Pipe Dreams: Girl Skateboards


pipe dream 260 Pipe Dreams: Girl SkateboardsLet’s face facts here: Skateboarding is an activity aimed at children. Steve Rocco admitted this in his own personal documentary when he creepily stated that he used mascots to lure children. Think about it: How many people do you see skating over 30? Not many. Except the pros. And those bastards are getting younger with every passing day (just look at Ryan Scheckler). I, a 23-year-old dirtbag, should not be paying attention to such things. And this is why it’s so interesting to look at the Girl skate videos these days.

Girl is (arguably) the most successful skate company to date. Formed in 1994 when many of them (quite suddenly) left World Industries, they have one of the most stellar lineups in skate history (which Jovontae Turner described as a “family”), featuring folks like Rick Howard, Guy Mariano, Eric Koston (!), Mike Carroll, Rudy Johnson, Jeron Wilson, and let’s not forget their Chocolate affiliates. They have maintained a very fresh, rather simplistic image throughout their 20-year career. They also have had cinema mastermind Spike Jonze directing all of their videos. But most importantly, they have had the perfect music to back up their skateboarding abilities.

There are three videos in the Girl catalog, and each one is better than the one before it. Their team debut, Goldfish, picks up where the previous works of Spike Jonze (Rubbish Heap and Video Days) left off. The effort is still rather cut-and-paste, but that doesn’t mean the soundtrack isn’t stellar. The beginning sequence looks like the “Sabotage” video with a strange jazz instrumental, but things certainly improve. The jazz instrumentals play out (performed by Girl’s Tim Gavin) during anything that isn’t skating, like the skits  “The Parallel” and “Follow the Line”. Tim Gavin’s sole full part features a drum solo and John Lennon’s track “Instant Karma”, and the Chocolate montage plays out to Santana’s “Evil Ways”.

The classic rock choices don’t compare to the rap, though. It was especially cool to see underground hip-hop and skateboarding pairing up so well (sure, it had been done in Plan B, but that was almost exclusively Hieroglyphics). Jeron Wilson skated to a remix of A Tribe Called Quest, while Mike Carroll‘s part was set to Gang Starr’s “Words from the Nutcracker”. Meanwhile, Eric Koston busted insane lines of tricks to Slick Rick. The most notable inclusion is Rick Howard’s well-constructed part to Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay)”, as his manuals flowed smoothly.

The team’s next effort, Mouse, had a lot of soul in both the skating and the music. The video opens with a skit set to Bob Dorough’s “Three Is the Magic Number”, which involves a big, fuzzy mouse and his (very odd) relationship with an In-N-Out Burger employee. However, they seem happy together. Sean Sheffey rips it to James Brown’s “Doing It to Death”, and the friends section is a Curtis Mayfield track. Rick Howard and Mike Carroll skate to War, but I have trouble telling whether it’s a joke or not. By far the most notable song is Guy Mariano’s finale part. Instead of keeping it soulful or gangster, Mariano chose the Herbie Hancock song “Watermelon Man”, which sounds like six minutes of a dude blowing into bottles. This is an odd choice for skating music no matter what, but it ushered in a brief comeback for Mariano, showing he could still keep it weird, and shred it.

Yeah Right is when things got kind of serious, but mostly because they had plenty of cash on hand. Videos like Questionable or Welcome to Hell were made with a budget of close to nothing. If any cash was spent, it was on some sort of tangible editing system. Yeah Right came about six years after Mouse, and things had certainly changed… shit g0t very, very real.

Once again, Yeah Right contained many well-rehearsed and well-scored skits, such as the “Magic Skateboard” (set to a track by Fatlip and Chali 2na!). Everything opens with Dub Diablo’s “Disco Headache”, a song that works far too well for this video. It describes everything Girl was about; looking fly, keeping it fresh, and going all out. Rick McCrank easily had the coolest part set to Le Tigre’s “Deceptacon”, and Brian Anderson skated to Interpol before it was fashionable. (Writer’s Note: Co-writer Winston Robbins cites Brian Anderson’s segment as a direct inspiration to dive deeper into the music world.)

The classic Girl skaters only get a five-minute shared part, which is on 16 mm and set to the Death in Vegas track “Help Yourself”. Also, the team chose a lot of hip-hop instrumentals, but all of them were relatively known tracks by Ghostface Killa, Andre Nickatina, and Nas. Mike Carroll gets the coolest hip-hop song in the video, but that’s because he has always just had the coolest parts (his song is by Scarface!). And for whatever reason, Owen Wilson shows up and skates to Public Enemy. This makes little to no sense but is awesome all the same.

For some reason, the Chocolate section goes back in time to the ’80s. There is a Factory double whammy in the name of Marc Johnston (“24 Hour Party People” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart”), a David Bowie song, and a section set to Guns N’ Roses’ “It’s So Easy”. However, it’s the finale of Yeah Right that is most amazing. After Eric Koston almost fights some crackhead, he busts the best possible line any skater could do. Upon completion, the stunning sounds of Black Francis’s “Los Angeles”. And it is here where the video climaxes.

Girl somehow went on to make skating to underground hip-hop trendy (along with Zoo York). One must remember, as kids, most of us didn’t listen to this music. We were unaware of Jurassic 5 and too naive to appreciate Otis Redding. We were all in our early teens and had a long road of musical discovery to go down. And Girl Cinema was nice enough to help show us the way, as long as we were skating. Rick Howard and Spike Jonze worked so well together on these videos, and both picked music that opened up their young audience’s minds and showed them it was cool to skate to jazz and Gang Starr. Maybe Rick Howard should have co-directed Where the Wild Things Are. Maybe.