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By: Kyle DuVall

In an era where hours and hours of skate footage is available at the push of a button, there’s a thousand different voices trying to explain what a skateboarder should be. Amid this abundance of definitions, Street Plant Battalion Member Jade Ryan has achieved something as impressive as any handrail stunt or intricate tech trick. In a world of explanations and examples, Ryan has maintained her own singular identity as a skater and shared that identity with no fear and no apologies.

Jade Portrait

Shredding the streets and parks of Sydney, Australia, Ryan’s philosophy is simple. “If I try a trick and I’m not having fun I walk away from it. If it’s not fun I won’t do it.” And Ryan has no hesitation when what is fun doesn’t coincide with what is conventional. Planting her feet, picking up the board, bouncing off architecture, switching boards, Ryan’s skating isn’t so much about breaking the “rules” as it is about never bothering to learn them. “When I first started skating I had only seen like 2 videos, so I came at it not knowing much about skateboarding… I got one of my friend’s thrashed boards and I just took it from there. The way I started skating came out of being spontaneous… It’s only recently that I’ve started looking on the internet and seeing other skaters… I haven’t bought a magazine in probably 2 years.”

The haters might say: “it shows”, but those who get it say “Hell yeah!” Ryan’s video edits, which she shares on her YouTube Channel and via Facebook, bear no resemblance to the lavishly produced hammer-swinging video assaults that have turned elite level skating into a bone crunching arms race. Instead, her videos actually look like… Fun. And although the bonelesses and drop tricks hearken to the past, what they may actually be showing is the new now. In a world where every kid with a smartphone is posting up untrimmed footage of their star-struck skate escapades, what Ryan is doing is like the control group in the ongoing experiment that is over-endorsed, over athleticized modern skating. The edits are snippets of a skater in a completely natural context, one operating in a partially self-imposed exile, uncontaminated by imposed definitions of the “right way” to skate in 2015.

“Skating is just skating to me,” Ryan says. “In the end I never tried to have an old school or new school thing. Skating is freedom to me.” That sense of liberty includes the freedom to share an exuberant image of skating that doesn’t require skate coaches and private training facilities, one that is less about conquering a spot than being a part of it.

“There’s nothing better than to find a new spot on the streets. I scour the streets for weird looking spots that may have never been skated before and jam out and see what happens. A lot of tricks I don’t even know the names of… It just comes at the spot. Sometimes I’ll see a spot and think ‘I just want to do something at that spot’ and I won’t even be sure what it is yet… It’s more an accomplishment of the spot rather than some trick at the spot.”

Going out, getting weird, having fun, thousands of skateboarders do this everyday. More cynical minds might say there is nothing special about what Jade Ryan is doing, but that’s kind of like looking at the splatters on a Jackson Pollock painting and saying: “I could do that”. In skating, as in art, this is missing the point. Whether other skaters could do the same is irrelevant. The fact is, they didn’t, and, even if they did, their paint splashes wouldn’t be the same anyway.

But there’s no conscious agenda, no political statement in Ryan’s motivations for documenting her own, often quirky, vision of skating. “The endgame to making video is to see the end result myself. It’s a little notebook for myself, a record of what I’ve done,” says Ryan. “It’s all about fun to me, even things that look weird are just fun clips to have. I’ll probably look goofy every time I skate one way or another.”

Whether she consciously intends to or not, what Jade Ryan is doing in her edits is throwing away the basic “rules” of modern street skating and swapping them for stripped-down deconstructed fun. In her vision of skating, even the sacred ollie is just another trick in the bag, not a mandatory starting point for every move and variation “Some people find busting an ollie heaps of fun. Some sessions I’ll do ollies, other days I just wont be a fan of it” says Ryan. “I’ve done an ollie, I want to do something new… Pick up the board in a way I haven’t before, or attack a spot in a whole new way… Plant my feet, get my hands dirty, feel the ground.”

Jade Handplant

Making these sorts of decisions in your own personal skate bubble is one thing, but putting them out in the digital world, where critics hide behind screen names, and orthodoxies are enforced by trolling adolescents with axes to grind, is something else. That takes a sort of fearlessness that has nothing to do with bodily harm. “Sometimes I see people criticize, but I take it with a grain of salt…” Ryan says, not even showing enough concern to be called dismissive. “If that’s what you’re going to do fine, it really hasn’t affected me one bit in my skating. I do what I do and I have fun, and I’ve met some really awesome people skating. When I go to the skatepark, mainly I have people come up and go, ‘Hey, how did you do that?’ or ‘I haven’t seen that before.’ There’s not much hate when I go out to a skatepark, most skaters who are out there doing it for fun don’t have to hate on anybody. It’s more of a group mentality of encouragement I’ve encountered in skating.”

