13 June 2007

Narrow Perspective I: The Strongest of the Strange

Pontus Alv, nollie out of a wallride by Eric Antoin

When I started this blog it was largely to promote my writing. I did not want it to become a surf or skate themed blog but inevitably, I was going to feature those two activities because I spend so much time dwelling on them. In actuality one of the reasons I write at all is because of surfing and skateboarding. As an early teen I would obsess over surf and skate magazines and read every word cover to cover. I didn't read anything else and due to some undiagnosed ADD, it took a tremendous amount of effort for me to read anything. Then one day I read a short story in a surf magazine. It was about intergalactic surf exploration. I immediately ripped it off and wrote my own version. I didn't show anyone except my grandmother Una, who was super supportive of my effort. It took several years of writing crappy poetry and short stories before I admitted to anyone else that I was pretending to be a writer. I made a few efforts at being a 'serious writer' to varying degrees of success but it eventually dawned on me that we all choose (or are forced) to view the world from an often very narrow perspective and I should not ignore mine. This is not necessarily a bad thing. As I believe in some sense, it is possible to learn more about the world if you stare at it intensively from one angle instead of trying to take the whole thing in.

Since age nine, I've stared at the world intensively from the deck of a skateboard. Skateboarding led me to places (physical and mental) I probably would never have visited before. It led me to hidden corners of the city, forcing me to interact with people I'd never would have known existed. It led me out my house at 2am in the morning, to hitchhike into the city center to attack painted curbs and marble banks. It forced me to challenge authority. It taught me patience, concentration and pain management. It taught me about physics, geography, architecture and urban theory. It helped me interact with the streets and really understand my environment. It put me in a police cell and hospital. It also provided me with some of the most meaningful relationships of my life.

Sounds tacky I know. The only reason I write about it in this way is because there is lots of talk these days of skateboarding becoming a legitimate sport. Schools now have after school skateboard clubs that help kids, 'train' and 'get sponsored' and could well be in the 2008 Olympics. More and more skateparks are being constructed and while I am a fan of skateparks, I fear that more designated sanctioned areas to ride, will make it easier for the authorities to shut us out of where skateboarding really belongs; the streets. I fear the rules, recommendations and regulations and the standardization that might come along with it all and stunt skateboard culture.

I don't really understand modern skateboarding but every once in awhile I'm provided with a glimpse of the skateboarding I once knew and still hold sacred. This time last year my friend Vegan Shawn hooked my up with a Swedish film entitled The Strongest of the Strange (Yes after the Bukowski poem) made by a skateboarder from my generation, named Pontus Alv. From San Francisco to Stockholm via Barcelona and Mongolia. With a stunning soundtrack of New Order, Joy Division, Sonic Youth, Leonard Cohen, Killing Joke, Neil Young and many more, The Strongest of The Strange is a awe-inspiring depiction of the culture. I could write a whole review of this film but you can watch it by clicking the link below. I will say that this film, is not about skateboarding as a sport. It is not about who does what trick. It is about a way of looking at the world from this beautifully narrow perspective.

Watch it here (but not at work unless your boss is cool with a bit of nudity)