Wednesday, July 21, 2010

And Now, A Word From Our Advertisers...


The ads are starting to come in...! Thanks to all of the companies that decided to participate and share their messages with our readers. Obviously, we support all of these brands, and what they're doing... because if we didn't, they wouldn't be here. Simple as that!

Once again: All ads are totally free. So long as we can support you, be stoked on doing it, and have a fully clear conscience about doing it... you're good with us.

One last thing: The ads are now linked to the advertisers' websites. See something you like? Click on it, and surf away...













Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Head To Head Pricepoint Shoe Test Update


It's funny: When I started this series back in April, I predicted that I would catch a whole bunch of bullshit from "The Skate Shoe Industry Powers-That-Be" for having the audacity to give "pricepoint skate shoes" a fair shake, and a series of head-to-head product reviews.

Well, guess what?! I was right...!

Well, here's my position on these dudes: Fuck Them. It's called "The Free Market System" for a reason, y'know. If you don't like it...? Then, declare your own fascist regime somewhere, and start mandating the wearing of only "premium-priced" skate shoes...!

The problem that I'm seeing is that, some of these shoes are just as comfortable, just as functional, and just as durable as the "premium-priced products" that are offered by the "Big, Cool [Fascist] Brands". What's worse...? Some of them are even better than the offerings of the Cool Fascist Club...! For half of, a third of, or even a quarter of the price...!? Seriously...!??! I'm assuming that the powers-that-be just don't want that to become "common knowledge" or whatever... but, I don't care. My job is to test these things, find the facts, and start reporting from there. I'm sorry, but I answer to the readers. Not, the "Big Fascist Shoe Brands"...!

We've been skating these shoes religiously for three months now. In all sorts of conditions, and on all sorts of skateboards. Plus: These are also our "daily wear" shoes, as well. So, we're not only skating these... but, we're wearing them to work, to walk the dog, hiking, through the rain, to the mall... everywhere! When we test shit, then by gawd, we test the shit out of that shit...!

Of course, there's a flip side to all of this, as well. You could definitely make the argument that, every time you buy these shoes... you're basically supporting some non-skater-owned, whored-out corporate empire somewhere. Well... that's true. And, I feel that just as much as you guys do. Testing these shoes meant that I had to shop at places like Wal-Mart (the store that I probably hate the most, on a strictly personal level), Target, Rack Room Shoes, Payless Shoe Source, K-Mart, Meijer, Marshall's, and a few others. All: Big-box mass-market stores, or discount shoe retailers.

None of them, skater-owned. And none of them, personal favorites of mine.

On the other hand: None of them have given me shit for shopping there, either. At least, they're not fascists...!

Additionally: I've bought eight pairs of pretty-good-to-great pairs of shoes now, and I'm not even at the $300 mark yet. Actually, I'm pretty sure that I'm still under $250. If some corporate whore can do it, then why the hell can't this "skater-owned industry of ours" do it...!?

And, I have yet to have a "horrible" pair yet. Minus the one pair of "legit" skate shoes that I bought. Which were Josh Kalis pro-model DC's (at Marshall's). So, let's begin with those:



I really, really wanted to like these! I did...!! The colorway looked great, the quality appeared top-notch, and they even had some great "features" that you'll never, ever find in a "pricepoint" shoe...

Of all of the shoes we've bought, worn, and skated, these definitely sucked the hardest. Great looking shoes, mind you...! And, to the extent that we could deal with 'em... great skating, too.

The problem was, these were woefully uncomfortable. Tight, and overloaded with "pinch points", these shoes were torturous to put on, and wear for more than an hour or so at a time.

A few of the staffers openly questioned if maybe they were "seconds", or "mislabeled" (in terms of, the size). Considering that these were bought at Marshall's, that might have been the case. Problem is, though, is that when I buy a pair of size 13's... I fully expect to get, a size 13 shoe. I mean, really: Who would assume otherwise...?!


See that white surround on the outsole? That white piece of rubber (or, whatever the hell it is) left white shit all over whatever skateboards we skated in these shoes. Maddening! Simply maddening...!!!!

The verdict? They're so useless, they're not even worth the $29.99 we paid for 'em. Sorry, DC. Maybe next time...



These are the Mossimo Scythes... aka, the"Etnies clones" that we paid $19.99 (or so) for at Target, to replace those DC's that sucked so hard.


The outsole is holding up super well, even though these probably have the most "wear-time" on 'em, out of the whole bunch. Grippy, long-lasting, and pretty good board feel, too. Impressive.


These have a lot of the "usual features" that you'd find in "higher-end" shoes. Such as self-centering tongues, for example.

These, were very, very good shoes. Both for skating, as well as for "everything else". These shoes got the brunt of the "testing", because we liked the strightforward, simple-black, Etnies-esque styling. And, honestly, nobody could tell that they were "pricepoints" at all! Instead, everyone kept asking me where "I got those old-school Etnies at...!" Funny...!

Given that they were a mere $19.99, they turned out to be a pretty damned good buy.

The only "problem" that we experienced, was that the insole was built out of what appeared top be a thin EVA or neoprene footbed, backed with a thin piece of corrugated cardboard (?!). Predictably, the cardboard soon soaked up an ass-load of skate-sweat, and immediately began stinking to high heaven, while falling apart inside the shoes at the same time. I didn't mind at all, but the missus definitely did.