It’s a group mentality Ryan feeds with every video edit. Doing something different, skating for herself, skating for fun, Jade Ryan is a part of a quiet revolution that’s infiltrating skating from the inside out. Fun, creativity, personality. That’s not the future of skateboarding, or a throwback to the past, it’s the eternal present that keeps skating alive.

Kyle DuVall had been writing about skateboarding almost as long as he has been skateboarding.

We are honored to be involved in and supporting the Jeff Phillips Tribute at 4DWN in Dallas, TX on May 23 benefiting the Suicide and Crisis Center Of North Texas. Mike Vallely (who’s first skateboard ever was a Jeff Phillips board) will be on hand to pay respect and to say hello to everyone who comes out to the event.

Phillips Flyer

05/08

I had bad skin
Bad teeth
I’d pull my baseball cap down
over my face
And I would skate

I had no chance
No place
I found life
in the dead space
And I would skate

I shaved my head
I said I don’t eat meat
I’d leave it all out there
in the streets
And I would skate

I put my combat fatigues on
And I had the word Alien
scrawled onto my arm
That’s where I was coming from
And I would skate

The bankers, politicians and lawyers
they had property to protect
But I showed the landscape
real respect
And I would skate

I’d slide across the bus bench
As the bus went by
It was such a little thing
but it made all the difference in my life
And I would skate

0252223-R1-E015

INFORMATION RELEASE 008

Contact Person: Mike Vallely

Re: Street Plant Armory Support Program

Welcome London’s Egg Tank Industries to the Street Plant Armory Support Program.

Egg Tank is the 2nd shop in the UK to stock Street Plant Brand boards.

3 Signed / Numbered (limited to 100) Green Barnyards and 2 Yellow Mammoths as well as some T-shirts and Barnyard X Socco socks have landed at Egg Tank Industries.

Egg Tank Industries is the 6th official outpost in the world to stock Street Plant products.

More Armory shop and distributor announcements coming soon.
Stay tuned.

Egg Tank Ind.

The Servant Footwear X Street Plant Barnyard Loiters are now available from the Servant Footwear US/Canada and EU/Worldwide online shops.

Order here!

Barnyard Loiters

Features:

4-SKIN Microfiber / Canvas Upper, VEGAN
Triple-stitch onepiece toe
Tongue centering elastic
Collapsible Heelcounter
Slipon convertible
EVA Strobel construction
Molded dual density footbed
ServantStick dual density cupsole
HeelHeaven impact protection
Full-length EVA wedge
Sidewall stitch

INFORMATION RELEASE 006

Contact Person: Mike Vallely

Re: Street Plant Armory Support Program

Welcome Whitley Bay Skate Club to the Street Plant Armory Support Program.

Whitley Bay Skate Club is the first ever shop in the UK to stock Street Plant boards.

2 Green Barnyards, 2 Black Mammoths and 2 Yellow Mammoths will be landing at Whitley Bay Skate Club very soon! Whitley Bay Skate Club is the 5th official outpost in the world to stock Street Plant products.

More Armory shop and distributor announcements coming soon.
Stay tuned.

Whitley Bay Skate Club

By: Kyle DuVall

Kristian Svitak’s journey in skateboarding reads like a cross section of the last 30 years of skate culture. In ’88, he was a squeebed out kid on a Per Welinder street board joining the influx of post-Bones Brigade Midwestern groms who found themselves searching for Animal Chin on whatever bits of scabby concrete they could find. In the middle of the 90’s, he was part of an underground movement in street skating that set aside high-tech for speed, aggression and style. In the 2000’s, as part of the “Label Kills” era Black Label team, he wasn’t just part of the changes in skating, he was helping to engineer them. His skating added momentum to trends that eventually resulted in the wide-open, anything goes atmosphere of today’s skate culture.

Svitak 1989

Now, at age 40, Svitak is part of another seismic shift in skating: the demographic shift. Svitak shows no signs of coasting on a legacy. He’s charging and filming and pushing himself however he can, finding his place in a world where veteran shredders, for the first time in the history of skating, are having more than just a behind-the-scenes impact.

“I want to rip as hard as I can and do as many things that I’ve got in my head as I can before I physically can’t,” Svitak asserts. “There’s going to come a day when I’m going to say: ‘It would be awesome to do that, but I’m 55 years old, or I’m 60, and I can’t’.”

Svitak: 40

Charging and putting his skating out into the world is still very much a part of Svitak’s identity as a skater, and age has only intensified his sense of self motivation.

“For a couple years in my mid 30’s I had this spell where I didn’t film at all, I just went out and skated for fun. That was fine with me but I found myself just thinking: ‘I’m not done’ I feel like as I’ve gotten older, I’m a better skateboarder now than when I was younger. I’ve learned so many new things, what I’ve lost a little bit is that ability to jump down big handrails, but I’ll still jump down a rail… The thing is I’m more up for skating in other areas, it’s like I feel more skilled in more things. It’s really interesting.”

