Lance Mountain Kind of Led a Skateboard Tour of New York
Last week, pretty much every skateboarder on earth was in town for something. Vans threw about 70 events, including a contest in Chelsea, and while Nike didn’t have a contest in a bowl or anything, it wasn’t going to be left off the multimillion-dollar shoe game/caravan going on. SB had organized some unique events in New York to kind of tie into the release of Eric Koston’s second Nike shoe. I can only say kind of because, while the day was accommodating and fun, I barely knew what the hell was going on, and felt the same as when I first tried to play an RPG, being led around to different locations, hoping to end up somewhere cool.
Though Nike’s SB program only launched in 2002, if feels like they’ve been a part of skateboarding forever. The brand made a few attempts at breaking into the skate market in the 80s and 90s—one misfire featured hideous designs and a team lead by Bam Margera—but Nike wasn’t successful in skateboarding until it updated the classic Dunk sneaker and started issuing the shoe in (increasingly strange) limited colorways. Dunks and Air Jordan 1s had always been popular to skate in—just peep any old Powell Peralta video—and retro-philia trend followers were primed for the classics’ return.
Somewhere between people killing each other over Pigeon Dunks and grown men wearing bright pastel high tops, SB secured some of the top names in the sport and became part of skateboarding. The transition wasn’t all peachy, though. Some core skate brands, most notably Consolidated, were critical of a “sporting goods brand” infiltrating skateboarding, and some of that antipathy remains. Still, the most popular shoes in skateboarding consistently get co-opted by non-skaters—that’s where the money actually comes from. To this day, the bestselling skate shoe of all-time is this, a shoe so popular that Fred Durst traded in his Adidas Shelltoes to wear these puffy pieces of crap exclusively.
Nike offered several “custom tours” of New York during skate week, and I ended up getting assigned to the “History of Skate” with Lance Mountain. Sure, I’ve been skating in New York since the 90s and have lived here for over ten years, but Lance Mountain, OG storyteller and Bones Brigade member, was our guide.
We started at the confusing Wythe Hotel, marching in a pseudo-grade-school field-trip line towards the Bedford Avenue L stop. I couldn’t tell if I wanted to run into someone I knew or not, and have to explain to them that I had to go look at ledges and stuff with Lance Mountain and some people from South America.
After detraining at City Hall, we met 5Boro Skateboards owner and New York skate activist Steve Rodriguez across from the courthouse, at a spot better known as the Black Hubba, or Blubba. In skating, a “Hubba” is basically any ledge going down some stairs that also sort of resemble San Francisco’s famous and extinct Hubba Hideout. The SF spot received its name from Big Dirt himself, James Kelch, it being a place where you could smoke Hubba Rocks (crack) without cops or passersby seeing you. That detail wasn’t worth explaining to Nike’s guests. Steve offered some background on how the City Hall area was once NYC’s de facto skatepark, long before the public parks he works on became the real thing. It was now apparent Lance wasn’t leading the tour, instead acting as comedic relief to Steve, clearly comfortable speaking in public, having logged hours in public skatepark planning meetings.
We then raced to the Banks, hoping to get to the Lower East Side park before it started to downpour and found ourselves facing several feet of chain-link fences guarding what would be the city’s next public park (thanks to Steve). Lance and Steve traded stories back and forth about the historic spot, Steve mentioning that the nine-stair handrail there was actually the third one installed, the first stolen by a rollerblader who was so stoked he did some sweet trick on it, that he took the rail so no one could skate it again. We followed the fence and dodged cardboard boxes filled with live crabs, all different types of garbage and rivers of trash juice before getting into the park. The area was sectioned off, with a private area for a Nike demo that as quickly filled with P-Rod, Theotis Beasley, Stefan Janoski, Koston, Malto, Brian Anderson, and even the elusive Gino Iannucci—who proved why the Slap messageboards fan out on him just pushing. One of the Nike people brought out rolls of paper towels to soak up the puddles that had formed on some of the concrete ramps, and even Lance helped clean up.
Our tour ended at a new Nike gallery, this tiny spot on Warren St., where the Koston 2 shoe was unveiled—it looks good—and where we got to play some interactive photo feed projected on the wall. It was weird seeing all these pros looking at pictures of ads of themselves on the gallery walls, but besides drinking beer and eating gourmet hotdogs, what else is there to do at an art show? Though I didn’t eat any of the hot dogs.