guest post: jeremy wray #2

Jeremy Wray Week continues with an ode to an old friend...
the fire hyrdrant. 


As skateboarding progresses, it's only natural that the spots we skate change and evolve as well,  often leaving many the most heavily-sessioned obstacles from our childhood seemingly lost and forgotten. When was the last time you skated a parking block with a group of friends for a few hours straight? Or hit up that local double-sided curb... you know, the one that's perfect for your slappy feeble grinds?

Well, I've noticed over the years that there are less and less photos or footage of people skating fire hydrants. Ollieing a fire hydrant for the first time is one of those memorable milestones on your way to skateboarding greatness. Finding that perfectly positioned hydrant, just the right distance from a curb cut, was something that you would search for and dream about. Finding a good one was like striking gold or oil, whichever means more to you.

The best (and worst) part about skating a fire hydrant is that they aren't going anywhere. Unlike a trash can that will knock over if you don't clear it, the almighty hydrant will snatch your board right off your feet had you've misjudged your height or distance... if only by a matter of mere millimeters. It can be frustrating and even down right intimidating at times tangling with one of these heavy metal monsters. I honestly believe that they're painted yellow just to further humiliate you when you can't conquer them. They come in endless different shapes, sizes and configurations which is just another part of the fun in finding new ones.

The photos you're about to see are just a few fine examples of why fire hydrants will forever be a fun part of skateboarding and shouldn't be shunned and ignored when you are out skating down the sidewalk with your bros.

This is one of those unforgettable moments in skateboarding that sent shock waves worldwide. It's a great example of what makes street skating so damn fun. Find a spot, look at what is unique about it and figure out what is possible. Finding that hydrant with a pole close enough to it to be able to reach out and spin yourself around is a very rare find indeed. Having the mind creative enough to see that as a possibility and enough skill to pull it off is the stuff of legend in my book. Pure genius.

Natas, ever the innovator, was seriously inventing tricks faster than anyone that came before or after him. Just watch one of his early video parts. This fast plant is just a drop in his overflowing bucket, but what a beauty it is! Just look at how far from his starting point he actually lands and rolls away. Amazing.

As I look through these old photos, I'm constantly impressed by the photographic skill possessed by  Mr. Spike Jonze... although it probably doesn't hurt that he was photographing some of the most stylish and photogenic skaters to ever step foot on a board.

This one foot is one of my all time favorites. It's just a rad trick, done by an iconic dude, shot by a pioneer of image-capturing. A perfect time capsule for one of the funnest eras skateboarding has ever seen.

I liked this photo so much that I actually drew it in my high school art class. Such a tweaked out Japan! As grabs start to fade away in skateboarding, unfortunately so do the classic poses that accompany these all but forgotten maneuvers. Jason Lee had a great one.

I say we bring back the Japan in 2013. Who's with me?

Nose bonks are one of the funnest and most precise tricks from this lost era. A nose bonk backside 180 was, and still is, a rare and more difficult variation. Ed was killing it around this time and bringing a lot of new creative skating and artwork into the mix. Inspiring many generations of skateboarders to follow.

I always liked this little photo of Gonz. I never knew why they ran it so small, but in the end I'm just glad we were able to see it. It lived in my wallet in the clear photo slip where people usually put photos of their family members... it may still be in that old Velcro wallet if I can find it. Just classic.

Gonz will always be everybody's favorite. The Gonzfather. We all owe Gonz for his years of contributions, innovations and creativity both on-and-off his skateboard. Even portraits of this dude are able to express what a unique individual he is. Always inventing and playing around with new ways to have fun on a skateboard, this no comply over a fire hydrant is but the tiniest tip of the iceberg that is Mark Gonzales.

Salman Agah did more for pioneering switch skating than anyone else, period. When this switch ollie photo came out, it was well above and beyond the norm.

All hail Salabear! Go by Pizzanista to pay homage!

This photo stood out to me because you rarely see nollie tricks over hydrants... and tricks over them without a bump are infinitely more difficult. Paulo always had supernatural nollie and switch pop. His ultra loose style and unique approach to skateboarding made him really stand out from the rest of the cookie-cutter trick robots.

Not exactly a typical fire hydrant but in the family, I had this photo in a file marked "Favorite Skate Photos of All Time" so it definitely belongs in here. Reese Forbes is one of those skaters you just never get sick of seeing photos of. Always so powerful and stylish at the same time. One of the blessed few that stands over 6 feet tall but never appeared lanky or out of place on the street. He has one of the best high ollies in the business and for that, we thank you.

Jeremy Wray Week will continue on Thursday with another entry. 


Scott K said...

Why is that Reese photo flopped?

chops said...

You're right, Scott K. Never noticed that before... its from a Vita ad, I suppose it was just for layout purposes.

I corrected here though. Good eye.

stephen said...

Another sick old photo of Paulo Diaz. I don't think it's possible for that dude to touch a skateboard and make it look bad. One of the most original ever. And that last Reese Ollie...

Anonymous said...

This whole thing is incredible. Thanks both to Chrome Ball and Jeremy Wray for doing this!

Loo Ganida said...

This is AWESOME!!
It's so rad to know that
one of the all time greats
of skateboarding is as much
of a skate nerd as me!!

Keith said...

The fire hydrant... he's right, back in the late 80's/early 90's, it was something you wanted to step up to to see how far you can push yourself. Sort of like being able to ollie up a picnic table. What's funny is the hydrants were massive in the town I grew up in (same with picnic tables). Then when I visited California for the first time in 92, I was surprised there were such a variety of hydrant size and shape. Less intimidating.

Francois said...

It seems like loving Gonz is almost a required opinion. But in the late 80s, Natas was just as good. I think his part in Wheels of Fire introduced a lot of kids to street skating.

chuck rich said...

these are all so rad. that Jason Lee Japan grab is right down the street from my house and un skateable now. i always loved the One Foot pic of Jason Lee.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't really get much better than the J. Lee one foot, but they're all AMAZING.

Down the street from my house in a random cul-de-sac was a tiny, foot and a half-high yellow hydrant, the kind that looked like a little T with a flat top. It was about two feet from a curbcut and PERFECT for nose bonks. We called it "Mr. T' (brilliant!) We would spend hours at a time skating that thing. So fun.

Awesome Post. Thanks Jeremy!

Anonymous said...

jimmy lannon is making it his mission to keep fire hydrants in the game

Unknown said...

One of the best posts ever. Chrome balls on fire lately.

Was anyone else blown away by Grecos fakir-tre over the hydrant in the death wish vid? So ill.

And I'm afraid it's been lost to history, but in one of the old Zoo York videos Quim does a monster kick flip over a hydrant from a curb-cut like 5 feet away. One of the most beautiful things I've ever seen, but I don't think it got much exposure.

Anonymous said...

I gotta disagree and say hydrants have never really faded as a skate spot. I'm actually getting tired of seeing footage of that spot with the electric box ledge than bump to hydrant.
That Paulo sequence! The frame when he is coming down and the board is almost vertical is rad.