An insight into Pittsburgh’s DIY skate spot builders.
45 inches of craziness. New world record. Congratulations!
Brandon Westgate has an amazing clean style. Cleanest tweaked kickflip I’ve seen at 2:33. Enjoy.
Apparently, some ramps and boxes dear to Johnny’s heart were burnt recently… If I were Johnny here’s what I’d imagine would be on his Christmas list:
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THE JOHNNY HERO/OUTLAW COLLECTIVE INTERVIEW: PART I
The Outlaw Collective is an outside that is always outside and yet internal to us. It is something that can exist even if there is no one explicitly involved. It can be loosely defined as encompassing the culture, the thought processes, and the act of skateboarding (among other things). Because of this, it may be simultaneously, inadvertently internal to us already.
How does one conduct an interview with someone that no one knows much about? How does one conduct an interview with a person who is intimately known? Stated more simply: How do you meaningfully interview a stranger or yourself? The dilemma splits into two, but continues to exist as two pieces of a biunivocal whole: Where, or in what, is meaning found? “Initially it looks like there are three possible sources of meaning: self, other, and between. However, ‘between’ can be collapsed into ‘other’ because it falls into the category of ‘non-self.’ It seems now that there are two possible sources of meaning: the set of [internal; individual; inside; self] and the set of [external; collective; outside; other(s)]. Given these two poles, the ‘other’ is the only place to find meaning because the ‘self’ is made up of information, experience, relations, and language taken from outside ourselves. Globally speaking, there is no such thing as an internal self; what we call the self is an amalgam of ‘outsides’ and things from outside processed through various lenses and prismatics that are given and learned from outside. With that established, the act of interviewing (with strangers or the self) now demands a re-cognition of the interview as something like: one outside interrogating or understanding another outside. For, no matter who is talking to whom, there is no such thing as the ‘self.’ There is only outside. The relevance here isn’t only applicable to the interview process.”
If the Outlaw Collective is ‘outside’ a ‘self’ that doesn’t exist, where does the personal motivation to do things come from? “Once it’s clear that the self is defined in terms of the outside and the other, then by necessity actions taken for one’s self are taken in terms of others. They must be in terms of others or they will feel disingenuous. Likewise, actions taken for the other(s) must inherently include, be geared toward, and reconciled with the self because the self is found only in the other(s). This builds a feedback loop such that one wants to (and must) act in ways that reconcile the space between, the self, and the other. We build things that we want to build because to do things for others we have to do them for ourselves, since we are part of the other(s). These things must also be available to and built for others because it’s the only way to be true to our selves. With all that in mind, it’s easy to feel personally motivated to build and do things so that others can enjoy them. It’s sort of like ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ but you and the neighbor aren’t really separate. In fact, we are the neighbor and the self.”
Thus far, this all seems very positive…and confusing. Let’s dial it in a notch and ask about something more specific. Is there anything, specifically, that is not so positive?
“It’s hard to deal with the ‘bedroom syndrome’ some kids suffer from. They treat spots like their bedroom or basement and assume that mom or dad will pick up their messes. People leave their bottles and fast food bags all over spots, randomly break stuff, and don’t take care of or clean spots. It’s discouraging because if everyone takes care of spots then everyone can enjoy them.”
Johnny Hero: What do you mean ‘take care of spots’?
The Outlaw Collective: “Just being careful and trying to keep it going. Like with Strip Spot, kids keep parking their cars in there, drinking or smoking weed in there, not picking up their trash, throwing up dumb graffiti, and just generally drawing attention. That spot is so good and the cops don’t seem to care right now. If we can keep it low key and inconspicuous then who knows how long we can skate there. It only takes one kid getting caught with weed/booze or one business complaining to their city councilman, to get it shut down for good. Everyone just has to keep their cars out of the chain link, take a walk to smoke weed or drink, and keep things picked up.”
JH: Is there anything you have in mind for the future that you’d like to do?
OC: We would love to do a bigger and more permanent installation sometime. Money is the hardest thing, as we have none of it. If we could hook up with some people who had extra money, that would be ideal. We have some vague plans for fixing up an old, old Pittsburgh spot from the ’80s. One of our dreams for the future is to stumble on an Outlaw Collective spot that we didn’t build. Little DIY spots popping up all over the city. Outlaw Collective DIY showing up everywhere by everyone. Spots being built faster than they can be taken down.
JH: What the best thing that’s been done/built by the Outlaw Collective?
