I made these sunrise photos of saguaro cacti while on a family holiday trip to Tucson, Arizona.
Over the past two years there has been a small revolution in downhill skateboard racing product design. Spurred by advances in technology and rider technique, the big, wide, long downhill longboards we have been riding since the mid 2000s are slowly being replaced by radically smaller, narrower, slalom-inspired setups that place the wheels directly under the rider’s feet.
My friends at Rogue Trucks were early adopters of this trend and have spent the last couple of years perfecting their design for downhill-specific slalom skateboard trucks, which they finally released this year. They asked me to shoot some product photos of the latest run of trucks, which came in an anodized gold and black colorway, so I set up the lights, rolled out the seamless paper, and got down to it.
The newly-released 2019 Madrid downhill boards all feature graphics by the unbelievably talented Tanner Leaser, a hot rod painter and pinstriper out of Texas. A skater himself, Tanner is behind many of the most beautiful and complex helmet paint jobs in downhill skateboarding, including this one on my Ironhead DR-1 aerolid.
The helmet shell was designed and hand-made by Zak Maytum, a legendary skateboard racer and product designer. Inspired by the Fasttrack speed skiing helmet that was popular among downhill skateboard racers in the late 90s X-Games/Gravity Games era, Zak built the DR-1 with additional interior space to accommodate an EPS foam inner helmet that provides considerably more impact protection, as well as thicker cheek pads to prevent facial injury—Zak suffered a nasty broken nose when he went face-first through some haybales in his Fasttrack—all the while maintaining proportions and styling that keep the helmet looking sleek and aggressive.
The name DR-1 is a reference to “Drenelum,” the Colorado high country creole version of “adrenaline” that was Zak’s helmet brand before he settled on Ironhead. Zak continued innovating in the aerohelmet space with the angular, aggressive DR-2 helmet that came out in 2014; the 2015 Ibex longtail, a trend-setting helmet without shoulder fairings; and the 2018 DR-3, a hybrid longtail with short fairings.
Tanner’s paint job is a tour de force of different techniques, from leafing and airbrushing to special wet-look candy effects and pinstriping. By far the coolest thing I own, this piece of art is like a tiny hot rod that lives on my shelf.
For more aerolids and fancy downhill helmets, check out the Aerolid and Fullface facebook group.
Here's another run I filmed with Dex to promote his Landyachtz pro model, the Gambler.
Dexter Manning is one of the gnarliest downhill skateboarders on the circuit right now, routinely pushing it to the limit on the steepest, fastest, most dangerous roads he can find.
Documenting that radical skateboarding with follow-car footage requires serious driving skill and the ability to read a rider's body language to anticipate potential crashes and hit the brakes.
Dex and I have a great working relationship and trusts me to get the shot without endangering him; so he called me up to film a couple runs to use in the promo video for his new Landyachtz Longboards pro board, The Gambler. This run down Angie's Curves was the fastest follow filming I've ever done, reaching speeds well over 60mph into off-camber turns. I'm very pleased with the outcome.
I went up to British Columbia for the tenth (!) annual Giants Head Freeride last week and shot a grip of photos. Here's the product of one freeride run on Wednesday morning.
The rollout of swipeable albums on Instagram created new opportunities for showing off the fine details of Madrid's complete skateboards; so I created several mini-albums of creative product shots that highlight the quality components that separate Madrid boards from lower-end brands. You can see them in their original Instagram presentation by checking out the #madridproductalbum hashtag.
The electric skateboard company Acton needed some social-media photos of their Blink S hub-motor mini cruiser, so I took one down to the LA river and did a photo shoot overlooking downtown. Balancing the ambient light with the onboard lights while showing the deck concave was an interesting challenge; but I got it done with some compositing and creative lighting.
0-15mph - putting
10-25mph - cruising
20-35mph - moving
30-45mph - hauling
40-50mph - steaming
50-60mph - blasting
60-70mph - screaming
Over 70mph - nuking
Skateboarding, like everything else worth doing, comes with certain risks. The danger of injury is part of what makes skating so rewarding.
