Skater Flashbacks, T-Shirts, and 'Bones Brigade: An Autobiography'
By Ashley Harkrider
Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero, Mike McGill, Rodney Mullen, Lance Mountain ... Even non-skateboarders will recognize some of these names. The impact they had on skateboarding in the 1980s made them household names, rock stars of sorts, and legitimized skateboarding as both an art and a sport. They were a group of kids, some as young as twelve, formed into an elite team by Stacy Peralta, who had partnered with George Powell to form Powell-Peralta Skateboards. The team became known as the Bones Brigade.
When I was 12 years old, I saw an ad in the back of a magazine to "join" the Bones Brigade. After a long day of begging, my mother relented and soon the mailman delivered a box with my official membership card and the greatest t-shirt I had ever seen. It had all-over print featuring the board logo designs from every single rider and a large "Member: Bones Brigade '89" on the back. They were my heroes, and I was now a part of them in my young eyes. Long story short, I spent the next 10 years of my life doing everything I could to be just like my heroes. I may not have achieved those dreams, but in watching Bones Brigade: An Autobiography and hearing both Rodney Mullen and Lance Mountain speak in person after the film, I couldn't help but find myself feeling the same rush I once did. I believe that everyone who experienced the rise of the Bones Brigade will never forget the effect it had on us all.
As I sat in the audience of Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, surrounded by skaters and those who understand and appreciate the contributions of athleticism and artistry that these young kids brought to the culture, I couldn't help but find myself fondly looking back on the hours I would spend watching them on old VHS tapes until they wore out, and then the pain that would result in my attempts to recreate the magic they displayed.
The documentary itself is a must-see, even for non-skaters, as it features the entire story of the forming of the Bones Brigade and the journey that changed an entire culture and made skateboarding the worldwide phenomenon it still is today, told by the people who were there. Footage of the skaters from the very beginning in the early '80s to the subsequent breakup of the core in the early '90s is shown, interweaved with current interviews with all the original riders, Stacy Peralta and George Powell, as well as others who were influenced by their skill and their contribution to our culture such as artist Shepard Fairey and musician Ben Harper.
In Bones Brigade: An Autobiography, you see the early footage as groundbreaking moves like the McTwist, Caballerial, and Flatland Olllie were hatched from the minds of mere teenagers and spawned an entirely new way to view the possibilities of what could be done on a skateboard. Even being a part of it as it was happening, it is even more dramatic in its impact upon looking back upon it as a whole as featured in the film. These are the guys that created the moves you see on the X-Games today, and in fact, are probably 99 percent of the reason that skateboarding has become a viable sport. It was truly an awe-inspiring journey onscreen.
After the Bones Brigade: An Autobiography screening, original Bones Brigade members Rodney Mullen and Lance Mountain took the stage for a Q&A session that was both a treat and an honor. Mullen expressed his humility and extreme gratitude to have been part of defining what he referred to as "the language" that allowed other kids to have a voice through their sport. He even revealed where he had mysteriously disappeared to in one of the documentary's scenes that had him suddenly bolting from the team van and going MIA for a couple of hours during one trip with the team (SPOILER ALERT: He was at a carwash skating).
Mountain talked about the origins of his famous board graphics and what it was like for him to have been part of a team of what are arguably the greatest skateboarders to ever live, as well as a comment on his views of the poor design of modern skate parks. They both seemed humbled and possibly a little taken aback by the overwhelming praise they were receiving, and I hope they left with a reinforcement in their minds of the huge effect they had on all of us who still look up to them and are witnesses each day to what they helped create.
As I shook their hands, it was akin to shaking hands with members of The Beatles. In the same way that The Beatles changed music forever and inspired millions of fans and artists, these guys did the same for skateboarding. To be able to tell them both face to face what they meant to me, and millions of others like me, was an experience I'll never forget.
And by the way, I still have that old "Member: Bones Brigade '89" t-shirt hanging in my closet ...
Ashley Harkrider is an intern at Austin Film Society
[Photo credits: "Bones Brigade: An Autobiography" logo from Vans, "Rodney and Lance at Premiere" from Austin Film Society archive, "Bones Brigade '89 T-shirt" from Ashley Harkrider]