These shoes are proving to be such good "skating" shoes, though, that we're gonna front the ten bucks or so to buy new insoles, and keep on testing these until they're fully cashed. It's the least we could do, really...


The only thing that didn't hold up well, were the insoles. See the "waffle-pattern" all over the insole...? That's caused by the insole falling apart, and getting crushed into the inside of the outsole.


This photo shows the "waffle pattern" of the inner outsole (inside the shoe), and the bottom of the insole (at top). Between them, originally, was a piece of what looked like corrugated cardboard that only served to trap, and hold, tons of skate sweat. Super-stinkiness ensued... of course. New insoles might add a few months to these puppies. We're gonna try! Stay tuned...!



The Airwalk Flips are holding up just like you'd expect an Airwalk Flip to hold up: They're simply bulletproof. We've had a few pairs of these over the years, and they're always the same, every time. Still, one of the best values in all of skateboarding. And, the "styling" is straightforward, low-key, simple, and classic "skate shoe". No complaints, there.


The sole design and execution is novel, sensible... and it works, which is the best part. Grip where you need it, and a simple, black rubber slab everywhere else. The board-feel is outstanding, and they're comfortable and lightweight, too. Until you weigh them down with skate-sweat, which have probably added a couple pounds apiece onto these nasty boyz. Grody.


One of the funnier cost-cutting measures, is the lack of bona-fide stitching... the "stitching" on these being merely a design element that is cast into the rubber outsoles. This toe-wear through the "fake stitching" illustrates this extremely well. They hold up great, though... which tells me that the glue that's holding these together, is some pretty good shit.

On to...



These, are the newest addition to the "quiver". To be totally honest, these are the shoes that I was the most curious about, out of anything else. I see these around all over the place, and the skaters that are wearing them swear by these fuckers...! Everybody loves 'em, even though you have to actually walk into a Wal-Mart (Torture...!) to buy a pair. Which was the hardest part, for me. Because I hate Wal-Mart more than almost anything else on the whole planet.

The cost? Twenty-five bucks...! That, I could totally deal with. Hell, I even spent another ten bucks, buying new socks to go with 'em! The whole bill, then, was only $35. Still way, waaayyy less than the premium brands' "entry level" offerings...


The only "hokey" styling cue, is that big, black, stylized "A" on the side of the shoe. On one hand: It looks very, very "Lakai"... which again, I found kinda funny. On the other hand: I could have lived without it... or at the very least, I would have preferred to rock a more subtle, scaled-down version.

The first impression...? Great feel, almost "straight of the box". Very, very comfortable. The entire "break in" period was maybe, an hour or so...? The colorway is pretty cool (A nice change from the "All-black, all-the-time" theme of most "pricepoints"...). Yet, they aren't overly "hokey" or "overdone", like a lot of "pricepoints" are.



The Airspeed Official 2's actually have an air-cushion heel, an incredibly form-fitting and supportive insole (with great arch support, I might add), and the almost-mandatory self-centering tongue. These are features that you'd normally find on a much, much more expensive, "legit" skate shoe. All, for twenty-five bucks...?! That's a steal, in my book.


They skate great, too. I was surprised by that, because the outsole pattern isn't what I'd "normally" expect in a skate shoe. But the materials are top-notch, and they're grippy as hell (almost to the point of making kickflips a bit of a challenge). This is my left sole, after a week of footbraking (longboarding), as well as the "usual" street skating, and wearing-everywhere-and-anywhere. Not bad...!

In the coming weeks, we're going to test another whole batch of both "pricepoint" shoes, as well as adding a batch of "entry-level" and "midrange" shoes from some heavy-player "major brands" (Vans, etc). The goal is to test every "Under-$50-Shoe" on the market, before years' end.

Hey! It's fun work, and it keeps everyone here skating! As always, that's the important stuff. See ya next time...!

Here's the previous entry, regarding these pricepoint shoes:


Sunday, July 18, 2010

New Rides in stock *already*...?!


Ahhhhh! By the looks of things over at Dogfunk (, the 2010/11 Rides are starting to show up...! Guess this gives all new meaning to "Christmas in July", huh...?!


Here they are! Two of the choicest! See the rest of the lineup at The deck on the
left is the new Slackcountry, and the board on the right is a new model called the "Highlife". There's no Yukon in the new lineup; presumably, the Highlife is replacing it.

The Ride website has the entire lineup, already... a bit earlier than usual, perhaps? Still with us are the "usuals" in the freestyle scene (Kink, Agenda, DH2, etc etc etc...)... but, what I was really looking for was another year of the most-excellent Slackcountrys (which were new last year), and the new Yukons.

Unfortunately, the Yukon seems to have been discontinued, and replaced by the brand-new Highlife for 2011. The Highlife features the Lowpro rocker (the Yukons had traditional cambers), Carbon Array 5, 90a Slimewalls, Membrain topsheets, and the Silencer (all, present on the former Yukons). Also gone is the "Alaskan Big Mountain" graphic treatment, replaced by something that we might call, "Kink-Y" (That is, very similar to the last few years' worth of Kinks and Agendas..).

