IASC Update April 1999

Skateboarding, you, Owsley Blue, the Merry Pranksters, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, and the future of the official Electric Kool Aid Acid test, otherwise known as the International Association of Skateboard Companies, provide a brief overview of a contemporary cultural dilemma¿is there life after birth? Or, how does skateboarding develop beyond what it is today without losing its essential rots?

It’s been a few years since the Bones Brigade’s Hell Van made its way through the world. With Todd Hastings (or me, or others) at the helm, and passengers like Tony Hawk and Ray Underhill building stories, letter by letter, from an alphabet cut from stickers. “Are we there, yet?” Lance Mountain and Chris Borst, trading positions of shotgun and driver at 92 miles per hour amidst the corn fields of Iowa. Tommy Guerrero and Jimmy Thiebaud lounged-out in the captain’s chairs with new digital earphones (per diem) and CDs turning as Guns N’ Roses tuned-up at Philly’s Veterans’ Stadium.

Chicago.

New York.

New Orleans.

Vero Beach without the Dodgers. Seventy-five-thousand miles of cascading life experience. Vomit. Blood. Love and kisses. The stuff of life.

Much of the Hell Van’s legacy can be traced to the notoriety of the Merry Pranksters, whose exploits with their bus Further were chronicled in Tom Wolfe’s book, The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test. A mid-60s experience, many were surprised to learn there were people (the Pranksters) who actually took hallucinogens (significant quantities), and then tested themselves to see how functional they could be while under the drugs’ influence. Further was loaded with quality pharmaceuticals from some of San Francisco’s best independent laboratories, and Ken Kesey, Wavy Gravy, and several others took to the highways and byways in the interest of science. They had their own vomit, and blood, and love, and kisses. Prankster stuff.

Of course, all of their tests (they had lab coats!) were conducted under strict scientific conditions: how much acid could you take and still function? Bodily functions, social situations, interactions within the control group and outside the control group … the whole Prankster experience ultimately came down to a very basic decision¿you were either on the bus, or you weren’t.

Further was a refurbished school bus, painted inside and out in a cacophony of riotous colors and designs. If you were too stoned to get on the bus, or stay on the bus, the bus left you behind. Kesey, arguably one of America’s great contemporary novelists (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Sometimes A Great Notion) who now lives in Oregon where he is involved with helping young writers develop their talent, was one of the bonafide leaders of the Pranksters, and one of Further’s drivers.

This reference to the Pranksters has much to do with their basic test¿no, not the drugs, but of whether one was on the bus or off the bus. The test, ultimately, determined their future. It had to do with commitment¿those on the bus soon found little time for those off the bus. The experience was distinct.

The two points of view have much to do with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. If you’re on the bus, at the speed of light the view inside the bus of what’s going on inside is relative to what’s going on inside the bus. That view of those events is distinct from what is going on outside, or offthe bus. Of course, if the bus were traveling at the speed of light, it would seem to those not onboard to be traveling, well, fast. One-hundred-eighty-six-thousand miles per second would be the bus’ speed if those passed were stationary. They could, let’s say, be traveling in the opposite direction. It’s all relative.

What we’re engaged with here, in this determination of our future, is whether you are on the bus, or off the bus. Are you part of skateboarding or not? Are you suppoing skateboarding or not? Do you sponsor tours, promote contests and demos, produce genuine products, support community events, and participate in industry events like trade shows, conferences, and meetings? Or are you conveniently on the outside offering criticism?

You know the drill by now, right? IASC? Four years ago several skateboard-company representatives met in an attempt to resolve issues within what we will call our industry. Mike Ternasky hosted one meeting, and another took place in NorCal. Months passed before it was agreed that something should be done. Paul Schmitt approached and asked if I would get on the bus. At a meeting hosted by ASR, I presented the possibility of forming a nonprofit trade association.

I suggested the industry could consider the marketplace as a pie, and that if the pie were able to grow, then everyone’s share of the pie might remain the same. But as the size of the pie grew, so would the size of each slice. We even threw in a lesson about “pi,” and how to calculate circumferences and areas of a circle. It was relative, but the bus was rolling and some companies got on.

Importantly, it was decided early on that membership criteria not be exclusive, that expenses be kept to a minimum, and that it would be ideal if information and services could be available to anyone who requested it.

IASC began and continues as a neutral organization devoted to promoting the sport of skateboarding, with its attention directed toward developing skateboarding’s businesses. Promoting the sport of skateboarding is perhaps an intentionally vague term, allowing IASC to loosely apply its interests and efforts to a variety of different projects.

One of the key services IASC provides for member companies is the ability to answer questions and provide information for and about skateboarding. “It’s worth it,” claims NHS’ Bob Denike, “just to be able to refer those people calling us for information about skateparks: ‘Call IASC, they can tell you what to do and send you the information you need,’ is what we say. Just that one little thing relieves us of a whole responsibility.”

In just the first three months of this year, IASC has mailed out (both via mail and digitally) information packets to more than 400 cities throughout the United States in response to their requests for skatepark guidelines.

If nothing else, if IASC never does anything else, its member companies could always look to the passage of AB 1296 as a pivotal moment in skateboarding’s development. The impact of that one accomplishment will affect skateboarding’s future for years and decades to come.

IASC is not, however, resting upon any singular achievement, because the future of skateboarding isn’t resolved by any one law, any more than the future of skateboarding performance is limited by any one trick. Skateboarding’s future begins today, or perhaps more specifically, it begins this month in Vancouver.

