I started skateboarding in the U.S. state of New Jersey 14 years ago.
The videos that were on heavy rotation among my friends and I were Flip’s Sorry, Zero’s Dying to Live, the Zoo York videos, and all that other early 2000s jump-cut, slo-mo, crooked grind nostalgia. The vert button got a lot of play back then—I’ve seen the DC Video about a jillion times but maybe watched Colin McKay’s part once, maybe. Closed-minded, for sure, but everyone else I knew was too, so I followed suit. When Dime announced their roster for the second annual Glory Challenge, I saw the name Robert “Sluggo” Boyce, and I was like, “who?” I know skateboarding well enough that someone actually pays me to do it, how have I never heard of this dude?
I look into the guy and immediately recognize how news of a bleached-blonde Vancouverite vert skater from 2002 never came across my desk. I pull up the Red Dragon video, lifting weights in slow motion, breakdancing, skating to the fucking Backstreet Boys in a Flexfit, snowboarding. I laughed and wanted to write the guy off as a total kook. But you sit with it and have to admit that at the very least, the dude is goddamn impressive. Backflip to fakie on a vert ramp? That’s fucking ridiculous, and allegedly he was the first to do it. As far as the other stuff, I don’t know shit about snowboards or breakdancing, but to my untrained eye, he’s fucking awesome at those too.
When you’re a kid it’s tough to think for yourself, even as an adult it’s not that easy to weed through what’s expected, to get to what you personally think is good or bad. We as skateboarders are much quicker to celebrate some guy in camo pants with tight flat ground tricks skating to Migos, because he looks like a ton of other people who have been widely accepted as “good.” But really, what’s tighter? Studying Kalis’ parts until you and he have the exact same tre flip? Or being your genuine self, despite trend and criticism? Did that dude look like the guys I looked up to growing up? Hell no! Freaky jewellery, tank top, gym shorts, bleached blonde hair…basically the polar opposite of the forefathers of ‘style’ in my mind, Keenan, Stevie, 90s Guy. But skaters like Sluggo are just as important, if for no other reason than that they chip away at the monotonous trends to which the craft/art/sport of skating is so often subject.
I spent some time with Sluggo during the weekend of the Dime Glory Challenge, and it’s safe to say that he does not give a single fuck about what anybody else thinks. There is a charm and greatness in this quality. In him, there is a visible self-contentedness. At 48-years-old, the guy is still ripping, he’s jolly, he’s a party animal, and he’s happy. He was a professional skateboarder for 12 years, somewhere after that he learned how to snowboard, getting sponsored and traveling the world. Outside of these, he was also a gymnast, a break dancer, and a fucking stunt man. Sluggo has had a career riddled with accomplishments and, while humble, it’s clear that he fucking knows it.
Over the weekend of the Dime Glory Challenge, Rob “Sluggo” Boyce was by far the life of the party. Dude was up latest; partying. Up earliest, chipper as fuck. He gets that there is something tongue-in-cheek in his invitation to the contest, which itself is one big joke really, but I’m sure he sensed, as everyone else in the building did, that there was something genuine amiss as well. Dime is in many ways a celebration of Canadian skateboarding, and Sluggo, say what you will, is one of the gnarliest Canadians ever to do it. The Foam Pit Challenge was included as a platform for Rob to get down. Some people in his position might have given the crowd a backflip, waved politely, grabbed their cheque and gone the fuck home. But this is Sluggo: a consummate showman. He ripped his shirt off like a savage as the DJ played what has become his theme song: “Backstreet’s Back.” He timed his launch perfectly with “alright!” and the crowd went bananas. Then what’s the guy do? He throws a new shirt on and goes for a double backflip. It doesn’t go, so he gets back up there, rolls in switch and lands a perfect switch backflip-bolts. Throughout the contest you’d see him running down and grabbing beers for all the boys, he breakdanced at one point, chilled with everyone the whole time, and was the most stoked guy in the building.
After the contest, for which he was awarded MVP, Sluggo said two things that cemented themselves into my mind. First, he goes, “skating never makes me sore, but breakdancing does.” Trademark Sluggo. But then I hear him go, seemingly to no one, “is this real life? I can’t believe this.” He was in awe, touched even, and we all kind of were too. The rest of the night, people who previously might have had some uncouth things to say, could be heard muttering in disbelief “dude, Sluggo’s kind of the shit…” On a limo ride to the bowling alley, Sluggo was doing somersaults and shotgunning beers like a legend, then gets out and of course rolls nothing but strikes. Couldn’t not crush a strike, and being the guy he was, he was nearly blowing his voice out in celebration of other people’s rolls. His attitude made for an exponentially better time, and it was clear that he was the one having more fun than anyone.
You know, I’m all about having taste. It’s an important skill to be able to discern dumb from rad, and I, as any critically-thinking skater, was not willing to accept Sluggo on a superficial level. I still think snowboarding is dumb, and the dude is for sure a jock. But so what? What stood out to me most in the spectacle that was the Dime Glory Challenge was the one guy who completely transcended the joke. Sluggo was just being Sluggo, which is to say, a remarkable athlete with an exceptional character. He is great, truly, in the most literal sense. He is an example, if nothing else, of the merit in staying true to oneself. Sluggo is a motherfucking legend. Long live Sluggo.