Antihero's "Reality Breakdown" Article
Viking on the deck, gladiator in the sky—cue the Freedom Rock. GT, ollie
It seemed easy enough: three weeks in a van cruising around New Zealand, skating, camping, hanging with the boys, shoot it all on Super 8, make a film, document everything. Well—almost everything. I wondered why they asked me to write the article for this, wondered why no one wanted the job? Now I know. At first, I had lofty ideas of Gonzo journalism. I’d write every day. Words would flow easily from my fingertips. I’d capture the true essence of what it’s like to be on tour with, in my opinion, one of the greatest collections of skateboarders I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. And then we got there…
Hamilton Park has a long and storied history. Grant sails high over hallowed ground. FSA
Robbie knows there’s no such thing as a frontside Indy. Channel hop to wash away the grey
Anyone who knows, knows that a skateboard tour of this magnitude is no easy task to organize and execute. There are the financial considerations, personal scheduling, plane tickets and a cornucopia of other details that need to be worked out prior. After months of hard work, the scene was set. The crew consisted of Rick Charnoski, Buddy Nichols, Gabe Morford, John Alden, Julien Stranger, Raney Beres, Robbie Russo, Austin Kanfoush, Frank Gerwer, Brian Anderson, Peter Hewitt, Pat McClain, Grant Taylor, Daan Van Der Linden, Chris Pfanner, Div Adams, Gut, ’Bino and yours truly. After a few lost bags, a couple of missed flights we touched down and underwent a bug delousing that left us all a little freaked and squeamish. I don’t know about you, but, sitting in a tube, being sprayed with a nameless grey aerosol, thick enough to taste its toxicity, eyes ablaze, is not my idea of a good time. But I digress.
Teetering on the edge of madness, Daan dances on the razor’s edge. Crooked grind to fake
Grosso making the monkey dance. Layback
Super karate monkey death car! Austin Kanfoush, high-speed delivery. Backside 50-50
PLAYING WITH SNAKES
We spent the first few days getting acclimated and riding snakes. New Zealand has quite a few late ’70s style skateparks peppered about its landscape—little jewels ripe for the picking—and the boys came in hot. It’s not every day that we get together as a “team.” Some of us were meeting for the first time, and the excitement level was palpable. It’s a strange yet wonderful group that John and Julien have assembled. A gang of rag-tag shredders ranging in age from 20 to 48. Everyone was hyped, feeding off the energy of the trip, the sessions. I remember thinking to myself, “This is unsustainable! They can’t possibly keep this pace!” But I was wrong and they did. By day three I personally became a casualty of the intensity, a chance encounter with a kneeslide and a giant kidney bean leaving me with a dislocated pinky, a couple of broken ribs and a golf ball for an eye lid. I spent the next few days acting like a petulant child, feeling sorry for myself and chain smoking cigarettes. I share this tidbit of information not to glorify, but offer as some sham of an excuse for my utter failure to document, well—anything. Basically, what we have here is a failure to communicate. Moving forward I can offer up only this: stunted ideas, incoherent ramblings on mythologized memories, fractured reflections and perhaps a few obtuse observations that will leave you, the reader, unfulfilled and longing. Hey, it’s Antihero—what’d you expect? Check out the photos. Gabe did an excellent job, or better yet, go watch the film. It should be out right around the time you read this.
The melodic sounds of the Electric Light Orchestra drift through the air as my teeth decay. Grant catches one clean with Julien in hot pursuit. Kickflip
HANG THE BLESSED DJ
Grant loves to crank tunes and keep the boys stoked. It doesn’t matter when or where. We could be in line at a bottle shop procuring libations, strolling through a bird sanctuary, feeling all Zen or simply skating a local spot, getting our shred on. Some folks would get jazzed by our circus-like atmosphere. Others—not so much. Comments such as, “You boys having a good time?” or “Go smoke your drugs somewhere else!” were a common occurrence. He’s like some weird social experiment in tolerance and the power of music. Everywhere we’d go, there he is, blaring reggae or perhaps a light hardcore jam, maybe some Freedom Rock™ is in order? You never know? Like a musical magician toying with the ambiance of our surroundings for our unadulterated listening pleasure. One thing is certain, music is to be played at all times in Grant’s stratosphere.
