Tuesday, April 9, 2024

First Ride: Spitfire Classics 54mm 93a


First Ride: Spitfire Classics 54mm 93a

Powell shook things up last year with their “Dragon Wheel.” They claimed it was a softer wheel for crust, but still slid/rode like a harder wheel. Dragon wheels gained a cult following from most of the same types are ride Andy Anderson decks. I have never owned a set of Dragon wheels, and I never will.
Recently Spitfire has jumped into this mid-range softer wheel market. It’s not the first time they have done this. They made the “Soft D’s” wheels about 10 years ago, which came in 95a and 92a, if I recall correctly. They didn’t sell well, and were discontinued. Spitfire also makes the 80HD wheels, which have been around for awhile now. These are really soft, and more for SERIOUS crust, or as a filmer/cruiser wheel. Spitfire also makes a 97a in their Classic and Conical Full shapes. And, Spitfire also makes a 90a wheel in their “Sapphire” series. Suffice to say, Spitfire offers a lot (too many??) options.
I went to Texas two years ago, and knew I was going to be skating some crusty ditches. My usually 99a Classics might be a bit too hard for those situations. So, I bought a set of the 97a Classics for that trip. Those wheels were great for crust, and I started using them for rougher spots in my local area, too.
Now, these 93a wheels are out. Much internet consternation has surfaced about how the 97a and 93a compare to each other. I figured I give them a shot, considering how much I liked the 97s (in some situations). People seemed to be saying the 93a was actually better overall than the 97a. Are they?
So, my set of the 93a came yesterday. I skated them today for a while, in place where they should perform *the worst*: a smooth skatepark. Here are my thoughts:
Speed: Slower than my 99a, but not nearly as much as I expected, and this kind of shocked me. I was expecting something really sluggish, and they were not, at all. They had great speed for a 93a wheel. No real complaints here.
Sound: I hate the sound of soft wheels. They created this water-logged thud noise, and these certainly had the “soft wheel sound” to them. I was not a fan of this.
Feel: I am also not a big fan of how soft wheels feel. They are spongey, bouncy, gooey, and don’t feel as responsive as harder wheels. The 93a Spitfires also had a lot of this going on, but again, not as bad as I expected. Didn’t hate it, but def liked the feel of my 99a better.
Grip/Slide: Soft wheels grip. A lot. Everyone knows that. To that end, I was surprised by 93a Spits. They certainly had some grip, but I also didn’t have ANY problem with them doing revert tricks on the ramps. I was expecting these tricks to be really compromised by softer wheels, but they simply were not. However, they also did grip a bit more when I wanted them to. In my older years, F/S rock n rolls on ramps have become a “MEH” trick for me. I now stall them out too long, and don’t snap them around fast enough anymore. The result is that I sometimes bail them because I start sliding/slipping down the ramp when I am half-way out of them. Even when I do make them, they feel “slippy” turning back in. With the 93a Spits, my f/s rocks felt totally “locked,” and were the most confident ones I’ve done in years, because the wheels gripped a bit more.
Grinds: I didn’t notice and real stick on grinds. Feeble/smith grinds on a two-sided curb felt fine. As did 50-50s and 5-0s on ledges. No issue with side of wheel grabbing against the edges.
Nose/Tailslides: Didn’t have a problem with these. If you ride Thunder trucks (e.g. shorter baseplate), you may a different outcome.
Lipslides/Boardslides/Blunt slides on 1-sided Ledge: Did not try any of these. TBA. My gut says there will be stick problems, because of how they powerslid (see below), but my gut was also arong about a lot with these.
Powerslides on Flat: Def more grippy than my 99a, but I could make them slide, but not as good.
Overall, they performed much better than I expected them to *at a smooth skate park*, which is NOT what they are really designed for. The real test is going to be when I get them in some real crust later this week…if the rain goes away. More later.

Sunday, May 7, 2023

How to Do a B/S Slappy


How to Do a B/S Slappy

Here is a “How-To” I wrote for a b/s slappy. The principle is basically the same for f/s, the mechanics are just slightly different.


(1)  Find a tiny curb. We are talking REAL small here. 1” – 2”. No higher than two inches. If possible, find a slanted one (like they have in California). If you can’t find a slanted one, no worries. Just make sure the one you found is 2” tall or shorter.

(2) Wax the fuck out of that curb.

