Comet Skateboards is hosting their 5th annual Skate Jam in Ithaca, NY on May 7th. CW has attended this event in the past and it’s truly fantastic. There is nothing quite like upstate New York in the spring and the course is fast!
Last year, 300 skaters from all over the western hemisphere took over Buffalo Street. This year, they’re doing it again at the same spot East Buffalo Street between Eddy and Stewart Aves.
With fresh pavement at a consistent 15% grade and a new location for skate park terrain on Quarry Street (running perpendicular to Buffalo street), Comet is planning for an epic day of skating, hanging with friends and winning some cool prizes.
The format will be similar to last year with a “nontest” style jam. Skate hard all day and they’ll give out prizes that the Comet team sees fit. There are no specific contests or divisions. However, this year there will be a session for younger skaters from 12-1pm. They are are also sponsoring 20 young people ages 14 and under to skate with the generous support of a local foundation – TBJ. The hill starts at Eddy Street and is a 15% downhill to Stewart Ave.
We met up with Claudio Caluori of Velosolutions in Zurich. His company creates incredible pumptracks in many different places around the world. Of particular interest was an installation he just completed in Bali: a as a pumptrack that was built around a bowl. Talk about building onto paradise!
Here are Claudio’s recollections of the experience.
On the second day, our client told us that during the second of three weeks of construction, we wouldn’t be able to work because of Chinese New Year’s and Balinese holidays. It only took 2 minutes of being confused until we realized that meant a week of surfing! But building a pumptrack in what many consider to be paradise can be a challenge.
We had to deal with wrong machines, wrong asphalt, and late and cold asphalt deliveries. The guy driving the asphalt truck was walking barefoot on his fresh load of asphalt and that’s not because he was very tough. It came to the point where we really didn’t know if we were able to finish the project properly and meet Velosolutions’ quality standards, so we just had to believe in it and keep on pushing to the max. This meant working on the edge of collapsing, constant dizziness and feeling sick. Our workers dealt with rash, Bali belly (diarrhea), cough and fever.
One day before leaving, Adrien Loron was able to ride the first laps on the track, and he was loving it!
Another surf session at the beach, and it was time for Adrien to go home and get his stuff ready for Crankworks in New Zealand, and for me to get back to where I came from: The Red Bull Crashed Ice track, this time in Saint Paul, USA.
Thanks to Race Amplitude for this amazing opportunity and to the Velosolutions crew for this insane effort!
Larry Gordon: Co-Founder of Gordon & Smith Skateboards
This year’s buyer’s guide is dedicated to Larry Gordon. Larry passed away this January but he left a huge legacy in action sports. He was a pioneer and someone who changed the game. I had an opportunity to interview two of his three children: Eric and Debbie.
An Interview with Eric and Debbie Gordon
Larry had a huge impact on both surfing and skateboarding. My focus is on skateboarding, but I wanted to know a bit about his pioneering work in surfing. Can you share some things on the surf side first?
The boards in San Diego at that time were mostly wood boards and very heavy. Not many people could carry them or surf with them. When the first foam board was spotted in the waves off WindanSea, Floyd and Larry built a mold and started blowing their own foam with chemicals and a recipe that Larry’s dad helped them with through his composite company Gordon Plastics.
Larry started making surfboards for himself and friends in high school, then started Gordon & Smith with Floyd Smith in 1959. With a team of the best surfers in San Diego, Larry made boards lighter and designed them to be more user friendly for the masses not just an exceptional few. He always was a visionary in design and marketing.
The Gordon and Smith FibreFlex was introduced over 50 years ago. I think that Larry’s background in chemistry helped create such an incredible product. What are your thoughts?
The first FibreFlex board was built in about 1964 using scraps from Bowtuff taken from the dumpster at Gordon Composites. Larry’s father invented Bowtuff for the archery industry and it was a unidirectional composite, who would have known that it would simulate surfing on the concrete with the pop and snap of its flex. It was very short-lived. In the 60s and 70s, Larry’s cousin Mike Gordon was the one who talked Larry into reintroducing the FibreFlex; they were selling more then they could produce during that time.
How did Larry feel about how he was portrayed in the Lords of Dogtown film?
Larry rejected the script and made them rewrite it several times before even allowing any G&S anything to be portrayed in the movie. Even after all the edits, the character is nothing like him at all.