OC: We had a really hard time picking one thing. It’d have to be a toss-up between the concrete two stair, the video (Oathbreaker), and the papers (Skateboarding & Societal Interaction; Skateboarding & Rhizomatic Countermapping). It’s so tough to narrow it down even to those three because there are so many things we’ve done and built over the years.
JH: How do you pick out the spots you build on?
OC: We look for places that are ignored, out of the way, abandoned, unique, interesting, or different. We’re always trying to do/find/build something new. We’re also interested in appropriating the unused to make spaces that are available to all. Though it’s not always possible, we like to make things that can be used by others: homeless people, neighborhood kids, street rats, graffiti writers, and anyone else who’s down. We’re always looking for ways to build communities outside of capitalism.
JH: Outside of capitalism…exactly. But it’s hard because avoiding capitalism doesn’t make it disappear. We have to exist in the tenuous area where money is necessary but only so that it can be pushed away and dethroned. Money isn’t exactly what needs to be avoided though. What needs to be fought against is our present form of capitalism: the accumulation and valuation of money above all things, the reduction of all human experience to capital. Money is a tool that should be used to build communities while simultaneously effacing itself.
OC: How do you fit that belief into skateboarding, since it’s often based around buying things?
JH: That’s one of the things I want to change about the way a lot of kids view skateboarding. To me, skateboarding revolves around an engagement with the world in terms of creativity and freedom. My focus on and interest in DIY comes from a belief that skating doesn’t have to be shot through with commercialism and consumption. You can buy a skateboard in a non-consumerist way that supports your local city, scene, spot, group of friends, etc. Forget supporting Nike. Buy your skate shoes from skate companies. Get your boards and gear from local shops. It’s worth spending a few extra dollars to keep local shops and skate companies in business. They’re the ones who are down for finding, making, building, and supporting the local scene. Without them, you’re stuck alone.
OC: What would you like to see more of in skateboarding?
JH: I actually think skateboarding is moving in a great direction right now. I would like to see more people willing to develop their own interest(s) and style(s). I would always like to see more creative skating in the vein of Richie Jackson, Bobby Puleo, and Rodney Mullen. Rodney Mullen is the greatest skater of all time. Just throwing that out there in case anyone didn’t know that already. Oh, and more charging! We all have to do our best to fill the hole left by John Cardiel’s forced retirement. I’m sick of seeing 15 little Stefan Janoski/Spanky/Bryan Herman look-alike, ripoffs every time I’m out. And of course: MORE D.I.Y.!
OC: So, what about the basics? Age, years skating, where you’re from, etc.
JH: I’m 30 years old. I’ve been skating for almost 15 years. I’m originally from upstate NY. I skate and work on ramps with a couple kids (Black Rider, tOM, BA, Roach, Crippler). I get boards from Death Machine and I get some hard goods from HCS (my brother’s park/shop in Vestal, NY). Plank Eye Board Shop in Bellevue, PA helps me out with shoes and other stuff in Pittsburgh when I need it.
Sheraden, PA Skate-park FB page
OJHC: How good is life! It seems like things just keep going up, right?!
JOCH: I know! The older you get, the better things are.
? : If there’s one thing we could tell kids more than anything else, it’s that life can be good, gets better, and can/will be as fun and amazing as you want it to be. If you put in some work at school and are careful with the decisions you make out in the world, things are amazing. Getting a car, driving, having your own place, buying your own groceries, skating in the middle of the night, going to shows, doing projects, making stuff, skating, building, moving, creating…these are the things that make life. Don’t give them up. They’re worth the fight. Let’s build something together!
Toronto, Canada skateboarder Brandon Del Bianco. He’s got some skill.
Zero Gravity Skate-park
110 Main Street
Wintersville, OH 43953
We have added Zero Gravity Skate-park to Plank Eye Board Shop’s skate-parkgoogle map skate-park guide. Yes we know it is not in Pittsburgh. We just wanted you to know it’s close and that you should drive there to skate this winter.
Check out the montage above!!! Created by Dave Carulli.
Heath Kirchart is retiring from his professional skateboarding career. Emerica has a webpage dedicated to Heath. It has memories, photos, introduction by Ed Templeton (Toy Machine) and other information. Heath’s last video part was in Alien Workshop’s Mind Field. One of his regrets, but overall cool video Destroying America is currently in-stock at PlankEyeBoardShop.com. You can also find his last “Last Words” column in the December issue of Transworld Skateboarding.
Good video, good skateboarders.