I myself am strange and unusual…
I myself am strange and unusual…
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a carnie christmas story; or, sean's slick soliloquy

Never before in the history of mankind has the magical holiday of Christmas been properly explained until now. But before getting to the obligatory promotional hand-off to Dave Carnie's latest cold cut creation, I'd first like to slide down a slick little wormhole and go back in time to the year of 1990—or was it 1991?—when Santa Cruz/NHS introduced the Everslick™ deck construction, which, in layman's terms, boiled down to a thin plastic sheet pressed onto the bottom of a board. This was right around the time when rails, the last of the plastic bastions from the '80s, were swiftly going the way of the dodo (unless you happened to be one company focused on the introduction of their years-in-the-making orange product), so it just made sliding sense, right? Besides, this was still several years or so before the invention of wax and all the marketing shenanigans that came along with it.

Where Santa Cruz fucked up with the Everslick™, though, was adhering to a sense of proprietary pride in their innovation with strict logotype branding across the board on all boards in the first year out, thereby sacrificing any graphic fun in the process*. So I can't really say the whole slick concept "took off" right away, or at least not until other companies like World Industries and Blind jumped on the train and derailed it to Funland by capitalizing on the ability to create full process-color continuous-tone graphics, e.g. the Blind Jason Lee "Burger" board, Rudy Johnson's "40 Ouncer," the World Industries Jeremy Klein "Black Eye Kid," Randy Colvin's "Colvinetics," and many memorable others. Suddenly slicks were a very big deal in skateboarding! But also a particularly heavy deal, because the plastic skin tacked on an additional eighth layer to the deck (more on that later).

Regardless, every company throughout the industry in the early/mid '90s started to pile on the plastic in their higgledy-piggledy board releases (calculated seasonal drops were still not a thing). Some even tried to finagle it into their own "unique" constructions and printing methods, but Jesus Christ… whoever thought that putting the graphic under a semi-translucent-if-not-kinda-cummy-in-appearance-condom-of-sorts was clearly (or unclearly?) out of their gourd. And while many utilized the new graphic medium for the betterment of creativity in skateboarding, it also enabled those with less than half of a wit to simply swipe imagery with little to no thought or effort whatsoever. Access to a flatbed scanner was all that was required to enter the slippery slope to market.

"But wait," you ask, "How the hell did they get graphics into the plastic in the first place?" Good question, thanks for asking, the answer being gas sublimation. "What the hell does that mean?" Even better question. Basically the graphics were first printed in reverse onto sheets of transfer-ish paper**. These sheets were then placed on top of a white plastic sheet, inserted into a heat press, and voila—the molecular color was miraculously transmogrified into the plastic***. For whatever reason the art more or less held its ground once sublimated into the plastic, unlike the farcical and short-lived attempts at wood sublimation that resulted in faded, drab, and lifeless graphics (not to mention a certain blurry molecular migration that occurred over time). Anyway, it's all some real space age polymer shit if you're into such NASAssy things.

The slick craze crested in 1994 and then petered out to a slow dick trickle at the close of the decade—right around the time when many of the major manus were already starting to chase Chinese butterflies in pursuit of cheaper bottom lines****. Again, not only were these slicks heavy as fuck (which is pretty much the last thing you want when flipping out in the streets), but they were a bit more costly to produce with a premium price tag to boot. Thus the novelty faded into the annals of skate nerd history. Occasionally, yes, someone would get a wild hair to eke one back out into the marketplace, but the materials and application never really resembled those manufactured in the '90s. So when we approached Paul Schmitt in 2015 with the desire to make a few slick bottoms the way they were done back in the days of old, he accommodated our request but first addressed the nagging issue of heaviness tout de suite by reducing the number of wood ply to six and utilizing an epoxy adhesive to bind the plastic to the wood, thereby increasing the strength without adding any significant weight. We've been employing this new PS Stix slick construction for over three years now and some skaters do indeed swear by them so we keep on keepin' on.

All that historical nonsense said, we now finally come to this: our holiday-inspired Dave Carnie "Sleipnir" slick bottom that comes ready made with a bow-and-tag top graphic for even the most lazy of gift-giving assholes. If you're familiar with Dave's @acidinvader postings on Instagram, you know there's always a story behind his collaged images and "Sleipnir" is no different with the tale contained in the deck's accompanying 24-page "Rabbit & Raven" zine (well, it's actually 28 in all, but apparently none of us here can count***** and the inside cover pages are blank so I just disregarded the sheet in whole). Once you've had the opportunity to ingest this all-new, thoroughly fascinating tale of Dave's, I guarantee you will never look at Christmas, Baby Jesus, Santa Claus, or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in the same way ever again. Plus, you'll have some mind-blowing trivia and a liberal helping of cock-and-bull up your sleeve to share with friends and family over the holidays, so this really is the perpetual gift that keeps on giving! —Sean Cliver


* Yeah, yeah, each SC pro model had its own unique top logo, but who the hell pays any mind to a top logo on a boring-to-begin-with-board-bottom on a shop rack?

** Back in the '90s these sheets were all offset-printed in the CMYK fashion. Nowadays they get spat out of a giant Epson inkjet. Fascinating, no? Good thing you stuck around to read this scintillating bullshit at the bottom. I'll make up for it by telling you this: Former leather-jacketed Alva pros JT and Jef Hartsel worked at the graphics house in Torrance, California Silkscreen, that handled all the pre-production work on World's earlier stickers and slick graphics (JT eventually defected to become an in-house design workhorse at World, circa '93).

*** Just like magnets and other inexplicable phenomena of the natural world!

**** It's worthy to note that the heat transfer revolution also allowed a similar graphic leeway as slicks that couldn't always be achieved through traditional direct-to-board screen-printing methods.

***** An inside joke because I can. Another thing I can do is plug my book Disposable: A History of Skateboard Art, because that's where all these slick bottom board images came from if you're interested in seeing more—much more.

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  • Silas Fiction on

    More history lessons please!

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