Saturday, October 23, 2010

Technically Speaking: Snowboard Waxing


Snowboard season is almost here again! I'm so stoked! I can't wait...

One of the really surprising statistics that I've heard floating around, is a statistic that says that about 90% of all snowboarders don't bother to wax their snowboards. In my eyes, that's pretty close to sheer insanity.

Why?! Because waxing your snowboard makes snowboarding a lot more fun. It definitely makes your life easier. It's also a hell of a lot safer. Well, if you could be safer, make your life easier, and have more fun doing it... why wouldn't ya...?!

The big misconception out there is that waxing your snowboard is expensive, messy, and difficult to do. And sure: It can be. But that doesn't necessarily mean that it has to be.

Snowboards are waxed using two methods. One, is the "hot-waxing" method. This one can be expensive, messy, and time-consuming. I know, because I hot-wax my boards several times a year. But, the one thing that it is not, is "hard to do". Indeed, there's literally hundreds of articles out there that'll show you how to hot wax a snowboard. Hot-waxing does result, though, in a much deeper base cleaning (the heat draws out old wax, and embedded impurities), and longer-lasting wax (due to creating a better bond between the base, and the wax).

But there's also a second way to wax a snowboard. And that's the "rub on" method. That one, is super-easy to do. Here's the quick tutorial:


The stuff you'll need (clockwise from top left): Base cleaner (Simple Green works great, it's available at any hardware store for about $5), "Scotch-Brite" (I use "Spontex", it's less abrasive... about $3 from your local grocery store); Wax (Hertel Hotsauce, in this case... $13 for a 5-oz bar that'll last you most of the season); A rag (terry cloth, $3 at the grocery); And, a scraper (Burton, at your local snowboard shop, about $6).

That's about $30, but it's gonna last you the better part of the season. It's money well spent.

Here's a quickie tutorial on how to "properly" wax a board using the rub-on method. Cleaning the board and scraping off wax build-up aren't usually emphasized, but they're definitely important.

I get asked several questions every year about waxing snowboards. They include:

How much does wax cost, and how long does it last?

I usually buy 180-gram bars, just because I wax my boards so often. A 180-gram bar costs no more than thirty bucks, and usually lasts me a whole season. Sometimes, even longer than that.

Hertel offers 3/4 lb. (340 gram!) "bricks" of Hot Sauce for $21, for those of us that really like to go nutty with the shit.

How many sessions do you get out of a wax job?

A good hot-wax might last a few sessions... but, that depends. Snow conditions are the biggest variable when it comes to how long a wax will last. Here in the midwest, we have a lot of man-made snow and ice. That stuff is pretty abrasive, and scrapes wax off very quickly.

How often do you [personally] wax your board?

I wax my boards religiously after every session... mostly because of the snow conditions that I experience here in Indiana. Sometimes, I'll even do a quick rub-on after I have lunch, midway through a session. I keep a small block on me at all times, because the snow here is so harsh that you can literally feel the board getting slower as the day progresses. And man, do I hate going slow...

How long does it take to wax a board?

Rubbing it on? A couple of minutes, tops. Hot-waxing? Maybe half an hour. It's not as bad as it seems. And it's actually kind of fun, too, once you get it all figured out.

Do you do your own board-tunes, as well?

Yeah, I tune my board up every time I hot wax. Again, it's pretty easy to figure out.

You must save hella money on maintenance...!

Yeah, I do. A wax at a snowboard shop can easily run between ten to twenty bucks. A full-board tune can be up to forty. The savings of doing it yourself add up real quick.

This much longer tutorial (by the guys at Hertel) demonstrates good hot-waxing techniques. The overall principles are still the same: Clean, apply, scrape, and buff. Hot waxing results in a deeper-penetrating wax that lasts longer, and more thoroughly conditions the base. On the minus: It's messy, it involves hot irons (that can ruin a base if not used properly), and it's not exactly "convenient" (you need a power source, a dedicated work area, etc).

Most snowboarders do both. Hot wax when they have the time and they're at home, and rub-on when they don't have the time, or they're on the road.

The most important question of them all, though, is "Why bother waxing in the first place...?!" Truthfully...? There's a few really good reasons why waxing your board is a super-smart idea.

First of all, it helps your board feel newer, longer. Whether you realize it or not, all snowboards come from the factory, waxed. Take my new Lib Tech Skunk Ape, for example. Right on the bottom, there's a sticker that says, "Factory waxed with One Ball Jay". It not only tells you that it's waxed, but even tells you which wax they used on it. Some snowboards come with a similar sticker... but, all of them come waxed.

