It may now be the year of the Hover Board, but professional rollerblading—the way we do it—turns the big 2-0 in 2015.
It’s been two decades since aggressive inline skating got its first international audience with the inaugural “Extreme Games.”
Yeah, rollerblading in the X-Games exists only in VHS-pixelated memories, but at least we’re more extreme than fucking playing Call of Duty.
Rollerblading has seen many changes in that time, from blading technology to social acceptance. Most would agree for the better on the first and worse on the latter, but since fashion and fads go in a 20-year cycle, blading, at least stateside, may see a resurgence.
But before we all go and purchase personal helicopters with our fat corporate payouts, let’s reminisce about what happened the year before rollerblading got dumb popular again.
In 2014, Brian Aragon, the Prince himself, got the royal Jordon treatment, i.e. getting a piece of footwear from a sport he no longer actively participates in. The man’s got a skate park named after him outside Denver and a sixth pro skate from Razors, not a bad way to spend an unannounced retirement.
But, yet again, Franky Morales got the real Jordans, a full-fisted hard-on for the eclectic sneaker heads, who generally live in herds down in SoCal.
Erik Bailey got a reboot of his original Vans pro skate, a nice little touch as he approaches his 12th year as a Valo pro. Unlike most skate promos, this release schedule allowed you to skate the not-so-limited edition blades for a good month before Bailes comes along and shows you how you’re doing it wrong.
Montre and Franky’s skates were only two of about ten dozen carbon or carbon-free skates USD released in 2014. By the time I’m done writing this piece, there will probably be five new ones on the market.
What didn’t happen yet (sigh) was the release of the new Create Originals that many of us pledged in the Kickstarter that ended in April 2013, but a little Jewish bird tells me early 2015 is looking promising. But no promises from my end.
But that’s just gear. Every year we get more. Sometimes it’s fucking dope. Sometimes it’s shit. The biggest shift 2014 brought was how we consume our digital media.
2014 was the year of the VOD
Since I was in college, newspapers tried to get people to pay for quality journalism. A few, like the New York Times, were able to do it, but their a rare breed. So nearly all websites are advertising based, which is why opportunistic dumping grounds like RollerNews and BuzzFeed exist.
But there’s dignity at stake. (Then again, there’s not enough consumers of rollerblading videos—minus the Human Giant sketch—to give anyone a chance to bow to the whims of corporate sponsors.)
Rollerblading continues to be a self-funding industry to the low point where those with the biggest stake in the sport should form a collective LLC, 501(c)3, or something.
One example is Shred ‘Til You’re Dead all them years back. With the support of huge financial backers like Justin Hertel and Jon Julio, Ivan Narez was able to release it in online installments for free. Then Chris Dafick Kickstarted money to get the Spanish homies stateside for a good ol’ American road trip video.
Now, there’s pay-per-view in the form of Video on Demand. SSM started in the spring with their 666 Series (6 edits, 6 minutes, 6 bucks). On Vimeo, they continue to release fresh sections from their biggest names, while still providing free content from other riders, namely Matty Schrock ‘n’ Burn.
The 666 series started with the answer to the lingering question, “Why is Brian Shima in a wheelchair?” The answer: because he’s still Brian Fucking Shima, that’s why. The dude paid more for that edit than the $0.99 it costs to rent or the $6 to have your own digital copy.
The same goes for videos like KCMO, 18Plus, and may others that asked for digital currency to please your blade-loving eyeballs.
The new staple of VOD is the Kindle of videos. While it doesn’t have the same feel as physical video, it does provide instant viewing gratification and allows more money to go directly into the hands of people making the videos and the skaters risking injury (temporary and permanent) to provide something worth watching.
That noted, I still love paper books, but my tablet doesn’t have a DVD drive.
Chris Haffey’s the next in the VOD series to raise money for USA-made jeans from Vibralux. So far, John Bolino proved he’s only getting even that much better every time he puts on his skates, and B. Free showed he’s got bunnies under his feet and can take a tumble down the stairs. Since Haffey’s been living on the mega ramp, I’m juiced to see what he throws down after hanging out with Adam Johnson in the streets.
Haffey is, according to the Wiikipedia article on aggressive inline skating, one of our sport’s superstars, behind, of course, 2014 Windy City Riot champ Sean Darst.
Since most sites—this one historically included—do end of the year awards, I only want to recognize a few that really stood out, in my opinion. No list, whether democratically chosen or not, could really give everyone their due shine. (Check out the ONE Magazine and Mushroom Blading lists for other awards).
