If you haven’t noticed, the ‘90s are back in a big way. Your pants are two sizes too big, you’ve dusted off your parents’ VHS camera and your favourite skater is Sean Sheffey. Great, right? So great. But the 2015 version of 1993 is a bit different to the real thing. I was there the first time round and there are a few major differences we would do well to remember.
The internet wasn’t around in the ‘90s, or it was only for scientists or something, so we found out everything from videos and magazines. Oh, and you’d hear about stuff at the skate shop, if you lived somewhere with a skate shop. It was cool because you’d get these crazy quantum leaps in skateboarding, like when the Plan B Questionable video came out, but also it was a pain, because you’d have to buy every damn video and magazine. I used the newsagent like I use the internet now. I’d just go in there for half an hour every day, and read it all. They loved me in there.
- Mobile phones
You just met at that one spot at that same time every week, then took it from there. If you weren’t there, you weren’t a part of the session; simple as that. Now I receive approximately a dozen texts on a Saturday morning asking where we’re skating, who else is going, and who’s picking them up. Then I get a dozen more when they all change their mind.
- We swapped skateparks for skate stoppers
It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? In the ‘90s, cities were chock-full of perfect ledges of all sizes and types. It was like going to China or wherever pros go to film these days. Sure, there were security guards, but there weren’t nearly as many of them, and they weren’t as gnarly. And if you got kicked out of somewhere, you could just skate down the street to the next perfect spot. Skating in the city now feels like looking around an old theme park that closed down years ago.
There were skateparks, but they were thin on the ground, and the ones that existed were pretty terrible. I have so many skateparks near my house now, I haven’t even bothered going to all of them. I choose my skateparks these days based on mood.
Skating in the city now feels like looking around an old theme park that closed down years ago.
There were rollerblades and we hated them, and I suppose there were BMXs as well. But the cult of the scooter had not yet begun, thank god. It’s not that I hate them personally; it’s that I’m terrified of hurting tiny children, or them hurting me. I don’t want more pain in the world, basically.
- Self props
The nonchalance in which you rolled away from a trick was a big thing in the ‘90s. Think Tom Penny or Mike Carroll – it was as if what they did was no big deal, and that’s part of what made them so untouchable. These days, someone lands a trick and it’s like they just won the grand final. They’re screaming, popping bottles, ripping their shirts off and their friends are carrying them around on their shoulders. It’s a little bit much.
- Dressing like a skater
You used to be able to spot another skater a mile off, because they looked just as ridiculous as you. These days, everyone dresses like a skater. In fact, the only people who don’t dress like skaters are skaters. Now we dress like hippie pirates, or mechanics, or fashion models, or a skater from the ‘90s.
‘There’s something special about shooting on film,’ I overhear people say wistfully, ‘I love the surprise of getting a roll back from the lab.’ These are almost without exception people who didn’t shoot skateboarding photos in the ‘90s. I wish I had a dollar for every roll of film I burned through waiting for the ‘make’, only to discover days later that I had the flash on the wrong setting, or the aperture one stop too high. I love my digital camera, and it shoots video as well! There used to be one person in every crew who took photos and had a video camera; now everyone has both, even if it’s their phone. It’s amazing and terrifying all at once.
- Cool tricks
There have always been cool tricks and it’s part of what I love about skating: that constantly changing quality. Double flips, nose bonks, pressure flips, late shove-its … all had their time in the sun, then were banished again to the compost heap of the past. We used to do bonelesses and slappies as a joke; we called them ‘Alva tricks’. Smith grinds were frowned upon as well. These days, anything goes, the weirder the better. You can jump off your board and do a pirouette with one hand in your back pocket and no one will bat an eyelid, as long as you land it clean. In fact, you can land it sketchy, because that is somehow better.
Back then, if you wanted to make it big in the skate world, you tried your luck in California. It’s still sort of the way it goes, but skateboarding is a much more international thing these days. Australians sit among the top echelons of pros – Dustin, Chima, Brophy, Jake, Dennis, Sammy Winter, Shane O’Neill, and so on. They’ve all done their thing in the states, but their Australianness is not so much of a factor any more. They’re just great skaters.
- Old people skate now
Teenagers in 2015 are more likely to share their sessions at the skatepark with a bunch of dudes in their late 30s. Maybe it’s because the era we grew up in was so influential on us, or maybe it’s because we grew up skating manual pads rather than jumping down stairs, but we’re not giving up any time soon. It’s weird, because skating was something I did to get away from older people. I’m sorry guys. Just put up with us, please. At least we’re not as annoying as scooters.
And as much as I miss aspects of the ‘90s, it’s really much better these days. Skating is a much broader, accepting culture now, where no one thing is right or wrong, cool or uncool. These are the good old days.
This piece was published in Slam Magazine, 2015