(3) Go to an empty part of a parking lot. Once you are there, tighten the fuck out of your trucks. Yes, I said tighten your trucks. Stay with me on this one.


(4) Do some backside carves, really flexing those ankles, and pointing those toes down. Your trucks should be so tight now that both your heel-side wheels lift up in the air. You should be carving on just your two toe side wheels. Do this a bunch so that you can easily go up on to your toe side wheels whenever you want.


(5) Loosen your trucks up again. Get them back to where you had them before.

(6) Go back over to that tiny curb. Approach the curb at about a 45-degree angle, with a decent speed. Have your weight slightly ahead of your feet. Knees bent/and crouching down a tad.


(7) Just as your front heel side wheel is about to slam into the curb, do that same motion you did with the really tight trucks to carve up onto two wheels. Shift/thrust your hips toward the front of the board, so that they “catch up” with your shoulders (which were slightly ahead of your hips/feet), as your do this, also swing your back leg around (almost as if front leg was the pivot point) to help get the back trucks up on the curb. MAKE SURE that your shoulders stays in a parallel line directly over the curb. If your shoulders are too “open” (not parallel) it is MUCH harder to get your back truck on top of the curb. There is a LOT going on here, all at once, and they are very subtle motions. Getting the weight distribution, weight shift, speed, angle, and shoulders to all go as one, I think, is one of the reasons slappies are literally the HARDEST tricks to teach.


(8) Once up there, grind away until you want to come off.


(9) Find a SLIGHTLY taller curb, and repeat the same process.


Note: The textbook definition of a slappy makes NO USE of the tail to lift the front truck onto the curb, and NO USE of the nose to lift the back truck up, either.


Note on F/S Slappies: On f/s slappies, the shoulders are SUPER important. Not to scare you, but f/s slappies can produce some NASTY slams. What often happens on those slams is this sequence of events: (1) you get the front truck up, but the back truck doesn't make it, (2) the rear toe side wheels bounce off the curb, (3) the back end of your board then slides around, turning the board 90 degrees (e.g. board goes into a f/s railside position), (4) rear truck then catch against the curb and board stops dead, (5) since your feet are now twisted a bit under your torso, it is next to impossible to "run out" of, (6) This sends you flying backwards toward your hip/back/forward elbow. Slams like this are bad enough on flat ground, but now you also have the edge of a curb to look out for. Making sure that rear shoulder gets parallel with the curb, when "slapping" into it, can help avoid this sequence of events. Leaving the rear shoulder "open" is almost an invitation for this type of the slam.


Note on Wheels Size & ShapeLarger wheels make it easier to roll over/slap-up a curb. Wheels with a more rounded profile (e.g. Spitfire Classic type shape) make slappies easier than a more squared-off shape (e.g. Spitfire tablets).

Thursday, March 30, 2023

The Best Skate Photo I've Ever Seen

I’ll be writing more about this photo in the future, but for now, I’ll say that this one of the best skate photos I’ve ever seen. No pros. No fancy skate parks. No gnarly tricks. It captures something so pure. The "YEAH” face of the kid on the platform, for “just” a simple kickturn grind. In its most elemental form, this is the magic of skateboarding, that any skater can relate to and/or knew at one point in their life. 



Monday, January 30, 2023

Rediscovering What I Had Already Known

I saw a post on the SLAP forums that sent me down an introspective rabbit hole: What are (skate-related) things you were too cool for as a kid, that you now appreciate and/or love?

A few of mine: Tony Hawk. Skating transition. Watching vert. Side rails. Pads. "Basic" tricks. Non-traditional forms of skating. Shitty ramps. The joy of just rolling.

The irony here, is those are all things I really liked/loved as a very young kid, and then "lost interest" in as I got a bit older. Now that I am much older, I realize how much the very young version of me actually knew. Everything is a circle, and I'm grateful for that.

Friday, January 27, 2023

The Subtle is the Most Profound

Pre-Socratics. Plato. Hume. Kant. Heidegger. Kierkegaard. Frankl. Tao Teh Ching. Tibetan Book of the Dead. The Bible. The Four Noble Truths. Transcendentalism. Camus. Native-American mythology. Dostoyevsky. Dr. Suess. Calvin & Hobbes. Yoko Ono. I‘ve read/studied it all. 

Everything you need to know about the meaning of life...can be found in this photo.



