Birling the Skatepark Effect
Wesley Lee, Drop down to 50-50. Cayer By Adam Wawrzynczak There was once a time when skateparks acted primarily as warm-up spots....
The other night, immediately after my first viewing of Dime’s “Knowing Mixtape Vol. 2,” I wrote down one line in my notebook: “Every single clip is extraordinary in some way.” This thought had occurred to me around midway through the video, but I figured there was no possible way it could hold up through the entire 17 minutes and 21 seconds. Yet the end came, capped off by a wave from Tiago Lemos, and that is what I decided to write.
Of course, some moments stand out more than others after the first viewing, like Tiago’s incredibly powerful pop and emphatic stomp. If the shoes have anything to do with his abilities (they probably don’t), hopefully these incredible displays of athleticism aren’t affected by a move that’ll leave but one capital letter on the side of his shoes rather than two. Antoine Asselin’s footage is easily called to mind as well, with his bouncy push and explosive tricks. And you don’t forget seeing Jake Johnson clips, period.
As I settled in for a subsequent viewing the next day, ready to really take it in piece by piece, I wondered if there was any way my note on the extraordinary qualities of each individual clip could hold true. There had to be some fluff in there, right? Wrong.
Opening on one of the more unique and recognizable Montreal spots, Berri Bank (have you checked out Dime’s Montréal spotbook?), young Étienne Gagné sets the tone with a downhill ride made up of entirely unexpected moments. From there, we’re dancing, blending the absurd, the unique, the surprising, and the just-plain-jaw-dropping straight from the jump of this mixtape.
In terms of great additions to “teams” over the last few years, there can be no greater coup than Dime hooking up with Tiago. This guy is in a league of his own right now. That Switch Backside Tailslide at Peace Park? Somehow seeing him casually bail out of the Nollie Inward Heelflip Frontside Boardslide (!) is even more intriguing than seeing a make. Why did he give up? Will we see it? Do we even need to see it? It’s enough just to know that it’s possible.
What is it about the perfection of Tiago’s skating that makes it different from the perfection of, say, a P-Rod, or a Shane O’Neill? It’s some combination of his trick selection, the speed he carries, and the heights he can reach on both flip tricks and ledges. Nothing about watching Tiago skate calls to mind images of fingerboarding or video gaming.
Now, sprinkling in a bit of Will Marshall alongside Tiago makes it clear how much these two probably feed of each other, knowingly or not. Is there a better archetype of a skater for a natural talent like Will to be around, and presumably be heavily influenced by? Unlikely. Dime has paired together not one, but two cannonballs with the ability to bounce. Speaking of bouncing balls, how about the energy of Lee Yankou? The guy is literally bouncing off of the walls, frontside to begin with.
Had this been a shoe company video, the extended shot of Tiago graciously accepting props after a boosted Switch Ollie that caps off a string of bangers might be taken as overly indulgent. But in this context, it serves as an acknowledgment that yes, you are absorbing documentation of a skateboarder at the height of his game, a height that is quite likely to continue its upward climb, to a peak rarely visited by mortal boarders. If we hope for anything, let us hope that his move from DC to NB will allow him to continue skating at his chosen pace, in his chosen place. Because even after this nudging reminder of his greatness, after all that we’ve seen from him in the first 5 minutes and 45 seconds of this video, even after yet another title reminder of who we are watching, we get another 30 seconds of incredible skateboarding from Tiago.
Next up we find the man they simply title, “Weck”. We find him mid-battle for a gotta-say-I-didn’t-see-it-coming dangerously loose-yet-precise Nose Wheelie Nollie Flip at another classic Montreal spot. Daps from Tiago, end scene. Now, I’m someone who’s aware of “Weckingball” as a character, but who’s never actually seen his “show.” Like, maybe you know who Don Cherry* is, but you’ve never seen an episode of “Coach’s Corner” or popped in a “Rock ‘em, Sock ‘em” tape. I’m like that, but with Weck. Based on various comment threads to do with the video, I’ve gleaned that Weck’s a divisive character, especially clear given that multiple commenters mention him specifically, despite the nearly-18-minute masterpiece of a skateboard video in which he has but a bit part. Not really caring to know much about this Weck character up to now, but still inevitably hearing that he’s been involved in Insta-beefs with no less than Sluggo, Brandon Biebel, and Stevie Williams in the recent past, it’s hard to not assume that he’s just a troll. But knowing not more than what I’ve just disclosed in the above paragraph, I reserve my personal judgement on the man. If he’s a foil to skateboarding’s strongmen, then so be it. All things being equal, I contend that Weck’s 23 seconds in this mixtape are dope.
