Nerves Worn Thin
The top ten things you should know before going on tour.
1. Local Heroes: Let’s say you rip harder than anyone in your little
town. You’ve done every gap and pounced on every rail within 50 miles of your local shop. You’re the only dude who gets free boards from the local skate merchant, and people always tell you, “You should be sponsored,” and “You’re better than all those pros in the magazines.”
This is all well and good, but when a demo comes to town, I beg you, please, don’t finagle your way onto the street course at your local park and try the same trick right behind a visiting pro. This approach has the complete opposite of the desired effect. It does not make the pros want to be your friend, or even talk to you. In fact, it makes them want to strangle you. If you really think you’re the next Appleyard, wait ’til the demo is almost over
and throw down a few tricks of your own. If you really rip, you’ve got good style, you’re smart, and a little desperate, you’ll have a
sponsor-me video on hand. If the pros like what they see of you after the demo, then they’ll be interested to see if you can skate real
street as well.
Rule of thumb: be discreet and not too pushy. Pseudonyms: Park Billy, The Champ.
2. The Fan: It’s hard to differentiate between the eager autograph
seeker who just wants to shake hands with his favorite pro and The Fan.
The autograph seeker is pretty easy to please, they say hello, shake hands, tell you your opener in 411 was tight, and that pretty much sums it up.
The Fan, however, is a completely different breed. The Fan is the one who wants to show you all the local spots that he claims are “perfect”—like a 30-stair handrail, even though he can barely ollie up a curb. Other talents of The Fan include taking you out to the club where “all the girls are hot,” and basically trying to be your best friend. None of these goals are ever reached, and The Fan ends up becoming a pro’s Lex Luther.
Rule of thumb: it’s okay to provide if you’re asked, but it’s better not to solicit.
3. Demos: Although this is the essential reason for being on tour in
the first place, it resides at (or near the bottom of) the list of
priorities—demos always start late. The only way you can understand this is to have been on a couple of tours. Heresay and secondhand accounts do it zero justice. Let’s say you’re waking up from a long night of driving—still in your jammies—to find a couple-hundred kids, parents, and local heroes waiting to see you drop all the tricks from the new video on a funbox, a wedged-hip ramp, and a three-foot-high spined quarterpipe. Add into the equation concrete with the consistency of griptape, kids being pissed ’cause you won’t give them your board, no food, plenty of Park Billys (see number one), and it’s 92 degrees outside. Nevermind the fact that you did the exact same thing the day before. Starting to get the picture?
4. Poachers: In the very unlikely event that someone wants to film something at a demo or a local street spot, you have a gruesome situation in the works. If you can somehow manage to keep your session of a nearby Hubba on the downlow, you might come away with some good stuff at an unseen spot. On the other hand, you may be poached and end up having the same photo grace the pages of another mag—this scenario is predominantly an overseas thing. Many times pros want to keep their footy exclusive, and the photographers feel the same way about their photos. It’s hard enough to get good footage and photos, but to pull it off only to see it bootlegged in some shop video or in some crazy magazine undermines all the hard work that goes into the video or article. Bottom line: everybody wants a piece of the action, even if they have to creep in the bushes..
5. Traveling: Assuming you get up in time, escape traffic, don’t forget your passport, get through airport security (photographers love that part), and don’t get stuck in the middle seat. You may get the tour off to a decent start. Other obstacles to consider are delayed flights, missed connections, lost luggage, and cell phones that don’t work outside the U.S.—headphones and an iPod are just the thing to make the journey a little easier.
6. The Van: What seems to start out as a luxurious spacious cabin (after you get off a plane with no leg room) turns into hell on wheels. Things fall on the floor and get stepped on, sweat soaked T-shirts ferment for days, leaving a scent so pungent you could disperse a mob of celebrating Laker fans. And if the tour is long enough and cabin fever kicks in, you might find yourself strangling your best friend. There’re also people fighting over shotgun, garbage piling up everywhere, old stinky shoes, and the ever-present farts. By the time the tour is coming to an end, you wanna drive that Chevy off a cliff.
7. Food: Despite what some distributors and shop owners think, pizza, McDonald’s, and Coke are not on the top of most skateboarders’ lists for dinner. Enough junk food is bought and eaten every time the van stops for gas. Consistently having good food can make or break a tour. Note to all shop owners/distributors: if you’re gonna provide snacks, throw something at least somewhat healthy in the mix—fruit and bottled water (you can never have too much water).
8. Partying: Skating well at a demo and a little partying are things that allow you to blow off steam and relax. Although if you’re not careful, the next thing you know, your wallet and passport are missing, you feel like you got hit by a train, and you lost your only easy connection to home—your cell phone. Don’t be misled, though, number eight needs to happen in some form. It’s the only way to make it through with your sanity intact.
9. Injuries: This one sucks regardless of where you are. But it doesn’t get any worse than ending up in a hospital miles from home, let alone in a foreign country—like Ed Templeton and Clyde Singleton. Hobbling behind everyone, not being able to sleep, and if you’re lucky enough to have a minor bang-up, having to stay just to sign autographs. The worst part of it is messing yourself up on the worst obstacle, usually trying the dumbest trick.
10. Self-Entertainment: There’s plenty of downtime and long hours of boring driving—that’s a given on tour. Back in the day, the Jerky Boys provided hours of laughter for the whole crew. Nowadays, laptops are common, so finding yourself quoting your favorite movie from start to finish is commonplace. A semi-secret language can take form that’ll ruin a movie forever. Ruined movies include American Pie, Caddyshack, The Big Lebowski, Raising Arizona, Office Space, and Boogie Nights. And do yourself a favor, don’t watch Zoolander with a loved one. If you can’t stay quiet, you might get your ass kicked.