The trend in snowboards seems to be, a sheep-minded mass migration toward rockered decks... which means that, we can probably expect to see the "old-school" of cambered decks falling off the face over the next few years. The verdict? We'll miss the stiff-riding and hard-driving response of the camber. On the other hand: The float and quick-turning capability of the rockers are clearly, huge assets. Especially in the deep shit. Which is what we like.

The Slackcountry is upgraded (from the Highlife) with the Carbon Array 7, and the Highrize rocker. Of the two, the Highlife seems to come in a bit stiffer (more "Hard Charging Response", according to the Ride website), and prices in a hundred bucks cheaper ($549.95 vs. $649.95 for the Slacker).

And: The Highlife also comes in a 172 Wide, while the biggest Slacker is [still] a 168.

Guess which one I'm putting on my "wish list" this year?!?

See 'em for yourself at


We love our readers...!


The prize packs for the "Better Letter" contest are starting to trickle out...! Thanks to everyone that has sent in a damn good letter. There's still a few more prize packs left, so hurry up and get those letters in while you can...


We'd like to say "Congrats!" to reader Don Villa, who has the singular distinction of being The Solitary Life's first-ever, two-time contest winner...! To celebrate his good fortune, we sent along a hand-drawn letter to commemorate Don's achievement(s)...!

These "contests" are proving to be a whole lotta fun for everyone involved (but especially, us). So much so, in fact, that we're already brainstorming the next one! Get ready, because you never know what a bunch of cheeseball morons [like us] are gonna think of next...


What We're Watching: Downhill Motion


I don't bump into Michael Gage that often. But when I do, he always seems to be handing me something that is fairly significant, and extremely cool. Maybe that says something about how cool Michael Gage is…?

This week, I bumped into him at the regular Old Indy Skaters jam. I haven't even seen the guy, in quite some time. But almost immediately, Michael came over, and handed me a copy of "Downhill Motion" to check out. Of course, I've heard of this "skateboarding movie classic", as it was originally released way back in 1975. At first glance, I even thought that I had it in my personal collection somewhere. But, Mike insisted that I take it anyway… so I did, with the promise that I'd give it away to some lucky The Solitary Life winner.

On my drive home, however, I started to think back and wonder: When, exactly, I had gotten this movie; when I had seen it; or, what it was even all about? Realizing that I had no answers for any of these questions, I quickly came to the conclusion that: I'm suffering from a chronic case of The Stupids.


Here's what you're lookin' for, if you're the type of kid to go lookin' for it.

The Basic Premise

Downhill Motion is nothing like you're typical "skate video", by any stretch of the imagination. So, if you think it is? Then, you're mistaken. Also: The title misleads one to assume that it's all-downhill, all the time. It's not.

I would probably describe as "A brief, yet entirely inclusive, overview of the state of the art, as it stood in 1975". It looks like the original intent of the "movie" (I'd probably call it a "public relations propaganda piece", or a "human interest documentary", long before I'd ever call it a "movie") might have been to give the non-skating public-at-large a quick glimpse into the "wide world of skateboarding". In it, there's a ton of footage of skaters "sidewalk surfing", riding banks, exploring pools, carving pipes, dorking off, freestyling, doing speed runs down hills, playing in reservoirs, and just having fun. It's set to a sort of mellow-surf-meets-reggae-and-pop soundtrack … again, the design seems to make skateboarding look "lighthearted" and "soothing" to the general public… and, it's sprinkled here and there with light-hearted narration that seems aimed at somebody that would know nothing at all about skateboarding.

I went looking around YouTube for the "trailer" for this re-release... which, as it turns out, was pretty close at hand. Having seen the movie, I found the "trailer" to be extremely misleading...! That hardcore, '80s-era punk rock implies that "Downhill Motion" is a lot like "Dogtown and Z-Boys", with it's hard-edged themes and rebellious nature...

... but, in reality, this "trailer" is a hell of a lot more accurate. Indeed, it's actually a scene pulled from the actual movie... not a "promotional trailer", per se.

Are You Gonna Buy It…?

Probably not. And, here's why: Sad it may be, most kids just don't give a shit about skateboarding's "rich history". That, obviously, says a lot more about today's kids, than it does about the movie itself. As a documentarian, as a writer, and as a guy that is truly interested in these sorts of "historical references"? I thought it was great! But: I'm not "most kids", either.

For what it was designed to do… yeah, I thought it was very well-done, and pretty entertaining. I thought it was an honest commentary on what skateboarding was really all about, in it's day. It's accurate, and it features a broad cross-section of skaters. Everybody from little kids, to girls, to women, to groundbreaking and pioneering "pros" of the day are in there, including Z-Boys Paul Constantineau and Jay Adams (of course), Russ Howell, Skitch Hitchcock, and Guy Grundy.

The Funny Thing Is…

… in today's recession-laden environment, where skateboarding has "lost popularity with the kids", and the market is "in turmoil"… this might be precisely the sort of thing that an IASC could commission from some young filmmaker, and use to get that "Next Generation" of skaters into the "sport". Frankly, I'm sort of amazed that Brookesey hasn't taken something like this up yet. It seems like it'd be right up his alley… and furthermore, would be a great add-on to the annual Evolutions DVD (which always ends up being widely accessible, on the internet).

