A Fragmentary History of Skateboarding Videos – Chapter 9 - Run Through the Jungle

Chapter 9 – Run Through the Jungle

Fragment 57

The ollie is not a trick.

Fragment 58

Especially not in the way Keith Hufnagel did them, as part of a continuous, natural motion, something that I’ve described as “just skating” in a previous chapter. The ollie can look stylish or kind of flashy, like the one they freeze over the car at 0.06, and it is also pretty tricky to learn, but it’s not a trick.

Fragment 59

We could call it a move. We could say that it is part of the basic language you have to learn before you can do tricks. To take the case of language, forming a sentence is just talking, making a pun is a trick. A pun can hardly sound natural, it’s a comment upon language, it means you’re thinking about it. When you’re just talking, most of the times style goes unnoticed and people tend to focus on what you’re saying, so that they can hand you the mustard or disagree with you. There’s a practical, useful-for-survival, natural aspect of language.

Fragment 60

Of course there’s no practical, useful-for-survival (maybe?), natural side to skateboarding or the ollie, but that’s what Keith Hufnagel makes it feel like in his Non-Fiction [1997] part and in others as well. His fast, long, high ollies in quick succession make it look like there’s such a thing as the skater-animal, for whom ollieing and turning and going over and under things is just something they have to do in order to survive in their particular habitat.

Fragment 61

In this light, slides, grinds, pole jams and wallrides aren’t tricks either. They’re means to the end of perpetually coming through. Like in Mark Gonzales’ Video Days part (the Gonz is also in Non-Fiction), here too there’s no beginning and no end. Huf is just skating, the scenes melt into each other and, as you see him go down a hill, ride on walls and ledges and jump over stuff, it’s like he’s part of that world. He’s not using the different architectural features as artificial props with a certain predetermined function but simply running into elements that are part of his path and to which he has to adapt.

Fragment 62

This video part always makes me think of that Creedence song, “Run Through the Jungle”. It would’ve been great for the soundtrack. Actually, the drum-based music they used is pretty jungle-y. Maybe they saw the same kind of wild animal I see in Huf’s skating.

Fragment 63

Of course Huf can do tricks. He does them. There are kickflips and treflips and others in this part. To come back to language, he does them like someone who makes a smart pun every now and then but mostly just fascinates you by how natural a speaker he is. Funny guys and class clowns come a dime a dozen, but a graceful speaker is hard to come by. The same goes for graceful writers. I can’t say I’m one of them, but I will say Huf’s skating, and particularly his ollie, were fucking eloquent.

By Sebastião Belfort Cerqueira

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