Skateboard magazine demographics tell me that I’m approximately twice as old as the majority of the people holding this magazine right now. True story. Most of you will not have known a time before the Interweb’s ubiquity. But trust me, a few years back, there simply was no Interweb. Shocking, I know. But what existed before blogs and Web sites?
Zines! Oh man. Remember them? Those beautiful little jumbles of Xeroxed photos and urgent scrawls? Zines were the anti-magazines-scissored and pasted and stapled together during late, late nights. Zines were a way to make something that was purely your own.
Punk fanzines of the 70s sprouted and paved the way for skate zines in the 80s-but where it really started was pens, paper, film, and “discontentment with the status quo … a need to take matters into one’s own hands,” says Andrew Scott, longtime zine-maker, skater, and co-owner of San Francisco’s Needles & Pens. “Early 80s punk bands like Black Flag, The Big Boys, and Minor Threat all had members that were skateboarders,” Andrew continues. “The two were synonymous with each other; in the 80s, skateboarding was punk rock.”
So it’s little surprise that both punk and DIY skate zines shared the same aesthetics and, to a degree, ethics. Zines were, and remain, a way to connect disparate pockets to a larger whole-to show that the big picture is really only hundreds and hundreds of smaller snapshots. Think about it. There’s a huge skateboard industry-we read about it every month-but what ends up being more important to you: “The industry,” or your crew of friends who push down the street together? No question, right?
Zines do what the mainstream media can’t: They connect you to this larger world; they focus on the smallest individual unit of skateboarding and prove that there are other people out there who love the same things you love. Seminal zines like Swank Zine, Skate Fate, Pool Dust, Bend, and Karmaboarder showed a generation of kids that they weren’t as alone in the wilderness as they thought. And the kids realized that they could do it, too.
“Who better to make a skate zine about our town than us?” asks Scott. “We did it ourselves, finding an entire community of self-publishing skaters from all over.”
“I was inspired by many other zines out there,” says Tod Swank, Foundation founder/owner and publisher of Swank Zine and Fukeneh. “It opened up a whole new world of creativity that I could explore and participate in. Taking photographs, drawing, writing, laying it all up paste-up style and finally distributing it. It was hand in hand with skateboarding for me. Freedom to do what you wanted.”
Swank adds, “Making a zine connected myself to other skateboarders from around the world,” which is just what zines continue to do. Today’s crop of skate zines-among them Lowcard, Paying In Pain, Excess, and Broken-all owe their existence to the Xeroxed masterpieces of the 80s despite self-publishing turning largely digital in the past two decades. Newer zines, often laid out using professional publishing software, can attain that glossy veneer of professional production. But whatever form they take, whether Photoshopped or X-Acto’d (I won’t debate preference), their hearts remain firmly on the zine-maker’s sleeve: a love of skateboarding and a need to connect. But also a tacit rebuttal of the mainstream world.
A zine is contrary to the mainstream, and zine-makers don’t court its acceptance. Garry Scott Davis, usually referred to as GSD, former Tracker pro and the man behind Skate Fate, says zines “are relevant and important to those who make them and a few of their friends, but not to the public at large.”
Lowcard founder Rob Collinson claims that “it’s not about art, it’s about being underachievers who don’t care about ‘art.’”
But what really matters most is doing what’s important to you. Art or no art; mainstream, DIY, or anything in between-it’s all skateboarding. So why not make somethingg all your own? Share it with anyone you can. This is what it means to be a skateboarder. You share your love of it with everyone who also loves it.
We’re all totally precious
Apostrophe not needed on “zine.” It’s used enough that it’s become it’s own word.