personal reflections

Learning from the Bones Brigade

On Sunday we went to see Bones Brigade – An Autobiography:

The Bones Brigade was a talented gang of teenage outcasts. Unmotivated by fame or popularity, they completely dedicated their lives to a disrespected art form. For most of the 1980s, this misfit crew headed by a 1970s ex-skateboard champion blasted the industry with a mixture of art and raw talent becoming the most popular skateboarding team in history. The core unit of the Bones Brigade built an empire that covered the world. They dominated contests, made hundreds of thousands of dollars, created the modern skateboard video, reinvented endemic advertising, pushed skate progression into a new era, and set the stage for a totally new form of skating called street style. There’s nothing comparable in today’s skateboarding.

I wish I had brought my Moleskine to the theatre because there were so many quotes and ah-has that I wanted to jot down. One of my big zap! moments was when Mike McGill was talking about another skater Alan Gelfand, who invented the Ollie, and his fellow Bones Brigader, Steve Caballero, who invented the Caballerial (a 360-degree no-handed aerial). He said, tinged with sarcasm and frustration, “Great – what am I going to come up with?”

I’ve been feeling that. I stand on the shoulders of giants. I borrow constantly from peers who post and share what they are doing. I’ve often described myself as a cross-pollinator who will reach across disciplines for ideas that I can combine and try out. A pure creator? I don’t feel I’m that. But I want to be. Is that egotistical? Self-serving? Arrogant? Yikes.

Another Bones Brigader, Rodney Mullen,  described in the movie how skaters would learn tricks from each other and the really great feeling came when you could take that and create from it. I found a TEDx talk he gave and here are a few quotes:

That’s where the joy was for me, always, was in creating new stuff.

Real respect is given by how much we take what other guys do, these basic tricks, these 360 flips, we take that, we make it our own, and then we contribute back to the community in a way that edifies the community itself. The greater the contribution the more we express and form our individuality.

Beautiful symmetry…the degree to which we connect to a community is in proportion to our individuality. Which we are expressing by what we do.

What is it to hack? It’s knowing a technology so well that you can manipulate and steer it to do things it was never intended to do.

There is an intrinsic value in creating something for the sake of creating it. There is this beauty in dropping it into a community and seeing it disperse.

Some big take-aways for me here: 1. My yearning to create. 2. Expressing and forming my individuality, and how forming my individuality will further grow my connection to my community. 3. Deeply knowing the technologies I use (group processes) to hack and crack something new. 4. Giving respect to my community by ‘making it my own’ and contributing back.

PS Mike McGill did come up with something – the McTwist, a mid-air, flipping 540-degree spin. It was a groundbreaking trick that dominated skateboarding for many years afterwards.