East Germany’s Secret Police Used to Spy on Skateboarders
For whatever reason the public perception of skateboarding seems to have changed over the last decade. Skaters on TV aren’t obnoxious, glue-huffing wasters any more; they’re admirable young men building community skateparks on Google ads. But the sport, or the culture that goes hand-in-hand with the sport, at least, did used to be seen as more of a threat to all things wholesome.
One country where this held especially true was communist East Germany in the 1980s—also known as the German Democratic Republic, or GDR—before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Skateboarding was American, therefore subversive and dangerous, so the Stasi began monitoring the skating community to keep tabs on any potential troublemakers or ringleaders. The perceived danger quickly made its way into the state media. A news clip from the time instructs viewers that it is “our duty to protect our children and youths from [skateboarding],” meaning skaters were demonized and left to smuggle Californian-made boards over the border if they wanted to skate anything more advanced than a plank of wood attached to some rollerskate wheels.
German filmmaker Marten Persiel made a “hybrid documentary” about the history of skating in the GDR called This Ain’t California, which was released last year in Germany and gets its international cinematic release next month. The film was criticized on its release for its liberal use of reconstructions and the fact its lead character never actually existed, but Marten told me, “all the things that happen in the film are true stories.” He simply amalgamated them to create a lead character who he could hang the narrative from. And in a “hybrid documentary,” that doesn’t seem like too big of a deal.
I spoke to Marten about his film, skateboard smuggling, and hugely successful punk bands made up entirely of secret service agents.
Epicly Later’d – Geoff Rowley, Part 2
In part two of the Geoff Rowley series, he talks about moving to California with the Flip team, skating with the Tempster, shooting pics with Sturt, and how slamming is almost as good as the make.
Epicly Later’d – Geoff Rowley, Part 1
For part one of the Geoff Rowley episode we checked out his hometown of Liverpool, England, and also went to London and Southbank to meet with some well known names in British skateboarding.
I Tried to Sell Cybergoth and Steampunk Gear to ‘Wavey’ Streetwear Kids
In Britain today, subculture is largely a thing of the past. The vast majority of young people just don’t seem interested in seeking out New Rock boots or Moschino-print trousers any more. Now, they just seem to sling on whatever they can find in the high street. They’re less likely to buy a shirt because it says something about who they think they are as a person than they are because it keeps them warm. In a way, you can understand this—being young’s tough enough without people spitting on you because you’ve developed a teenage obsession with The Crow. But by and large it’s a sad fact that comfort has replaced controversy as the order of the day, shopping centers filled with young people happily wandering around, taking selfies, and buying each other muffins and shit from the Disney store, like a bunch of fucking Americans.
Perhaps it’s because KoЯn went dubstep, perhaps it’s because rappers started wearing tight red jeans and glasses without lenses, perhaps it’s because Camden Lock is now just a massive Starbucks and a few stalls selling “Keep Calm” hoodies. Whatever the reasons, youth culture is now undeniably a lot fluffier and nicer than it was in previous generations.
But walk down any high street in any town with a population greater than 10,000 and there is one subculture still kicking against this Hollister-led style pogrom: streetwear culture. Not the one that involves 30-year-old blokes in Bape going to see DJ Vadim at KOKO, but the one that fetishises Snapbacks, bucket hats, North Face, King Krule, post-dubstep, knockout weed and very expensive shoes. The OFWGKTA influenced, Supreme-loving, Palace-worshipping marriage of American skate fashion and British rudeboy attitude. Which, oddly, are two things most people in their mid-twenties could probably never imagine coming together, having spent their teenage years watching skaters and rudeboys attack each other at bus stops.
Paul Rodriguez is a skateboarding machine. Calling him a “professional” skateboarder doesn’t begin to describe how professional he really is. He is a true gentleman on a piece of wood and undeniably one of the greatest skateboarders of our generation. So when Mountain Dew offered to fly me out to LA to shoot some photos and skate with him, I said no way, nerds. JK, I cancelled all my plans and hopped on a plane as fast as I could.
Dir: Nicholas Steele
In a past life I was Jacques Cousteau, traveling the globe in search of adventure. Just a short baker’s dozen years ago, I spent no less than 28 days a month abroad on skateboarding tours. I was home so infrequently that I opted to no longer rent an apartment, but rather slept in any stranger’s bed for a night or under my desk at the legendary, defunct skate mag Big Brother. At some point I met my wife, moved back to New Jersey, had two sons, and settled into a peaceful life of domesticity in the suburbs.
Yet not one day passes that I don’t crave the open air of a strange and new place, wanting to find myself in inexplicable predicaments on foreign soil and barely escaping with my life. To try and spice things up, I’ve gotten myself into three car chases in the past two years, and on several occasions have just gotten in my car and driven for hours with no destination in mind. I try my best to take the family on the road a few times a year, but those adventures are different. The adrenaline rush tends to center around if the kids are going to break something or if we can pull over fast enough to avoid one of them shitting his pants.
In the immortal words of Clark W. Griswold: “I wanna paint, I wanna sculpt something massive… I want to… God, I just have a creative urge.” One that only a road trip can quench. Lucky for me I work for Vans, the greatest skate-shoe company on earth, and they’ve been kind enough to take me on a three-week European vacation. I’m writing this on the eve of my departure, and as excited as I am to mix it up overseas, I am beginning to stress out.
This will be the longest I’ve ever been away from my sons. I’m missing my firstborn’s first day of school and his fourth birthday. Worst yet, what really has me sick to my stomach is that I won’t be getting laid for 21 days. I haven’t gone that long since I first discovered the fuzzy britches of a woman. I don’t know that I’ll be able to handle it. So, I sat my wife down and discussed my options. I told her the tour had a one-night stay scheduled in Amsterdam and that I needed closure. She understood, gave me her consent, but feared for my safety.
The story goes that 11 years ago, in the early stages of our courtship, I found myself in the red-light district of Amsterdam. Not wanting to cheat on my new lady, I instead opted to buy a bag full of oblong vegetables for a prostitute to use as sex toys while I masturbated: no touching involved, and I’d gladly pay full freight. Turns out girls over there don’t care much for veggies. Every gal scoffed at the proposition; one sex worker got so angry that she called the enormous Moroccan security guards and nearly had me beaten senseless.