Thursday, January 26, 2023

The January Desert & Jake Phelps


A few random things…


The Vast January Desert

In my phone I keep short-hand notes of things going on in my life during a given month. At the end of the year, I can look back at what happened during the past 12 months. After the year is over, I save all in the info into a word doc. I’ve been doing this since 2015. It’s a very quick/easy way to look back at my life, and see what was going on during any given period. One trend has clearly emerged: I don’t skate much during the month of January. It is usually a result of weather, injury, and illness (I also seem to get some kind of bad cold, or covid (2021, 2022, 2023), or some combination of all three. That pattern is certainly repeating in this year. I think I have skated….3 times this month (I usually skate at least 3x a week). I had a bad case of covid the first week of Jan 2023. I also pulled my groin muscle, which is keeping me off the board. Thankfully, that is “easier” to do right now, because it has been very, very wet over the last two weeks (snow and rain). Hopefully February will be better.



News broke this week about how Jake Phelps died. I think we all had a pretty accurate guess as to what happened (which was confirmed by the news). Jake had a drug problem. He overdosed and/or took something that was laced with fentanyl. I’m not really sure what to say here. I was never really a fan of the guy, and what direction he took Thrasher. Suffice to say, the manner of his passing was not really a surprise. My friend Brian commented:


“Talk about a complicated legacy. On one hand Phelps, at a certain time, may have saved skateboarding. After that, he just went out of his way to keep it a fiefdom. He pushed and cajoled and influenced a generation to hit the self-destruct button because he was self-destructing as well. The drowning man will always take you down with him.


I use Phelps as a study on how to age gracefully. Do the opposite of what he did and you will probably live a long and healthy life. I don't judge him on his addictions or personality flaws. I never met him. I can, however, judge him for his influence.”


I’ll add to this, with a quote from The Replacements, “Kids Don’t Follow.” They never have. They never will. That’s what makes them kids. That’s why youth is wasted on the young. Skateboarding is mostly a “youth culture” thing. So, you do the math as to what’s going to happen. That said, it is well document how Phelps threw gasoline on an innate proclivity to reckless and self-destructive behavior (from skating vert w/o pads to booze/drugs/party zone). Should he/Thrasher have been an icon of public safety? Hell no. However, Brian said it best, “He pushed and cajoled and influenced a generation to hit the self-destruct button because he was self-destructing as well. The drowning man will always take you down with him.” Much of it IMHO, just wasn’t necessary, needed, or productive.


So, what’s the take-a-way (for me, and for skateboarding)? For me, that is easy. I’ve long held the belief that one should “embody/be the Stoke they want to see in the world.” It’s sad to see what happened to Jake, and sad to see those who have been washed away in the wake of his influence. All of this just further solidifies, and illuminates, the path I was already on. I will keep following, and trying to embody, the version of Stoke that resonates with me (and that is basically the opposite of Jake). If that influences others, great. If not, that’s great, too. What is the take-a-way for skateboarding? I think that is for others to decide…    

Thursday, January 19, 2023

187 Killer Fly Knee Pads: Cast to Flames

My first post about these pads can be found here. In that post I covered some basic/initial impressions about them prior to actual use. Yesterday, I finally conducted an actual use test. I was not a fan, and I will be getting rid of them. What did I not like about them? A lot.

-Compared to the Pros, you feel knee impact a lot more. The Pros have significantly better padding. I knew this was going to be a factor going in.  But unless the Flys are going to excel in some other area (and they do NOT), then it makes no sense to compromise on safety. On the occasions that I am wearing pads, I want them to actually work (e.g. provide protection). The Pros are the clear winner.

-There were pressure points on my shins at the bottom of the pads, even with knee gaskets on. The Pros do not have this issue. Overall, the Pros are just more comfortable to wear.  

-Finally, I just hated the way they looked. They are longer, and narrower than the Pros, and the caps are more squared off (in a bad way). Something about the ratios and proportions of their design just didn’t sit well with me. When I look down at my board or shoes (or pads), I don’t want to hate what I see. If I do, it’s going to bum me out a bit, and put me in a bad mood. No one wants to go skating in a bad mood—it’s supposed to an activity full of fun and stoke, not malaise and contempt. I want to be stoked out my equipment. Like, why the hell would you hang a painting/photo in your living room that you hated? You simply wouldn’t. So, likewise with (my) skate equipment.

-Combine all of these factors, with the reservations I first mentioned about these pads, and the game is clearly over.