“I’ve still got sponsors. Filming is my job. I want to represent them the best I can, but I’m not filming because I force myself. It’s for me, for my skateboarding. Filming really gets the best out of me, it gets me to really push myself to progress and do things that I think about and want to happen. That’s how I’ve always thought about it even way back before I was sponsored.”

Doing things for his own reasons has worked out pretty good for Svitak so far, even in times when “his own thing” wasn’t fashionable.

“I was 18 years old when the early 90’s came in, and I tried really hard to keep up with the Nollie Flips and Switch Tricks. I was learning it all because it was new and exciting, but it came to a point where I just thought: I don’t feel comfortable. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the tricks, I just didn’t like doing them, they didn’t feel good. I remember around 1994 just thinking to myself: This just doesn’t feel good, I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to get sponsored, and that’s okay. I’m going to skate the way I want to skate.”

In that era, ditching the tricks everyone else was fighting for actually put Svitak way ahead of the curve, and positioned him to have a big impact in the era to come.

“Skating the way I wanted happened to be skating fast, Ollieing big things, going hard at handrails. I liked blending old tricks from the 80’s in with what I was doing, and lo and behold, the ironic thing about it all is that that is the kind of stuff that got me sponsored.”

The outcast soon found himself unintentionally representing one of skating’s stylistic trends. “This was when the whole phrase of “Hesh” was being thrown around. People over the years have said: ‘Oh you’re Hesh dude!’ I’m like: ‘What the fuck is Hesh?’. I’ve never even thought of that. I’m just some skate rat. I wear flannels because I grew up in Cleveland and it was cold and I was punk rock. I wore a trucker hat because I have a huge head.”

Svitak eventually wound up on Black Label, an ideal fit for a young skater who not only had a reverence for his skate elders, but also actively paid homage to them with his own skating.

Label Era Frontside Feeble. Photo: Matt Mecaro.

Label Era Frontside Feeble. Photo: Matt Mecaro.

“I was never one of those kids who wrote off the old pros, or wrote off history,” Svitak recalls. “I remember telling people ‘I’m going to ride for Black Label! John Lucero! Jeff Grosso!’ and they’d be like: ‘What? Who?’ People can go around all day and say ‘We were always down’. Bullshit. I remember when you dudes didn’t give a shit. I always hated that in the 90’s. I remember my friend being like: Why is Label giving all these old dudes boards? I would get so defensive about it, ‘I’m here because of these guys’.”

The ethos of the Black Label team created an atmosphere where Svitak and his teammates, Mike Vallely, and Jason Adams, could make a pretty powerful statement about the state of skateboarding in what has become known as the “Label Kills” era.

Kristian, Jason and Mike. 2001: Alaska. Photo: Miki Vuchovich

Kristian, Jason and Mike. 2001: Alaska. Photo: Miki Vuchovich

“I still get e-mails about that video, Its the one people always want to talk about. It’s had a big impact over the years. Lucero had real foresight about pushing things in the videos. Guys would be like: Don’t put that in the video…. And he’d say: ‘No, that’s cool, leave it in’. It was very important at that time, we were just coming out of the 90’s… What people saw in that “Label Kills” video is straight up what was going through my head in the 90’s.”

Svitak’s attitude about skateboarding and life in general made it inevitable that he would branch out on his own, and when he created 1031 skateboards in 2006, he found himself, once again, ahead of skateboarding’s trend curve just by doing what came naturally.

“I started my brand in 2006 when it was not cool to do a little brand,” Svitak recollects. “I remember when I started 1031 people asked ‘Who are you out of?’ I would say: ‘No one.’ It’s just me and my buddy doing it out of a garage. They would look at me like I was an asshole. If you were not out of Deluxe or Tum Yeto or NHS, you weren’t shit.”

Along the way, Svitak also started Regulator Distribution and co-founded Landshark Wheels. As Landshark became more successful, and independent board brands began to flood the deck market, Svitak found himself on the wrong side of the small company gold rush.

“There’s a million board brands right now. Board brands are like toilet paper. Now, wood shops make boards for anybody. Anybody can have a board company.”

“Going into 2015 I just knew something had to change with 1031. It was such a life drainer… I loved it but It was taking away time from my daughter, and taking away time from Landshark, which was doing really well.”

Watching what his friend and mentor Mike Vallely was doing with Street Plant eventually helped influence the fate of 1031.

