Coffee Table Books for Skate Geeks
I think that the books we put on our coffee tables say a lot about ourselves. The display of books is like a physical profile of ourselves; the act of showcasing books is a way to project our interests to those we invite into our abode. However, currently due to the covid restrictions, this action of broadcasting our interests to visitors has been hindered. The curated, outwardly quasi-intellectual action of showing off our (often personally) intriguing tomes has ceased for the most part. However, this doesn’t mean that we cannot get excited about the resumption of this action. As skateboarding is one of my core interests in life, I have compiled a short list of skateboarding related coffee table books one could purchase as a way of not only passing the time during lockdown, but also to display for others once some form of “pre-covid social normality” is reinstated.
1. National Geographic and Levi Skateboarding’s “Skate the World”
With a Tony Hawk foreword and the main bodies of text being written by Jonathan Mehring, “Skate the World” is a perhaps the prime example of a literary “positive catfish”. The book’s title neatly explains its premise; it is a collection of international skateboarding photography compiled into one extraordinary publication. I want to return to my previous comment, referring to the book as a “positive catfish”. By this I mean (quite literally) never judge a book by its cover. When there is clear corporative involvement in skateboard literature and photography it is often a massive turn away. However, this certainly isn’t the case for “Skate the World”. Besides the fact this book highlighted multiple new skate scenes and their individual stories for me, it also compiles some of the most notorious skateboard photographs of all time. The book contains photos of skaters ranging from Danny Way to Dylan Rieder, Tyshawn Jones to Jerry Hsu and even contains the legendary photo of Andrew Reynolds frontside flipping a monstrous double set in Vancouver (shot by Atiba Jefferson, pictured below).
My favourite photograph in the collection is of Pontus Alv skating the Swedish DIY skate park, steppe side. My reasoning for this choice is the story attached to the beautiful DIY park showcased by Alv himself in his outstanding video, “In Search of the Miraculous”. “Skate the World” also showcases skate scenes in Korea, Ethiopia and many other nations who aren’t known (but probably should be) for their skateboarding prowess. In fact, there is a beautiful photograph of Tony Hawk doing a tuck knee revert whilst skating a mini ramp in an Ethiopian town. In the background of the photo, one can see how the beauty of skateboarding impacts the curious minds who discover the art form. A large company of curious children watch in awe as Hawk does the aforementioned trick. I think overall, this publication is not only good to purchase as a way of educating one’s self about unknown skate scenes, but it is also a truly fantastic gallery of some of skateboarding’s finest photographs (and by extension, some of the skateboarding’s finest photographers).
You can purchase the book here : https://www.abebooks.co.uk/9781426213960/Skate-World-Photographing-Skateboarding-Mehring-1426213964/plp
2. Palace Skateboard's "Palasonic"
The coffee table magazine that accompanied the cult classic Palace Skateboards video “Palasonic” may have been my wisest purchase as a young skateboard culture enthusiast. I was around 13 when the wholly London filmed video was released and (I think I also speak for all my companions with this statement) I have watched it religiously ever since. Being a Londoner is not only a geographical badge given to those of us born and/or residing within the metropolis, it is also a sort of blessing and curse; this idea applies even more so to skateboarders in the capital. Our city is infamous for its crusty spots, but the Palace Skateboards team certainly knows how to take advantage of this perceivable burden to skateboarding capability. The publication’s front cover undoubtedly proves my previous point. On the cover, one can see skateboard legend Chewy Cannon wallie off a tree – if this isn’t a clear visual characterisation of the lack of skateable architecture in London then I don’t know what is. The publication contains photographs of the whole PWBC crew during the early to mid-years of the 2010s. The magazine also provides a practical use to those who enjoy passing their time with a green or brown accomplice. An accomplice that was partially to blame for the imprisonment of Palace’s filmer, Money Morph, as one can find out in the only properly written section of the publication. Moreover, the magazine contains a DVD copy of the “Palasonic” video. There are also small pieces of text written by Palace founder Lev Tanju that accompany the photos of the PWBC boys. I want to end this paragraph in a cyclical format. I said previously that it was my best purchase as a “young skateboard culture enthusiast”. By this I meant that the magazine opened my eyes up to the beautiful, sometimes scary nature of the beast that is skateboarding in London. After watching Palasonic and flicking through the accompanying magazine for hours on end, I came to the foregone conclusion that I wanted to dive head first into the culture of skateboarding; I was adamant about making my life revolve around riding a plank of wood with four wheels – and here I am age 16 writing about it.