Wax helps to protect your base from the elements. Not just snow and water, but also the particulates that are always present in the snowpack. Dust, dirt, sand, pollen... this is all "grime" that can easily become embedded in your base, without wax. All of these things will slow your ass down.

Wax also helps protect your board from much larger objects that might be hidden in the snowpack. Tree limbs and trunks, large rocks, twigs... these things can all gouge your base, which could lead to some pretty hefty repair bills. Wax, being a lubricant, helps your board easily glide over these types of "foreign objects", minimizing (or even eliminating) the damage they can do to your board.

Mostly, though, wax is used to increase the performance of the board. The obvious thing that wax does, is help you go faster. This has clear advantages to all sorts of snowboarders. Pipe riders, of course, can get much bigger air if they're going faster. Jumps are easier to clear, if you're going faster. Since wax is a lubricant, sliding around on jibs, boxes, and rails also becomes a hell of a lot easier. In the backcountry, wax helps you sail through the flats that might ordinarily stop you dead, and require you to de-strap and hike to the next hill. Wax also helps you keep your speed up in deep powder. This can all filed under "having more fun", and maybe even "smoking your buddies".


This Hertel ad illustrates why waxing your board is such a good idea. It's a fact that it takes approximately 28 lbs. of force to move an unwaxed snowboard through snow. If I'm not mistaken, this assumes a 180 lb. snowboarder, on snow between 0 and 34 degrees f.

The top line represents this 28 lbs. of force. Now: Note the other three lines. Obviously, Hertel uses this ad to show that their waxes are superior to everybody else's. But, here's the conclusion that I get out of it: Even the "worst" wax in the world cuts that resistance by at least a third, while Hertel's waxes cut it by around 60%. That, is a huge reduction.

Imagine your board being [at least] 30% faster. Or, 30% easier to turn, and stop. Imagine riding 30% longer, or feeling 30% less tired at the end of the day. How about, 30% bigger airs? Those are the kinds of numbers that you can expect, from a well-waxed snowboard.

Besides increasing straight-line speed, wax also cuts resistance to turning, which makes it far easier to maneuver the board. This reduces the amount of effort you need to physically move the board around, which also goes a long way to reducing fatigue (leg-burn), and can even go a long way to minimizing- even eliminating- common injuries. This can all be filed under "making snowboarding less of a pain in the ass".

Making the board easier to turn, also does something that actually seems counter-intuitive to most snowboarders: It helps you stop the board faster, too. Which has it's own advantages in those do-or-die situations that snowboarders find themselves in from time to time (the good ones, at least). Trees, boulders, cliffs, steeps, booger-headed bastard little skier poofs... their bastard, clueless, inattentive frickin' parents... all of these things are "natural obstacles" that you might need to avoid at some time or another. Wax helps you reel that board in, and make quick-acting decisions on the fly. This can all be filed under "making snowboarding safer for everyone, even those dumb fucking skiers".

More fun. Less pain-in-the-ass. Safer for clueless idiots. Fairly inexpensive, and fast. If waxing does so much good, for so little, then why isn't everyone doing it...!?

Answer is: Everyone should.


The Editor Speaks: Taking The Initiative


This week was a pretty busy week here at The Solitary Life.

The first thing that happened... well, "the first thing that didn't happen" might be more accurate... was getting any sort of "further dialogue" going with IASC. Which almost everybody here totally expected would happen. After all, IASC does a lot of stuff very, very badly. But, they probably do "communication" worse than almost anything else.

The consensus around the office, though, is that we don't really need IASC for jack shit. We are skaters, after all. We're more than used to picking up the ball and running with it ourselves. It's what skaters do.



We saw a post last week over at Skull and Bones about a group of French skaters that built a DIY mini ramp out in the woods. The ramp looks absolutely killer, and it goes to show the immense contributions that everyday skaters can make to their skate scenes, just by pitching in and doing stuff like this. What's more: These guys are an inspiration to the rest of us, too.

With guys like this in skateboarding, who needs IASC...?!

You, as a skater, have a hell of a lot more power and influence over skateboarding than IASC ever will. Because you, the skater, are the most important person in skateboarding. Skateboarding wouldn't exist, if it weren't for skaters. IASC might do itself a favor to remember once in a while that if it weren't for skaters, their brands wouldn't exist, either. So basically, skaters don't exist to kiss IASC's ass. Rather: They're here to kiss ours.

