Zaturdays - Skateboarding By The Numbers
Posted on Friday, December 1, 2017 by Chris
You don’t see a lot of graphs in skateboarding. I’m guessing it’s because graphs are for nerds. But graphs are a great way to explain complex concepts and data sets in a quick an easy to understand way. And while skateboarding can be seen as something where stats and numbers might just get in the way of a good time, Zaturdays thrives on those same things, if for no other reason than to have something to blab about. So, for this weeks column I set out to sum up a few key phenomena in skateboarding with state of the art graphs made possible by my incredible PowerPoint skills.
This is not only a tricky concept to explain verbally, it’s also one that’s really sad to deal with personally. But the general idea is that as you first learn to skate, after mastering the basics of pushing and ollieing, you experience a rapid increase in the number of flatground tricks you can do. Kickflips, tre flips, heelflips, nollie flips, fakie inward heelflips, fakie big flips, nollie back heels, etc. Eventually you’ll reach a brief moment in time where the number of flatground tricks you can do will match your age. Like maybe if you started skating when you were 10, by the time you’re 12 you can do 12 flatground tricks. But soon you’ll learn more tricks and have tons of them, maybe while you’re still only 13 or 14. As you reach your 20s you might have 50 flip tricks ready to unload in a heated game of SKATE. But time marches on. And after a million ankle sprains that tre flip has gone away for good because it hurts too bad to flick it. And somewhere in there you quit skating switch. And you lost your hardflip for whatever reason and can’t get it back. Pretty soon you’re on the other end of the curve, and it’s your 32nd birthday and you’re trying to film one of those “skate your age” clips for Instagram and struggling to make that fakie 360 shove it for your 32nd budget move. By the time you’re 33 you might only have half that many tricks left, and your kickflip keeps getting lower. At some point you might be lucky to get your tail all the way to the ground when you try to sprack an ollie. Such is life.
This isn’t too terribly difficult to understand but it’s helpful to see a professional grade graph nevertheless. After extensive surveys by experts in the field it’s been determined that the greatest number of stairs down which the average skateboarder will ever properly land an ollie is 8. Some will manage to ollie more. Some less. But when Jaws cleared 25 he busted clear out the top of the graph.
The long and short of this graph can be explained as follows: the handplant’s popularity grew with the progression and popularity of skateboarding through the 70s and into the 1980s. There were handplants for every wall of the pipe and crowds would go nuts for Hawk’s tuck knee flapper. But in the early 90s an inverse relationship established itself between the number of handplants people did and the size of their pants. For whatever reason, handlplants came to be seen as a kook move performed only by Barnys. But over the last decade, thanks to skaters like Ben Raybourn who have resurrected a lot of tricks from the past, handplants have come roaring back to life, and crowds can once again cheer for Hawk’s tuck knee flappers without feeling self conscious about it.
Speaking of Hawk. The first half of the Birdman’s money-making career followed lock step with the rise and fall of handlplants. But once he tacked on that extra 360 to the McTwist at Xgames ’99 the skate gods have made it rain on Hawk ever since.
In the 70s there was no such thing as a skate video. There were some skate movies, like Skateboard Madness, but they were relatively terrible and it was unlikely you even had access to them unless a weirdo independent movie theatre showed it on a random weekend. The 80s saw the birth of the skate video, but only a few came out each year, and you might not have even had a VCR to watch them on because they were still like $500. The 90s brought us 411 Video Magazine, which delivered cutting edge skating on a bi monthly basis and at the time a lot of skaters thought it was overkill. Then DVDs brought the price down and quality up. The 2000s brought us online video parts. Sometimes you still had to pay for them but there was a huge increase in what was out there. The 2010s, with the birth of Instagram, offered up the best of everyone’s best footage at every moment of every day, and Insta live streaming has us in on the action in real time. What’s next? Hopefully some brief power outages.
Basically it’s like, the dude is super smart.
Hawk, Rodney, and Gonz, all Zaturdays certified as the “best” and most influential skateboarders of all time. This Graph shows Mark G’s influence from when he ollied the Gonz at EMB in the mid 80s to today when he cave man briefcase slides down hand railings and skates doubles on your mom’s bicycle. That small dip in the early 90s might have had something to do with 60/40.
I may have stolen this graph from somewhere else. Did Sieben do this for Thrasher? Maybe, or I saw it in a dream, but regardless, this is my favorite skate graph of all time. The not so subtle rise and fall of Frank’s nose.