Thursday, 29 January 2015

Sliding & Rolling.

As I don't have a great deal of time to write anything today, I thought I would post some short clips instead. Here they are.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

A Real Mercedes-Benz.

It is no secret that I have a real appreciation for German cars, particularly those from the Mercedes-Benz family.  The cars I really connect with tend to be those from the mid seventies to the mid eighties.  During this era the designs were pretty much as perfect as you can get,in my opinion. The build was solid and the overall look was synonymous with German (over) engineering.  However, these cars were not so utilitarian so as to lose any trace of personality, not at all for the models from this period have this in absolute abundance.  From nose to tail they have an incredible number of characteristics that are uniquely Mercedes and befitting of the era from which they hail.  These are just some of the things that provide them the appeal, but to be honest there are a whole host of ingredients that combine to give this car a set of qualities that never fails to make my head turn when I see one.  

The models that I have a real interest are those which are built on the W123 chassis, badged as the 200 range, or E Class.  I truly believe that these cars signify the pinnacle of Mercedes-Benz design.  At the front end they had the classic MB upright grille, an icon that has sadly been taken out of the design mix altogether now.  This lent itself perfectly to the lights and other features to give the W123 a perfect face.  The body is the classic three box shape, with each element in perfect proportion, but they don't look boxy, the lines have enough curve to soften the profile of the car, this is amplified by the ever so slight flare of the side panels, as well as by the subtle curve of the roof.  The body lines and contours add up to a relatively simple design with a lack of fuss.  However, the little details also add a great deal to the distinctive look of the W123 and these things are equally appealing to me.  The fluted tail lights, the body coloured steel hub caps, the chrome work even the shape of the wing mirrors, and of course that fantastic chrome grille, topped with the three pointed star emblem.  I like the look of both the European and US spec models, in fact I think the bigger US DOT regulation bumpers lend themselves to the car really well.

The design is a true classic, but for me there is something else that really captures the imagination.  I know that a lot of this is down to nostalgia, the concept of which I am more than familiar with when it come to cars and other items that I appreciate. These were the cars of my childhood, my Grandad had one (a blue, 2nd generation model in the early eighties) and I owned many die cast toy replicas, one way or another they have remained fixed in my imagination throughout much of my life.  These days I simply love the design and the kind of image that they portray.  A straight forward German flavoured elegance, a perfectly evolved design, in which you can see clearly see the heritage as shared with previous generations of the Mercedes family.  At the time of its launch the W123 would have been marketed as an aspirational purchase.  At the lower end of the Mercedes range, it would have been aimed squarely at the young executive and fleet markets. Although now, decades later it has shaken these staid middle class connotations and has a feel that is much more contemporary look and feel.  Fitting comfortably in the same bracket as a vintage Omega watch for example.  A timeless classic, that has all the right elements to make it appealing to those who appreciate and admire good design.  The mark of which can be gauged by the fact that it is particularly popular with the Hipster crowd. And I guess this is the point, they have a relatively low value, so cannot be defined in the same way as true classics, which means that people ain't scared to use 'em, and have them as daily drivers.

Until fairly recently the W123 was fairly common sight, here and abroad.  Their rock solid build made them the car of choice for many taxi fleets throughout the world, in fact in the past decade I have travelled in more than one that was still in use as a taxi.  I used to see them on the road at fairly regular intervals too.  But of late they are becoming a rare breed, seeing one is while out and about is the exception, rather than the rule.  Although I am happy to say that there are still quite a few remaining in the wild in California, where the climate is far more kind to cars of a age, so rust isn't so much of an issue. I have seen many examples that are in time capsule condition, despite being in day to day use.

Anyway, I have thought about owning one for years, and one day I really will.  Looking in the classifieds section of Mercedes Enthusiast Magazine, there are many examples going for the same kind of money has a few year old used hatch back.  So when I am feeling brave, or reckless I am going to get one, use it every day and I don't think I will ever tire of owning it (although this level of misty eyed romanticism could quickly bring things into focus when the bills roll in, but I won't let that sully the dream).