So, The Solitary Life boycott of IASC rolls along as planned. And honestly, it feels really good to do it. I'm certainly not missing them at all. There's more than enough small, skater-run companies out there to support. They all make great shit. And most importantly: My conscience is clear. Out with the old, and in with the new...!

The other really cool thing that happened this week... which can be read as "another awesome place where we took the initiative, and told IASC to go screw"... is that we started to reach out to a few snowboard companies. Obviously, we started covering snowboard-related news right from Day One (as The Solitary Life began in November of 2009, right on the heels of last years' snowboard season). But truthfully, we just sort of "dabbled" with snowboarding last year. We didn't take it as seriously as we probably should have.

This year, we decided to get a little bit more "with it". Clue up. You get the picture.

Instead of treating it as a way to make a living, he decided to focus only on the sport. “This switch flipped on. From that point forward, I looked out for the sport and made sure that there was something there... that I was right [about its potential]. Once I got focused on that, everything started taking care of itself,”

- from Success Magazine's profile of Jake Burton. You'll see why this is significant in a minute...

Snowboarding is a major deal around the Solitary Life offices. Maybe moreso for me, than anyone else. Why? Because, snowboarding reminds me a lot of what skateboarding used to be like. It's free, easygoing, no worries, no vibes, and a gigantic adventure all day, every day. It's all about the riding, and that's pretty much the end of it. Everyone is so fixated on getting out and having fun, that there's really no time for the harshing bullshit that plagues vast continents of skateboarding.

So, I reached out to a few snowboard companies this week. And right away, something amazing happened: They got right back to me! Not just the obligatory "Thanks for the input" quick-hit reply, either. But, real letters that actually said very real stuff. As an editor... and, I might add, as a customer that has supported these companies in the past... I was pretty damned impressed.

Snowboard companies are a very different beast, from the average skateboard company. The average skateboard company is way too fucking cool to deal with some insignificant asshole like you. Or me, for that matter. Snowboard companies, though... they're actually really great to work with. Sort of like snowboarding, snowboard companies remind me a lot of what skateboard companies used to be. Friendly, outgoing, helpful, and even kind of caring. Or "really caring", depending on which one you're working with at the moment.

I might add at this point that snowboard companies, by their very nature, are generally huge, corporate conglomerates. Which sort of turns the whole argument inside-out, doesn't it...? After all, even the smallest snowboard manufacturers are oftentimes many, many times bigger than Sector Nine (widely credited as the "biggest skateboard company" out there, right now). Yet, one snowboard company actually found the time to not merely send me one e-mail response, but three...! They actually asked a bunch of questions, and followed up. If this had been an IASC brand, I would have been absolutely fucking floored...!

But, it was a snowboard company. And that's pretty much how they all work. It's just par for the course.

As I was researching the sales numbers of various snowboard companies in the industry, I came across an interesting article on Jake Burton ("Jake Carpenter" to those of us that have been snowboarding for long enough). Honestly, any article on Jake is usually a pretty good read. Maybe that's one of the reasons why Burton is the ginormous success story that it is, today.

But, the article mentioned something that I found uniquely telling. Jake was talking about his early days as a board manufacturer, and how Burton had gone through some really hard times in the first couple years as a company. So bad, in fact, that he actually gave some serious thought to giving up altogether.

But at some point, he changed his outlook, and his focus. He took the initiative, and turned his mindset around. Instead of working so hard to "grow" Burton, he would instead make "growing snowboarding" his main focus. The rationale was simple enough: If snowboarding succeeded, then so would Burton. And, Jake was right. Burton has done extremely well in the marketplace. And, that can absolutely be attributed to the marketplace becoming what it is today. A nation of fun-loving people that make the time to enjoy what they love, and spare remarkably little time for negative distractions. And Jake, in a very real sense, is the template for that. He's a snowboarder, after all. Not that unlike you and I. So, he doesn't just "lead", as an industry success story. He leads by example. He leads by doing it.

Skateboarding in general- and IASC, specifically- could learn a lot from guys like Jake, and from snowboarding. We sure have.


See the Success Magazine article that we referenced, here:

See the french mini-ramp project here:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Newsworthy: October 19th, 2010


We've got a couple of midwest happenings to report this week, as well as a good cause to help out:

First off: Let's start off with Duane Peters. The legendary "Master of Disaster". This time, the "disaster" was a shattered knee, that led to a staph infection, that very nearly led to Duane losing his leg at the knee. Of course, Duane being Duane, he pulled it [again], and the doctors managed to save Duane's leg. Albeit for a very, very hefty price tag.

