The traditional career trajectory of the professional skateboarder has been long established. Since the inception of the industry model as it is now understood, the general skateboarding community is usually exposed to a new up and comer once they have been taken on by an established team and named an AM, the announcement usually taking the form of a print advertisement welcoming them to the team. Though in the last few years with the forced evolution of how the industry operates due to technological advancement amongst other factors the process of “coming up” in skateboarding has taken on an entirely different complexion. There is no one man that better exemplifies these changes than Forrest Edwards.
Edwards first entered into the public consciousness as a contestant in Slap’s now sadly defunct One in a Million contest. One in a Million was originally a yearly feature in Slap magazine’s print edition before becoming an Internet reality series of sorts once Slap made the move to an entirely online publication. It follows a group of amateur skateboarders who are brought to Slap’s home and skate mecca of San Francisco to compete for a position on some of big name skateboarding sponsors over the course of week. Forrest took part in the 2010 edition of the series and if you have not seen it I strongly suggest you sit back and enjoy every episode as they are not only a treat in terms of the quality of skateboarding on display but also the comedy inherent in every utterance out of Edwards’s mouth, from his claims to having go-to tricks that “aren’t gay” to his expounding of the merits of an all-fruit diet based on the success it has yielded for Andrew Reynolds.
Forrest captured the hearts of great swathes of the international skateboarding community through his execution of a number of pro-level never-been-done tricks down instantly recognisable skate spots and his total lack of concern with rubbing up pretty much everybody he crosses paths with the wrong way. Forrest went on to lose the contest (deservedly so, In my opinion) to lanky powerhouse John Fitzgerald who not too long ago released a fantastic introduction video for Alien Workshop. His frontside boardslide on a mammoth downward curving handrail is worthy of particular praise. Interestingly though, it was Forrest’s attitude rather than his skateboarding prowess that was appealed to has the reason for his being overlooked as winner. This in it’s self is a reflection on what one expects from a skateboarder in age where we are exposed to their personalities more and more through their use of social media, internet video interviews and the turn towards a greater deal of contextualising non-skate clips that have been so much more prevalent in skate videos over the course of the last decade or so.
Of course, all this discussion of Forrest’s performance in One in a Million is at this stage old news and though his ultimate defeat can be seen as curiously symptomatic of a change in what in what is expected in a professional skateboarder the real point of interest concerning Edwards and the shifting landscape of skateboarding is the last two years or so since the competition came to close. Since one in a million’s conclusion Forrest has released two video parts to widespread acclaim and that’s not even including the countless videos of him rifling off tricks down skatepark stair sets each of which amassing thousands more views than the equivalents on youtube featuring similarly unsponsored skaters.
Most notably off all though, one of Edward’s aforementioned parts was given a release through the Thrasher website guaranteeing it to be a talking point amongst the global skateboarding community and that is before one even considers the quality of the skating itself. In terms of name recognition and exposure Edwards is leagues ahead of plenty of rising young amateurs and in certain quarters he is definitely better known than many pros. The question is how can somebody of Edward’s calibre remain without a concrete board sponsor? A question that is at the forefront of everyone’s minds again this week with the release of a stand alone clip (once again on the Thrasher website) of Edwards switch kickflipping San Francisco’s famous Wallenberg four block.
Anything down Wallenberg, especially something switch, essentially secures a man’s position in the somewhat obscure notion of “skateboarding history”. Edwards is not alone in raising questions regarding what it now takes to be pro. Milton Martinez for example, a man that I know absolutely nothing about aside from his name, recently threw himself down another famed San Francisco obstacle, over the side of the clipper Hubba, and yet appears to have no real sponsorship deals despite the fact he has essentially one up-ed every pro that has ever been to that spot, of which there must be thousands.