Spot Check- Ann Arbor Skatepark

Ann Arbor Skatepark

Over the past 12 days, the highest temperature in Ann Arbor, Michigan has been 18 degrees. Since then, it has yet to rise past the teens, sitting at its lowest at -18. This officially sets a new record of consecutive days in which the high temperature failed to rise past 20 degrees in the Metro Ann Arbor area. Although the high for today is slated to be 25, it will still be below the supposed average of 31. I would like to see these averages updated, because I can’t remember the last January in which 31 degrees was a common occurrence.

As unfortunate this reality may be, these Michigan winters are vital for Michigan skaters—because our favorite thing to say every March, when we can’t land a single trick, is, “I haven’t skated in three months.” There are ways for us to beat the snow and cold, with the most common being to skate in a parking garage. Those who take this approach-  and are lucky enough to not get immediately kicked out- mostly practice their go-to flat ground tricks. These sessions typically last for only a few minutes, or until we become overwhelmed by fatigue and disappointment.

On Friday, January 5th, at 11:30am, I pulled into an imaginary parking spot at Veterans Memorial Park; home of Ann Arbor Skatepark. As the external temperature readout on my dashboard ticked up from six to seven, I could hear the built-up snow underneath my car scraping against that which was on the ground. The only other vehicle in the parking lot was a city salt truck; sitting perpendicular to what would have been three parking spaces. Inside sat two men staring into their phones; their faces obscured by oversized hoods.

In 2013, the city of Ann Arbor broke ground on a 30,000 square foot construction project to build what I consider to be the best skatepark I’ve ever used. The groundwork was laid nearly a decade earlier, when a committee formed to advocate for the city’s first outdoor skatepark. In the following years, after public hearings, Memorandums of Intent and preliminary blueprints, funding was identified and obtained through the Michigan DNR Trust Fund and the Washtenaw County Park and Recreation Commission—totaling $700,000. The total budget allocated for the project came in at $1.2mm, with the remaining funds coming from city funding and private donations. Construction was completed in mid-2014, and gave way to a grand opening attended by Andy Macdonald and Tony Hawk.

Stepping out of my car, I was met with frozen air both silent and still. It reminded me of winter mornings in which I would run from the back door of my house to the side door of my family’s one-car garage. Being authentic to the middle-class Midwest, there was no car inside. Instead, there were bikes, rusted landscaping equipment and a skateboard bought as a birthday gift from a local, big-box sporting goods store. On that board and on those winter mornings, I would practice ollies and kickflips for only a moment before running back to my bedroom to play more Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3. I would measure that board’s dimensions years later and learn that it came in at 8”x29”. Upon eventually disassembling it out of teenage boredom, every ply fell apart as if it had been held together only by hope.

I began walking towards where I best remembered the skatepark’s entrance being—my focus only on trying to match my footsteps to those which littered the ground. Their randomness seemed to foretell that any joy I looked to redeem from visiting here would only come by chance.

I stopped, took a picture and watched my breath float away. Traffic on the adjacent roads moved so slow and orderly that it was almost poetic. In the coming months, as daytime temperatures rise above freezing, the earth’s groundwater will thaw and contract, forcing the roads above it to buckle and develop cracks and potholes. For Michigan skateparks, it is only a matter of time until this environmental phenomenon takes its toll on them as well. I suppose the matter of when it finally happens depends on the quality of the concrete and the depth of the skatepark’s foundation itself. If I had to guess, the Ann Arbor skatepark has three to four more years until it starts looking like a Michigan road.

I surveyed a few more spots around the skatepark. With a manual focus lens, and gloves designed to handle nothing more than a spring morning, checking whether or not any of my photos were in focus wasn’t a priority.

I predict that skaters will start migrating back to the park during the second week of March—once most of the winter’s snow has disappeared.

ann arbor skatepark skateboarding michigan

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Rest In Peace- My Favorite Hoodie

deathwish-skateboards-hoodie

I used to have an almost unhealthy obsession with Deathwish. In fact, had I not been in college when I first developed an affection for the brand, I likely would have devoted most of my creative energy to becoming the kind of fanboy you typically see in a Deathwish tour video—the person who gets into grappling matches during a product toss and then has his favorite pro autograph his forehead –you know, the guy everyone just loves to talk shit about.