To help Duane with his newfound medical bills, Dave Hackett has offered to help Duane sell off parts of his collection via eBay. There's some really cool rarities and one-offs in there (the Red Cross decks alone are worth every penny, and then some). Check it out here:


Next up: The Instrument 5-Year Anniversary Party. Congrats to Gary Collins and the crew on that one! I got the invite, but unfortunately we're tied up with plans already. Maybe someone could send over a few photos or a write-up or something...? In any rate, here's to the next five, guys! (*Toasts all around, here!*)


The "other" big event that we got the heads-up on this week, is the OIS Indy/OIS Ohio "Halloween Bash" at Boards-Inc. Skatepark in Richmond, Indiana on October the 30th (duh). This will be the second time in two weeks that the two OIS's are going to be getting together, which is pretty rad. Come one, come all! Everyone's invited to this one, so we'll [hopefully] see ya there!

Any news to report? Send it on over to, and we'll get the word out.


Be The Scene: Support Your Local Skate Shop


Skateshop Spotlight: Str8 Up Skate Shop


We started the "Skateshop Spotlight" earlier this year, as a way for skate shops all across the country (or, the world) to see firsthand, skate shops that "we" think are going above and beyond for their local communities, and the world of skateboarding in general. This month, we're happy to feature our hometown skate shop, Str8 Up Sk8 Shop here in Indianapolis, Indiana.

I put the "we" in parenthesis, to emphasize that these are largely personal opinions that we're talking about, here. Still, some things will always remain constant in this big blue world of ours. For example: Skate shops that consistently provide great customer service [or care] will always do well in the marketplace. Shops that embrace diversity, and a do-it-yourself ethos? Even better. Shops that are community-minded? Better still. And, as for shops that actually give something back to the community... whether it's through charitable giving, working with kids to provide a long-term positive influence, or building something for the kids (and, adults) to skate? Those shops are the very best of the best, in our book.

Str8 Up, is all of these things.

A lot of the shop's success is because of the sort of guy that the owner is. Jason Ramsey is a seriously cool guy, with a big heart. Maybe I should note at this point that we haven't always gotten along. That's hugely significant, because even when we weren't on the best terms, it was still totally obvious that he was a great dude. Miscommunications happen from time to time. But dedication to your scene, and to skateboarding is absolutely timeless. That's the kind of guy that Jason is.

With that, we figured it'd be best to let Jason talk about Str8 Up, while we handled the photo, art, and caption duties. Jason, the floor is yours:


Jason Ramsey, the owner, handling his business. He's always smiling, by the way. We like that.


The front facade at the "new" Str8 Up location. They just moved in to this spot what, about a month ago now...? Maybe, not even that? It's a lot more convenient to find [and get to] than the "old" store was. That alone, is a major improvement.

First question: You give to a lot of causes and charities. Which ones do you support, and why did you pick those?

The American Cancer Society(we have a shop "Relay For Life" team), Feed The Children, and we have special "runs" of shop decks that we donate some of the money to the South Side [Indianapolis] Animal Shelter. We wanted to be involved with organizations that have affected our own lives,in one way or another.

Does your charitable giving have an impact on your customers? Does it motivate them to get involved with their community, too?

Honestly, no. Not yet [that I've seen]. We're trying to open skaters eyes to the bigger picture of their communities, and to doing for others. We, as skaters, are looked at as a nuisance. If we can open people's eyes to who/how we really are, by doing "good" things, I think they'd be positively surprised.


The new shop is a bit bigger than the old shop was, with a lot more stuff packed in there. They also "diversified" the inventory by adding a few old-school and longboard items. This will probably go over pretty well with Indy's fast-growing old-school and longboard scenes.


This behind-the-counter shot shows just how many more decks are here than meets the eye. Big companies, small companies, trendy companies, core companies, d.i.y. companies... they're all represented, so there's literally something here for everyone.


The "Matt Hensley wall", just above the register. The man has good influences, that's fer damned sure...!

How's everything going at the new location? It looks a lot better stocked, and roomier. And, it seems like a lot of kids hang out there- moreso than they did at the old shop.

It's going good. We have about 4 times the space we had before. Having an indoor place for the kids to skate at sure brings in a lot more people that stay for a lot longer time. We're here till 9 most nights. When I was a kid, I woulda' hung out here...! (Laughing!)

[Editors' note: I woulda', too...!]


The entrance to the indoor skatepark. It's been quite some time since Indy's had one of these...


