2016 was an interesting shift in the skate video medium. Of course we saw more web content, but we also saw a rise in both frequency and quality of physical product, yet most of it wasn’t orchestrated by the larger brands. When it came to the “big leagues,” adidas Skateboarding’s Away Days was the magnetic event everyone tuned into. With both hype and delivery, as well as the surprise additions of legends Marc Johnson and Daewon Song, Away Days had a lot of energy, especially when it leaked onto a porn site, which, intentional or not, was genius.
For board brands or hard-goods, whatever, Polar delivered the most compelling full-length with I Like It Here Inside My Mind, Don’t Wake Me This Time, showcasing Pontus Alv’s prowess at harnessing homage and tradition and juxtaposing it with modernity. Polar’s video resonates so much, because it not only encapsulates the brand’s heritage and identity, but is also rooted creatively in the East Coast style honed by Ricky Oyola and crew in the mid-’90s and beyond—being both broad and narrow at the same time. It’s also fun, calling back to the vibe and actual “team” vibe that made H-Street’s first three videos so popular. Whatever, buy it or watch it if you haven’t already.
There’s no drop off after that, only a flurry of incredible and inspiring web-centric content, often bolstered by physical DVD companions, downloads, and also, the birth of the 60-second Instagram clip, which launched this year. Also, we saw The Crailtap camp make a return to their low key, high quality ripping with their “Weakdays” clips, in a call back to the brand’s early web presence.
I find it best to not really stress on going back and trying to dig for everything of note when you make these lists, as it’s a bit disingenuous. Instead, I’m just going to mention the plethora of things that I consumed, enjoyed, and often went back to during 2016 before we get into the meat and point of this “best of.”
In rapid fire and no hierarchy, you had the Andrew Allen / Hockey II video, Converse One Star World Tour, Emerica Made 2, Santa Cruz Right to Exist, The Sk8Mafia video, Vans No Other Way Out (the 50-50... pause), Huf Tour De Stoops, Palace V Nice, Bronze56K’s Plug, GX1000 x Thrasher’s collab video, WKND Who’s To Say, Politic Division, a sneaky full Eli Reed Part, BLVD Quinto, Primitive’s ode to the Notorious one, a flurry of Magenta clips, Johnny Wilson SB abundance, Mighty Healthy’s Neighborhood Pushers, Zoo York Eastern Conference featuring two of the most underrated rippers out, that insane Hjalte / Bobby Worrest plaza part, a bunch of videos of Tiago Lemos sliding and grinding on shit that is taller than some adults, and lastly, Jim Greco’s The Way Out, which holds the title of the most somber video of the year, drawing a parallel between the repetition of both skating and sobriety in a very Scorsese/Vincent Gallo-esque narrative that needs to be seen on a screen larger than laptop size.
OK, there’s more, I missed shit. Get over it. Now we’re going to call out the finest independent DVD projects that you can probably still buy and should buy. I tried to take the focus off board companies or collabs, which is why some of the above didn’t make the cut, but then again, I make the rules, so I kind of broke them too.
Bright Moments – Zach Chamberlain
Featuring a scooter-centric Ben Gore section and stand out full parts from Ryan Barlow and Matt Field, Zach Chamberlain’s Bright Moments is the perfect extension of moody San Francisco skate documentation. As a New Yorker, I’m supposed to think that anything from here is superior and, like pizza, the idea of someone filming a trick on a cellar door or some crappy street with a shitty ledge on it, is the pinnacle of art and expression. OK, it kinda is, but it’s also arrogant to think that they don’t have VX cameras and whatever spots in other places. Anyway, this one is special to me, as it features a very irie comeback part by Matt Field, who migrated to SF from NJ a long time ago and was on the forefront of the Rasta Tech® movement. Not only was his part a call back to the Bright Moments of the ’90s I enjoyed so much, but it’s also one of his best parts of which he has many.
Escape to LA – Theories of Atlantis
Theories’ surprise DVD logically follows my Bright Moments shout out, as they are kindred spirits and disciples of the same gods, separated by the middle of this great nation, that probably, kind of made it less great this past November, but I digress. Taking a core group of TOA distributed riders to The Big Orange as a winter respite, only meet native co-conspirators and traveling friends, Escape to LA brings Josh Stewart’s signature skate vision to spots that are more cheerful, less metropolitan, but entirely enjoyable. Of course, Stewart’s audio curation pulls from a deep well of non-Shazamable cuts and the skating leans heavily on raw street, rather than Los Angeles Tech, but it’s a perfect fit. I dunno, it’s like, maybe Basquiat should have made more art outside of New York, right?
The Dany Video
If you read Quartersnacks you’re familiar with their voice. It’s irreverent at times and others informative, making it an important sounding board for New York, as we tend to drive fashion, art, and culture, but are still considered skateboarding’s second city. Anyway, the Snakemen promoted this video heavily and for that I’m thankful. In addition to Genesis Evans’s full part—which you can watch in its entirety here—The Dany video blessed us with a grip of extras and a fantastic Yaje Popson part. At 25-years-old, Mr. Popson may be the youngest skater to have a “comeback,” after some injuries and sponsor swapping, but that just makes his garish fits and equally Quimtime and eclectic trick selection more unique. Also, it features a fantastic Ross From Friends track, which I heard and assumed would be in a Call Me 917 clip, despite it already being in his part. (Not really sure what that means or why I mentioned it.)
Is This Skateboarding – Fancy Lad
Notice that this isn’t a question? The UCB-cum-Andy Kaufman clique of skateboarding have returned to punish and delight.
Spirit Quest – Colin Read
OK, it’s a mild cop out to not really leave a proper review of Colin Read’s magnum opus, but if there was anything that truly moved the needle in the skate video medium this year, Spirit Quest was undoubtedly it. Here’s the thing, do you really get any value out of that friend who tries to explain why you should watch Stranger Things or Black Mirror, rather than just take the recco? This work is so transportive and immersive, that I’d need a year with it to properly communicate why this is a transcendent work. Of course the skating is top shelf, but Read’s able to open up a new visual language for skateboarding, without being heavy handed and remaining authentic. I mean, fuck, can you just watch this and then buy the fucking thing?