This sport kicks ass and will always survive in one form or another because of everyone, not just a few people. Whether it’s on Big Wheels or freestyle, blading will continue to evolve into something greater and stranger than others could ever imagine possible.
Video of the Year: f33t
There were some DVD releases this year, but they weren’t from the usual filmmakers. No, those come online and piecemeal now, but when individual skaters get to hustling, there’s little holding them back from releasing multiple VODs a year.
f33t, Lonnie Gallegos’ latest in the Feet series, isn’t available on DVD. You want a case and cover? Well, better get Bob Vila on that shit.
Scene of the Year: ATL
Atlanta is one connected and talented mass of skaters. Yeah, we got Gumby up here in NorCal studying at Berkeley, but the ATL homies have been killing it for years and 2014 was no exception.
The skaters individually—David Sizemore, Julian Bah, Chris Smith, Adam Bazydlo, Daniel Henderson, Adam Ehalt et al—continue to dazzle the shit out of our eyeballs. Whether it’s Smith’s reinvention of smooth Southern street style, Sizemore’s ability to technically execute in obscene spots, or Henderson’s ability to make rollerblading look like the most fun thing in the world, the ATL scene continues to be a lively one.
That little fucker Sizemore can squeeze into anything, namely being named ONE Magazine’s skater of the year while riding the brand of the year for the edit of the year. Not bad.
To endcap the year, Jamie Olmstead and Kevin Dowling returned with the the long-over-waited Footage Tape and GODDAMN! it didn’t disappoint.
Four years in the making, the video paid homage to the old Atlanta Waterpark Tours, but this time at a put-put course. Then there was wine tasting and shredding in Georgia wine country, some wheel-melting hill bombs, and enough fucking jokes and laughter to keep Georgia on your mind.
Footage Tape did, however, go from being a free online video series to one worth, at least to me and others, the $10 asking price. Some people weren’t initially too excited about it.
The best part of Winston’s comment to Dowling was that it ended civilly, which is a rarity when money or the internet is involved and a near-impossibility when both are. But differing opinions will always be there and haters, well, they’re gonna fucking hate, whether you like it or not.
If you want to survive today, you got to have hella hustle in your heart, whether it be on the blades or in the blading business.
I could have been easier to pick Sizemore as skater of the year for many obvious reasons, including the fact he went pro, put together a great edit for it, had a huge section in f33t, and pulled hard for Footage Tap.
But fuck that. I’m done coddling Sizemore. He’s pro now.
This year’s SOY is flow.
Skater of the Year: Adam Bazydlo
It’s easier to call him Bladezilla because fuck if I know how to pronounce his last name.
But when it comes to having heart and hustle for blading, you have to wake up at 5 a.m. everyday to meet Adam Bazydlo.
If you pieced together all the clips he regularly tosses up on Instagram, you’d probably have the longest skate video produced all year. But that hustle got him picked up by Scribe and USD, and that happy-go-lucky hammer lacer just kept going.
But be a bit wary of him. Here he is hanging out with Screech from Saved by the Bell at a bar in March. Nine months later, Screech is stabbing people in Wisconsin bars.
Bazydlo spent all year piecing together hammers for several edits, skating any spot in front of him, and doing it all with a big goofy grin on this face.
With Aragon in retirement, blading is short a go-big American pretty boy blader. But Bazydlo isn’t Aragon. If anything, he’s working his way to Feinberg.
(And so you know, this fat kink at a train station was Adam’s warm-up spot of the day and had to hit the ground and immediately slide out or bust his head on the wall. I was there that day. Glad he’s not dead.)
Oh yeah, GL-Joe (aka Joe Esquivel) became a soldier of misfortune needs some lawyer money, so help a brother out if you can. Jail blows and no one should opt to spend 2015 there.
Thanks, everyone for a great year that was 2014.
Here’s to staying free, paying people what they deserve, and continuing to shred into 2015.
Blade or Die,
— Brian Krans
P.S. — Huge thanks also go to everyone who has supported me to put out my latest book, including funding the Kickstarter, coming to my readings, hosting me, blading, and sharing some beers along the way.
If you haven’t checked out my latest book, Assault Rifles & Pedophiles: An American Love Story, you should. People seem to like it. Go to RockTownPress.BigCartel.com, use the code BLADING for 20 percent off your entire order. The money helps me buy blade edits.