Fear & Loathing In Australia
Fear & Loathing In Australia
Failure is terrifying. It’s degrading, it’s frustrating and in skateboarding, it’s often downright painful. Sometimes that pain is all upstairs. Most of the time, it’s physical. Either way, scars result.
Dismissing that fear is what separates the good skaters from the great ones, but it's the added element of style that separates the great skaters from the superstars.
By those standards, we sent three superstars and a fourth-in-the-making to Australia to land a few tricks, ride some new spots, hang with the locals (while limiting the Tooheys) and get the occasional shot. To ensure the latter, we also sent one of the best photographers in the business to document their travels.
The Crew In The Land Of Roos
The Icon, the Stylist, the Superstar and the Wunderkind. Eric Koston, Rune Glifberg, Ryan Sheckler and Curren Caples.
It's the kind of crew magazine editors salivate over. With their combined skating acumen, there's essentially no trick out of reach, no platform too big, no challenge too steep. If you were drafting a Fantasy Skate team, it's a crew as well rounded as you could pull together. All four frequent the contest circuit, but they also like to get away from the bright lights and judging criteria. On this trip through Australia, there would be a little bit of both.
Arto Saari: Skater Turned Photographer
Arto Saari understands. Before he was him, he was them. The legendary skateboarder turned photographer; Arto the photographer is in as high-demand today as he was during the height of his pro skateboarder career.
Playboy assignments, gallery shows and ad campaigns aplenty. By now, he's spent enough time on both sides of the camera lens to know what it takes to produce great photographs – talent, communication and mutual respect. Because he was the subject before he was the artist, he has an innate understanding of how to execute when the shutter is firing. The rapport is obvious. The results are stunning.
The Glamour In Skateboarding
Glamour and skateboarding aren’t good bedfellows. The parties, the free swag, the VIP treatment, the celebrities, sure, they come with the gig – but not as often as stitches, four dudes jammed in a hotel room and watered-down drinks. It’s not the 9-to-5 in a cubicle, but it’s work.
It requires looking at that same trick over that same ledge that's caused a bloody shin, torn tendons and a busted ego, and saying, 'Yeah, let's try this shit again.' It's seeing that up-and-coming grom with the hefty sponsor contracts and the media spotlight and still thinking, 'Fuck it, he doesn't have my style or my 12 X Games medals.'
It's fighting off jetlag, heat, cops, rabid fans and johnny do-gooders. It's being that young guy dealing with the pressure to perform on command before you become a casualty of sponsorship musical chairs, and you're left standing with a pen in your hand and nowhere to sign.
Those battles are part of the everyday reality for this enviable foursome. The veterans, Koston and Glifberg have spent a lifetime performing and proving day-after-day that they deserve to retain their status as royalty in the sport. Koston, with his surreal natural ability, also carries with him a charm and personality that's compelling to fellow skaters and fans alike. He roams the globe skating and 'being Koston,' and that, at this point in his career, is all people seem to want or need. Glifberg, who grew up in Copenhagen and has been a pro since he was 11, has spent his career writing the book on tranny style. He's still a regular at international contests, progressing alongside the next generation to push the possibilities of bowl and park riding.
It's not all fun and games for the young guns either; now 23, Sheckler has had the spotlight shining bright upon him since he was just 13 years old and won X Games Gold in Los Angeles. In the time since, he's had to prove repeatedly that he's deserving of that spotlight. Caples is where Sheckler was a half-dozen years ago: the announce yourself stage. And at just 17, Caples is quickly convincing the skate community that he belongs. Although a phenomenal surfer, he is devoted to skating, having just turned pro. There remains a long road ahead, but with travel companions of this caliber, he's clearly on the right path.
Sheckler And The Stairs: The End Of The Road
It’s true, Ryan Sheckler has it good. After that X Games gold medal in 2003, fame and fortune followed. He became skating’s golden child, inspired countless kids to pick up a skateboard and helped the sport receive mainstream appeal.
But success has always come with a price for Ryan. From wearing a perpetual target on his back to facing ridicule from the sport's purists. Fortunately, none of that bothers him, in fact, it motivates him and his body shows the literal and figurative scars of his success.
A year ago, while on a skate mission in Australia, Ryan happened upon a crescent moon-shaped ledge in downtown Sydney. An attempted backside 360 resulted in a broken foot and six months of physical therapy. Fast forward to March 2013: Sheckler's mission – redemption. He'd returned with a desire to stomp the trick that had broken him. Getting back to that spot was on the trip itinerary. Plans change.
While en route, the crew was scouting for more great spots. After a couple days of poor weather and a bit of cabin fever, they came upon an 18-stair in the heart of Sydney. It was surrounded by tall buildings and ran parallel to a busy city street. Most of the crew scoffed at the notion of even bothering. Sheckler walked up, assessed the conditions and grabbed his board. The 30-degree slant on the landing spot? Not a concern. The waxed top stair courtesy of some local skaters? No big deal. The oncoming traffic? Minor. The half-dozen slams while trying to stick it? Inconsequential.
The Adventure Continues
For the Icon, the Stylist and the Wunderkind, the Australian adventure continued. Countless more rails, ledges and parks were discovered and conquered.
Curren took pictures with outdated cameras, then launched some of the biggest airs of the trip. Rune wore tank tops and maintained the same stoic expression on his face while he skated. Koston continued being Koston; livening up every stop with his antics, then dropping jaws with flawless technique.
There was no one goal for the three; no glowing green light at the end of the dock. There was always opportunity to skate, always opportunity to make the others take notice with a new line or a more technical approach. The whale was the chance at acclaim within the group. That was the force which drove Ryan to success on the 18-stair, but ultimately to his demise on the kink rail. But that's just skateboarding.