I became in-the-know to Deathwish around mid-2010, after another unfulfilling experience with a skateboard which just didn’t feel right. After reflecting on my displeasures, I took my board size into account, and then made the choice to move up from an 8.25 to an 8.5. Of every board I could have bought, I decided on a Deathwish because it was the only board 32.5 inches long. In my mind, an 8.5 was best paired with a length of 32.5 or greater. It just made sense, and I still don’t like riding anything shorter. Anyways, it was a team board which had mini, multicolored Deathwish logos spiraling around a much larger and centered logo. While the graphic wasn’t quite my style, everything else about it was perfect: the symmetry, the concave, the amount of space between the outer bolts and dip of nose and tail, and above all, the construction. I consider my style to be more heavy-footed, yet my Deathwish responded quickly and kept its shape and pop until I eventually bought a new board, for no reason other than wanting something new. That Deathwish had convinced me enough to not only continue riding 8.5s, but to also continue riding Deathwish.

You see, what I perhaps value most when I make a purchase, whether it be skate-related or not, is having my standards for consistency and quality met. In my opinion, there is nothing worse than finding a skate product you love, only to buy it again and have it be a piece of shit. That never happened with any Deathwish I ever bought. Ever. End of story. But not really, because I can no longer buy their boards.

I still like Deathwish. Their team is great, the Deathwish Video was solid, their art direction is strong and their overall image and branding has been consistent since day one. The problem is that as of 2013, they stopped making my size. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’ve been mad ever since; just a bit upset.

I couldn’t think of a better way to start writing what I really mean to say, which is that my hoodie of all time, a Deathwish “Gang Fingers” zip-up, no longer zips up. I have tried with every ounce of my patience and will to get its cheap metal teeth to connect, but my efforts are unsuccessful. My history with this hoodie begins seven years ago, when I bought it off the clearance section of a now-defunct online store for $20. The moment I removed it from its clear plastic bag is the moment it became my favorite. How could it not be? The graphic is so badass it makes me sick. More importantly though is that it makes me feel like a badass when I wear it, especially when I have the hood up. I’ve worn this hoodie to work, to school, to family functions, in my bed when I watched the Deathwish video for the first time, to likely hundreds of skate sessions in both hot and cold weather, and even now as I write these words.

It didn’t matter that the zipper had turned yellow from sweat, that it started getting small holes in the elbows, or even that it thinned out enough to no longer keep me warm. As a small child clings to a blanket for comfort, I turned to this hoodie for all the same emotions. I don’t skate nearly as often as I once did, or as much as I should, but this hoodie preserves the sentiment and attitude of growing up as a skater. I fear that if I were to replace the zipper, I’d be tampering with the emotional connection to skateboarding that is slipping further and further out of my reach. If I sound dramatic, it’s because I am a very dramatic person.

Whether I wear it at the gym or to the grocery store, this reminds me of an intense love I still hold on to and long to feel more frequently.

,

Bryan Van Kampen- Used to Skate Interview

The following interview took place via text message beginning March 31st, 2017. It ends almost five months later, if for no reason other than indifference. I’ve known Bryan since my freshmen year of college, and I hope we will be texting about skating for as long as we live. He currently lives two hours west of me, near Grand Rapids, Michigan, and we’ve seen each other twice in the last three years. Go figure. He visited me a couple of months ago. We skated in downtown Detroit for about 20 minutes before going to a Tigers game.

This has been edited for non-skate related content. A mutual love for Baker 3 will be evident.

March 31

Bryan
Ay yo Dano, you still skating?

Dan
Shit. It’s been a while. I still love it as much as ever but I’m just preoccupied with other stuff. You?

B
I’m in the same boat. Loving it, but I get sore as hell now. Clemente [local park] has a bunch of new stuff.

April 25

Dan
What are you riding?

Bryan
My man Ted set up me up with his old Flip, pair of Indy’s and bones I think.

D
Would you be the first used to skate interview?

B
I’d be honored.

May 19

Dan

Bryan
Whaaaaaaaa rocket air it?

Dan
I saw Hollywood High too!

May 28

Dan
North Hollywood Skate Plaza is a fuckkkkkkkkin dump.

June 4

Bryan
Did you see the new Numbers vid? Last trick is BONKERS.

Dan
Yes and I agree but I can’t stand that filming style.

B
What?! I love that filming style. Get sick of standard follow cam.

D
Only seeing half of the skater is a shame.
I’m just impartial to camo pants.

B
Idk I think that Numbers might be on to something here. That Duarao kills it.

D
Yeah they’re ok but I still would rather ride for Baker.

B
Always thought you were more of a World Industries guy.

June 6

Dan
I hear that your Bringing it to Singing it ratio is pretty poor these days.

Bryan
Lol I don’t even have a ratio. Who’s the narc?

D
The mean guy from Premier [Grand Rapids skate shop].

B
Kalis?

June 14

[After a lot of rambling from me about current shitty board dimensions]

Dan
Whats your favorite board?

