Since 2005 the New York City skateboarding scene has had a maverick voice in Quartersnacks, a website that has represents all facets of the ever expanding local scene. Since its inception the site has grown into a brand, a content platform, and in many respects – a lifestyle. Here, founder and head writer Kosta reflects on his years skateboarding in a city that’s defined by constant change.
Out of all the corny phrases synonymous with skateboarding (“skate or die, dude”) there’s one that’s hard not to love – “You didn’t quit skateboarding because you got old, you got old because you quit skateboarding.” Jay Adams uttered the phrase in the 2001 documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys, and it’s been bounced around a bit since he passed away in 2014.
During the late ‘90s and early 2000s, when the groundwork for Quartersnacks was being laid, a lot of the skaters we thought of as ‘older dudes’ were already quitting. One had a kid, another moved to California, some got too wrapped up in the party, and others simply disappeared. A few kept it going and still show up to spots today, but most of the guys we stared at in old issues of Slap had phased out of it by the time we were old enough to buy cigarettes.
The thing about a lot of those older guys was that they were, um, assholes – or at least that’s how the 13-year-old versions of ourselves would classify them. The ones who worked at shops and never hooked it up, they would vibe us out of spots, and when we were spoken to it was often laced with a sarcasm that reiterated the line between us and them. We were the young dudes, and all young dudes did was get in the way.
These guys grew up the early ‘90s. They were from rough neighborhoods and went to awful high schools. None of them were well off and none of them had moved to New York to ‘make it’ in skating. They were New Yorkers, the guys you hear crazy stories about. As the city changed and we grew up, we understood them in context. The lessons they taught us became more invaluable: Don’t ask stupid questions, respect the spot, don’t get too gassed. They passed on what was taught to them, and in hindsight, it’s tough to resent that.
In 1997, a website called Metrospective began covering New York skateboarding. It featured a lot of the ‘classic’ New York street skaters, and the (then) next generation. Metrospective was one of the first websites to post videos of skateboarding online, and it happened to focus on skaters who we’d see at spots every weekend, but still felt were a world apart from us. Having a clip on Metrospective was as intangible as having a photo in a magazine. This is when your average skate clip ran four seconds and took five minutes to download. We still hung on to every frame, often saving them to our computer for easy access, like a digital version of cutting out a magazine ad and putting it on your wall.
Skateboarding’s popularity rose in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, just as the internet was becoming more accessible. Metrospective was still king, but a slew of other New York sites began to rise. This generation of DIY websites focused on specific crews within the city, rather than the entire New York City skate scene. There was Flipmode, the Queens kids who you may now know as Bronze, Pure New York, a bunch of south Brooklyn locals, Big Apple Skate, who mostly stuck around the upper east and west sides of Manhattan, Such A Good, who were north Jersey kids that made treks into the city every weekend, and a grip of others who didn’t weather adolescence. Quartersnacks began in 2005 in the same tradition. We were a group of friends who had been skating together for a long time, who finally had a serviceable camera, and a vague notion of HTML.
Every crew was cool with each other. There were no ‘turf wars’ or animosity about who showed up where. Flipmode kids would end up in our clips, and the other way around. In those days, everyone somehow felt the same age, but skating in New York was still growing. When we began the site, the age range of an average session spanned from 17 to 21 years old. When we go skating on a Saturday in 2015, it spans about 16 to 39. Kids will move here for college, friends will relocate for jobs, summer visitors become permanent residents, older guys get the itch to get back into it, and endlessly changing rosters get reshuffled as a result.
We spent a lot of our years in a gentrified New York, and most of us of us remember what we had to put up with when we were coming up. The old ‘survival of the fittest’ attitude doesn’t really apply in today’s Manhattan, so our generation is not that standoffish breed of OG New York skaters. Everyone is friendly now. For better or worse, New York skateboarding is one big college campus now.
The biggest irony of the stigmatised “cool guy” New York skater is that he doesn’t exist anymore. If you don’t remember what is was like to walk into Supreme and get the look of death for asking to use a skate tool, then you’re really not qualified to speak on it. Sure, there are downsides, namely when out-of-towers act up at the spots we grew up skating, but that’s how the city is now. Order isn’t as tight, and everyone is too nice to indulge conflict. Karma has a way of sorting out the rest when it sees fit.
To us, “getting old,” as the Jay Adams maxim would have it, sounds awful. For all its frustrations, skateboarding is still the best, even you’re not very good at it. Skating with the younger kids isn’t just an option, it’s essential to warding off the old age. Their residual energy keeps us going, especially once we all leave the skatepark. We didn’t grow up in skateparks, and only go to them now out of convenience. We grew up at street spots. Once it was Newport, then it became Seaport, then we moved to Red Benches, until all-day plaza skating ceased to be a part of life in New York towards the mid-2000s thanks to security.
These kids live at skateparks. They grew up in them. They got incredibly good at skateboarding in them. Once you let them out on the streets, they’re not stuck with our outdated way of perceiving a street spot as a few ledges and sets of steps. For them, nothing is off limits, and literally everything is an obstacle. They’ll skate broken-up cardboard boxes wrapped with twine if they have to. You need that optimism when you catch yourself lamenting spots that haven’t been around for 10 years.
There is no shortage of people to get psyched on skating with. Skaters moved to New York in droves this past decade. (If you let the California-based industry tell it, New York is skateboarding’s home from April to September every year.) It is impossible to keep track of every crew at this point — Bronze, Paych, Lurk NYC, Mira Conyo, the Cherry crew, the Welcome kids who spend prolonged summer months here — they all have their unique take on how skating in the city should look.
For this younger generation, websites aren’t really a factor. The new destinations for coverage rarely have a dot-com attached to them. Anyone paying moderate attention to Instagram, Tumblr or YouTube can get a good idea of who skates with who – and beyond that, in today’s New York everyone skates together. The camaraderie of mobbing to a spot 20-deep with your friends, some crew visiting from out of town, some pros, and even guys deep into their 30s is what’s inspiring now. Rather than logging onto a website to see what someone else did, the new generation is part of the doing. Seeing the clip down the line also means more if you were actually there.
New York’s vibe-heavy reputation was on its way out with our generation, and today’s kids have pretty much torn it completely down. They’ve eradicated the stigma of a big crew. The idea had always been “If we have a big crew, we’re going to get kicked out. You, you, and you can’t come.” The truth is that you’re going to get kicked out regardless. It’s New York, you’re going to get kicked out even if you skate alone. The big crew has one non-existent negative, and a whole lot of positives, in particular for those of us intent on maintaining an enthusiasm for skateboarding. We might get stuck watching an 18-year-old charge at a gap, but we’re all together, talking shit, skating flat, looking at girls, and having fun. That more age-appropriate low ledge is the next spot, just a few blocks away.