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Reviewing and recapping a year can be as exhausting as getting through the holidays themselves, but 2020, where the word “unprecedented” almost lost its meaning due to the obvious felt, radical, dire, hopeful, strange, unhinged, and often very repetitive. I’m sure every news outlet and media company is working on a documentary about 2020 rife with dramatic celebrity voiceovers as sombre piano notes churn in the background. We’re not going to do that, but we’re also not going to downplay the unrest caused by the pandemic or the magnifying glass it put on the rampant inequality and injustice across the planet we are ravaging.
So, before we start to break down a confusing year, what we can say is that skateboarders have never needed a movement or a classification to belong to because we’ve always had an identity and a home. Yes, that home is fractured, fragmented, and often not as welcoming as we’d like but even in isolation we all have skateboarding. Once you find it, it’s a process of pushing further and expanding your world, whether that’s finding like minds on Instagram, your local store, park or by happenstance. Skateboarding is reacting to your environment and that’s exactly what happened in 2020, from peaceful protests and fundraising to self-filmed footage and getting to skate normally off-limits spots in cities now barren due to lockdowns.
With the Olympics, Street League, Dime Glory Challenge and all events and big video premiers put on hold by March 2020, it started off surreal and has continuously thrown curveball after curveball. And while we’re certain 2021 will be marred with as much uncertainty as its predecessor, let’s all grab our beverage of choice and take a look back at a strange year packed with highs, lows, and a lot of what the fuck?
Do you remember Ishod Wair and Kyle Walker appearing in a 16-minute video called “BE FREE” in January? Do you remember January? The Content Calendar started with an event so heavy that they brought the Cardiel Rail and '92 SoTY John Cardiel down from San Francisco to Long Beach for the premier. Backing Cards up on the decks was Ray Barbee and Tommy Guerrero and catering by another SoTY, by way of Salman Agah’s Pizzanista!
Later that month, GQ Magazine’s Style Editor, Noah Johnson, dropped a divisive profile on Alex Olson focusing on his holistic, plant-based, nomadic, lifestyle. Whilst we didn't get to see AO ride a skateboard as much as we liked in 2020, his wellness path and #vanlife proved to be on-trend for the kind of soul searching and exploration many sought once they found themselves out of work or working from home or just not giving a fuck once COVID-19 hit hard. Once again, AO and skateboarders were ahead of the trend! Still, this Parisien AO footage will never get old:
As February rolled around Nike unveiled several Olympic skateboarding fits designed by Parra, including a red jumpsuit for Team France that was as unexpected as it was perfectly Parisian. It’s also of note that while most of the people in the shoot weren’t skateboarders, the crimson-clad model running the suit was NYC-based skater and video creator Stéphanie Tonnoir, who rode for an early iteration Billy Rohan’s Samurai brand. Oh yeah, then the Olympics got postponed and that’s a drag because seeing all the national television coverage and the style of content they'd produce around it would have been surreal, if not jarring at times.
With major sports halted or happening in weird formats, what we didn’t expect was ESPN’s World of X-Games: Real Street 2020 to become a full-blown ABC, socially distanced broadcast complete with those interviews where they tell you not to look at the camera and everything is filmed from the left or the right and shit. Warning, the video is 46 minutes!
So that’s some big Olympic/ESPN skateboarding for you, now for some core skateboarding. Did you know or remember Emerica’s Green (kinda) full-length video this year? Full parts from Dakota Servold and Jon Dickson, with appearances from Leo Romero, Kevin “Spanky” Long, Justin “Figgy” Figueroa, Collin Provost, Kevin Bækkel, Erick Winkowski, Jeremy Leabres, Rob Maatman, Victor Aceves, and Zach Allen. Oddly enough, Servold and Bækkel were part of Real Street as well but hey, that was February and things were different then.
So sure, the shortest month had a bunch of “big stories” from both the mainstream and more regular-stream, but also via the all-important Instagram feed. Props to Hyun Kummer, aka Versace Plug, who aside from Insta dropped a full-part via Thrasher Magazine in Feb and following that up with another for YouTube in November.
Then March hit and so did the whole shit. While many parts of the world went into various stages of trying hard to fully contain COVID-19 via lockdowns, the stubborn United States were only just started to implement some regulations. Tampa Pro happened - won by Nyjah Huston - but the trick of the contest went to Mason Silva for this hail mary fakie kickflip. Mason only got 7th in the comp, but we know how 2020 ended up for him.
Both lockdown and post-lockdown were it's own beast. Skate parks closed therefore relegating many to backyard ramps, driveways or solo sessions on the now empty city streets. That made for some compelling content, including Jenkem hitting some of NYC's normally-very-hard-to-skate-spots. Even the NY Times got in on showing content skating empty streets.
Also, due to being an individual sport, the actual sales of skateboards spiked but with a catch, since COVID-19 caused production and supply-chain issues, causing deck, truck, and wheel shortages worldwide. Many shop owners got so desperate that they began carrying brands and sizes they normally couldn’t move, resulting in what one person theorized as “the great size down on 2020.” It remains to be seen if 7.75” will be the new 8.25” in 2021.
