PROGRESSION is by far the word-of-the-year in our corner of skateboarding. A whole lot of people are using it to describe the growth in the popularity of our broadening skateboard culture. Even more are using it to describe what tricks are being done on longer skateboards, as well as the conditions those tricks are being done in. And there are even still more that are applying the word “Progression” to describe the fruits of the recent boom in eclectic skateboarding designs. I’ve been getting a lot of feedback lately on this widespread use of the word “Progression”, and as such, believe it as good a topic as any for this month’s What’s Next column. So, whether you fall on the side of more “Progression” or less “Progression”, it is of no matter—we’ll discuss it here, and allow you to draw what you will from it and discard the remainder.
In order to rightfully and honestly discuss this topic of “Progression”, as it concerns us, we must first agree on a definition of the word itself. For brevity’s sake, I’ve chosen the standard definition from the dictionary dudes over at Merrian-Webster, and it is this:
“Progression: (adjective) the action or process of development to a higher, better, or more advanced stage.”
For the sake of simplicity, let’s just say we agree on the above definition and keep on truckin’.
Even once we do agree on a definition of “Progression”, we are still in a bit of a dilemma. What one might consider “development to a higher, better, more advanced stage”, another might perceive as “ass-backwards and moving in a regressive direction”. What we begin to see is that the idea of “Progression” is wholly subjective, and it seems that that is the big issue at hand here. A perfect example of such subjectivity would be if one group were to suggest that doing a kickflip on a board with no tail and with a longer wheelbase were to be somehow “Progressive”. This group might feel justification in such a claim because if nobody had ever done that trick, or they had not seen it themselves, on that particular style of board, then for that style of riding it would be, to them, “Progressive”. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves we must remember that as skaters riding longer, eclectically-shaped skateboards we are still riding skateboards regardless, and there is a long history and legacy that goes along with that fact. Thus, one must be very careful when calling anything in longboard skateboarding “Progressive”; the idea is to tread lightly. We must not forget those that came before us; over the past 50 years many skaters have dedicated their entire lives to pushing skateboarding where it is today.
Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely many new and radical things happening in longboard skateboarding—No doubt. Skaters going 80-plus mph is definitely something that has never been done up until now, skaters are sliding further and faster than ever before, and there are board & component construction elements & designs being developed that nobody has ever witnessed. But, and I say this with strong emphasis, there are many things being peddled as “Progression” that are not that at all. Here are just a few things in longboard skateboarding that are not new, and have actually been around for quite some time: 99.999% of all tricks off ramps and on the ground, concave, w-concave, kicktails, camber, kooks, cliques, flex, reverse kingpin trucks, soft wheels, shit-talking, hill riding, haters, egos, pushing, punks, propaganda, the money-guys, wheelwells, ramps, rails, gaps, banks, bushings—the list goes on, and on.
I guess all I’m saying here is that some words work and some words need work. It’s our responsibility to decipher between the two and not to be scared to speak-up when shit’s getting misused. It’s pretty obvious to me that what we have here is a case of the overuse, and misuse, of a word/concept that is limited at its best and downright meaningless at its worst. I propose this solution: In place of “Progression”, I suggest we shift our focus to words and ideas that better embody the true ethos and vibe of riding skateboards. Moving forward, I say we redirect our attention to the radical concepts of Exploration, Expression, and Community. Long or short, skateboarding is definitely one of the most radical things you can do in life—ride hard, ride safe, ride smart. Get some!