Words: Danny Wilson // more Gleaming The Cube
Everybody loves free stuff, right? And this month’s issue of Thrasher comes complete with a new full-length hair-chilling, spine raising creature feature from the ghouls at Creature skateboards. Unfortunately the latest issue has yet to materialize on the shores of our humble emerald isle, but on the bright side a David Gravette part made up of some pretty jaw-dropping outtake has already gone up online . Displaying his now renowned wanton disregard for his own personal well being Gravette steps to rails the likes of which only a select few even consider hoping on top of mixed through with some wild transition skills and the dork tricks that we all enjoy, it’s all pretty hairy.
Gravette of course has never been renowned for his brains – the snazzy Thrasher eyebrow tattoos he picked up on last year’s King of the Road are a testament to the fact he might not be one of those tender souls celebrated for their forethought, reflection or just cop on in general, but I was taken aback by a quote taken from his recent Thrasher interview “…[T]he amount of innocent things that are translated wrong through Instagram or Facebook… It’s annoying. There are people who know where you are when you don’t want them to know where you are. Add to that the fact that I’m being told by people that I’m blowing it and losing out on board royalties and shoe royalties because of not being on the stuff? That makes me sick. That, in skateboarding, you’re hurting yourself by choosing not to spend more time stuck behind a computer. That just doesn’t make sense. Just talk to a kid when you’re out skating, and they buy your board, you know? I’ll talk to anyone who comes up to me at a park, but I don’t want to get sucked into Facebook.” First things first, much obliged to the ever excellent Boil the Ocean for getting this fascinating tidbit out there to those of us haven’t had an opportunity to see the interview yet. Secondly, this is perhaps the most straightforward and damning report from the behind the curtain of pro-dom into the internet skateboarding discussion ether concerning the changing landscape of responsibilities outside of skating it’s self that has been hoisted on our current generation of amateurs and professionals alike.
It is no secret that skateboarding has been far from immune to the changes in what it means to be a “celebrity” or I suppose more a “public figure” of any kind brought on by social media in the last few years. Yet, this is the first time a skater has addressed the full extent to which these changes have brought on a shift in the expectations of industry insiders. Though the implication on Gravette’s part being that his sponsors are perhaps not party in applying this new pressure to appeal to skaters through his Instagram activity he certainly makes no bones about stating that that school of thought is gaining a considerable amount of steam behind the scenes of skateboarding as a whole. And with good reason, it is no secret that pros that are most popular amongst youngsters and teens, who lest we forget remain the largest and financially speaking most desirable demographic within skateboarding, are also some of the most active in terms of posting pictures of their venti frapuccinos or more than happy to satisfy desperate requests to “please RT”.
Some would describe this healthy suspicion of changes within the role of a pro-skater as technophobic. They’d argue that goal of any pro is to entertain their fan base and if the best means of doing this is to wholeheartedly engage with the social media that the general skateboarding population have so committed to of late then the onus is on the pro to do so. And of course they have a point, Twitter and particular Instagram amongst others has offered us all a new insight into the daily goings on within an industry that only a few years ago was shrouded in a mystique entirely impenetrable to those living anywhere that wouldn’t be considered an industry hub. The argument that this newfound exposure to the daily comings and goings of the average pro skater has some how cheapened the culture is perhaps a reflection of a good old days, grass is always greener mentality that is not just present in skating but any culture that evolves at such a fast rate and simply because you or I have no real interest in determining how #swag the lifestyle of our favorite pros is doesn’t mean that anybody else shouldn’t have the option of doing so if they so wish. This of course is all very well and good, different strokes for different folks but if Gravette is to be believed and there are pressures being applied by third parties to maintain a strong, personal online presence then we could all witnessing an extremely worrying mutation of what it means to be “pro” or at least what is required to become one.
In previous articles I’ve reflected to some degree on the changing role of the “Pro” as the abilities of the countless nameless skaters out there seems to be getting not too far removed from that of many long established pros and guys that would have previously been unknown due to their lack of brand backing are becoming big names off the back of independent online output. more so than ever skateboarding as a career is not just about skateboarding as an act. I guess that is just the nature of frame in any sphere now but statements like Gravette’s show that this re-evaluation of the parameters of expectation is potentially only going one way where potentially we will have people with their name’s on the bottom of boards simply because of their number of twitter followers. This day might not be too far off, especially when you consider the fact Baker skateboards has granted the insufferable Shane Heyl his own line of pro-boards. Heyl could even be understood as the first pro that’s not a pro in the traditional sense. Nobody is buying a Shane Heyl board off the back of his skating. It can be read a damning indictment of these changes in skateboarding that it was deemed financially sensible by those behind Baker to sell Heyl boards off the back of his gurning to camera and constant insistence on yelling faintly racist catchphrases to camera whenever the opportunity presents it’s self. Heyl is bordering on being our first sponsored meme, a harrowing vision of things to come.
Skateboarding as such a young culture is of course in a constant state of evolution and flux but if Gravette is to believed we are not far off a situation under which a skater would be more productive in terms of furthering their career sitting refreshing their Facebook page than if they spent that time skating. In order to avoid this situation it falls to skaters to support those that deserve their hard earned cash. The ball is in our court and it’s up to the average skater to act before the game changes for good.