Collecting Bones - and other skateboarding hardware of the era.


Early Bones Brigade era

Ever since I entered the world of boardsports, some thirty years ago (I had to think then, is it really thirty years, scarily, it is), I have been drawn to skateboard hardware, in a big way.  There are many things that add to the appeal, I love the graphics, the imagery and the banding has always struck a chord with me.

My being a young grom in the mid eighties coincided with the emergence of so many great things in skateboarding.  It was pre selling out, the brands were still relatively small and the boards still had unique shapes.  The videos that came out of the houses of Powell Peralta, H-Street and Santa Cruz defined the era, perfectly.  While my first love was surfing, I always did prefer the skate aesthetic.

I really like the level of detail that was applied at this time, as well as the authenticity of the products.  There was also something about the quality that made each item seem as though it had been hand made by someone who loved their craft - it is true that many decks were hand pressed in the US at this time.  The graphics were pure art and the boards were a thing of beauty, in fact they seemed to be made of something more than plywood, such was the quality of the finish. Wheels came in a wide array of bright and bold colours that just looked fantastic.  They were bright, bore neat graphics and the look and feel of the polyurethane all combined to give them such a great form.  Trucks were robust and cast from sturdy metals, they looked tough and meant business. Added to all of this, I couldn't help but feel that a small piece of Californian magic was included with each item, which is a little bit dreamy, but coming from me, is no surprise!

Recently I fully rediscovered this world and the excitement I get is still there, more so in fact as a healthy dollop of nostalgia is also added to it now.  I am so stoked that these things are available again, even the most obscure items have been reissued.  I have bought several such things in recent years, convincing myself that I am going to start skating again in a big way.  When in actual fact, I am buying them for the love of the item, nothing more, nothing less. A fact that I have only recently become comfortable enough with so as to afford some honesty, with myself!  I have to admit that I have felt a little bit guilty in doing this, for these things are designed to be used, buying them just to look at seemed more than a bit extravagant.  And to anyone observing it might well look as though my actions were those of a guy in his forties, who is having a bit of a mid life crisis.  But this is not the case, I love the look and feel of these things, plain and simple.

For many years I was alone in my appreciation, or so I thought.  Most people I know have moved on from skating and have been removed from the whole thing for too many years to get excited about it.  While the friends I have who do still skate tend to go for the functional hardware of the current time, the lolly stick board and the little wheel set up that has been pretty much ubiquitous for more than twenty years now.  For them the decks and hardware from the past does not provide the performance that progressive skating requires, thus they have moved on in a different way.  Safe to say, there are very few people in my life who can relate to the skate hardware from a different time, my excitement was often something that I could only share with my partner, who I am pretty certain is not really in to this stuff, but I thank her for being enthusiastic about my musings none the less!

So recently I was super stoked to discover that I am not alone.  There is an entire community of folks of a similar age who have the same love for skate hardware that I do.  I was introduced to this world by chance, when I bumped into an old friend who told me about it, and based on the conversation that we had, invited me to join.  I did, that day.

Here I have found a group of people who take their collecting seriously, who appreciate the hardware of the eighties as much as I do. Added to which there is a lot of trading going on, so I predict a few new arrivals to the collection before too long.  But I have to say that it really does make me happy that I can now share my knowledge of this world with people who have the same level of interest.

The love of skateboard hardware has always been with me, its great to share this with people who get it, at long last.  I have been asked which brands I want to collect, but in truth I honestly do not mind. I love old Powell Peralta and Santa Cruz, but the offerings from Vision would be equally collectible.  That said my holy grails would be from SMA and H-Street.  I am in California in a few weeks time, so who know what treasure will be returning with me!

SMA skateboards, my holy grail

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Selling its soul.

I'm not sure what to think of modern surfing, its is becoming so far removed from what I know and love about it, that I simply do not know where I fit in with it anymore.

