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....
by Cole Nowicki
Andy Anderson is pro.
That’s a bit of information I wasn’t privy to until I tuned into the Tampa Pro live stream last weekend and saw his ever-present helmet bobbing amongst the heads of the Kostons, Ishods, and Luans of the world. Some digging on Instagram eventually turned up a photo of his debut board—no official post from Powell Peralta—just a stoked Andy Anderson fan screenshotting the product section of their website.
Which is fitting. As silently as Andy has slid (and Sal Flipped) his way into the collective conscious of skateboarding, he just as quietly reached its pinnacle.
To get there he has been freaking out Vancouver locals with his combination of “dork,” tech and gnar on the streets for years. He’s also flown feet out of gargantuan quarter pipes and met the opposing walls with THPS-esque combinations on their lips while making it to the finals of the Vans Park Series. Not to mention becoming a freestyle skateboarding world champion along the way by doing tricks that I am unable to accurately identify—a dance as relaxed yet unpredictable as the twenty two year-old himself. Anderson’s route to pro-dom has as many unconventional curves as his pro-model.
Not to say he hasn’t worked his butt off to see his name on that board, he certainly has, but in a bubble as fickle and concerned with image as skateboarding is, you would imagine it would have been more difficult for him. Because if you take superficial stock of the young man, it’s like he purposely splashed his way through puddles of the most cliche skate faux pas and drenched himself. However, no one has seemed to mind or told him to clean up before he sat down.
His first and most obvious trespass: he wears a helmet. A helmet. That, for whatever reason, has been one of skateboarding’s biggest no-no’s. Safety strangely anathema to a worldwide cohort flinging themselves into and onto architecture of varying severity. Then, what about that trick selection. Is he freestyling on ledges? Running across rails? Nose manualing in circles until he begins to bore into the earth? You bet. And it’s refreshing. You can tell by the roar of the Florida crowd.
Andy is Natas spinning on top of and then down handrails. Feeble grinding bump-to-bars until he somehow front-foot impossibles out—past the accompanying bump to flat. What type of magic is that? A well-executed kickflip crook will always have its appeal, but when Andy is on the course reanimating and frankensteining tricks together, they feel antiquated. Routine.
But his most glaring transgression is the one that you would think puts him firmly in the box of oddities the skateboarding community tends to use as cudgels and punchlines: he has mainstream appeal. Not Nike and Primitive mainstream appeal. Your Grandma-sharing-his-video-parts-on-Facebook mainstream appeal. He is so goddamn good at manipulating his skateboard that even Josephine Blow is peaking over our fence to have a look. Hollering to her friends to check out this wacky skater guy.
Two days before Tampa Pro started I was having drinks with some visiting friends and their travel companion I’d never met. The stranger saw my board and asked me if I knew who Andy Anderson was. The guy doesn’t skate. Never has. But he’s “seen Andy all over Youtube.”
That’s a quality that has pigeon-holed the likes of Richie Jackson and William Spencer. When that spotlight gets hot it, for whatever reason, seems to melt one’s credibility.
But Andy is getting love from the industry. He’s pro for Powell and gets shoutouts on Koston’s Instagram. What is keeping Andy out of the oddity box when he is clearly so far outside of the box-box? It’s not totally clear. Could be a slow easing of decades-old standards of “cool,” maybe more acceptance of styles across the board. One can certainly hope.
It might also be that Andy is truly authentic—and not just referring to his IG handle which refers to a now defunct skate shop he once rode for. He is kind. Patient. Willing and excited to talk to you about the tricks you’re trying. About what’s going on in your life and are you handling it alright?
At Tampa a young skateboarder broke her leg in the big outdoor concrete section of the park and Andy waited with her, comforted her, until the ambulance came. That’s the type of person he is. It’s not forced and neither is his skating.
Speaking of ambulances, Andy lives in one. It’s refurbished. Covered in stickers. There’s no sirens blaring when he gets to the spot, but you know it’s him when he pulls up, because Andy Anderson has arrived.