The most remarkable thing about Downhill Motion isn't anything that's actually in the movie. The really remarkable thing about it, is the implied premise for making it (The whole "Let's introduce the non-skating public to skateboarding!" thing), and that it actually got done. And furthermore, that it actually enjoyed some measure of "widespread distribution and circulation" (by the standards of the day, at least).

Even if you don't buy it, I'd highly recommend that "skaters that care about these things" watch it at least once in their lives. Which would be "all skaters", if we lived in a perfect world.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Editor Speaks, and Coolness Wins. Deal.


This week, I was accused by a good friend of mine of being "A little bit ADD". Would I argue with this? Hell yeah I would! But, I would argue it in this way: Even though I do bounce around from topic to topic pretty quickly and easily… at the end of the day, all of those "topics" do have some common undercurrents, common themes, and common lessons to be learned. Even if they're not readily apparent, at the very first glance.

Here's the undercurrent of the week, this week: It is entirely cliche for skaters to say things like, "There are no rules in skateboarding". And, on the surface, that's entirely true. There are truly, no "rules" to speak of, when it comes to skateboarding. No "written" rules, at least. There is no guidebook that you can buy, that can ever tell you how to be "a skater". There's no pamphlet that will ever give you quick and handy tips regarding what to do, and what not to do, as a skateboarder.

At the end of the day, that sort of shit is pretty much left to every skater to figure out for themselves. Some skaters "get it", and have a very long and fruitful "career" in skateboarding. And, of course: Some skaters just never seem to "get it" at all. Probably because, they were totally clueless in the first place. Invariably, those kids are the ones that are pretty much here today, and gone tomorrow.

And when they do slip up, drop out, and get left behind… we, as the "Community of no-bullshit skaters everywhere"… we'll all say something along the lines of "Good Riddance!", go on our merry way, and probably never, ever look back.

Rule Number One: Never Forget It

If I were so ambitious as to write a "guidebook" of some sorts on what it takes to be a skater, and what those "unspoken rules" are, I would probably make this the first one:

"You will, under any and all circumstances, be forever cool and respectful to your fellow skateboarder. No matter what. Regardless of their race, gender, age, weight, hair color, intelligence, 'kookiness', 'gayness'… or, what sort of skating they may, or may not, be into."

Now: I'd say that most skaters, would probably agree with me on this one. No! Wait! Let's make that: "Most real, true-blue, smart, and saavy skaters that know what the fuck they're talking about, would probably agree with this one". That might be, a hell of a lot more accurate.

Because, as we all know, not all "skaters" actually conform to this. Even though they damn well should.

Exhibit "A"

This week was a pretty tough week here at The Solitary Life. Here's what happened: I wrote something that some Industry Bigwig didn't like. He then called me up (along with some other people, I might add), and bitched my ass out for about fifteen hours or so, because he was all butthurt and shit.

Now, I could say a whole lotta stuff about this situation. And in the following weeks, months, and years, I'm sure that I will. But, for now, let's just talk about the "rules", and why they don't always work out for everybody.

This chap, when he picked up the phone, had two real simple choices in front of him. "Choice One" was to do what the "rules" dictate, and stay fairly cool about all of this. Sure: Maybe I said something that I shouldn't have said. Sure: Maybe I hadn't been "cool" in my storytelling/essaying/reporting/whatever. True: Maybe I didn't have all the pertinent facts right in front of my eyes, at just the right time. And, yes: Maybe I hadn't been entirely "cool" to this dude, myself. All of these things, may or may not be true. All of these things, are open to debate and conjuncture. All of these things, bring up even more questions than they're really worth. At the end of the day, I just thank God that we have a First Amendment, I call it as I see it, and I pretty much leave it at that.


But, one thing does always hold true. And that is: Two Wrongs Don't Make A Right. Regardless of what I may, or may not have done… or, how "wrong" or "right" I might have been… the rules are still pretty black-and-white. You Be Cool To Your Fellow Skater. And, That's The End Of It. Just because he was pissed off, there's no good reason to go on ahead and piss me off, too. Now, all we have is a whole bunch of pissed off people, and most of those are in "the press". Smooth move, there, Slick Rick. Stay classy, San Diego.

Here's the way I see it. Everyone has choices to make. Those choices say an awful lot about who you are, and what you believe. Here's what I believe: Skateboarders that are genuinely cool to their fellow skateboarder, are truly "Skaters". In every sense of the word. It doesn't matter how "good" you are. It doesn't matter if you're sponsored or not. It doesn't matter if you're rich, poor, white, black, blue, yellow, purple, or pink. It doesn't matter if you're a boy, a man, a girl, or a woman. If you're a skateboarder, and you're cool to other skateboarders… then, by gawd, you're a fuckin' skater. And, that's it.

But, what of those "other dudes"? You know the ones… the "skateboarders" that might ride skateboards... and may even ride them very, very well? But, at the end of the day, they're the kind of guys that are just dicks and jerks to everyone around them… including, other skaters? What do I call those assholes…?

Here's what I call 'em: "Assholes, dicks, and jerks that can ride skateboards [pretty good]".

But definitely, not "Skaters".

