Words: Danny Wilson
In keeping with one of grandest traditions in skateboarding, November marked the announcement of Thrasher magazine’s Skater of the Year (henceforth to be referred to as SOTY). For a culture that so often appeals to its supposed outsider, anti-competitive roots the SOTY award has become established as perhaps the only award in skateboarding that really matters in any real sense or at least the only award that guarantees the recipient a position in “skate history” alongside former winners and golden gods John Cardiel, Mike Carroll, Eric Koston and so on.
Though one really has to consider if the award’s position within skateboarding is down to its prestigious nature in and of its self or simply a reflection of the success of those that have previously won it. Essentially every “legend” of modern skateboarding has won skater of the year at the peak of their powers (glaring exceptions to this rule: Jamie Thomas and Chad “The Muska” Muska) but over the course of the last few years debate has arisen surrounding what the award has now come to mean as the role of skateboard magazines themselves has evolved with the skateboard culture’s transition into the digital age and the rise of so-called “solo parts” being release online.
At this point it’s probably best to draw attention to the absurdity of this argument in itself as the SOTY has never been awarded based on public opinion or any real discernible logic but on the whims of Jake Phelps, Thrasher’s editor in chief. Phelps has always been skateboarding’s Marmite, a traditional Nor-Cal based punk type who has over the course of his 50 years on earth and good 30 years “in skateboarding” managed to rub up pretty much every member of the skateboarding community the wrong way at some point (see attached Jake Phelps Epicly Later’d).
Phelps bashing though is in essence a fool’s errand as, love him or hate him, the man for all intents and purposes is Thrasher magazine, or perhaps it is better to say he encapsulates Thrasher the “brand”. With his decision to award this year’s SOTY to Flip sponsored , Colombian born metal-head David (pronounced “DaVeeeeed”) Gonzalez, one cannot help but question whether the decision was informed purely by Gonzalez’s achievements on board over the last 12 months or by his easy association with Thrasher’s branding.