The next pumping montage begins with Spencer Hamilton dropping a couple of bangers at the same spot, before we land on Will Marshall again, this time after (of before?) a jarring visit to wardrobe. The fakie frontside fun is cut short by a Noseslide Pop-Out of Wu-Welsh proportions, which clears the stage for a minute of impressively casual skateboarding from this densely-packed levitator.
OG-now-living-in-the-OC Dimer Bob LaSalle arrives on the scene next, and in case you can’t tell, despite recent moves and changes, Bob’s been steady ‘Borden.
After we catch ET absorbing some of Alexis’ chi at another oft-skated Montreal spot, this may be the point where we really start to take notice of Dime’s generosity in the use of names. Titles in general have fallen out of favour in independent videos recently, much to the dismay of, well, probably everyone. While I immediately recognize everyone in this video, having them titled so that others are clear on who’s doing what isn’t a bother for me, and I can’t imagine it is for anyone else. It’s especially appreciated in the case of this video, in which, as stated earlier, every clip is somewhat extraordinary. How about Dustin Henry’s muscled-manuals? What about Lui Elliott’s high-speed and hairy nose wheelie? Or Ian Clelland’s remarkably well-executed dolphin flip?
Alexis’ chi carries us further to the Big O, where Marc Tison reminds us of just how hard he can rule this legendary spot. Alex Gavin joins him, coaxing us to ask ourselves if we might be able to float higher if we were unencumbered by pants.
Soon we find ourselves spying on two greats out in the wild. If nothing subsequent came after this clip of Jake and Tiago together mid-session, it’d still be enough. So it’s something of a blessing to get to see both of them get incredible tricks on one of the Belvedere out-ledges. Seeing and hearing the hand-over-mouth reactions from the crew in attendance is confirmation that these tricks were as mind-melting as in person as they are on video.
Man-on-a-mission Léon Chapdelaine turns up again after a brief appearance earlier, and as expected, he’s still crushing. If you need a stand-up guy on a tour that’s going to skate everything you put in front of him, Léon’s your guy. Awkward angles, precariously-placed rails, and street roller-coasters-for-rollerboards will not slow Léon in the least.
After a couple of viewings, it’s not just the jaw-dropping skating that sticks with you. It’s the oddities that can only be caught spontaneously, by someone with an eye for detail. It’s the picture perfect Tiago line with a dangerously untied shoelace. It’s Alexis carving the China Banks with a cat on his shoulder. It’s Tiago casually tying his shoelace after a truncated Switch Backside Tailslide at Peace Park. It’s just about everything ET does. It’s also just about everything Alexis does. And it’s Gab Ekoe’s timeless nod of approval to the whole thing.
What might filmmakers and sponsored skateboarders take from Phil Lavoie’s latest Dime offering? Editing. Being discerning with what you film and how you share it. Phil’s known for being extremely hesitant to pull out the VX1000 on sessions, using it only when he’s certain a clip will go somewhere. In a sense, he’s editing the video as he goes, by limiting what he puts into the running. In the Dime approach, Instagram coverage is great, as it helps the guys get and maintain sponsor deals, which helps them travel and allows them to stay focused on skateboarding. Only the absolute best footage is banked for the eventual video, so the rest keeps the guys on the social media map and the sponsors appeased. Given what they’ve put together since the last Dime video dropped in April of 2016, it’s safe to say that the formula works. —Jeff Thorburn
*Coincidentally, this article was written just days before Cherry was fired by Rogers Sportsnet for discriminatory and divisive comments.