That's how I see it, so that's how I call it.

Rule Number Two

Let's move right along here, everybody. If my personal rule… and, make no mistake here, by the way: These are all, just a bunch of Personal Opinions (As if I had to actually point it out or something…! Jeez Louise…). So: If my "Personal Rule One" is:

"Be Cool To Your Fellow Skater"…? Then, my "Personal Rule Two" would certainly be:

"While you're at it: Be Cool To Everyone Else, Too".

Now, here's the funny thing: Almost every thinking skater worth their shit, will more than definitely agree with Rule Number One. Nobody in their right mind, is gonna dispute that one. At least, not publicly. And definitely, not to other skaters.

But, Rule Two?! Ahhhhh! That one, I can guarantee ya, won't be quite so popular.

Exhibit "B"

Let's say that, you're out street skating at 3 am. You're at a spot, and you're just minding your own shit, and having a good time. You're not harming anyone, or anything at all. You with me here, kids...? You should be, because this has been "me" about 5000,000000,000 times in my fucking life. So: I kinda know what I'm talking about, here.

Anyway: You're out, you're skating, and then… some jackass fucking security guard comes up to you, and starts throwing up all kinds of crazy hate all over you, and tells you to get the fuck out of there. Like, right now, assface...!

Sound familiar? Good. It does to me, too. Believe me on this one.

So: What do you do?! Well, here's what most dumbass little snot-nosed skates do: They start throwing up a huge, disrespectful, punk-ass bunch of hate all over the Security Dude! Like, "Take That, Bitch…!!!"

And then, they:

- Get an ass chewing from the guard, or they
- Get clobbered, or they
- Get the "real" cops all in their shit, which usually means they
- Get a ticket, or they
- Pay a fine, or they
- Get hassled every time they skate this spot, or they
- Make the spot a bust for everyone else (Which makes the skater a jerk, now...) or they
- End up with some unfortunate, but entirely realistic combination of the above.

Call me Captain Obvious, and let me point out that: All of these things kinda suck.

Plus, what's even worse, is that: All of them, could have been easily avoided.

Why I'm Right, and You're Wrong

So, let me ask: Is there a better way?! Yup. There sure as hell is!

And, that "Better Way" can be found in Brotha Bud's "How To Be A Skater" rulebook. Right there on Page 1, Rule 2. Which is, "Be Cool To Everyone".

Here's a funny factoid that I'd like to share with everyone out there in skateland. I, have never had "my name taken by the police". I, have never received a ticket for skateboarding. I, have never paid one red cent in fines to anybody (Not for skating, at least… "sports cars" are a whole 'nother matter…). Yet: I spent twenty entire years of my life, street skating all over the world. And, to this day, I can pretty much skate wherever I want, without fear of ever having to deal with any real "consequences" going down, or even worrying about anything "bad" ever happening to me at all.

So, you tell me: "How in the hell does this work?! How does that retard fatass that can't really skate, get away with it…?!?!"

The answer is simple, dumbass: I'm "Cool", and You're Not.

Look, kid. I recognize that, in order to ride a skateboard virtually anywhere… you're gonna end up causing a shitstorm somewhere down the line. Skating, after all, is pretty much, "Universally Illegal". You skate down the sidewalk? It's against the law. The street? Against the law. In a skatepark, without a helmet? Against the law. Down a hill, on a longboard? Against the law. In a pool? Definitely, against the law. On somebody else's property? Against the law. Fuck, kid: The only place you can "legally" skate, is pretty much up your own asshole. And obviously, nobody wants to go skate there.

So, if we're gonna keep on skating, and having places to skate? In that case, "Cool Is Job One". Unless skating in your own ass appeals to you. In that case, you're just………

As a strictly personal policy, I always, always make it a point to be very, very cool to all cops, security guards, and property owners. Always. Even if they're not being cool… still, there is such a thing as being "The Smarter Dumbass", or "The Bigger Man" in all of this. So, no: I don't react to hate, with more hate. Nor do I react to "stupid" with even more "stupid". I simply play the Smart Bloke, and deal "The Cool Card" extremely well. And then: I [Usually] Win!

You know what I get out of doing that, kids...?! Cops think that I'm awesome, and security guards let me skate pretty much wherever I want, whenever I want. Ramp owners invite me to their house, and guys with secret spots let me in on all of their secrets.

That's the reward that you, too, can get out of being universally respectful, and continually cool to everyone around you.

Some Of Life's (Harder) Lessons

As a quick aside, here's take a second to outline a few more related "good ideas", in the interests of helping all skaters "Be A Little More Cool To Their Fellow Skater":

- If you make a bunch of trash while you're skating your local park? Pick up after yourself. Nobody if your fucking maid.

- If a ramp owner invites you to a BBQ? Ask if you can bring something. Don't be a mooch.

- Ramp owner lets you skate his ramp often? Offer up a few bucks when it's time to resurface it. You're not a scrounge, either.

- Out of cash? Pick up a hammer and a screw gun, and pitch in some elbow grease to help get that shit done. Unless you're crippled or broken, you're helping.

- Somebody tells you a secret? Keep it a secret. You aren't The National Enquirer.

- You think somebody's a kook? Keep your trap shut. Guaranteed, somebody thinks you're a kook, too.

