mark and eric's pack of lies


Filming flatground with a clunky camcorder on that infamous sidewalk stroll, the 1990’s got a jumpstart the second Matt Hensley went to the store. The rockstars on their vert ramps with their flashy over-budget films had run their course... skateboarding was leaving the backyard and hitting the streets.

But as visionary as Natas and Gonz were with laying down the initial foundation, they were still products of a larger-than-life marketing mentality used tirelessly prior to pimp the likes of Ken Park and Rob Roskopp on unsuspecting 10-year-olds. Be it Gonz or Gator, there seemed to be no difference within Dorfman’s vision. Just slap a beret on it and call it “psycho”.

It’s actually our friend Ray and his fabulous Rubber Boys that would signal the sea change a few months prior in Public Domain; skateboarding was about to experience a shift toward the familiar. The everyman. Tired of being talked down to, kids were starting to want pros they could relate to. And every skate rat could relate to Hensley.

Truth be told, Shackle Me Not was barely more than a home movie... filled with tons of great street skating. But it gave us all a peek inside Matt's world, one that wasn't all that different from our own. He hated school and ate at McDonalds... he went to camp and even had crappy little ramps in his garage. He was just like us! You wouldn't find him lounging with Warhol and Marilyn in some metropolitan city, our guy was out sessioning a parking lot somewhere, fucking up his shins and slurping a slushee.

He just happened to be really REALLY good at skateboarding. So good that we all sat back and watched him progress to the point of damn near perfection by the time Hokus Pokus would arrive. The kid that had stolen the show in Shackle Me Not had become the show in it’s sequel. One-foot backlips, tre flips galore and that handrail 50-50 grab thing he always did... the age of the McTwist was over. The Kaupas/Gonzales seedling had finally sprouted and was bearing fruit, already forging new paths in a decade that would become synonymous with exploration.

But there was a method to it. What made Hensley's ascension so enjoyable to watch was that we got to see him combining tricks to create new ones right before our very eyes. Simple mathematics. Each month brought new magazines featuring Matt doing something else totally mindblowing... yet completely logical from his last feat. One ad would be a kickflip, the next month's a melanchollie... making the third month's ad pretty obvious in hindsight (he just needed to invent it first). It was all laid out right there in front of us. Every trick was added that one extra component... because he wanted to. Because he could.

Yet as his skating soared to new heights, he began to lose that relatibility that initially drew us to him. Through no fault of his own, the awe we experienced of his 360 one-foot tailgrabs and 540 ollies soon carried over to the man himself and Matt was put on a pedestal. All of a sudden, everyone had a shaved head and the Hensley look was born: chukkas, chain wallets, cargo shorts and those little striped socks. Cheeks were puffed-out on-purpose and the man grew uncomfortable. It had all become too much. Larger-than-life was never his style, he just wanted to skate. But the sun peaking through that stained glass window had become a little too bright and Matt was forced to look away.

In only just four years time, the quiet kid from Vista who left a king-sized footprint of innovation (even down to his “retirement part”) would be forced to go underground. Hensley would abandon superstardom at the height of his career in an attempt to reconnect with why he had started riding his board in the first place. Not for the industry and not for his fans but for himself. The man who had inspired so many by just being one of us wanted to reclaim that feeling again. To find that real skateboarding that he could relate to.

He’d be back. But on his own terms.


Feebleslide said...

Having tried to seize the humble wonder of Hensley many times myself I take a bow for this text.
I was a Hensley clone myself and though many other pros have been put on the altar over the years, Hensley's skating just amazes me more the older the footage gets.
There is so much talk about how the great ones make hard stuff look easy, but Hensley did more than that, he made everything look cool.
I know it sounds bitter, but these days the ideal seems to be making skateboarding look like nothing, like you don't even want to be doing the trick. Hensley could pick up his board and make it look rad. That's when skill turns to art.
I must also state that Matt is the coolest of The Great Ones that I've met in person, just as cool as I had pictured him to be, and I haven't heard anyone with a different opinion. A1 Human.

Keith said...

I never dressed like Hensley but I did try to imitate his hunched posture when doing 360 flips. It seemed to work when I was first learning them!

Dude was amazing for sure. There were rumours that he was drinking a lot during the filming of not the new h-st video. Then he had the retirement part in Questionable. Definitely some good footage in that one. I'm not sure he could've/would've kept up with everyone else on Plan B at the time with all the fucked up innovative tricks. It's almost nice to have never seen guys like Hensley, Jason Lee and Lotti doing pressure flips and other ugly ground scraping flip tricks. They already put their mark on progression in 90/91.

Feebleslide said...

Hensley's retirement montage in Questionable rules. The speed he comes out of the bs nbs with, the gnarly Drehobl style pivot to fakie stuff (no coward pop-outs), the proper cab 540...
I feel like by that time Hensley had grown into a fully mature skateboarder while skateboarding was hitting its harshest puberty crisis and he didn't relate anymore.

nobjockey said...

Amazing. The best one yet. Keep it up.

dan77 said...

Flogging Molly did a show in my city back in September and I was fortunate to get to hang out with Matt following the show. He is actually one of the most humble, down to earth people I have ever met and seemed just as psyched to be hanging out shooting the shit with me and my buddies as we were to be hanging out with him. He was super cool with answering questions about skating back in the day and seemed genuinely stoked on being in my city for the first time. He even went to the pub with us when we left the venue. Anyways, cheers to Matt, an all around solid human being

Anonymous said...

You forgot the Hensley arms!