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the 2023 year of wood in review

A wise man once said, "It's okay to trip on your dick, just don't stand on it." The origin of the adage isn't exactly known… for all I know it could have sprung from the sagely fount of Socrates or slid sideways out of the mouth of Willie Nelson's tour manager. Ultimately, it doesn't matter. ChatGPT will end up scraping this off the undercarriage of our site and claim it fell out of its own virtual ass. So it goes.

Diversity is everything these days and we've learned the same applies to board printing and the price points thereof. More importantly, though, some graphics just lend themselves to the screen-printing process whereas others simply do not—these four, the "Goth Puppet," "Ether Bunny," and marvelous Max Murphy and Timothy Johnson series, all landed in the ink-slinging hands of Screaming Squeegees.

It's been a while since I've taken a solid dump here. Maybe that's a good thing? I often wonder for no good reason what Powell-Peralta would've been like in the '80s had George Powell penned all the words found in the Bones Brigade Intelligence Reports in a similar mental patient fashion [1]. Unfortunately I've always had a perverse penchant (strange love?) for the absurdity of reality over the allure of mystery, so that Great and Powerful Curtain of Oz was ripped away long before we’d even left Kansas back in 2018. At least Nick and I had enough sense to not call it Cliver-Halkias Skateboards… that would have been really unfortunate. I mean, yeah, for one, it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue in a pleasing assonant way, but could you even begin to imagine us ripping off the C&H Sugar logo instead of the world famous Cinerama Dome? Stranger things, like Indestructo Trunk Co., Rankin-Bass, or Champion International Co., have all happened, but that’s neither here nor there in the grand appropriated scheme. Anyway, let's get back to the dick thing. Or least arrive at a passable reason for even mentioning it in the first place.

Some companies have skulls holding a sword, we have bears bludgeoned by a bat. This year we ran the tie-dye through the screen-printing wash a few times on different shapes at various times throughout the year making for quite the trippy spectacle.

I'm not sure if we're all collapsing on a collective event horizon of sorts or what, but it seems like no matter where I've turned this past year everything has been related to the history of skateboarding or a celebration thereof, be it the 20th anniversary of Emerica’s something or other, the 30th anniversary of both Girl and Toy Machine, the 33rd anniversary of Alien Workshop, the 50th anniversary of NHS, Inc., Powell-Peralta's Bones Brigade Experience, any number of museum exhibitions currently on display or in the future works, throw an N-Men documentary in there, and I'm sure to be missing something else of a retrospective nature but I can't quite put my finger on it [2].

Our tent pole releases for the year undoubtedly belonged to Todd Bratrud and the dates of 4/20 and 7/10. Boards came in a variety of shapes and sizes, including screen-printed slicks for "scratch off" reveals and fuzzy flocked bottoms for maximum tactile feels.

Obviously I'm a fan. I love the history of skateboarding. So much so that I spent a sum total of four years compiling two comprehensive books devoted to skate graphics in a genuine attempt to not only accurately depict the work but, more importantly, secure the stories behind the art and artists in the most kosher manner possible. This wasn't at all easy to do in the early oughts of the new millennium—a lot of it involved my being Indiana Jones and traveling up and down the coast to track down and photograph the boards, be it just a few from a collector here or an archive from a company there—but I'm glad I did it when I did. For one, everything starts to get rosier and foggier with age; the perceptions more skewed, the memories more selective, the history more romantically muddled under the weight of conforming to a pleasing narrative arc fit for a 90-minute documentary—you know, for the sake of a "good story,” to make the common streaming man merry and feel good. And once that happens… well, shit. Then it becomes HISTORY, regardless of whether it was or was not, because now it's been written in digital stone—end of story. Oh, and two: So the wind won't blow it away. Plain and simple.

Remember what I said about graphics lending themselves to certain methods of board application? Well, these all fell on the transfer and slick bottom side of the fence with painterly strokes by Jeff Tremaine and Chris Reed—the last on far right being a chaotic jam session between he and I.

A funny thing: The exhibition title for Girl's 30th anniversary event curated by Deckaid was "It's Not That Serious," but c'mon—it is that serious. I don't know of any other subculture that constantly looks back and reflects on its swath of detritus with such trivial scrutiny and unabashed ardor. This is also a ridiculous and baseless statement, because it's a well known fact that every niche pursuit has its fair share of fanatical zealots. I just like to think ours is the best. Everyone else can fuck off, because there's nothing better than getting a group of lifetime skateboarders together and the stream of never ending stories from a shared pastime that ensue.