- Somebody trying to learn a trick? Help them out a little. Because contrary to your own opinion, you weren't born sponsored, buddy.

- Lastly: If you're some critical, fat-assed, critical blogger jerk? Remember: You weren't always a genius, and you didn't exactly learn it all "the easy way", either.

I noted it because, believe it or not: I know it far better than you think. And I'm definitely not "too good for a little self-criticism", either.

"Why Don't Girls Skate...?!"

I spotted this topic over at Silverfish this week about "Why Girls Don't Skate". Being the curious joe that I am, I decided to go check that out. Because, the Silverfish kids are generally on top of their shit. They ain't dummies, that's fersure.

First thing that I spotted, was this little gem from somebody that goes by the name of "Belegnole":

"The reason more girls don't skate, is guys".

Now, see that?! That's precisely the sort of intelligent, insightful, no-bullshit, straight-to-the-point, brutally honest kind answer that I like to see on a messageboard forum somewhere. I don't have the first clue who this "Belegnole" person is, but I can tell ya one thing for certain: They should be running this fucking industry.

In this industry, we've all… and, when I say "we've all", I'm referring to those of us industry-dudes that actually have our thinking caps on, screwed tight, and powered up… "we've" all been trying to solve the riddle of, "How Do We Get More Girls To Skate?!" for years...

Now, let me be clear here: The Industry, and The Solitary Life (aka, "The Media"), have very different reasons for asking this question. The Industry being "The Industry", they want "more girls skating", because they wanna "sell more skateboards". More girls? More customers. More customers? More Cash. Very easy, very simple, and very honest. No…?

Now, as for "us"? Well, The Solitary Life isn't a "business". We don't actually buy, or sell, anything at all. We're just "the media". Media that's pretty much run by "Me".

So, why do I want more girls to skate?! Where do my interests lie on this one…?

Easy: I Think That Everyone Should Skate. I've always thought that, actually. And, I still do. Regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, blah blah blah.

Let me be real honest and clear here: I was blessed, to have been introduced to skateboarding by somebody along the way. Skateboarding, has given me a whole lot of great times, and good memories.

Corny as hell? Yeah. True, nonetheless? Uh-huh! Totally.

I just think that it would be a damn shame, if anyone else missed out on that. Regardless of "why" they missed out. But, I especially think that it'd be a damn shame, if the only "reason" that they missed out, is because they're a girl (Or a woman, or a female, or whatever…)

So- you know what I propose? It's pretty simple:

"Let's Be Cool To Girls!" Just like, we'd be cool to everyone else. So: Why should "girls" be any different…?!

The answer is: They're not.

If The Industry really and truly wanted more girls to skate… then, they would very wisely implement some sort of policy that basically says, "We will support, and be cool to, all girls that either skate, today… or, that might want to skate, tomorrow." What's more: I would write this policy somewhere where anyone and everyone could read it ("Like I just did!"), and I would repeat it pretty often. Just in case anyone forgets where I stand in all of this.


I ran the idea by Brookesey (That would be Michael Brooke, at Concrete Wave) last week, of implementing a long-term and far-reaching media campaign, aimed squarely at breaking the "stigma" that says that "Girls Shouldn't Skate!" This, was one of the crazy-ass "ideas" that I came up with... clearly on my own, with [obviously] no help whatsoever from anyone that might have known what the hell they were doing...

Regardless, I liked the fact that this picture (Of Farrah Fawcett, no less!) was taken in the mid-1970's... a time when "women's lib[eration]" was at the height of it's game. Also: The one time in skating's history, where large numbers of women not only skated... but actually had sponsors, got ads, participated in competitions, and enjoyed "relatively widespread" (by today's standards, at least) coverage in the media.

How can it be that, more than thirty years later, we... as a sport, as a pastime, and as a community of participants... have actually gone backwards on this issue...?! At the very, very least: We haven't made a whole hell of a lot of progress. What, exactly, does that say about us...?

Lastly: If you can't read it, the "fine print" in it says: "Brought to you by the guys (Not, "the girls!) at [The Solitary Life]. When you're "exercising industry leadership", you need to be extremely clear in what you are saying. We, are Guys! Yet: We Support Women In Skateboarding!

Are all of the rest of the "guys" in this industry of ours gonna man up, and follow suit? Or: Go on doing nothing at all...?

I ran the idea this week past Brookesey (Michael Brooke, at Concrete Wave) that maybe, "The Media" should take a "leadership" role on this one, and openly encourage more girls to take up skating...? Mostly because I fear that, if we leave it in the hands of IASC, or the manufacturers… they'll only fuck the whole thing up, like they always seem to do. So, why don't we just do it for ourselves?! Surely we, as "The Media", don't need IASC to do for us, what we could just as easily do for our own damned selves…!

And, I just thought that [publicly] saying something as simple as "Hey, guys! Let's all stop being a bunch of territorial fucking dickwads, and maybe try being cool to women for a minute or two" might just be, a darn good place to start.

"Sorry" to any dickwads that might be offended by all of this.

Everybody Fucks Up

So, I was talking to this kid today about all of this, and he was all stoked. He was like, "Man, you're the smartest dude around! I'm gonna listen to everything you say, and life's gonna be awesome! I'm gonna have it made, and never screw up!"