Graceful exhibitionism fresh off a flight, Chris Pfanner spreads his wings and readies for a touchdown. Kickflip over the rail
It goes beyond the laws of nature. It takes a triumph of the will
Approximately mid-trip, our convoy pulled into a gas station around midnight to fill up on diesel and snacks. It had been a long day and unlike here in the States, the green nozzle does not hold diesel fuel. Unfortunately for us, it wasn’t until halfway through filling the second van that this discovery was made. We would have to wait until morning to drain the tanks and fill them with the correct fuel. The problem now being where 18 of us could sleep for the night. After a quick recon. mission, a schoolyard was found a couple hundred yards away. We pushed the vans down the street, scaled a small fence and set up the tents amidst a flurry of heckling and a raging windstorm. We awoke in the morning to a semi-irate woman admonishing us for sleeping, and by her account, shitting in the field. “You all are freedom campers, heh? But you can’t camp here! Clean up your trash. I know you all are crapping on the field!” No one actually was crapping on the field, of course, and BA talked her down as the rest of us packed up our gear. Moments later, her friend and co-worker appeared offering us breakfast. “What have we here? Freedom campers! You boys look hungry. If you’d like to come to the school, we’ve got coffee and donuts for you all!” It was a strange sort of good cop/bad cop scenario, one in which my jaded skateboarding American ass was untrusting of. But it was sincere. Their only desire was to help the situation. Sure, initially they were upset, but once they saw us cooperating they quickly changed their tune. I mean, if that same scenario played out here in the States? I’m loathe to think of the outcome. I remember thinking, we could take some cues from them as a people. They seem to deal with each other one-on-one. There’s no quick trigger to call the cops or escalate the situation. It was refreshing to not always be on the defense. Everywhere we went, people would go out of their way to stop and trip on us. The kiwis are fucking cool. I think it was Julien that said, “You can tell a lot about a society by how they treat their dogs.” Everywhere we went, dogs strolled alongside their partners, leashless and happy. “I’m lying in my tent, on the side of a hill, at the mouth of a capsule bowl built in 1981. She is tagged, neglected, all but forgotten, but we have traveled halfway around the world just to dance with her. Kind of crazy, but there’s not a sane one amongst us. The air is sweet with smoke. I hear glass breaking and laughter. Our little outlaw camp at the bottom of the world. They call it “freedom camping” down here, and we are proud to count ourselves as part of the tribe.” This is my one and only journal entry in an otherwise empty book. Pretty pathetic.
Dead or alive, Daan spins right round. Backside 360 ollie
REFLECTIONS ON A RIVER WILD
The South Island is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places I have ever seen. Almost every night we’d liberate a spot next to some creek or river, dig a fire pit, line it with river rocks and prepare our communal dinner. It was these moments I’ll cherish the most. Daan loves to fish and every chance he’d get he’d put a line in the water. Charno’d usually take a dip, ruining any chance of Daan catching a fish. Austin teaching Robbie to skip stones—there were some intense stone-skipping competitions. Pat and Raney cook a mean rockfish and their seasoning technique is a sight to behold. Div ruining John’s potatoes with lord-like behavior. Buddy and Grant keeping levels checked with their “bad dad” cocktails and “candy rips.” The sunsets were epic, the laughter infectious, doing time on Knob Creek, speaking of level checks and Div.
The boneless one may have been born in Ohio, but the booster was bred in Texas. It’s in the blood. Raney Beres displays his line of evolutionary descent
Sparking campfires and sliding tall bars, Pfanner is a man of multitudinous talents. Bump to board slide
We had three birthdays on our trip: Robbie turned 25, Pat turned 29 and Pete a respectable 44. Rob’s birthday was first and the boys decided to party. I did the math. Averaged out, the boys purchased three cases per stop and we stopped three times a day for, let’s say, 18 days. That’s 3,888 beers in total. On this day, they put a considerable dent in that number. Everyone was fired up! They’d been skating hard and Robbie was charging the entire trip, so hardly an excuse was needed to celebrate him. We had a considerable drive ahead and a game and song, of sorts, quickly emerged from the revelry. “Gotta get your level check! Your level check!” They’d scream as they’d pass around one of buddy’s ungodly concoctions. As the day wore on, levels rose: five, seven, eight. Some fell out, others peaked in their commitment and then Div went clear. So sharp was his clarity that it is said that he cured retardation with a single thought. All hail our lord and savior, Div.
