Kicking and pushing, with sweat collecting at the base of my hairline and my left foot temporarily soaring, unbound by gravity momentarily before reuniting with the pavement then with my skateboard where it came to rest. It was one of those warm summer-reminiscent nights of September and I had set out for a solo skate session along the Hudson River. There was an innate sense of freedom that came with the wind rushing and lights from jersey shining across the water. It was just me and that no longer felt lonely, I find myself homesick everyday but it was in that moment that I was truly there, gliding along the river with the world laid out in front of me. I didn't know where I was going but I ended up skating into a pier, I told myself not to look back until I reached the end of it. The World Trade Center and all of wall street shined like the regal wannabe mountains that they were to the left of me. Turning around at the end of the pier, I popped my skateboard up into my hand and whirled around. NEW YORK CITY, awareness flooded me. I was in New York City casually skateboarding down its streets as if I belonged, as if for a few seconds it was mine and I was a part of what it is this place stands for. I won't forget that feeling. The city lights blasted silent soundtracks of their own lights through phosphorescent beams and I thought of a surf session I had with my best friend turned boyfriend a month or so ago, it was that same feeling of ultimate presence in a single moment. Although there was no sunset, no big sky, no looking at someone I love most and feeling my heart swell, it was still something empowering, and so worth it.
In between that night and now, I've tired to immerse myself in the world of skateboarding because it is that community and sense of place and having this other world that most people don't know about that reminds me most of being home. Ever since I left for college and with all the transferring I've done I've been looking for "home" but now I've come to realize that home really is about being wherever the people you love and who love you are, which is perhaps why I know New York will never and could never be home. Aside from the fact that there's no nature, and parks don't count, or waves, or big sky. Anyway, thus far I've attended events put on by the skate community like the Converse Cons skateboard filmmaking workshop. I've always just spent the day skating with people who are actually "skaters" like Denzel France, captain of the Aegir Boardworks skate team and a member of the ZeroGrav skate crew. We spent the day in Staten Island, a place that I had never been just skating and shooting videos on my iPhone. I'm coming to understand what it means to see the world and concrete from a skater's point of view and the city as being a giant playground that is constantly being refurbished. I've acquired a few bruises, some that look more serious and painful then they are but I guess that manifests the fact that I'm just a walking storyboard as well.
I've also been lucky enough to have been able to interview Manny Aloha a NYC to Honolulu transplant skater and surfer via email which I'll attach the interview. I also was able to recently interview the VP of the first skateboard company in New York, Michael Cohen of SHUT skateboards. I went to the shop yesterday and the atmosphere was inviting, they had all their custom decks on the wall and the staff wanted to be there and it showed. I had met Michael once before at Sweet and Vicious, a bar in SoHo when I interviewed the founder of NYskateboarding.com, Rick Sulz. When I get into Michael's office at the shop that's the first thing he mentions and we laugh about it setting the tone for more of a time to "talk story" as we say in Hawaii than a formal interview. Sure enough we spent over an hour talking about all things SHUT, skateboarding and New York. Getting Michael's perspective in my piece will be of great service because he's someone who's been in the skateboarding game here from its genesis, and all of it's cyclical dawns and dusks in the industry. He's one of those "lifers" that Rick Sulz mentioned to me about who essentially was able to help build the skateboarding community that is still in place today. I'm currently working on the transcription and will have it up ASAP!
MANNY ALOHA INTERVIEW VIA EMAIL:
Alright here it goes:
1. How'd you start skating?
My Parents split up and my dad moved to California. My brother and I would visit him in the summer. He would jog the Redondo Beach bike path. He bought my brother and I each a wooden banana board so we could keep up with him while he jogged. I was about 7 years old. I couldn't stand up like my brother and had to push while riding on my knee.
2. what sparked your desire to move out to honolulu?
I started getting into surfing.
What do you value most about HNL vs. NYC?
HNL is rad because there are waves every day all year round, all within a few minutes to and hour away.
If Honolulu's greatest gift to the world is surfing and waves, NYC's gift to the world is Night Life, bars and art.... and quintessential city life.
How did you know it was time to leave this "city of dreams"?
I started partying a little too hard and I needed to make a change because I saw my life going in a bad direction. I was in an after hours club in Brooklyn drinking a beer with a dude at 7am. He had blood all over his hands wrapped in toilet paper because he had just stabbed someone multiple times for trying to steal his gold chain. The mugger tried to stab him but he grabbed the knife by the blade and retaliated, by stabbing him back a few times. Even though it might of been self defense, I looked at myself and said, "Damn I'm hanging out with a dude that possibly murdered a guy, I am doing something wrong, and need to change. Coming to Hawaii was part of my change.