Right there, I was like, "Whoa. Hold up there, grasshopper. Uhh… I hate to tell you this, but… you will absolutely, and definitely, screw up. Some time, some place, and some how… you're gonna play it wrong, and get your ass kicked. Sorry man, but it's the truth".

And, it is. No kid wants to be hanging off of my left nut for the rest of his life. And, in any rate, I sure as hell don't want any booger-brained teenybopper hanging off of my left nut for the rest of my life, either.

Nope. Kids might listen once in a while [if we're lucky]. They might even learn something along the way. Which is great! And then?! If we've actually done something right, and we're really, really lucky?!?! They might even take away what they learn, go rushing out into the world… and then, almost immediately, they're gonna fuck it all up.

It's just part of the gig, man. It's what kids do.

So: What do you do, when you screw it all up?! Well, that's easy! Just, refer back to Rule Number One! Which is, once again:

"Be Cool To Everyone".

I might add, "Especially if you're the one, being the jackass".

Lord knows, I've made my fair share of goofs in my life. It's not like, I've always been a "natural genius" or whatever. Shit, dude: There are still guys out there that think that I'm the biggest ass on the whole face of the planet. It's not about whether you succeed, or whether you fail. We're all human, so we're all pretty much doomed to fail, anyway, sooner or later.

The real challenge here, is to make a sincere effort to "try". The best that you could ever do, is do the best that you can do, and be willing to eat some shit-cake when (Not, "if") you fall short. It's kind of like the whole cheeseball Animal Chin bullshit: "As long as you're trying to be cool to your fellow skater, than you've already succeeded…"

Honestly, though? I think there's a lot of truth in that.

Back To The Bigwig Jackass

Yeah. Let's get back to that guy, before we finish this whole thing up. "That guy", by the way, is the "Asshole, dick, and jerk that can ride a skateboard [pretty good]". The dude that fucked up this week, by giving me a shit-ton of bumbling bullshit.

What would I tell that dude, today? Right now…?

Well, what I would tell him to do would be to do the same thing that I'm telling everyone else to do. And, that is to do "The Cool Thing". Which, in my world, is also synonymous with doing "The Right Thing".

Now, let me add: This guy doesn't have to do anything at all, as far as I'm personally concerned. I'm already over it. The sad, ugly truth of the matter is that, he's dead to me. He's out, and he's gone. He broke Rule Number One, and he did it in this awesomely impressive way that I probably won't be forgetting anytime soon [if, ever].

I might add that: Anyone that knows me well, will surely attest to the fact that I can pretty easily forget all kinds of stuff. And: I do. All the damn time. Names, numbers, what I was doing five seconds ago, where I put my house... yeah. But, this...?! Nah, dude. This, I'll be remembering for a good, long while.

As you can probably guess, I had to make the difficult, and unfortunate decision this week regarding whether I could, in good conscience, personally support "this guy" any more. Well, "personally"? I can't. I just can't bring myself to do it. No matter how hard I try, my good conscience as a person... let alone, as a fellow skater... will not allow me to continue to support this sort of blatantly disrespectful behavior. I just can't…

On a happier note, I did realize something else this week. And, that is that life really is pretty grand these days. So what if there's one un-cool dude in the industry?! Lord knows that there's only about a zillion other truly cool blokes out there, doing some pretty neat shit right now. So, at the end of the day, what's one dude really amount to, when there's so many other great heads out there doing such good stuff…?! Well, shit man! It's no skin off my nose! I'll just support some of them, instead...!

Because The Solitary Life is my blog, and it is ultimately my publication… naturally enough, The Solitary Life will be following suit for the time being. However: As The Solitary Life grows, and increasingly becomes a larger and larger family of writers, reporters, journalists, storytellers, analysts, critics, contributors, advisers, friends, supporters, advertisers, and readers…? The Solitary Life, as a collective, might eventually reconsider this policy. But, I won't. Personally.

So, no: I don't need this dude's apologies. But, the fact of the matter is that: I wasn't the only guy involved, either. The Cool Thing for this guy to do, would be to put that right with whoever else "might" have been involved, and/or affected by this (assuming that it's possible to do). And to "put it right" very, very quickly.

And make a point of remembering Rule Number One from here on out.

It is, after all, the only rule that matters.


This piece is dedicated to my good friend, "Brotha Bart" Kelley. The bossman of the Old Indy Skaters (OIS), he's also one of the wisest and most insightful guys that I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. Keep up the good work, Brotha Bart. You're sure to win in the end.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Product Review: The Hamboard "Fish"


Just The Facts:

Length: 53" (4'5")
Width: 17.25"
Nose: 5.25"
Tail: 10.5"
Wheelbase: 33.25"

Construction: 5/8" thick Birch
Concave: None. Dead flat.

Griptape: None. "Sticky Paint" is what keeps your feet in place. It works better than you'd think.

Wheels: 90mm 81a Abec 11 Flywheels, loaded with Biltin Bearings.

Trucks: Original S10's (I think); 250 mm wide.

Risers: Comes with two sets; a pair of stock Originals (.625" tall), on top of carved birch risers (.875" tall), for a total of 1.5" of riser.