What gave Larry the greatest satisfaction in terms of board sports?
The simple act of surfing and skateboarding, the fun it created and seeing his friends experience it too.
Larry was a transplanted Californian and a pioneer in shaping California culture. As someone who is also a transplant, do you think it’s true that “you can take the boy out of the Midwest”, but you “can’t take the Midwest out of the boy”?
A mid western transplant, Larry took to surf easily.He came to California when he was very young. I think Southern California changed around him but his constant was his love of the Ocean, his faith and Family.
During the memorial service for Larry, his cousin spoke about what a patient and even-keeled man he was. Can you share with us a story that shows these attributes?
I think you saw those qualities every day in Larry Gordon, it wasn’t just one circumstance. He didn’t speak volumes, but he did speak with insight, thought and a twinkle of fun in his eyes. He made sure that even the worst task was fun and would take a unique view on almost everything. I think he always was optimistic about change. In some way, these aspects gave him amazing patience and he always thought the best of people.
What should young skaters of today take away from the life and times of Larry Gordon?
Skateboarding is a vehicle to be unique in style and individual application that you can do anywhere and anytime. Be yourself; be your best.
Tin Soldiers is a extraordinary new documentary by Ben Duffy profiling the lives of several adaptive athletes, and is sometimes difficult to watch . We caught up with Ben in his offices in Los Angeles.
What was the impetus for creating this documentary?
I really needed to create something at the time the idea for this film came along. A girl I knew broke my hear, and I was very down on life; really down. This film kind of came at me like a beacon of light. Matt Hawkins originally asked me to make a ten-minute short on Adaptive Sports Kollective. I was incredibly excited to do it, and by that summer started filming with my co-producer Mike Sassano. It’s all about transcending pain into beauty.
Let’s put it this way: I just turned 25 when I started filming. I had hardly ever seen any amputees before. I’ve never had a conversation with someone who was paralyzed. I didn’t even know what spina bifida was. I didn’t even know what congenital meant. The whole thing was one big surprise to me. I dove head first into something that was completely foreign to me. The people in the film showed me a world of triumphant courage.
It seems like some of the riders are just hurling themselves down the various ramps…it’s almost too painful to watch. What’s your take?
This is a really great question, because sometimes I ask myself the same thing. But then the skater in me reminds me why we do what we do, and then it all makes sense why they do it. Some people just have an intensity in them. I could only imagine that the people in wheelchairs must feel so confined to sitting that the idea of wheelchair motocross just sets off an explosion in their head and heart saying: I can do something that makes me feel like I’m doing more than just sitting.
All those doctor visits, all the treatments, all the time spent feeling like they can’t do what “normal” people can do. I can totally see how they just say: I’m going to f—in’ try this! To be able to fly and fall, I can only imagine how good that feels for them. All skaters in some way feel confined to normalcy. Skateboarding in so many ways is breaking out of it. We all saw someone skate first, and then we said, that looks incredible, and we fell in love with it. And skateboarding is huge. Millions are doing it. WCMX is tiny. So few people are doing it.
I understand how appealing it is to the ones doing it; think about it like this: they’re only in the Dogtown phase. So few people are doing it, the people that are hurling themselves down ramps, it’s totally innovative.
I just pray it ends up on Netflix and these people are able to expose their passion to the general public. I would expect that the people who do see it have the same experience I did; simply just be exposed to something they’ve never seen.
Of all the stories you covered, which one most affected you?
It’s very hard to say which one affected me the most, because each person opened my eyes in different ways. But if I had to pick one, there was something about Quinn Waitley that stuck with me the most. To hear her say “life’s not supposed to be easy” and just the way she goes through life being so happy has made a difference in my life. I catch myself quoting her all time, when I’m being prissy about something or catch myself not appreciating something.
Also, one of the skaters in my film, Justin Beauchesne, has no forearms and one leg, yet he is married and has a daughter. You think, how is that possible? It really shows you the power of love, and that it has no limits. It’s so important to see that in society where everyone’s just looking for someone they are attracted to. It’s all about attraction, and other superficial bullshit.
What is your advice for aspiring documentary makers?
Find something real. There’s so much bullshit in this world and in the media. It’s unfortunate, so I always make it a point to get behind something I believe in. Something that can touch people. I think that an aspiring documentary filmmaker would feel more accomplished if he did something that could bring light to something.