While many others out in Skateboardland were either licensing or appropriating from the Halloween franchise this past October, we kept it classy with a trio of fashionable monsters—albeit this series didn't actually hit the warehouse until early November just after the All Hallow's fact. So, yeah, best laid plans and all that rueful jazz, but you can bet your bottom dollar we'll still try and do it all over again next year. In fact, we're already well behind the eight ball on our first upcoming holiday release, so hooray for us!

Another funny thing: Earlier this year I took part in a symposium of "skate scholars" to spitball through the eras and provide a guiding hand in the formulation of a future skateboard exhibition. Included in this Fellowship of the Board was a participant from Gen Z, who at one point asked—and excuse me as I paraphrase—exactly how far back in time this exhibition might span, because their generation doesn't care about anything that happened prior to the birth of skateboarding in 1999 with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater video game. I don't want to say my head almost exploded like that dude's in Scanners (1981), but I did find myself simultaneously triggered and empathetic, because A) I know good and goddamn well that in 20 years they'll be chasing the same nostalgic dragons that their generational juniors won't give two scoops of hermit crab shit for; and B) I was the exact same way when I started out in skateboarding—well, no, that's not exactly true, because anything I've ever been passionate about I always desired to know more about the history and what made it tick up until I discovered it. What I didn't like, or at the very least had a very violent allergic reaction to, was some dusty old head demanding I respect so-and-so because they did such-and-such back in a day that I had no relation to whatsoever—especially when I'd just seen Natas ollie over a regulation-size garbage can.

 

We grew up on midnight movies and cult classics, so it's no wonder they continue to find an influential way into our line in night flights of fancy. Technically, yes, the Corey Webster did first appear in 2021, but what would an old '80s pro be without a reissued model on lock?

A selection of people were recently asked what they thought StrangeLove was about. I didn't do the asking, I only heard about it second hand, so I don't know exactly what these people thought—if they thought anything at all. I mean, should skateboard companies make you think about them? Obviously we all do. Skateboarders are some of the harshest, most opinionated assholes I've ever met. Myself included. So when I think about StrangeLove, or at least what it is in the theoretical sense, I view it as a sincere extension of our mutual love for skateboard history. Take Nick, for instance. He could easily be dismissed as a mere "collector," a term that doesn't always evoke the most becoming of thoughts nowadays, but he's actually much more than just a mere maniacal hoarder of objects. He genuinely seeks to archive and preserve comprehensive stories from skateboarding’s past, however trivial, esoteric, or regional they may seem. There are others like him as well, scattered about the globe, all obsessively assembling their own private shrines and miniature museums of skateboard minutiae. And, not to derail my train of thought any further, but here goes: Where will all these independently amassed troves end up over the passage of time? Tossed out into the trash? Hawked off on eBay or, god forbid, left in a bin at Goodwill by surviving family members who could never have cared less about dear old dad's endless pursuit of the best time in his entire goddamn life?

I don't want to say there's a war outside our window, but I am genuinely curious what eventual fate will befall the physical history of skateboarding. There are indeed many facets to its DIY face, from aging componentry to decomposing artifacts, decaying video to crumbling ephemera, hard facts to romanticized mythologies, and of course the good, the bad, and the ugly of it all that should never be erased or excised because, yes, that is skateboarding and contextual anchor points are everything if we're to continue rolling forward into the future. But the question to be begged remains: Whose knowledgable hands could possibly house, curate, and preserve such a cultural leviathan, let alone be entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining the authenticity of skateboarding without any bias, agenda, or degree of embarrassment? Or is it really not so serious? But again, it is, isn't it? As skateboarders, we all feel a peculiar sense of protective ownership what with it being the intensely personal mania that it is. 

Okay, a few of these came out in 2022, but for the sake of wrapping up our sprawling saga of wood and vinyl, here it is. The holiday Krampus release came out especially nice, if I do say so myself, and made for a nifty pig period on not only the series but 2023 as well. 