Skatepark overview. It all started with the mini-ramp over in the corner. 3' high, 16' wide, just the right size for techy mini-ramp champs, and for little kids to learn on. Two weeks later... maybe, not even that? They tore off half a platform, and added the spine-to-wallride. Two weeks later again, and Jason's already dreaming up the next metamorphosis. Panoramic photo by Bart Kelley, OIS.

What do you have planned for the future of the park...?

We're talking about putting in a banked-bowl-corner thing. Right now I'm enjoying watching what the people build on their own, out of extra wood we have. I like seeing their own creativity. Plus, it makes them feel like they're a part of things here... that this is their local spot.

What do you think is your biggest accomplishment with the shop/park, so far?

Giving skaters a place they can come feel at home, a place to be yourself.


The mini-ramp spine isn't the "standard" double-round coping. Instead, it's an old parking block! Indianapolis style! Believe it or not, it actually works great. No hang-ups, easy to transfer, hella legit grind-wise, and sticky enough for controlled disasters (and other tough lip tricks).


There's also some pretty cool "distractions", in the form of an air-hockey table, a pool table, and a well-stocked concession stand. It feels like "home", and it's pretty clear that Jason thought of everything, and put it all together really well. He's cool like that.

What have been the biggest challenges?

Money... or lack thereof...! (Laughing!)

Anything else you'd like to talk about? Whatever you like, I'm game for anything!

I guess, just come check us out...!

If you're ever on Indy's south side, stop in for a quick session. It's a legitimate road-trip stop, so you'll be glad you did. Skating is only $5 for the day, so it's also pretty easy on the wallet.

Str8 Up Sk8 Shop
3117 Kentucky ave
Indianapolis,IN 46221

Send Jason a letter!


A public service message: Screw IASC


Race Wrap-Up: Broadway Bomb 2010


It's nice to hear Michael Brooke laugh when he's happy. It's a sound that we don't get to hear often enough these days. But thanks to the guys (and gals) that put on and participate in the Broadway Bomb, we've heard the laughing sounds of a Happy Mike ever since he got back from New York on Sunday night. And that was a solid three days ago now...!

Unfortunately, due to time constraints, Mike wasn't able to actually write the Broadway Bomb wrap-up story. He's pretty damned busy right now putting the finishing touches on the next issue of Concrete Wave, and tying up various loose ends. Instead, we sent him a bunch of questions and yapped at him on the phone about it over the course of a few early mornings until we'd gleaned enough information out of the guy to basically "ghost-write" his report.

One of the first things that Mike sent over, was this YouTube clip of the start of the race. We asked him, "Hey Mike, why's everyone running with their boards? Aren't they supposed to be riding them?!" Mike explained in his usual quiet-and-calm demeanor that they're climbing to the top of a hill, where the real "race" begins. Ahhh! That makes sense...!

Until this week, we had all been "somewhat aware" of The Bomb... but, not fully keen on all of the details of it. Let alone, the significance of it all. This is where having a longboard magazine publisher on your staff that was actually at the race helps out a whole bunch. Mike not only participated in the race itself: He also has the "bigger picture" in mind, at all times. He recognizes this as being an extraordinary event, with huge ramifications for the much larger longboarding community. We didn't quite get that, at first. But due to Mike's ability to articulate "stoke" really well, it all eventually started to come into focus.


"Pictures, or it didn't happen". Here's Mike, volunteering some time at The Bomb to help sell some event tees. Mike's a great guy like that: Always willing to lend a helping hand, even in the midst of anarchy and chaos. Photo via Silverfish Longboarding.

By far, the most significant thing about all of this is how giddy Mike's been all week as he's been recounting the details of his weekend. The first thing that he talked about... and, I think this might just be the most significant detail... was the massive turnout for this shindig. Various reports online have put the number anywhere between 400 to 600 skaters that participated in this event. Mike himself thinks that the numbers are between 550 and 600. Whatever the case may be, the turnout was just ginormous. Especially considering that this is essentially a totally underground, grass-roots, outlaw longboard "race".

This video news report from Push Culture gives a nice feel of what really went down at The Bomb, and the overall effect that the race has on midtown New York's traffic and pedestrians. It looks like chaos. Mike enthusiastically confirms this: "Skating in Manhattan is freaking MENTAL…! I did it… but, you could absolutely die doing it! They took over a f'n street for 45 minutes! Am I being clear here?! You gotta be there...!"

I might add that, we've never actually had to edit cusses out of Mike's reporting before. That says something, people! Mike is jazzed. Hard...

