea of “lines” in skate videos. That’s usually how people talk about skate videos today. In terms of “lines” and “single tricks”. Either you film a trick, or you film a series of tricks in one take, and that’s called a “line”. I think this part and its relation with the Lance Mountain and Tommy Guerrero parts I mentioned are useful to introduce a third category, a third way of describing video parts, which I’m going to call, for lack of a better idea: “just skating”.

Fragment 31

“Lines” vs. “just skating”. In a line, however long, the viewer gets the feeling that he has seen the whole thing, that there’s a beginning, middle and end to it and that it was somehow planned or choreographed. Maybe we see the skater stepping onto his board, and then off at the end. Maybe the framing suggests some moments (the more impressive tricks) are more important than others. There are lots of ways in which we can get that choreography feeling. The same for the “just skating” feeling. Only when you feel that someone is “just skating” in a video, it’s like there’s no beginning and no end, like we’re watching a random slice of an endless process, which began way before we started watching and will end, well, never.

Fragment 32

In Gonz’s part, even though there are some famous single tricks, like the Royal Oak (1.03) and Wallenberg (2.24) ollies, and there may be a lot of stuff that was planned or choreographed, nothing feels that way. There’s not one single time when you can see him land a trick, step off the board and look to the camera like “I’m done”. There’s no beginning: you first catch sight of him mid-push; and no end: there are scenes cut mid-trick (like the halfcab at 3.03), or when he’s setting up for one (you can see him start to crouch at 4.56), or after a push that tells us that he’s still going (several examples).

Fragment 33

Although Gonz has more technical stuff going on than Lance Mountain and Tommy Guerrero had in the 80s, more flipping and spinning into and out of stuff, more single tricks on big features (long rails, kinked rails, big gaps), which presumably took more than one try to land, the feeling we get that he’s just skating is just as strong. The editing plays the main part: scenes segue into each other with no beginnings and no ends, like we’ve seen above. There’s no noticeable crescendo in difficulty or impressiveness of tricks. Missed attempts are shown after the one he landed. Plus the soundtrack, which is also rambling, aimless, free. Coltrane is associated with the beginnings of “free jazz” and played at a time when improvisation was considered to be the soul of the genre. Even the girl at the close of the part is improvising. “That’s all, folks, goodbye. And this is from...?”

Fragment 34

PS: Other people whose skating has lent itself particularly well to “just skating” moments: Natas Kaupas, Julien Stranger, Keith Hufnagel, Omar Salazar, Ben Gore, Dave Abair, Brandon Westgate... I’m sure you can think of others.

By Sebastião Belfort Cerqueira

Sign Up for our Newsletter

Join the Trucks and Fins community and receive exclusive news, giveaways, access to subscribers-only-contests, discounts from our partners and much more directly from us!