These questions don't keep me up at night [3], but good god, the one that should is whenever am I gonna tie all this finger diarrhea into a neat and tidy bow about tripping over your dick versus standing on it? Here, I'll give you an example, because I'm prone to tripping over mine all the time, more often than not when I'm time-slipping into specific eras of my own history—most notably, perhaps, the year of 1992, when Steve Rocco ruled the world and unleashed his very own Frankenstein's Monster into the cultural ecosystem, but I can easily stumble over any other chapter of my skateboarding life from 1986 to the present. Now, were I to be figuratively standing upon my metaphorical dick, that would entail a tired regurgitation of the same-old-same-old instead of, say, building upon those moments to create something (ideally) new and different to contribute to skateboarding's annals.

Anyway, I'd like to think that's what Nick and I are ultimately doing, the latter, obviously, by picking out interesting stories from the history of skateboarding and having our way with them in a fun 'n' fresh manner. We've got a few more such things currently in the hopper for next year, so look forward to hearing more about those and some other team developments to come in 2024. Until then, thanks for all the support this past year. We sincerely appreciate it and wish you the very fucking best this holiday season [4]. —Sean Cliver

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ADDENDUM

You know, for all this hand-wringing over the love of history and shit, I completely forgot about two other boards that squeaked out of our production schedule this past August just in time for "back to school" shopping. The "silly animals" have become a staple in our yearly offerings, bouncing between the divisive lines of social and political commentary on this American life, and they're always a real hoot with those who love to anonymously comment on our Instagram posts with some really peachy keen thinly veiled threats. Nevertheless, the silly animals abide, and I'm quite sure they'll be back again next year with further hot takes on the decline of western civilization.

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1. Instead, it was a Topanga wave of words from the frenetic consciousness Skateboard Hall of Famer Jim Fitzpatrick!

2. This odd excuse of a review for our 2023 wood output not included.

3. Honestly, with all the existential dread I've experienced of late, I should really be much more concerned about preparing for the end of times by securing water rights and retrofitting my vehicle a la Mad Max than obsessing about the effects of elevation and temperature changes on an old laminated plank of wood.

4. Congratulations! You made it to the end of this particular reading rainbow, so here's a gift from us to you: Any $50 purchase on the site up until midnight on December 31, 2023, allows you to add your choice of one of the decks below for free. Just use the discount code SAVE THE NECK FOR ME CLARK at checkout. Please note, this code MUST be typed in exactly as it appears here—all caps and spaces included.

• Balloon Boy / Gold / 8.25 Deck
• Balloon Boy / Maroon / 8.5 Deck
Balloon Boy / Teal / 8.625 Deck
• Gargoyle / 8.375 Deck
• All Seeing Eye / 8.0 Deck

 


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  • nowax on

    Thanks for all the great years! Keep it up!

  • Jackie on

    I’m the one tripping over a tictak by the way.

  • Jackie Dunston on

    It’s hard to trip over a tic tac lol. Keep on pushing my friends

  • Fd on

    The holiday party was fun hitting the toad venom hard and swigging kombucha in my black leather chaps decked out in Bells; as I attended the sprockets insane academy awards hosted by Christmas elves in the land of 5-MeO. Getting up at 5 am to hit my side hustle as silent and still Goldman the street performer at Pier 39 was difficult but I knew it would please the hosts of the awards ceremony. As I stood staring into the crowd with their Manson lamps staring back trying to catch me move or make me smile there arrived a gift. The notification on my phone began to play at full volume “We came to dance”. It was paired via Bluetooth to my subwoofer and speaker. I immediately broke out into my robust stiff robot dance routine with some sweet breaking moves in my head to toe gold immersion. The crowd went wild as if they came to dance as well. I knew that the notification was sent from a Strangelove galaxy far far away and in response I danced. I did not realize the whole place would dance as well. It was as if my fartbox was laying gold Costco bars and Strangelove was directing the symphony. Is this an omen for 2024?? Has everyone come to dance? We shall find out.

  • Ryan Polzin on

    As a young grom and a limit to the graphics available in the 80’s there was always some sort of anticipation of the new thing coming out. StrangeLove has made it an adventure, as we tuned on Social Media for those upcoming Saturday releases, and were not disappointed. It was enjoyable and awesome to grab a part of this history. It is also awesome to get a message or post response from Sean and Nick, showing the participation and care for this community. Thank you and Merry F’n Christmas to all!



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