bones brigade, documentary, dogtown and z-boys, gleaming the cube, indiana, jason jessee, lance mountain, mike mcgill, monkey island, muncie, ollie, powell & peralta, rob roskopp, rodney mullen, skateboarding, stacy peralta, steve caballero, street, ted talk, the search for animal chin, thrasher magazine, tommy guerrero, tony hawk, transworld magazine, vert, vision street wear
Skateboarding. When I was in middle school, I thought the people in that culture, with their stupid haircuts, talk of being “stoked” and Vision Street Wear gear, were worthy only of heckling and ridicule. But then, I saw a video showing what the professionals could do and I was mesmerized. The incredible air those guys got on those titanic ramps was otherworldly. The tricks they could do with their boards in a parking lot looked like wizardry. So, despite the efforts of my older brother and his friends, I took skating up. I will be the first to admit I was a total poseur. I dressed the part, clad in a Natas t-shirt wearing Vision shoes and skating on a Rob Roskopp or Jason Jessee deck with my subscription to TransWORLD magazine (I always liked it more than Thrasher), but I was really too scared to try anything remotely dangerous.
I was better suited in the armchair quarterback wing of that sport. My interest lasted basically my 8th grade year and then I moved on to binge drinking, the fruitless pursuit of girls and soccer like every good American teenage boy. But I never forgot those tricks those guys could pull of on that 2′ piece of compressed wood.
Flash forward to 2012 when I read about the new documentary skateboard pioneer Stacy Peralta was putting together about the Bones Brigade, a skating team which consisted of lots of different skaters, but primarily featured a virtual who’s who of early skating titans – Tony Hawk, Rodney Mullen, Steve Caballero, Tommy Guerrero, Mike McGill, and Lance Mountain. I was, to use the parlance of their times, stoked. These were the guys that I watched on the videos and saw in the magazines and were the people influential in getting me to somewhat attempt to skateboard. I never really knew their stories, how they became pro skaters and how the team evolved.
Of the skaters mentioned above, everyone knows Tony Hawk. He is without a doubt the face of pro skating and has been since I did it 26 years ago (can I really say that?). He is charismatic, as you might imagine, and really good at what he does – being the ambassador for pro skating. However, his story isn’t the most interesting. That belongs to freestyle skater Rodney Mullen, the true innovator of present-day street skating.
Mullen invented the non-vert, flatground ollie for fuck’s sake! It’s the most basic move in skateboarding and it all goes back to him. To say the man is a virtuoso is doing him a disservice. And his personal story is just crushing. He was picked up by Powell & Peralta as a pro-skater out of Florida when he was 15. His father disapproved, but it was the one thing that Rodney really loved, could put time into. And it was clear he was a class above everyone. He won EVERY competition he was in for years, 34 out of 35 to be exact. But his disapproving father thought he was wasting his time, even though he was the benchmark for an entire sport. Mullen was forced to quit, which caused him serious anxiety and depression. He went to college to study biomedical engineering, but eventually dropped that and went back to skating full-time and hasn’t stopped since. To hear him tell his tale about his overbearing father and the lack confidence his father had in what he was doing is gutting. To see someone so passionate about something and to have that taken away isn’t a fun watch. He tells his story in such an engaging way, though. You can tell this man is someone who you would love to just sit down and talk with about anything.
You can see how damn good this man is at what he does here:
He also has a TedTalk here which is, well, rad.
The camaraderie that this group of guys had is something that is terribly enviable. They had so much fun doing their thing, I think it should be the standard that everyone should set in finding what they want to do with their lives. Steve Caballero, at age 47, has never had a job outside of skateboarding. He started at 12. Not a bad run, eh? To see he and Lance Mountain break down as they describe what an unbelievable opportunity it was to be around guys like Hawk, Mulllen, McGill and Guerrero under the guidance of Peralta, who was more like a big brother than a boss, doing what they love(d) is pretty intense.
I really enjoyed this film. I took me back to when I used to skate in the mini-bowl (and I mean mini) at Monkey Island in Muncie, Indiana. Peralta seems to have found a groove with his documentaries. His first, Dogtown & Z Boys, chronicling a group of friends/surfers from Santa Monica, California and the origins of competitive skating is very good as well. Even if you didn’t grow watching these guys skate, there is a fantastic human element to this documentary. Give it whirl, you may be surprised.
Here’s the trailer:
This film is available for streaming through Netflix, Amazon and iTunes.
And for good measure, here is the silly ass movie, The Search for Animal Chin, the Bones Brigade made back in 1987:
Perhaps all of this will get you ripped to go out and get Gleaming the Cube back in print on DVD and maybe even blu-ray! (it is available to watch on YouTube, though)