The downhill skateboarding community is generally very conscientious about the use safety gear: everyone wears helmets and slide gloves; many of us wear full-faces, knee pads, and back protectors; and the dudes who skate at very high speed usually do so in armored leather suits. This, combined with not skating like total idiots, does a pretty good job of preventing most injuries.
That said, if you skate long enough you will eventually fall hard and need to go to the hospital to get patched up. Fortunately, modern medicine is pretty good at fixing the bone and joint injuries many of us wind up with and road rash isn’t a serious issue because the antibiotic apocalypse hasn’t arrived quite yet, so you’re probably gonna be fine.
The main thing most American skaters have to worry about is financial ruin: while pretty much every other country has figured out how to provide people with medical treatment at a low cost, America still has an antiquated system of private insurance that can turn a minor tumble off the skateboard into tens of thousands of dollars in debt.
Because of this, it is very important that skaters get health insurance. The good news is that Obamacare is still the law of the land; so if you’re under 26, you can stay on your parents’ insurance and if you’re over 26 and kinda broke, the government will help you pay for coverage. The most important thing to do is sign up within the next two weeks, while the open enrollment period is going. You can sign up or find help with the process at healthcare.gov.
Going to the hospital is the worst way to end a skate session. Don’t let an injury ruin your whole year. Sign up for health insurance.
Tammy Faye Prader
Billie Daisycutter Jackal
(Special thanks to Team Mids for their help with this)
A recent Petapixel article I wrote about my efforts to get paid for my photos has apparently struck a nerve, and several people have urged me to start a Patreon page. Not one to turn down money, I made one and you can find it here.
Also, folks, I decided not to name the company that screwed me over for a reason: when I tagged their company's page in my initial facebook post misguided friends of mine spammed their page with one star reviews. That company has suffered enough damage to its reputation. I have no desire to create a further pile-on.
Since the Petapixel article went up, people have been hitting multiple longboard brands, including Landyachtz Longboards, one of my best clients, with negative reviews. This is not at all helpful. Those guys have hired me many times and always pay me quickly and without hassle. Please stop trashing their reputation on Facebook. If you want to do something to help me out, buy a Landyachtz or Madrid board and tell them I sent you.
I was out skating and shooting in North Carolina for the whole month of April. Staying mostly in Boone, I got to know the locals and the spots in much greater depth than on previous trips.
While no amount of high-end gear will make you good at skating without practice and experience, a well-functioning setup will help good riders skate better. And just as doing long standup slides on a straight hill doesn't mean you're good at slowing down and taking good lines through corners, being good at skating doesn’t mean you necessarily know how to build a good setup. Selecting parts to create a board that balances turning, grip, and stability is a skill separate from actual skating.
I may not be the fastest racer or the most stylish freeride guy, but thanks to several years of heavy Silverfish use and a little real world experience I’m pretty good at wrenching on boards and making them ride good.
I can say from personal experience and observing my friends’ skating that sleeved flat bushing washers are fucking garbage and nobody should ever use them for freeriding or downhill.
Allow me to explain. We'll start with the basics of how bushing washers affect skateboard turning.
Flat washers allow for ample deformation of the bushing, enabling deep lean and turning. This is very useful for getting short bushing trucks like Paris, Caliber, and Aeras to turn deeply.
Cupped washers restrict the bushing’s ability to deform, creating additional resistance as you lean farther and the bushing binds in the cup, eventually creating a sort of stopping point at which the truck will not turn any more. This aids stability and can be useful in preventing wheelbite. (Cup washers are also crucial for tuning tall bushing trucks, but that’s another discussion.)
Sleeved washers don't restrict turning like cup washers or allow for ample bushing deformation like flat washers. Instead, they allow for deep turning and increase rebound as you lean, giving your skateboard a snappier return to center. This is good for when you want a lively, bouncy turning response or when you’re riding low-rebound bushings. It is really really bad for downhill and freeriding.