3. what were the hardest adjustments you had to make mentally and how did you go about making them?
The hardest adjustments were leaving my awesome family and friends in New York and New Jersey. The epic waves and beautiful healthy lifestyle in Hawaii keep me from missing my family.
4. how has New York as a place, changed skateboarding?
New York has always had its cultural urban mystique with its fashion, hip-hop music, extreme seasonal changes, European transplants, art, architecture, etc. These were the spices that added flavor and dimension to NY skateboarding. Also the endless variety of cement and stone structures that connect the city for miles became the testing grounds for street skating... pushing the boundaries of what can street skating can be.
Mainly it was a huge influence as well has helped define what it means to be a street skater, even though the main inspirations came from California with the Z Boys then Mark Gonzales and Natas Kaupas.
5. is it safe to say that NY kind of its own unique microcosms of skate culture in its entirety?
Once upon a time yes. But now street skating culture exists all around the world in most major cities. But if you are a skater or anyone for that matter, New York is a rare urban environment that has many endless things to skate and endless things to do and see.
6. favorite memories of skating--how did skating change you as a person and shape your perspective of NYC?
One of my favorite memories of was the day I met my first friend from NYC in 1988 or 89. I was born in Manhattan, but grew up 40 miles away in a town called Suffern. Although I am from New York, I didn't live in the city. Kids that grow up in NYC's five boroughs are often wired differently. My first friend from NYC was Jeff Pang and he ended up soon to be the best skater in NYC at the time. Some say he was New York City's first Pro Skater. He was toughest and at the same time the kindest friend I'd ever met to date. He showed me a lot and had a big influence on how I experienced NYC, clued me into being street smart. There was a few times he helped us get out of bad situations getting jumped. This was at least a few years before he turned pro for Zoo York.
Everyone in NYC back then mainly skated the Brooklyn Banks which were the background for tons of memories.
Another memory is of a company called Nimbus Skates that me and my friends rode for including Jeff. All the skaters from Nimbus ended up being the first riders for Zoo York.
Then of course there was Shut Skates which was before Nimbus. Shut had all the best skaters in NYC and NJ. They were rad and mean. Around 1990 or 91 all the Shut riders got picked up by California companies like Plan B, Think, SMA, Real. And Shut was no more. As Shut was coming to its end Nimbus was already forming, basically the next best group of skaters out of NYC and North East. A couple of years later the creators of Shut decided to start Zoo York and then all the Nimbus riders had something bigger and better to go to. This was also the time when the movie Kids came out. All the skaters in the movie Kids were the dudes from NYC that I skated with - a few of them rode for Nimbus, including Justin Pierce, Jeff Pang, Peter Bici. Shortly after Supreme opened up and gave Zoo York riders a home base.
All of these stories I've been trying compile into a book.
7. what's so different/unique about being a NY skateboarder vs. being a skater from anywhere else?
Its kind of like being a surfer growing up in Hawaii, you get to grow up surfing waves anytime you want. If you are street skater growing up in NYC you have the advantages of skating endless and continuous pavement and street obstacles everyday, the winter weeds out the non serious skaters.
8. what does "home" mean to you?
Home to me is where your family and friends are. Where you have spent important times of your life.
9. what does it mean to be a part of the skate community here?
If you are a true skater- A true lover of the act of skateboarding, then you are part of the skate community around the globe. Especially if you just shut up and skate. Having friends in NYC is rad because, its always rad to have friends in any place especially NYC.
I am stoked to feel absolutely comfortable in NYC- knowing it like the back of my hand. How to skate it, navigate, where to eat, where to see rad art. I am blessed and honored to have grown up in such a culturally rich area.
10. words/advice/insights for people entering the NY skate scene?
#1: Always have a skateboard with you. #2: Don't get run over. #3: Make friends wisely. Rule #4: Have a fuckin' blast in moderation.
11. things you love/hate most about NY and what does it mean to be a new yorker?
I love that New York is everyone's city. It watches amazing careers come and go. It spits out the weak. And challenges the strong dreamer. Every kind of person exists in New York, but to me being a New Yorker means putting your money where your mouth is, having a strong word. If you say your going to do something, or be somewhere, then do it.
12. if you had to make a guide to skateboarding in NY what would you include? Key people, different crews, best shops and spots?
If I made a guide to skateboarding in NYC I would include spots Downtown, Midtown, Uptown. East Side, West Side, Brooklyn, Queens.
This question is endless and changes, and I need more time to answer.
Downtown Shop- Supreme
Brooklyn Shop- KCDC
13. anything else i should know?