There are two types of skateboarders in the world: Artists and craftsman. Which kind are you? If you don’t already know maybe it’s time to find out.
I didn’t invent today’s topic. I don’t invent much; I plagiarize, imitate, borrow, steal or whatever it takes. The whole concept of artists / craftsmen came up when I was talking to a very random friend who had a certain level of success in the music world. His name is Sean, his friends call him Rat, or they don’t because he doesn’t like to be called Rat and he can get pretty intense. He told me that’s he’s the type of person who would stab himself in the eyeball “just to see what if feels like.” And I think he would. Rat was the singer in a band in the 1990s called Kinghorse. They ruled. They had music in skate videos all the time, like Tom Knox’s part from Santa Cruz Risk It (not the new Tom Knox, the old Tom Knox).
So as I recall, Rat was asking me about my so called “skate career,” and I was letting him know how marginal it was, adding something about how I never was quite able to take my skateboarding where I wanted it to go. At which point I told him of the wondrously magical talents of Tom Penny in the ‘90s, or Mark Gonzales through his entire run, or Grant Taylor today, those select few that can ride their skateboards to the outermost limits of the possible, something I never really did. “You were a craftsman.” He said flatly.
“’Scuse me? Come again?”
“There are artists, and there are craftsman, you were a craftsman.”
“Hmph,” I said. Could it really be that simple? Could I have been the wrong type of person the entire time I was trying and trying to get to get to the point where I could fling McTwists alley oop over channels (didn’t happen), or float switch flips effortlessly down a big 4 (not even CLOSE!)? A craftsman is defined as a person who is skilled in a particular craft, and we all know what an artist is. The distinction helped explain a lot. I had to work for every trick, practice practice practice, none of it came quite as naturally as I thought it should. In fact, the more I learned the harder it all got, seemed like it would’ve gotten easier….maybe it does for artists?
But how will you know an artist when you see one? Well for starters, artists are the guys that make up brand new tricks that no one else has even thought to to imagine, or that reinvent the old ones in revolutionary ways. Ray Barbee, Tony Hawk, Steve Cab, Rick Howard, D-Way, Daewon, Evan Smith, these are the artists. The artist believes in the impossible: Gonz jumping down Wallenberg or boardsliding that double kink in Video Days, Tony Spinning the 900, Danny Way doing everything he did, Pat Duffy grinding the first absolutely massive rails before there were any examples to follow. The artists are the people we craftsman end up imitating, thinking if we just keep trying we might get there, but if that’s where you’re at then it’s already too late. But don’t trip, its okay, we can’t all be the artists, we need the craftsman too, who else is going to fill our Instagram feeds, skate in all of these contests, or become the company owners of the future. Don’t fret, we craftsman are in the majority by a factor of 100, and even some of your favorite pros are undoubtedly closet craftsman. I won’t name names but think about it and you’ll come up with a bunch.
If you’re confused as to which type of skater you are, ask yourself the following questions:
Do you try to learn new tricks based on what new tricks other skaters are trying to learn?
Do you skate contests, practicing your run in advance and maybe even timing it?
When you can’t land a trick do you keep trying and trying it until you do?
If you answered “Yes” to any of them, you’re probably a craftsman.
Now try these:
Have you invented a trick (besides the Willy grind) that is named after you that other people actually do?
Do you sometimes decide at the last second what trick you’re going to try on any given obstacle? (And make it)
Do others around you often discover what tricks might be possible only after you’ve done them?
If you answered Yes to any of those questions, you’re probably an artist. And congratulations, you’re stoked.
And Rat in case you were wondering? He’s a total artist.