To have any kind of stability, a downhill board needs to be able to lean over and stay leaned over. Too much rebound in your bushing/washer setup will make your board want to dig in and Michael Jackson-style high side on stand up sides, wobble out of predrifts, and throw you off your line through gripping corners. These are not performance characteristics that I find helpful when I am trying to stay in my lane and on my skateboard at 40mph.
Now, you may be saying to yourself “but Dubler, I have these washers in my board and I can skate downhill just fine” or "I like riding a squirrelly and unstable setup because it's more exciting." That may be so, but you would skate better and more confidently if you weren’t battling a poorly-designed setup so shut your dumb mouth and switch your sleeved washers out for normal ones. You will almost certainly notice improved stability, easier cornering, smoother sliding, and less twitchiness.
(And while I'm hating on these things, let's get one thing straight: machined sleeve washers do not make your trucks "more precise" in any meaningful way, and they certainly won't make your cheap Chinese cruiser trucks ride like high-performance racing trucks. A precise truck has perfectly straight axles with machined hangar shoulders, precision-machined pivots with tight pivot cups, and precision-machined bushing seats. Bushing-on-kingpin slop is not really a thing. If you want to make your cast trucks perform better, invest in urethane pivot cups and good bushings, preferably Venom because they are the best and they give me money.)
TLDR: sleeved bushing washers are fucking terrible for downhill and freeriding and you should not use them.
I just got back from shooting Tannie Low and Molly Cuny's wedding in San Antonio. The shoot went very smoothly and I was unexpectedly moved by the sheer, overwhelming joy on the faces of the couple and their families.
A version of this essay originally appeared on Jenkemmag.com
I am thirty years old. I have been skateboarding since I was eleven and realized I was gay when I was twelve or thirteen.
As a suburban kid in Rhode Island, I was attracted to skateboarding because it is so unlike organized sports. There are no rules, uniforms, or coaches telling you what to do. Skateboarding’s welcomes arty misfits like myself who are more interested in doing something creative than competitive.
I came out when I was seventeen, a few months before president Bush went on television to endorse a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. I had the best parents a gay kid could’ve hoped for and I don’t have any horror stories about homophobic bullying in school.
While I was in college I got more seriously into skating and connected with the downhill scene, which led to getting my first sponsor at twenty two. After graduation, I moved to California to skate and take photos. Longboarding took off right after I got to LA and I have spent the last seven years traveling the world as a photographer and pro longboarder.
As I became known in my little niche of skateboarding, I made a point of being visibly out because there were never any publicly out gay pros when I was a kid. Representation is important: skate media features all kinds of riders--jocks, preps, stoners, drunks, heshers, punks, hip hop heads, pretty boys, people of color, hippies, old dudes, preteens, even severely disabled people--but no out gay people. As a result, your average teenage skater never sees an LGBT person they can relate to and the LGBT kids never see a skateboarder they can identify with.
Now Brian Anderson has decided to be the first professional skateboarder to come out. What BA just did is fucking radical, in every sense. Coming out has always been the most powerful tool for securing LGBT people’s social and legal equality. The appearance of an out gay pro, especially someone widely respected with major sponsorship, opens the door for other skaters to come out, and is an important step toward making skateboarding more accepting of LGBT people.
To be honest, my initial reaction to the news was “It’s 2016 and we have openly gay NBA players and soldiers. What took this dude so long?”
That’s easy for me to say because I’ve had a pretty easy time of the gay thing. BA is 10 years older than me and came of age during a much scarier time for gay people, when homophobia was worse and AIDS was killing gay men by the tens of thousands. More importantly, the skateboard industry has been overtly hostile to LGBT people for decades.
Skateboarding embraces violently homophobic pros. Most skaters have no idea that Jay Adams went to jail for instigating a fatal gay-bashing. Danny Way also had a role in the beating death of a gay man, an incident that sent his friend and fellow pro skater Josh Swindell to jail for 19 years. These incidents go unmentioned in skate media.