I had a chance to meet Yo Yo Schultz several years ago at the Cloverdale Fair World Freestyle Round Up. I had known about him for decades, so it was nice to finally meet him.
Yo Yo is the originator of YoYo Street Plant. While it’s been a while since skateboarding went through a “street plant phase”, you just never know what could happen.
I interviewed YoYo in early March.
How long have you been skateboarding?
I think it was some time in 1975 when my uncle, who lives in Cali, came over to visit us in Germany and brought me a skateboard, as this was the latest craze back then. I still have this very first skateboard, a plastic Sport Fun skateboard, no kicktail, no grip tape and loose ball bearings board.
How did you come up with the idea of the YoYo Plant?
Well, back then we skated everything, but we did not have a half-pipe in my home town I had seen inverts on vert, but was never able to pull them off, so I somehow thought about another option. There was a Tracker Truck ad with Steve Rocco doing an invert off a curb and I thought that it must be somehow possible to do an invert on flat.
Somehow by ‘accident’, I was able to pull of the YOYO Plant way back in late 1982. I have footage of some early variations where I put my feet on the ground and just jump on the board from 1980, but the very first documented YOYO Plant I pulled off at the German Nationals in September 1982; we took some Super8 footage right after the contest which is on now on YouTube.
Way back then, it wasn’t a big thing for me to do, but when the Street Plants came along, I was just laughing – so, I invented the real Street Plant!
Where did the name YoYo Come from?
As Joachim is kind of hard to pronounce for most people, someone came up with YOYO.
You are from Germany and skateboarding has taken you around the world. Where were some of your favorite skate trips?
I’ve been skateboarding for decades now, and just because of skateboarding, I was able to travel to Brazil way back in 2005, which was one of the best trips ever! They have such a great scene and one of the guys came over to attend the 2003 Freestyle Worlds in Germany (Rene Shigueto). He invited us to come over and stay at his place, so we did!
Of course, my very first time out to Cali way back in 1983 was a blast as well. I got to stay at Tracker Larry Balma’s place and go to Del Mar Skate Ranch and meet folks like Tony Hawk, Steve Steadham, Neil Blender, Billy Ruff, Lester Kasai, Per Welinder and many more; great times for sure!
It’s just great to see them still out there and ripping; we just don’t get old, just wiser! Later on that trip, I got to shoot a sequence of the YOYO Plant with Per Holknekt for TWS; see issue #3 of TWS! A sequence in a mag was THE thing back then, and I am still stoked today!
I was also able to go to visit the Powell Peralta factory in Santa Barbara; PP was the company back then…whoa!
You have three kids just like me – two boys and a girl. Do they skate?
All of my kids can skate and once in a while they do. My eldest son went to some Slalom contests with me in the early 2000s. They are mainly hooked on snowboarding these days tough; one my sons studies in Innsbruck (Austria) to get more time on the mountains.
My daughter does rolling handstands on a skateboard for 50 seconds, and she also uses her board for transportation.
Did your wife every get angry when you put together a skateboard in the house and made a mess of griptape shavings?
I have my very own dedicated skateboard basement & museum, so she does not get angry at me. Actually, we met through skateboarding, when she used to skate; she feels too old now to skate – LOL .
You definitely skated it all, but do you still skate it all?
It just depends on my mood and locations. Sure, when there’s a skatepark, I will skate that park!
For the last few years, I’ve been coming over to sunny Cali in late October to skate parks, enjoy the great weather and to meet people! Slalom, Freestyle, Street, Longjump, Parks, Longboard, you name it – yes, I still do whatever comes up!
These days I am more into the ‘Skate and have Fun mode’ than contests. I turned 50 last year and I believe that the essential part for me is more to have fun and to hang out with people than competitions.
I’ll still enter a contest every now and then, but time and health just don’t come hand in hand to be more ambitious in contests – I’m glad to be still rolling tough!
Freestyle continues to spread its magical charm, and yet it still feels like its the bastard stepchild of skateboarding. What’s your take?
What can I say? We are still out there, and we have some young new blood, modern day Freestylers pop up from everywhere. I see that we get more and more recognition from the skateboard mainstream.
Guys like Kilian Martin, Isamu Yamamoto, Mike Osterman, Connor Burke and others spread the stoke and mix it up. I feel so proud of them to call them my Freestyle brothers. Look up the names on YouTube to get footage!