The Broadway Bomb seems like a unique peculiarity, as far as "races" go. Which is why we keep putting "race" in quotes all through this article. Mike concurs: "The key thing is that this thing is totally different than anything else. It is the raddest thing in skateboarding right now! Period...!" Skaters of all skill levels are encouraged to participate, making the formalities of the "race" seem almost secondary in nature. Right there, you have a serious departure from most "races" or "contests", where participation is whittled down to a very select few that are considered the "best" in the sport. The Broadway Bomb destroys that paradigm in one fell swoop. Screw being "the best". At The Bomb, it's all about being included, involved, and part of the movement.

The organizer of this event is Ian Nichols. When we asked Mike who the "organizers" were that put this thing together, we actually expected to hear more than one name. When Mike mentioned Ian, we were like "Okay! Ian, and...???" Like, seriously?! You've got to be kidding. It's absolutely inconceivable to us that one dude could be responsible for all of this. And, it's true: It's not just "one dude" that ultimately makes it happen. Obviously, there's a very dedicated group of volunteers on site (Mike being one of them, as we later found out)... and then, you also have that small army of participants as well.

But still, one guy basically puts all of this together?! That's just nuts.

Even better: We asked Mike how The Bomb is promoted around The City. The answer? "Word of mouth, and via the Broadway Bomb website [, which redirects you to a Tumblr site]." That's it...?! And, they got 500+ skaters to turn up for it?! That sounds awfully "grass-roots" to us. Like, the outcome is entirely out of proportion to what was actually invested, in terms of "advertising" the event. Mike added: "It all started with 14 skaters, and that was ten years ago..." Okay, wait. We went from 14 skaters, to something approaching 600, in ten years...?!

And remember: This is still an "outlaw" race we're talking about here. That means that it's not sanctioned, condoned, or approved by anybody. Yet, it happens. And, it grows. Every single year.

"Flew all the way from south Florida for this race. Bustin and Push Culture's hospitality and teamwork blew me away, and I loved every second I hung out with these amazing skaters. You guys sure know how to turn a hobby into a fuckin' family!!

All in all, life changing race of awesomeness. I'll see ya'll again next year...!"

- YouTube user "ericfarley0". To us, this sounds like a lot like...

"The key thing is that this thing is TOTALLY different than anything else. It is the most rad thing in skateboarding right now. Period! 600 skaters BOMBED THROUGH NEW YORK CITY! They didn’t help to sell more beef jerky or sugar water, they took over a f'n street for 45 minutes! Am I being clear here?! You gotta be there...!!"

... the feedback we've heard from Mike, and others that were there. Very positive, very enthusiastic, and very, very stoked.

That is complete lunacy. That's a real testament to the strength of the New York longboarding scene, right there. But, I think that "Big Picture Mike" might be seeing something bigger out there. I think that Mike sees all of this as a sign of where longboarding is going in the grander scheme of things.

Talking to Mike over the last few days, I had to ask him this question:
"Mike, what do you think is the greatest significance of all of this? The turnout? The exposure? What it represents to the longboarding community? What it says about the scene, and about the potential of grassroots movements? You seem totally bowled over on some level, and I'm having a hard time putting my finger on it..." His initial answer was, "Not bowled over, just stoked...!" But as we chatted about the weekend's happenings, and that "turnout" statistic kept popping up over and over again... I think what Mike's really the happiest about, is a sense that longboarding, on some level, has finally "arrived". That it's finally grown up, and that it's "legitimate". I mean, it's just totally unheard of for any sort of "skateboard contest" to draw that many participants.

Just based on that alone, this might have set some sort of all-time record for the biggest skateboard contest ever. But, it's definitely not Rob Dyrdek's Fantasy Fluff Fest. It's not, the X-Lames. It's not, the Dew Crew Hypester Tour. It's not, Tony Hawk's Boom Boom Butt Jam. But rather, it's this totally underground longboard "contest" that really shouldn't even be happening in the first damned place. And yet, it was this massive success. So much so, that the world might have even moved a little bit in the process.

But, the success of this event can't be fully explained by just "the numbers". There's also the spirit of the whole thing to consider, and the vibe that everyone takes away from it. Well, the vibe that Mike took away from it at least. The fact that all sorts of longboarders were involved, from all walks of life... I mean, even the video footage that's floating around out there clearly shows teenagers, little kids, older guys, women, and a whole rainbow of minorities out there getting involved, getting stoked, and having fun. Clearly, this is the sort of "contest" where the act of just getting together, riding, and having a blast clearly overshadows the "results". Which is a great thing to say.

Because, that's exactly the way skateboarding should be.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Wait... we're confused...