Burnt offerings, a gravity-defying feather, Pedro lifts off. Tailgrab
Down the river and through the goods, GT revs it up and takes it over the falls
THE STAPH VAN
By this point in the trip the vans began to take on personalities of their own. One looked prim and proper, tidy for the most part. The sounds of No Trend or perhaps a podcast on the history of the US Postal Service could be heard emanating softly from its interior. This vehicle was dubbed The Nerd Van by its occupants. Our second offering from Hertz® was a shade bit darker: it had begun to resemble the interior of an Iguana tank that hadn’t been cleaned in months. Local foliage from almost every stop had been plucked, gathered and stuffed into every nook and cranny across the roof and walls. Empty bottles, food wrappers and blown-out clothing littered the floorboards. Filled way past capacity, it had begun to reek of stale beer, dirty man, and grape bubble gum from Robbie’s electric Gandalf stick. The stereo was always tuned to maximum volume; this became known as rule 62, 62 being the highest number on the volume display. Somewhere along the line, Grant got an abrasion. The abrasion got infected and slowly turned into Staph. Doctors were consulted, pharmacies visited. Several days later, Raney was showing signs—and then Gut. Sean actually had to be hospitalized on his return to the States. His leg swelling from the flight, so severely infected, it resembled a mangled elephant’s paw.
Programmed personality, synthesized emotions, adolescent trends—Raney cracks one to fakie in Christchurch
Skankie laid waste to Middle Earth—nosegrind for staph stable
I fuck’n love our crew. I’m so grateful to count myself amongst them. At night, I’d retire to the confines of my tent and lay staring up at the Milky Way in all its vast glory, recollecting the day’s events and contemplating my life. There is very little light pollution down in Middle Earth and the night sky is simply breathtaking. It’s amazing to me to still have the opportunity to travel and skate. To see the guys, young and hungry for it. Their lust for life—enthusiasm. To bare witness to it all. I watched Daan awake from a dead sleep, crack a beer and join Robbie, Div, Grant, Frank, and Raney in a session on this old, weathered mini ramp on a beach outside Hampden. Kinked, splintered, and slow. A field of Alpacas and sheep grazing nearby, indifferent to the intense skate action. Fog rolled in off the ocean and bagpipes played in the distance as they commenced in decimating every square inch of this forgotten relic. That’s right-—I said bagpipes. I watched Daan learn 5s in 20 minutes, a trick that took me 20 years to put down, while bagpipes droned on in the background. It was fuck’n surreal! Or the afternoon I viewed Austin back 180ing into what amounted to a cheese grater. Attempt after attempt, bloodied but unbowed he battled, until he got the rollaway he desired. That feeling—satisfaction.
Packed full of buckshot, like a time bomb ready to go off, San Pedro’s favorite son, Robbie Russo, human cannonball
Dog food plastic dish hammer cooling system, ‘Bino glides through with authoritarian aplomb. Ollie
Look, I told you when we started I’d have problems communicating the story of our journey. The one thing I can say is, I fuck’n love skateboarding. It is the catalyst for some of my greatest friendships and memories. I am blown away when I think of all the eclectic individuals I have met and traveled with. The places I’ve seen. Chris Pfanner’s grace, on and off his board. He builds a mean fire as well. Raney’s laid-back attitude and explosive style. Laughing with Frankie. Deep conversations with Brian. The insanity of Div. Austin’s charge. Robbie laying waste to everything he put his wheels on. Pete’s composure. Pat’s smile in the morning. Watching Daan learn frontside inverts for Pedro’s birthday. Gut’s naps. Long talks on long drives with Julien. Gabe’s stinky shorts. Alden’s antics. Rick’s window sketches. Buddy’s 10 stair and Grant egging him on. Or ’Bino skipping an ollie is a thing of beauty. Love you, ’Bino! It was an amazing trip. New Zealand is a beautiful country with great people and amazing skate spots. The food is excellent too. I hope you enjoy the photos and the film as much as we did making them. Thanks to everyone who worked hard to make this happen. I only wish I could have skated more. My advice: grab your friends, get a plane, train, or bus ticket. Pitch in on an old VW van. Get out there—go! The world awaits…
Savage realism, anarchistic aspirations, impatient with the status-quo, a harbinger of the new breed—Daan Van Der Linden, full-thrusted battle roll. 540
10/13/2021Kanfoush is back, mixing ‘crete to spice up the lines at an Oakland DIY. Pitch in some cash with the homies and get pouring.
10/04/2021In a bittersweet goodbye, Jeff’s son Oliver wraps up The Letters by looking back on his dad’s life and career with Lucero, Nash, Mountain and more. Shed a tear and then go get some for Grosso.
9/27/2021Sicily’s mob left behind massive concrete complexes, so Pfanner, Doobie and the Vans Euro crew took a trip out to feast on the remains.
9/27/2021Ernie Torres busted out of Oklahoma in the early 2000s, earning a seat in the REAL van with his heavy moves and wicked sense of humor. Thanks for the memories, Big Ern! As seen in our Aug. 2021 issue.
9/14/2021Austin Kanfoush shows you how to fix up a busted DIY QP for under $100. Get your crew together and get busy. This ain’t rocket science.