Skate Gnus: SOTY Edition

I should explain: I suggested ‘Max’s Skate News’, or even ‘Skate News’, but no.

At first, I was a bit disappointed. I mean, I wait 30 years to write my own skate column and when I finally get afforded that mantle, bloody Crombie runs it with the title ‘Skate Gnus is Good Gnus’? After some counselling, though, I’ve really warmed to the title. Haha! It’s hilarious. In the spirit of acceptance, I commissioned my friend Huy to draw me a logo, which helps dull the pain.Anyway, it’s SOTY (Skater of the Year) season. Every November, we are treated to a barrage of heavy clips from skaters vying for the trophy, which is awarded by the now Phelps-less yet still very Phelpsy Thrasher magazine. Even though skateboarding is highly subjective and is not supposed to be a competition, it’s enjoyable to discuss the various merits of the candidates. This fortnight’s crop of videos contain the three main contenders, as well as Kader Sylla, who will probably win next year. Or maybe the world will end, or we’ll all stop paying attention, or something.

Tom Knox’s Atlantic Drift part

British filmmaker Jake Harris has stated several times in interviews that his initial goal with the Atlantic Drift series was to provide his best mate Tom Knox, who was about to become a father at age 24, with a suitable platform with which to earn a decent living as a professional skateboarder. 

Here we are a few years and 11 episodes later, and Knox is now not only the father of three girls, but one of the most progressive and highly respected (and hopefully well paid) pros in the world. 

Harris’s singular vision—it’s not a stretch to call him an auteur—builds on obvious strong friendships and trust between him and his subjects. They’re an ever-expanding bunch of mates (the addition of Max Palmer and Nik Stain felt like a foregone conclusion, but there have been surprises, too—who else was pleasantly shocked to see Shane O’Neill in that Majorca edit and who didn’t end up liking him more as a result?) but the core is always there: Casper, Mike, Kyron, Sylvain and Tom. 

This part is put together intelligently, yet instinctively; unlike Mark Suciu’s brilliant Verso of last year, the clever shit never gets in the way of the actual skating. The overall impression we get is that Knox is the reigning king of London. His feet are incredibly quick and he is interested in only the most difficult and tricky things; nothing is half-stepped or thrown in for the hell of it. His main thing is doing tricks in between other tricks, like he is deliberately skating at an unnecessary level of difficulty to amuse himself and Jake. 

He is incredible, and Harris’s 10-minute love letter to his best mate will go down as not only the best part of 2020, but one of the finest encapsulations of skateboarding ever done. It gives me goosebumps every time I watch it.

Primitive Skate Fourth Quarter video

Miles Silvas grips his board; pushes down a suburban street; shoots hoops and throws a football with his buds. It’s classic B-roll and we’ve seen it a million times. But what else needs to be said? There’s an air of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ to Primitive’s latest Fourth Quarter offering, the title referring, I’m guessing, to its addition to the spate of November releases aimed squarely at the SOTY trophy.

Silvas is a fully grown man in that B roll. He has a couple of dogs and a girlfriend; a monstera plant; a fresh fade; older buddies with beards. He has a dope life in his hometown, slowly edging toward middle-aged suburban bliss, but not too fast.  

His talent is prodigious. He lands tricks with an absurd amount of control and dopeness that would seem put-on if it wasn’t actually the sickest thing ever done. Even Silvas seems surprised at how sweet his landings are; his facial expressions resemble more what you’d expect from an onlooker.

Silvas isn’t the type to indulge in the new trend of tribute tricks—when he nollies off the curb after backside noseblunting a rail it’s because it’s a dope thing to do. Come to think of it, that’s why Gino did it in the first place—but he was the first, so it became a trope. His fakie tre over a handrail is fucked.

Elsewhere in the video: young buck Giovanni Vianna is sick and ballsy. Robert Neal is really good at skating, but he gives off the vibe that he could just as easily be doing something else, like playing tennis or rollerblading—but that’s not fair. I’m so shallow; I’d much rather be squinting at scratchy Kevin Rodrigues footage.

You can almost smell the Starbucks on Trent McClung. Again, it’s all great stuff—smooth, well-balanced and incredibly difficult—but it leaves me cold. That’s not Trent McClung’s fault, but it’s also possibly an unfortunate side product of the skateboarding media being dominated for the past three decades by white dudes in California who listen to hip-hop. The linear progression is there, but it doesn’t feel as exciting as it used to. Again, maybe that’s just me.

Kader’s thankyouvans ‘part’

Not the worst way to quit your shoe sponsor—Kader Sylla released a three-minute-long Instagram footage dump of his sure-footed rail antics and sticky-footed flick with about 30 seconds tacked on the end of unsubtly zoomed-in swooshy feet, announcing he now skates for Nike.


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It’s hard to hate Kader, or begrudge him his ever-advancing list of sponsors. The candy-munching, hyper little skate rat that Reynolds first hooked up is still lurking under the dreads and the dope gear, and his skating has continued to improve, even though he now smokes hella weed. There’s an element to Kader’s rise that we’re all rooting for because so many kids before him that have grown up in the spotlight have spectacularly piled out; but Kader seems to be pulling it off just fine. He looked cool in Vans, but he looks cool in Nikes, too. Not sure if I could stay on side if he ever left Baker, though. Thing is, he’d probably make that look cool, too.

Mason Silva Spitfire part

There can be no argument—Mason Silva is SOTY 2020. This is the fifth part he has released this year and is arguably his best so far. In contrast to his competitors—the playful intelligence of Tom Knox or the almost insulting dopeness of Miles Silvas (I know, the name thing is confusing)—Silva’s take on skateboarding is raw, gnarly and completely fucked. It’s like 2020 as interpretive dance.

Observe Silva’s completely focussed, yet slightly panicked stare as he approaches a terrifying obstacle, then his relieved, slightly embarrassed grin as he rolls away to the unbelieving exaltations of his contemporaries. No one has ever done the unthinkable shit he does in this video part, just like Geoff Rowley, Heath Kirchart, Jamie Thomas, Pat Duffy and all those who came before him. He is our greatest stuntman, whatever that means. What a feeling it must be on the crest of that wave. 

And barring a late fourth quarter entry from, I don’t know, Suciu, that’s that.


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