There has never been an out gay pro before BA. The closest we have come is with Tim Von Werne, who was forced to stay in the closet when Birdhouse pulled Von Werne’s 1998 Skateboarder interview because he planned to publicly discuss his homosexuality. Another openly gay skater, Jarrett Berry, got the cover of Big Brother’s “gay issue” skating in chaps with his ass hanging out. The tagline was, “Jarrett Berry and other fruits and fairies.” In the eighteen years since, we’ve had no out gay sponsored skaters.
During those same years, there was widespread tolerance of homophobic language. I shed no tears for the death of aggressive inline, but skateboarding had a big hand in harassing it out of fashion by calling rollerbladers faggots for years on end. Recently, skateboarders adapted the joke about “the hardest part of rollerblading” being “telling your parents you’re gay” to hate on longboarders too.
I know you are all about to get in the comments to tell me this is all in the past and say sexuality has nothing to do with skateboarding because nobody cares who you fuck as long as you shred.
Sexuality would have nothing to do with skateboarding if the skate industry wasn’t so heavily identified with male heterosexuality. Sexualized images of women are pervasive in skate media and marketing. There’s a wheel company based on pictures of naked chicks and a board company based on softcore anime porn. Creature has a hot chick calendar. Skateboarding is frequently portrayed as something women watch men do. When we do see women skate, they are sexually objectified and valued for their looks more than their skills. None of this is particularly surprising--the skateboard industry exists to sell shit to teenage boys--but if you’re a gay person or a woman it’s easy to look at all of this and conclude that skateboarding wants nothing to do with you.
Also, skateboarding is heavily identified with toughness and a willingness to endure physical pain. This makes sense: mastering basic skateboard skills requires a tolerance for hitting the ground over and over again. Getting reasonably good requires enduring a long series of bruises, scrapes, and sprains. Doing anything moderately impressive comes with the risk of getting broken off. Thrasher’s Hall of Meat, which celebrates the blood and broken bones that come from reaching the limits of gnarliness, is skateboarding’s ultimate display of hypermasculinity.
Skateboarders often presume gay men and women do not possess this kind of toughness. That’s why your friends will tell you to “stop being a pussy and fucking go for it” when you hesitate on a trick, and why they’ll call you a fag if you back down. When Nyjah said, “Some girls can skate, but I personally believe that skateboarding is not for girls at all,” he was saying he didn’t think women are tough enough to take slams. Calling someone a faggot is akin to calling them weak, cowardly, and feminine.
This is all some sexist, homophobic, jock-mentality bullshit. It cannot go away soon enough.
There is an important distinction to be made between skateboarding, skateboarders, and the skateboard industry. Skateboarding has never given a shit about who I date: I’ve never hung up on a homophobic piece of pool coping or gotten pitched by a pebble that hates fags. The skateboarders I meet are usually cool about the gay thing. Yes, some younger skaters casually use homophobic language out of habit, but I blame that on mental laziness, not intentional malice. When I talk about the skateboard industry, I am talking about professional skateboarders, the companies that sponsor them, and the media outlets that cover them. These businesses exist to sell shit to teenage boys and live in fear of the lost sales that might come from being perceived as being lame or uncool--in the parlance of their customers, “gay.”
Maybe it takes someone like BA—a big, physically-intimidating white dude with untouchable skate credibility and major sponsorship—to change the industry’s mind about sponsoring openly gay people. Personally, I think skateboarders have been ready to embrace a gay pro for years and the only reason it didn’t happen until now is because the forty year-olds who run the industry are out of touch with modern kids’ nonchalant attitude about homosexuality.
Anyway, here we are. Welcome out, Brian Anderson.
So where do we go from here? Will skateboarders freak out when they discover that they are a fetishized masculine archetype among gay men? Are we gonna see a new wheel company based on Tom Of Finland graphics? Will a company with bara and yaoi graphics emerge to challenge Hook Ups for the softcore anime porn skateboard market? Will this t-shirt replace Janoskis as the hot item at your local skatepark? Are gay dudes finally gonna get the skateboarder beefcake calendar we’ve never wanted? Will Alex Olson go full Nick Jonas and cultivate a gay fanbase more than he already has? Will the Bones Brigade finally, you know, gay off?
Probably not, but here’s hoping.