Bryan
That I’ve ever had?

D
Yes.

B
Waters and Army. Don’t remember the exact dimensions but the shape was so perfect I died and went to heaven.
I liked chocolates a lot. Had my best skate sesh on a Chocolate. Landed like four new tricks in one day.

D
Dude days like that.

B
It was the day after I broke up with my high school gf so I was goin’ ham.

D
What were the tricks?

B
Learned nose manny, then nose manny shuv out, then higher kickflips, then manny 180, nothing insane but everything was clicking. Some shitty park in an ice rink in Grandville.

D
Yeah. I want to have those kinds of sessions every day for as long as I can.

B
Tire also fell off my car so my mom picked us up.
Yea legendary day. This would be great for an interview.

June 16

Dan
Nothing was going to stop me from seeing Hollywood High. Had to see where that [Reynolds] f/s flip went down

Bryan
How insane was it?

D
Couldn’t really get the full scope. Only saw it from the fence.

June 24

Bryan
Fan of Bert Wooten’s skating?

Dan
It’s been a while, but I remember his skating looking a lot like what’s cool today.

July 11

Dan
Dustin Dollin gets 5 tricks down that double set in Baker 3.
Kills it.

Bryan
I remember seeing him kick flip into a near vertical bank thinking WTF.

July 14

Bryan.
You a fan of the pop shuvit?

Dan
I love the pop shuvit.

B
One of those tricks that can either look really stupid or really good. Any fav pop shuvit-ers?

D
Corey Duffel and Garrett Hill.

B
Both of them. Jimmy Lannon. Jeff Lenore has a good one in Baker 3.

D
I’m trying but you gotta refresh my memory on Baker 3.

B
When he does it over that semi.
I mean down the stairs at night.

D
I know that part and there isn’t one pop shuvit.

B
He’s got em. I’m telling you. Now I gotta watch it again.

D
You’re obviously stoned to shit.

B
I wish.
Fav part in Baker 3?

D
That’s literally an impossible question to answer, but if I had to choose: Reynolds. You?

B
Reynolds. Unbeatable.

D
You ever see Jim Greco’s original part? He skates to Bohemian Rhapsody. Incredibly dramatic.

B
I’ve seen it. Pretty epic. I still like Johnny Thunders better.
Brandon Westgate on NB now? Damn.

D
I don’t like New Balance. Not at all.

B
Have you seen Made 2 yet?

D
Yes.

B
What’d you think?
Jerry has my favorite part.

D
Me too. Never thought I’d like a Mogwai song either.
Wish I could skate like Jerry.

B
Wish I could dress like Jerry.

August 7

Dan
Send me a pic of your best Skate 3 hammers.

Bryan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D
Zoomed-in and uncomfortable layback is a classic.

August 11

Bryan

Found a perfect ledge in New Hampshire

Dan
What you got on it?

B
Switch stare down

D
Fakie shoe tie

August 14

Bryan
Still one of the best covers ever.

Dan
Off the top of my head, it is the best ever

August 16

Dan
Is the nollie back 180 still your favorite trick in that part?

Bryan
That trick is a beaut, but it would have to be that massive fs flip, or the shifty flip down the four block. How bout you?

D
Full cab ender at full speed

B
I can’t help but sometimes just be enamored with skateboarding

D
Don’t fight it.

August 17th

Dan
The more I think about it, my favorite trick(s) of his part may be that four trick attack at the four minute mark, ending with that fake tre

Bryan
My new fav is the opening board bonk off the car tire

D
Daewon Song’s part in Skate More had always been my favorite part, but Reynolds in Baker 3 has taken over for good.

B
I’d say its top 5, but idk what my all time fav would be. I’d have to go back and have a skate nerd viewing sesh.

D
What’s your least favorite part?

B
Prob anything Darkstar related. You?

D
Darkstar vids are brutal. Probably anything mid-2000s from Blind.

August 25th

Dan
The credits in Dying to Live is one of my favorite parts of all time

Bryan
Almost as good as This is Skateboarding.

D
Yeah. Funny because This is Skateboarding and Dying to Live are two of the four videos I had during my first years of skating. I know those credits very well.

B
I think it’s a My Bloody Valentine song?

D
Mogwai.
Emerica has made it hard for me to really hate them.

August 26th

Dan
So, skateboarding. What is it? Why do you do it?

Bryan
To look cool.
It feels amazing. It satisfies the bug within to just move. I feel engaged and nothing else matters.

Dan
Why did you start?

B
[A friend] Phil made me do it. Baker 3. It just looked fun.

D
Do you think you’ll ever stop?

