Skateboarding has long been associated with the creative arts, painting, drawing, music, video production are all inseparable from the culture itself. Interestingly, this association doesn’t often carry over to the literary persuasions. If a skateboarder simply identifies as a reader, it becomes an inherent component of their identity. Just look at the current SOTY. The fact Suciu reads books is of unending interest to the community, to the point that he’s had to shut down questions in interviews about the fact.
As such, while the amount of music and art you can buy from skateboarders is without end, books are far less common. We’ve talked about Brett Hamil’s work, Gonz has put out a book of poetry or two, Karl Watson has broken into the children’s book scene, Thrasher publishes the occasional coffee table book, and this guy Kyle Beachy wrote an excellent memoir on the subject, called The Most Fun Thing. That’s about all I can think of off the top of my head. So when I heard that Walker Ryan had written a book, I was definitely intrigued.
If I’m being completely honest, I was also skeptical. In the first place, writing well is really difficult. Writing about skateboarding in particular is challenging to do, especially to do so without coming off as overly sentimental. However, I had to give it a shot. After all, this is Walker Ryan! He switch backside flipped the Love fountain!
It’s a good thing I did, because this is an awesome story. It follows Henry, a skateboarder who had achieved a little prominence but has been drifting away from the trajectory, as he deals with a recent break up. Henry pines for his ex-girlfriend, Ellen, who dumped him due to the fact he didn’t seem to be going anywhere in life. His station in life, a hotel maid who occasionally delivers mysterious envelopes for his boss, is apparently not enough to impress Ellen or her parents. Henry is undeterred, however, sure that if he just manages to pull together enough for a proper apartment, she’ll come running back to his arms.
I don’t want to spoil anything here, I’m counting on you to buy and read the damn book yourself. What ensues is a caper, brought about by Henry deciding in the spur of the moment to bomb Mason from the top, a feat never before accomplished. The aftermath sees Henry embarking a Hunter S. Thompson-esque escapade with his homeless friend Gary that lands Henry in a world of potential trouble.
Walker paints a picture that, I think, would be discernible to the non-skateboarding readers, but the scenes he depicts will feel downright homey to anyone who has been skating for a little while. In describing a warm up run around the SoMa West park, “Without trying any tricks, Henry made a few laps around the park, working on his transition basics. A back disaster on the steep, rounded quarter-pipe hugging the pillar, followed by a chicken-scratch frontside grind over the channel, picking up speed to float over the corners of the pyramids, ending with a backside tail slide on quarter-pipe by the fence. It felt good to keep his speed without pushing.”
There is a lot of writing about skateboarding, all of them have that organika feel that can only come from being immersed in the life. Beyond the descriptions of the feel of skating down a hill, as well as the elation it provides, Walker presents a thoroughly believable lens on the culture of skateboarding. From Gary the gutter punk to Dizzy Dev, the local boy gone super star, he covers the wide spectrum of skateboarding archetypes.
Beyond the depictions of skateboarding, Walker does well in his descriptions of heartache and loss, of frustrating misunderstandings among friends. There’s a redemption arc that is believable and, in a time where positivity and hope have gone out of style, refreshing. It was a quick read, which was nice, but it also suggested a little room for further development. Which essentially is to say that my only complaint is that it should have been longer. The good news is that, I have heard, Walker has another book on the way.
Put down the robots and pick up a book already! This one specifically, you won’t be disappointed, I genuinely didn’t want to put this one down. Here’s a little treat for reading this review, Walker Ryan’s Wilshire Street part.
Watch it, then go buy this book. We got a couple left at the shop, otherwise click here.