To begin with there is the style of surfing that has emerged in recent years.  For while there are a lot of current surfers who can still gouge a big power move, ride waves with style and flare. There are many more who simply flap, with the sole purpose of pulling some kind of air.  Looking at the mainstream surf media, you would think that this was all there is to surfing, for then amount of coverage that the above the lip moves get is incredible.  Many of the airs have been borrowed from skating and snowboarding, and they just don't translate all that well to surfing.  Often these big moves are clumsy, the stance awkward and the whole thing just a bit phony.

Added to which, you can bet that for everyone that was successfully landed, there will a dozen that didn't end all that well.   And that I think is the crux of the problem.  For it is clear that the photographer has fired off countless shots, and merely taken one from the sequence that looks the most extreme.  The cynic in me would say that the shot that shows off the sponsors logos to the best effect will be the one that makes the cut.

I would argue that many of these sponsors are shaping surfing, or rather the average persons perception of surfing.  For they want the big airs, the wow factor, they want people to marvel at the moves from the beach, on screen and on the billboards advertising sugar and caffeine filled 'energy' drinks (the notion of which I simply do not get, other than to provide instant fuel for those who are too busy/lazy to eat in a real sense).  For years surfing was appreciated by a precious few.  The people who could appreciate the aesthetics of what was being done on a wave.  I guess this had limited appeal, for once things started to happen above the surface of the wave, it all went mainstream.  So many non surf related companies wanted a piece of the action and all of a sudden it was these logos on boards, on wetsuits, sponsoring the big events. They pay the big money, and they get exactly what they want from surfing.  The history, culture and rich heritage is thrown away as scrap, for this is not a tangible resource that can be sold to the consuming masses. Crap drinks, mobile phones, cars and a like are now very much aligned with surfing, while the companies that were born out of it are struggling, for they simply do not have the financial resources to stay in the game.

In this respect surfing has gone the same way as skating and snowboarding went previously.  Where it became all about the vested interests of the big corporates who are looking for 'extreme'.  I really do think that the current generation of young surfers thinks of the drinks companies in much the same way that I perceived the surf apparel companies when I was growing up. This is a sad turn of events, and really does demonstrate the power that these companies have.

In short I would say that they are killing what I love about surfing, its spirit.  They are crushing the traditional surf industry.  And while many of the traditional surf businesses lost their way for a time in the pursuit of increased profits and growth, they at least had their roots in surfing, and at one point in time were run by surfers, for surfers.  It seems ludicrous to think that they are now playing second fiddle to companies that have absolutely no connection the world of surfing, not in any way, shape or form. 

I will watch how things pan out as time moves on.  But I really do think that these companies are so entrenched within the surfing world that they will continues to shape and define surfing in a way that serves them.  As more and more pros and events are sponsored by them, power will be wielded with an increasing amount of force. They pay the bills, they don't do this for the love of surfing, they want a serious return on their investment.

As wave pool technology develops to a point where surfing becomes common place inland, whole new demographs will emerge.  Surfing will become less about the ocean and the natural elements, and more about the dollar.

So each time I see a big assed air being done, I cannot help but think that this move is a metaphor for what is happening to surfing.  For arguably it was at least part responsible for putting surfing into the hands of those who could not care less about any aspect of it, other than its ability potential to drive up profits.

To me this is not what surfing is about, to be frank it leaves a bad taste in my mouth, much like those crap energy drinks do.

Letting things slide.

I have let things slide a little bit on the blog front.  I could cite a whole heap of reasons, but aside from the obvious one of not having the time, the main factor is that I simply haven't been inspired enough to write about anything.

I guess this might be at least in part to do with the time of the year.  It's dark, cold and invariably wet, so the activities that I love enough to write about have been minimal.  Also I just haven't been feeling it of late, hence the long gap since my last post.

The good news is that I now have a whole heap of topics in mind, so as and when I am able to do so, I will put the time in and get some decent posts up!