Vans added two legends to their roster in Tony Hawk and Andrew Reynolds, both appearing in Mr. Hawk’s new video game perfectly timed for isolation. The Birdman also got a signature burrito from Chipotle and thankfully it didn’t have sour cream because nothing fucks up a well-intentioned burrito more than biting into an ill-placed cold dab of white goo.
As mentioned before, COVID-19 freed up some normally off-limits spots but nothing was better than seeing footage of people grinding and sliding on Confederate Monuments covered in BLM graffiti. Vice was one year ahead of the curve here with a similar video back in July 2019. But for all the newly liberated spots, there was also another scare that the on-going Brooklyn Banks story (which have been unskatable for a decade) were being de-bricked and possibly levelled, SkateNewsWire covered this with many updates.
As summer hit and everyone got to head outdoors at last, things got interesting both IRL and video-wise. We got a full Jake Johnson 10-year retrospective, an Alexis Sablone solo part fully filmed, edited, soundtracked, and produced by herself, and we got a look into plaza life with perennial skater’s skater Bobby Worrest. And Patrick Kigongo compiled the Black List.
With the months just blurring into one, Unity collaborated with adidas Skateboarding. Leo Baker, Cher Strauberry and Steven Ostroski formed Glue Skateboards and released a full-length. Cher and Leo appeared in a Gucci campaign. Marbie Miller turned pro for There Skateboards, Vans went virtual, premiering the Summer’s breeziest video, “CREDITS” as well as the last instalment of Jeff Grosso’s Loveletters to Skateboarding, dedicated to both his memory and the LGBTQ+ community.
Girl Skateboards dropped “Nervous Circuits” as well as Doll 2.0. Lucien Clarke teased his Louis Vuitton sneaker which now retails for roughly $1,200 if you can find it. Cookie released his Cobra Man “Heatwave” part which had something to do with a band and full of tricks most humans can’t do. Cookie rides for Element which is easy to forget because he is often omitted from their projects but Ray Barbee doesn’t and was added to Krooked Skateboards.
Speaking of cobras, Chris Cole went back to Zero, Fred Gall and Brian Anderson formed one of skateboarding’s most unlikely yet perfect skate-buddy duos, movie to follow. Tyshawn Jones met Tony Hawk. Lizard King left Deathwish, Tiago released his 90s inspired New Balance Numeric 1010 shoe. Anthony Van Engelen and K-Rod dropped full parts in FA's Dancing on Thin Ice, reminding us he’s both an ex-SoTY and that that curved bench still exists. Thomas Campbell’s and Evan Smith, who dropped a hundred parts this year, birthed Uma Landsleds.
Brad Cromer got on Converse CONS, Brandon Turner dropped in unexpectedly, like that old friend you lost touch with, with an age-defying trick-of-the-year down Wallenberg. Lucas Puig continued his dominance of short shorts and a life of leisure. Noah and Stüssy entered the skate full-length game, while Pass-Port gifted Kitsch to YouTube and Bronze56K gave us PTSD. What about Bob? Oh yeah, Quasi added Bobby de Keyzer back in ancient times (February!).
Tom Knox offered an across-the-pond retort to Mark Suicu’s “Verso” part, putting him in a short SoTY conversation that Mason subsequently ended with a year that redefines the term “beast.” Speaking of Thrasher, they turned 40. Fuck, we’re old.
Coming to the final months of 2020 we saw no slowdown of video parts and content proving that skaters always find a way through somehow. Former’s “Cheap Perfume” and Vans “OK, Alright” videos showcased vintage Americana and tricks you can’t do. DC Shoe Co. sprinkled out a full-length in parts with John Shanahan getting both a Thrasher cover and signature stash shoe. Shanahan’s teammate Jamir Brown was added to the Palace roster and put it down not only on video but with his social activism.
Converse CONS, at the eleventh-hour, dropped the Ben Chadourne filmed “Seize the Seconds,” featuring a career-defining part from Alexis Sablone and former CONS ambassador, Pontus Alv launched Last Resort AB, a new shoe brand focusing on clean non-branded silhouettes and a non-sports brand approach. Johnny Wilson’s “John’s Vid” punctuated a long-ass year, making itself very welcome.
Alongside all the content came new pro's including Dashawn Jordan, Marbie Miller, Simon Bannerot, Griffin Gass, Kristen Ebeling, Aurlelien Giraud, Elliot Sloan, Nik Stain, Jaako Ojanen, Jamal Smith, Ezquiel Martinez, Sky Brown, John Dilo, Genesis Evans, Maite, and probably more but like you, I’m exhausted. Unfortunately, for all that we gained, skateboarding lost some icons in Jeff Grosso and Keith Hufnagel as well as an unmistakable upstart in Vincent Nava, Antihero cult icon Eric Jay, and a hero named Anthony Huber.
Everyone felt losses due to COVID-19, so while it’s a sombre way to end, it’s important to meditate on what we’ve been through and what’s ahead. Keep your friends close, keep an open mind, and be good to yourselves. The pandemic is far from over but 2020 is and while the calendar is just a construct, we’ve all earned the right to turn the page and safely celebrate our way into 2021.
Happy New Year from Parade World.
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