Total ride height: All set up, the deck sits about 6" off the ground.
Total weight: About 30+ lbs.

Cost: $399.00, direct from Hamboards


Here it is! Mine's the purple one, as you'll see in a second...

"Okay: What In The Hell Is This...?!"

That's surely what most "skaters" are gonna ask, when they first see a Hamboard.

The next thing that they always ask is, "Can I try it...?!"

I got this Fish a couple years back, before embarking on my 2008 Tour. I think what they wanted me to do, was to tote it around, and show it to shops that I came across in my travels... which I did do, some of the time. The "problem" was that, having a small Econobox as a road-trip vehicle... the Hamboard didn't always fit in my car. Especially when my car was already chock full of everything else that I needed to bring along with me.

To answer the question: A Hamboard is the very closest thing that you can buy, that will realistically duplicate the feeling of "surfing", on pavement. I'm not a surfer, mind you. I've only done it a few times in my life, and those didn't even go all that well. But: I do have an idea of how it works. And, riding a Hamboard is really, really quite similar (Although nothing could ever fully duplicate the feeling of gliding and turning on water, precisely).

That said: This is probably far more popular with "surfers", than it would be with most "skaters". After all, you sure as hell can't ollie a trash can, or kickflip on a Hamboard.



The top and bottom views of the Fish.

The Experience

It's very hard to describe the feeling of actually riding a Hamboard. Really, you'd almost have to go out and do it, to "get" it.

There are a few things that I might bring up, though. First of all, it turns on a dime. It'll actually out-turn many "regular" skateboards... and easily, most "longboards". You wouldn't think that it would be possible, but it's absolutely true. Secondly: It's not easy to push, if you're not used to it... because of the weight, and the ride height, as well as the overall width. Thirdly: Thankfully, you don't have to push much at all, because this thing will roll on and on, forever and ever.


The wheels and trucks that come on a Hamboard are for all intents and purposes, the biggest ones available on the open market. The extra risers are necessary to avoid wheelbite, with the 90mm wheels and quick-turning trucks.


The Flywheels have hollowed-out cores, and the bulk of their rolling mass pushed out to the extreme outer diameter of the wheel. This literal "Flywheel" effect is what helps the Hamboard keep on rolling, and rolling, and rolling...


Here's the Original truck, pushed all the way to the extreme. Originals do "lock out" at this point, which means that you cannot possibly turn them any more. Note how the wheelwells give you an extra 1/8" or so of clearance, just in case. As a practical matter, getting wheelbite on a Hamboard is impossible.


This photo shows the "true" turning radius of a Fish. From rolling straight down the double-yellows, I pushed it all the way over... and, here's where it ended up. About seven-and-a-half feet, from center to center.

The best place to ride a Hamboard is on a wide-open, smooth, and totally flat open road, sidewalk, parking lot, or paveway. Hopefully, when there's not an overabundance of rubber-necked people around. Because, this thing definitely will get a lot of attention. It attracts bystanders like a magnet. Collision risks do ensue. And: Due to it's weight and size, you absolutely do not wanna be pushing this thing "uphill" at all. Likewise: It will also pick up speed, quite quickly, if it's ever pointed downhill.

But: Assuming you're on an "open" and flat path... it's a shit-ton of fun. Whenever I take it out to go play with it... and, it really is something that's well-suited to "playing" on... I'll actually tell the missus that I'm "Going surfing!" Deep carves, snappy bottom turns, frontside thrusters on mellow inclines... it really is very, very "surf-like".

I've definitely had a ton of fun on mine over the years.

Why You'll Think Hard About Buying One

The first "doubt", obviously, is gonna be the size. Skaters, will have second thoughts about that. Surfers, though, won't. Surfers are totally used to riding huge-sized boards, already...!

The second doubt? The price. Most skaters will consider $399 a ton of money. Again: Most surfers, won't. Surfers are totally used to paying somewhere between several hundred bucks, to well over a grand for a surfboard, already...!

The key thing to remember here, is that unlike almost any other skateboard on the market... this thing is built to last, literally, twenty or thirty years. Shit, maybe even longer than that! Well, just by doing "the math"... you and I can see that the "actual" cost-of-ownership is only like, ten bucks a year or something. So maybe the question isn't, "Is $399 this outrageous outlay of cash?!" But rather, "Would I be willing to drop ten bucks a year to be the coolest guy in town, and have this crazy-neat plaything to ride around on...?"

Then, we have some simple logistics. A runaway Hamboard will keep right on running, until something very large and/or very heavy gets in it's way. Hopefully, that's not a small child or something. Carrying it, is a very real workout. Bringing it into a store or a restaurant (in the midwest, at least) can be sort of uncomfortable. It takes up a lot of "parking space" in your house, in your vehicle, or wherever else you may "park" one, temporarily.

Are any of these things "bad"? Nope! Just things to keep in mind, before you order one. That's all.

The Final Verdict

Just like I said above: When I first saw the price, I too had a pretty bad case of "sticker shock".

But, having had one in the quiver now for, oh, a few years at least? And, seeing how long I'm gonna have it (The "ten bucks a year" thing)? Yeah: I'd totally call this a pretty good investment for any surfing-minded skater.