Imagine. Imagine if all of skateboarding got on the bus and arrived in Vancouver for the Second Skateboard Industry Conference. Imagine if all those differences¿some legitimate, some petty¿were put aside for two days and we were all on the bus to make decisions regarding our future. My future is your future, your future is mine¿our future is what we make it.

Imagine one project that all of skateboarding supported¿no political alliances, no hidden agendas, no pettiness from those of us on the bus. Imagine if one project were decided upon, acted upon, and had an immediate effect upon skateboarding’s future. What could that project be¿grand or not, huge undertaking or not?

How do we decide? Ideas. Suggestions. Project possibilities. We could send out questionnaires, call you on the phone, send out a fax and request a response. Or how about e-mail? Or, we can get on the bus in Vancouver, check our attitudes at the door, and go about the process of making some decisions about our sport’s and our businesses’ futures.

We can do this, and more importantly, we should do this, because decisions are being reached by others who have no part in skateboarding’s businesses, and little interest in directly helping the activity of skateboarding. They’ll use skateboarding, but are they on the bus? Do we want them on the bus?

We are creative individuals with amazing abilities, and we’ve created an international sport industry that continues to grow in popularity. For now the sport’s contemporary products are produced and marketed throughout the world by individuals and companies directly related to the sport’s origins and the activity itself. But for how long?

Imagine all of us on the bus in Vancouver discussing and deciding what could be implemented now to create opportunities for our future. Imagine.

Three years ago we discussed the viability of an IASC educational documentary-video production that could be distributed nationwide to schools. Schools want this information. They await information that relates to their students’ interests.

Too bad there aren’t any video production capabilities available within the skateboard industry. The talentless void of skateboarding’s participants doesn’t include designers, camera operators, videographers, filmmakers, producers, or directors. None of those. None. Wait. What’s that you say? Video directors? Award-winning? Emmy-nominated? Oscar considerations? Could they get on the bus? Why not?

Imagine. Nearly 100-million students sit down in classrooms every day. What do they learn, what interests them, and what do they remember? Think of the impact our 22 minutes could make if only half those students saw our video, if they got on the bus with us? How about a third? A fourth? A fifth?

What if every skateboarder in the United States believed that skateboard companies supported them? If there were a plan that provided skateboarders the information they need to help skateboarding develop in their community, regardless of where they lived¿if they believed that we were together¿they could get on the bus, too.

In Vancouver we can decide how companies might feature their support of IASC’s services¿advertising, tours, events, and projects (like a school-video production)¿in order to provide skateboarders genuine support. We could provide them information and guidance as they develop as contributors to the sport and its businesses. This is real, it’s genuine¿not like what the NBA and the NFL do as they create marketing schemes to lure young kids into their product-driven world. Yeah, those kids might spend some time shooting baskets or learning how to punt, pass, and kick. But are these marketeers really interested in their respective sports? Are they concerned with these kids actually playing these sports? Isn’t it more about looking like they play?

Come on, get on the bus while skateboarding is still about skateboarding and we still have some “say”; while skateboarding is still about skateboarding and skateboarders, and not some thing that provides an opportunity for the clueless and the cling-ons. Participate in the process and be part of our future, part of skateboarding’s future.and our businesses’ futures.

We can do this, and more importantly, we should do this, because decisions are being reached by others who have no part in skateboarding’s businesses, and little interest in directly helping the activity of skateboarding. They’ll use skateboarding, but are they on the bus? Do we want them on the bus?

We are creative individuals with amazing abilities, and we’ve created an international sport industry that continues to grow in popularity. For now the sport’s contemporary products are produced and marketed throughout the world by individuals and companies directly related to the sport’s origins and the activity itself. But for how long?

Imagine all of us on the bus in Vancouver discussing and deciding what could be implemented now to create opportunities for our future. Imagine.

Three years ago we discussed the viability of an IASC educational documentary-video production that could be distributed nationwide to schools. Schools want this information. They await information that relates to their students’ interests.

Too bad there aren’t any video production capabilities available within the skateboard industry. The talentless void of skateboarding’s participants doesn’t include designers, camera operators, videographers, filmmakers, producers, or directors. None of those. None. Wait. What’s that you say? Video directors? Award-winning? Emmy-nominated? Oscar considerations? Could they get on the bus? Why not?

Imagine. Nearly 100-million students sit down in classrooms every day. What do they learn, what interests them, and what do they remember? Think of the impact our 22 minutes could make if only half those students saw our video, if they got on the bus with us? How about a third? A fourth? A fifth?

What if every skateboarder in the United States believed that skateboard companies supported them? If there were a plan that provided skateboarders the information they need to help skateboarding develop in their community, regardless of where they lived¿if they believed that we were together¿they could get on the bus, too.

In Vancouver we can decide how companies might feature their support of IASC’s services¿advertising, tours, events, and projects (like a school-video production)¿in order to provide skateboarders genuine support. We could provide them information and guidance as they develop as contributors to the sport and its businesses. This is real, it’s genuine¿not like what the NBA and the NFL do as they create marketing schemes to lure young kids into their product-driven world. Yeah, those kids might spend some time shooting baskets or learning how to punt, pass, and kick. But are these marketeers really interested in their respective sports? Are they concerned with these kids actually playing these sports? Isn’t it more about looking like they play?

Come on, get on the bus while skateboarding is still about skateboarding and we still have some “say”; while skateboarding is still about skateboarding and skateboarders, and not some thing that provides an opportunity for the clueless and the cling-ons. Participate in the process and be part of our future, part of skateboarding’s future.

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