Sadly, due to the age and exclusivity of the publication, it is quite rare. However, one can purchase the magazine here: https://stockx.com/palace-palasonic-magazine-multi
(A quick side note, the product description of the magazine reads:
DID YOU WATCH PALASONIC BIN LADEN EDITED IT
I think that these words, written by Lev Tanju, cutely summarise the above argument as to why you should buy the publication)
3. Thomas Campbell's "Ye Olde Destruction"
Perhaps the most ambitious publication to make this list, Thomas Campbell’s 7 year, independent 16mm film project “Ye Olde Destruction” is a world-class demonstration of what it means to be a skateboarder. The brutalist film shot in black and white not only contains a plethora of skateboarders ranging from Louie Barletta to Elissa Streamer, the project also visually characterises all the miniscule, often unnoticeable, particulars that skateboarding provides one with. The DIY focus of the project and the recurring motif of the two cars (who act as travelling protagonists in an art piece without a narrative) also typify the communal nature of skateboarding and how the aforementioned is a necessity in our culture’s survival and growth. The score of the project was written and performed by LA based duo “No Age”. Returning to the fact that this project was nearly all shot on 16mm film provides digital filmers with a humbling actuality. The time and effort put into this project alone should compel one to purchase the book that accompanies the video. The book’s hand-drawn captions and Mark Suciu cover give off a rustic feel that embodies the nature of the photos within. To list all the skaters in the video/book would be futile due to the longwinded nature of doing so, but some of my personal favourites included in the video are Oski Rozenberg, Evan Smith, Tony Trujillo and Ben Raemers.
You can buy the book here from North London’s very own Palomino Skate Shop:
4. "Long Live Southbank"
Not only a beguiling book for the coffee table, Steffan Blayney’s Long Live Southbank (LLSB) provides an extensive, folk-lore-esque, history lesson for all of us who use the under croft. I think knowing the history of anything is a prerequisite and this sentiment remains true for skateboarding. I think that the LLSB book’s collectivisation of the messy, unwritten (often totally undocumented) history of London’s skateboarding Mecca is one of the best tools one can possess if they want to truly understand why people skate at Southbank (considering there are perfectly adequate parks elsewhere in London). The liminality of the undercroft provides an escape for the capital’s skateboarders and artists. The book itself is a hefty one; it contains multiple interviews with the likes of Blondey McCoy and Ben Jobe, legendary photos of people skating Southbank (dating as far back as the 1970s), words from skaters including Chris Pulman (check out @robertjdelaney ‘s interview with him for the mag after you finish reading this article), Sidewalk’s (RIP, that magazine was legendary) Ben Powell and even Aarto Saari amongst other things.
The book highlights the importance of the space to not only skateboarders, but BMXers, artists and spectators also. The photographs within the book evoke a sombre yet reflective emotion in one’s self, especially now considering Covid prevented us from skating there for the majority of 2020.
Southbank has a specific aura, a feeling. Anyone who skates there regularly knows what I mean by this, it has something undistinguishably special about it. This aura is perfectly characterised by the book. I think the book also helps us figure out why we feel a certain way when skating there. I think that this feeling comes about due to a culmination of everything to do with the spot. From the brutalist architecture to the near closure of Southbank a few years back, there are many attributes that combine to legitimise Southbank’s position as the skateboarding Mecca of London.
You can purchase the LLSB book here:
(sadly I couldn’t find it stocked in any UK skate shops)