Our good friend and contributing editor Michael Brooke just got back from the Broadway Bomb in New York City yesterday, and whoaboy, was he all kinds of excited to tell us all about it. "It was insane! Over six hundred people showed up! It was awwweeesssooomee!!"

That's great, Mike, and we're super-stoked that you had fun.

But still, the question remains: Why's everyone running in this clip you sent on over...?!*

Good job to everyone that turned out, and made this the event that made Mike's whole year. After all: A happy contributing editor is a productive contributing editor! "Longboard Nation Rules!"


*We're witty assholes, aren't we...?

A New Column...!


Attention all skateshops! We want to hear from you...! The challenges you face, your day to day struggles, how much Zumiez sucks ass... all of it.

We care. We want to help.

Help us, help you. Send questions. Tell stories. Whatever. Just, make yourselves heard.

E-mail your anonymous letters of dissatisfaction to We'll make damn good and sure that IASC hears you loud and clear...



A public service announcement...


Feedback: October 18th, 2010


Here at The Solitary Life, we fully appreciate your feedback. Always. Even if you're asking really hard questions, and putting me on the spot and stuff. Hey, buddy: Progress just doesn't happen without somebody asking the hard questions, and demanding good answers. I don't mind fielding a couple toughies here and there. I actually think it's kinda rad when people ask me really good questions.

I might not hit 'em out of the park, but I'll definitely give 'em a good hard swing. Here you go, guys. Keep 'em coming:

"OK... so I've been thinking, and I have a question. Everyone hates Zumiez, right? If you're a little core shop, then sure you hate them. They are the big dogs with all the buying power...

But: What about the shops that actually own 2, 3, or even 4 shops? They have the buying power as well. I'm sure they even talk with the distributors and make sure they are getting better deals then other smaller shops in the area.

The funny thing is the shops that have 2, 3, or even 4 shops has more anti-Zumiez tees and stickers then the smaller shops and when you think about it, they are just trying to be like Zumiez.

So the question is, what's the difference between Zumiez and shops that have 2, 3, or even 4 shops that are so anti-Zumiez...?! [Because] I can tell you it's not customer service...!"

Interesting question. The way that I personally see it? It's the difference between local ownership, versus corporate ownership.

Zumiez is "owned" by a bunch of anonymous skareholders that [probably] don't skate. Most locally-owned skateshop chains are still [usually] owned by actual skaters.

Also: Locally-owned skate shops still contribute to the local economy (always), and local skate scenes (when they're doing shit right). Zumiez does the opposite: They actually drain resources away from the local economy (those resources end up in the shareholders' pockets), and they "give" very little in return.

As for customer service... yeah. I'd have to totally agree with ya on that one. A lot of skate shops definitely have a very real problem with giving even "adequate" customer service. Let alone, "good" service. Which is why a good many skaters are shopping online these days, or looking for alternatives to their "local" shops (see below).

"Okay, I have a question. In your blog, you say repeatedly how important it is to support your local skate shop. Yet, you also give advertising to SoCal Skateshop [which is not in Indianapolis], and praise their great customer service. Apparently, you also shop there quite a bit.

Isn't that a little bit hypocritical...? You act like they're much better than your local shop(s), and point it out regularly. Shouldn't you be supporting your local skate shop instead...?"

On the surface, I'd have to say "Yeah, it does seem that way, doesn't it...?!".

Truth is, SoCal is actually a brick-and-mortar, "core" skate shop that is [physically] located in Mission Viejo, California. It's owned by a great guy named Mike Hirsch. And yes: I buy a lot of stuff there, and give them free advertising. I feel like they've earned it. They're good people, they're skaters, and they take care of their customers very, very well. SoCal is widely known for their awesome customer service. Check any forum or messageboard, and you'll see that plain as day.

They also have one of the best selections around anywhere... which is also important to note, because I do ride some pretty weird shit from time to time. Everyone that knows me, knows that.

The problem with supporting skate shops, is that they do have to meet you halfway somewhere along the line. I am, after all, the customer. As a customer, I do expect a good selection, and great customer service.

Of the two local skate shops here in Indianapolis, I only support one. And that is Str8 Up Skate Shop. They do offer very, very good service... among the best around, actually... and as a bonus, they recently built an indoor mini ramp in their new shop. So I'll definitely be supporting the hell out of them by camping out there all winter, and paying to skate all the time. Note the "paying" bit: I don't like asking my local shop for endless freebies, like a lot of kids do these days. Skating at Str8 Up only costs five bucks for the day. It's $5 that I'm more than happy to give them, whenever I can.

Str8 Up also expanded the shop, and their selection has improved as well.

