Ever since I can remember, I have always been fascinated by skateboarding; it always seemed completely unique and lawless. However, growing up in Canton, Georgia in the mid 90s my environment was hardly conducive to the act itself. I grew up on a poultry farm and the majority of my childhood my driveway was completely gravel (no bueno). For my buddy, Clay, and me, the odds were not in our favor as we tried to figure out how to make the board “jump.”
Eventually, the more accessible childhood activities completely took over and most weekends and afternoons were spent practicing baseball or playing basketball. All the while, skateboarding never left my mind, but none of my “teammates” had any interest in skateboarding whatsoever. Years later, luckily, my friend Clay hadn’t stopped skateboarding and without him, I’d never have been reintroduced to skateboarding.
In the wake of Zero Skateboards‘ video “Misled Youth,” my second impression of skateboarding was a more eye-opening experience. This half hour video still has my knees trembling, just thinking about every rail, every gap, and stair annihilation witnessed. Knowing I could never skate on any level that remotely resembles the video’s standard, I spent years trying to take video of others trying their hand at it. A lot of good times were had, but I always found myself wanting to skateboard in my own right. Why film someone else having all the fun? Still, at the time it felt utterly faux pas to enjoy the little things in skateboarding; curbs, shaped boards, and colored grip…because everyone was so busy keeping up with the Jones’ (myself included). As a whole, the community tried to quantify ones value by amount of stairs they kickflipped or how big the rail they grinded was. The lawless feeling had passed and skateboarding started to feel like a sport.
Throughout this time it seemed like the majority of skateboarders’ setups were absolutely uniform. Every board was just straight black grip, white wheels (graphics in). It was all popsicle boards, and completely soulless. I, honestly, couldn’t pick out my own board from a lineup! The boards themselves were just temporary vessels that would ultimately meet their premature demise after a few sessions of jumping downs some stairs. With skateboards being so temporary it was hard to get attached, so I didn’t care about the shape or going beyond straight black griptape because it seemed so pointless to car
My boards last longer now, part and parcel to getting older and not having the free time to skate as much. Now if I’m going to skate a board, I have no excuse not to take the time to make my ride unique. After spending a couple years skating shaped boards, I realized the “cruiser” board stigma is completely false and most shaped boards are completely functional. Please do not call these cruiser boards or filmer boards. They are built to be shredded just like any other board. Also, don’t be afraid to grip your board however you want and know that color griptape skates just as well as any other mainstays; Black Magic, Jessup, Mob, etc.
It seems like skating is in a great place nowadays and people are starting to come around and think “outside the box” again, which is why I’d like to challenge everyone to try something new and defy the norm. Skateboarding should never be neatly categorized and there is always room for new ideas or old ones to revisit. When you adhere to the unwritten rules that govern skateboarding, you’ll miss out on a lot. It wasn’t until I learned to stop worrying and enjoy the little things that I learned just how much I missed out on.
It’s hard to believe that my reintroduction was over fifteen years ago and since then, for better or for worse, skateboarding has pretty much been all-consuming. I have seen friends go, trends evaporate, and witnessed my personal skating evolve several times. Even though life is moving faster and my skateboarding slowing down, it’s safe to say that right now is the most exciting skateboarding has ever been. Period.
Below are some of the current griptape designs on the counter at Ambush Board Co.
More from Ben Mercer.