B
Did a long time ago.
I’ll probably always have a board around. Probably make the permanent switch to cruiser at some point. Basically become a Tired poster boy.

D
I feel like Tired is for fat guys ten years older than us.
Our texts regarding skateboarding for the past five months are going to be your interview, btw.

B
I can do better.

D
Too bad.

Home Alone X Toy Machine

Home Alone X Toy Machine

Skateboarders have unique and consistent responses to many stimuli. When we arrive in new places, we scan the environment for spots, imagining what could be done. When we hear a rolling skateboard in the distance, our focus immediately breaks. When we see someone wearing basketball shorts at the skatepark, we judge their fashion choices.

For those of us who spend more time than necessary on message boards, seeing or hearing something within the realm of skateboarding baring even vague familiarity can trigger an “ABD,” or “already-been-done” response. These responses are born from attempts to be the first to notice something. Our dissecting eyes look beyond obvious ABD tricks and into music, graphics and even clothing or production styles. And in our consistent attempts to ruin the fun for everyone, our scope often ends up going beyond the realm of skateboarding.

Hearing a song from a skate video in a commercial or movie triggers me to immediately identify who skated to it and in what video. If I ever find myself at a department store, the newest clothing trends have me reminding myself, whether it be true or not, that “skateboarding did it first”: skinny jeans, all-over prints, brown cords and flannels, five-panel hats, stupid socks, cargo camo pants. Unfortunately, the ABD pastime acts as a two-way street and can become self-sabotaging to skateboarding. Perhaps the most well-known example involving Zero Skateboards and the movie Toy Story.

Released in November of 1995, Toy Story had a memorable antagonist in Sid, a neighborhood youth set on destroying every toy he came across. As expected from a mid-90’s animated film, Sid’s appearance is fairly basic, with his only real discerning characteristics being the odd shape his head and a skull graphic on his t-shirt. This skull graphic, however, is virtually identical to the early branding of Zero, which formed in 1996.

This exact controversy still occasionally comes up in online discussions, but I would like to think that the skateboard community as a whole has forgiven Jamie Thomas.

The true detectives who are reading will eventually realize that it has taken me 349 words to eventually arrive at the point that this two-way street of ABDs has again manifested an unfortunate truth.

Released in November of 1990, Home Alone will remain as perhaps one of the greatest movies ever made, but only as long as semi-adult males like myself and my friends continue to reference it. Shortly after the McCallister family has left for their vacation to France, their forgotten son Kevin wakes up to an empty home. As he begins exploring his empty home he briefly enters Buzz’s, his brooding older brother’s bedroom with the same level of trepidation plaguing me as I write these sentences.

Yes, the light switch cover in Buzz’s bedroom bears an uncanny resemblance to a Toy Machine graphic, most commonly used as a top graphic on decks. This is really nothing interesting, and there’s a good chance this graphic existed as something else before.

I Still Can’t Deal With This Shit

Skateboard in a garbage can i still can't deal with this shit

If there was one thing about skateboarding that I wish I could do, it would be to stop being such a little bitch. Ever since I started rolling along the sidewalk in front of my house, I’ve gotten very good at blaming every facet of skateboarding and life as to why I suck. At any given moment, dirty griptape, a chipped nose or tail, the amount of traffic or how tight my pants are around my upper thighs can ruin my session and make me contemplate quitting skating forever.

About a year and a half ago, I treated myself to a Christmas complete. Top the line components and expedited shipping, all because I could. I absolutely didn’t need what I bought then and I still don’t need it now. I of course bought the forged titanium Indy’s, because they were the newest and greatest and most expensive. The only thing which was going to stop me was the fact that they weren’t raw silver. Unfortunately, it didn’t. I knew from the moment I submitted my order that their dark gunmetal finish would eventually become a personal scapegoat.

The only other non-silver trucks I’ve had was in 8th grade. At this time, every 8th grade boy on earth was obsessed with Bam Margera. I was no different: Bam t-shirts, Viva la Bam every Sunday night, Bam fiberlight skateboards and pink Bam Destructo trucks. I was too naive to let something like colored trucks be the biggest problem in my life.

Months passed and I eventually grew out of my Bam phase. My Destructos became Krux, then Thunder, before eventually settling on Indy’s. I did try Theeve’s about seven years ago, which were OK, but not special enough to switch brands again. During this time, however, I did learn the importance of Bones bushings.

I can’t even remember what point I’m trying to bring up.

Paired with an incredibly pointy Toy Machine deck and the whitest wheels on earth, these trucks make my board look like a plastic piece of shit. If anyone wants them, I’ll dump them off at the Ann Arbor skatepark. They’re 159 (8.75) and will have stock bushings.