Still: For the super-crazy and hard-to-find stuff, Mike Hirsch at SoCal remains my go-to guy. Just because Str8 Up can't always get their hands on that super hard-to-find stuff. Either way, though, I'm still supporting a truly independent, brick-and-mortar, skater-owned skate shop. I'm definitely not shopping at Zumiez, or some totally random online dude. And, I absolutely know who and what I'm supporting, either way.

So no, I don't have a problem with any of it. I think everyone that knows me, understands where I'm coming from.

As for the "other" core shop in the area... they're pretty well-known for giving pretty crappy customer service. I've definitely gotten some bad vibes from that place. I've tried to support them and shop there, but... it just didn't work out, I guess. Sorry man, but what can I say? "I'm the customer"...?


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Be The Scene: Go on a road trip


Travels: Road trippin' around Ohio


This weekend, I went over to the Cincinnati area to do a little bit of wandering around, and checking stuff out. I had plans to meet up with the Old Indy Skaters guys, which was a pretty big deal since it was the first time ever that the Old Indy Skaters [from Indiana], and the brand-new OIS Ohio Chapter would be meeting up, and skating together.


It was an awesome day of good friends, good skating, and good causes. Here's some of the highlights:

First stop: Colerain, Ohio. Just north of Cincinnati, on the I-275 beltway. Bart had given us the option to meet up here, and do a little bit of skating before we went to the "main event", a fundraiser for the "Take Steps" foundation, an advocacy group that works for people that suffer from Crohns disease and Colitis ( Bart told us that the Take Steps shindig might be "a little bit crowded", so meeting up here and getting our skate on might be a great idea. Most of us did, because the park looked really good on Concrete Disciples, and it was literally right on the way to Bob's Bash.

This is Colerain's "small" bowl complex. It's super fun, with quite a few "obstacles" tossed in there (clamshells, vert pockets with real pool coping, a spine, a pump bump, and even a deathbox tossed in for good measure). The bowl is also flawlessly built; there's not a ripple or kink anywhere in there. Beautiful...!


Colerain's "big" bowl. Just as well-built as the "small" bowl right next door, this bad boy is a "gigantic-sized" left-hand kidney. It's got to be at least 10 feet deep in the deep end... if not closer to 11. I didn't ride this much... huge crowds of little BMXers started showing up just a few minutes after I shot this, and barged their way into the bowl to carve around a couple feet up from the flatbottom. Kinda lame, but whatever. Later, Tim Devlin, Mike Gage, and Cody Weaver barged in harder, kicked the little fuckers out, and started dismantling this bowl inch by inch. I was so knocked out, that I totally forgot to grab my camera.


The flyer for "Bob's Backyard Bash" up in Mason, on the northeastern outskirts of Cincinnati. This was where we spent the rest of our afternoon/evening.


When Pandi and I arrived, people were just starting to trickle in. The first thing I heard, were the uber-familiar sounds of skateboards on masonite, coming from this small, two-car garage...

And, here's the culprit! Bob's Backyard Bowl. As you can see, it's only a couple feet tall (if that), and wedged in there pretty tightly. There's also quite a few "obstacles" in this little guy, as well, including a roll-in channel, a "faux spine" ( a part of the ramp where the platform has been removed, and a double-coping section put in it's place), a tight extension that looks like it actually squeezes in to vert, one "smooth" bowled corner, and a "kinked" bowl corner. I was too tall (at 6'5") to even stand on the platform- let alone, skate it- but, everybody that could looked like they were having a ball.


Bob Hickman (the guy with the tats) was the man manning the grill, judging the various contests, and hosting the event. Great dude.


The "punkers" version of a midwest staple, the "cornhole" game. Tim Ray kicked my ass at this, even after I'd built up an 11-point lead. Guess that makes Tim the cornhole expert, eh...?


There were several donated skate-items that were part of the "silent auction". This Bulldog Eric Dressen model (autographed by both Wes and Eric) immediately caught my eye. Pandi bid ninety bucks on it. She's a champ.


This H-Street Art Godoy model also caught quite a few glances...


This is one of the cakes that the "mom" contingent baked for the occasion. If you haven't noticed, it's in the exact shape (and design) as the inddor garage ramp that everybody was skating. Definitely, one of the coolest cakes I've ever seen...

By far, this is one of the coolest days that I've spent in quite some time. I'd like to thank Bob Hickman, the rest of the OIS Ohio crew, and of course Bart and the OIS Indiana guys for inviting me out. Great job, everybody. Let's do it again next year...!


And now, a word from our advertisers...