“The first skateboard video I ever saw was Public Domain. When the guy with the shaved head, fingerless leather gloves and with the two different colored shoes came on skating New York City and Washington DC… I didn’t even know who he was but I was like: ‘That’s who I relate to, right there’. When the Barnyard double kick came out I actually took two of those skateboard keychains they used to make and I cut them in half with a saw and then took the 2 tail ends and taped them together so I had a double kick.”

Admiration developed into friendship once Vallely and Svitak became colleagues, and even when the business of skateboarding threw curveballs at their mutual endeavors, Svitak and Vallely have remained friends and allies.

Mike and Kristian, 2010. Photo: Sean Peterson

Mike and Kristian, 2010. Photo: Sean Peterson

“Mike’s always had my back over the years and I’ve always had his. When Mike was talking to me about expanding Street Plant, what was literally going through my head at that moment was what a strain 1031 was becoming. I had been doing it for nine years and put everything I had in it. I cared about it dearly, but he was telling me about Street Plant and I’m telling him: ‘Mike this sounds so good’. He never asked me to stop doing 1031. He just said: ‘Do what you need to do, I just want you to be a part of Street Plant in whatever capacity makes you feel comfortable. The next day we skated and I was like: ‘You know what Mike, this is just what I needed. I need to stop 1031, this just makes so much sense to me.’ What a great reason to get back together with my friend and do something.”

So Street Plant picked up its first rider, not with intense contract negotiations, back room deals, or piles of cash, but with a skate session between two old friends. In fact, Street Plant wasn’t even looking to recruit riders.

“Everything with Street Plant is very organic, there is no plan to make a team, if people come along, Mike might put them on, but this all goes back to Mike and I being good friends for so many years.”

With that sort of motivation, it hardly matters to Svitak whether Street Plant becomes ‘The Next Big Thing’, or just one more project in a string of inspiring projects he has been a part of.

“I give credit to Mike for always trying things. Just because something doesn’t work out, that doesn’t mean shit. There’s a lot of people who just don’t try shit in their life, then they ridicule other people because they try something and it didn’t work out. It always makes me think of that Minor Threat song… You know, ‘What the fuck have you done?’

Kristian, Emily, Paul and Mike. Photo: Rob Wallace.

Kristian, Emily, Paul and Mike. Photo: Rob Wallace.

“Fail, fail, fail until something works. You try things, you go for shit. It’s just like skateboarding. Go for the trick over and over until you get it and, you know what? Sometimes you don’t get it, but you tried.”

“The companies that he started and ended, I don’t see them as failures, the things he fucking went for… As a fan and a friend of Mike’s, I feel like what Mike is doing with Street Plant is the best thing he’s ever done.”

Kyle DuVall had been writing about skateboarding almost as long as he has been skateboarding.

04/08
Hell Curb. Illustration by Mark Gonzales.

Hell Curb. Illustration by Mark Gonzales.

We had heard that Gonz had slid the whole thing
It was out of my league
But Natas had to go

Rocco checked us all into a hotel room by the fairgrounds
and then he went to sleep…

It was after midnight when Natas and I took off

Down Harbor Blvd.
Pushing hard past the car lots
Up and down the streets and sidewalks
Each moment a destination in itself

There it stood
In front of a strip mall
Next to a Winchell’s Donuts
No wax, no cameras, no crew
Just me, Natas and a faint streetlight

He began skating it
It gave him nothing
but I never had my doubts
He was so determined

The hours went by and he never stopped
Back to the start
Full speed ahead
Another few inches
Another few feet
He kept going

The first light of morning saw him
finally ride away
His fists went momentarily into the air
Then were immediately retracted
As he began skating back up Harbor Blvd.

With the sun rising, we skated
Pushing hard past the car lots
Up and down the streets and sidewalks
Each moment a destination in itself

INFORMATION RELEASE 006

Contact Person: Mike Vallely

Re: Street Plant Armory Support Program

Welcome Calgary, Alberta, Canada’s Royal Board Shop to the Street Plant Armory Support Program.

Several Limited Edition – Signed and Numbered – Green Street Plant Barnyard Reissue Boards, as well as Black Mammoth boards will soon be landing at Royal. Yes. Green Barnyards — before they are available to anyone else, Royal will have them. Royal is the 4th official outpost in the world to stock Street Plant products.

More Armory shop and distributor announcements coming soon.
Stay tuned.

Royal Board Shop

INFORMATION RELEASE 005

Contact Person: Mike Vallely

Re: Street Plant Armory Support Program

Welcome Columbia, South Carolina’s Bluetile Skateshop to the Street Plant Armory Support Program.

3 Limited Edition – Signed and Numbered – Pink Street Plant Barnyard Reissue Boards, as well as some Street Plant T-shirts, are now in transit to Bluetile Skateboarding — The 3rd official outpost in the world to be issued Street Plant Skateboards.

More Armory announcements coming soon.
Stay tuned.

Bluetile