New York Times and Toronto Star REMEMBRANCE: Skateboarding pioneer, Andy Kessler (48) dies of wasp sting
August 23rd, 2009
I had meant to post this a week ago. Andy Kessler…
The thing is that for readers to understand the importance of skateboarding pioneer Andy Kessler, you have to know something about the skateboarding culture. Far too many of us see skateboarders as thugs-on-wheels.
And when we see graffiti and tags, we make an immediate connection to skateboarders.
I can tell you this from my summer research here on Maiui. Real skateboarders have the same contempt for the “thugs-on-wheels” as real graffiti artists have for taggers.
Real skateboarders are athletes and like top tier surfers, they’re Alpha-Male-fearless-crazy. (Expect skateboarding to become an Olympic sport.)
While I began my study of skateboarders and skateboard parks in Mississauga —and then Hamilton, it took quality time at Maui, Hawaii’s three skateboard parks for me to GET it. Get real skateboarding.
I didn’t know who Andy Kessler was until I read his Obituary in the Toronto Star. He was a skateboarding pioneer, died at age 48 from a wasp sting. I can’t emphasize enough that to understand real skateboarding, you have to know that the first skateboarders were surfers.
Thought I’d share a portion of this Blog commemorating Kessler —“The End of Falling”, from the New York Times first.
What’s interesting is Bret Anthony Johnston’s comparison between the East Coast skateboarders and the West Coast ones (“gritty, dirty, and beautiful, the shadow-version of the breezy West Coast surf-style”).
That’s the same difference that I’ve observed this summer between the Mississauga/Hamilton skaters vs those at the three skateboard parks in Maui, Hawaii.
Excerpt from the New York Times Blog, “Happy Days, The Pursuit of What Matters in Troubled Times”
Image Courtesy of the New York Times
Andy Kessler, West 30th Street, Manhattan, 2005. Ivory Serra
August 13, 2009, 11:15 pmBy Bret Anthony Johnston
I’ve been skateboarding seriously for more than 20 years, and while I never met Andy Kessler, I know his life story. Most skaters over the age of 25 do. Born in Greece and raised on West 71st Street in Manhattan, Kessler started skateboarding when he was 11. This was in the 1970s, a time when skateboarding was so alien to New York City that he had to mail-order his gear from California. Significance-wise, think: Prometheus and fire. When other kids saw Kessler carving around the Upper West Side on his board — which would’ve been three inches wide with metal wheels — they followed, and just like that, the East Coast skate scene was born. It was gritty, dirty, and beautiful, the shadow-version of the breezy West Coast surf-style.
And now, with special thanks to the Toronto Star.
COURTESY THE TORONTO STAR:
TheStar.com | Obituary |
Aug 15, 2009 04:30 AM
The next time some punk skateboarder cuts you off on a downtown sidewalk, curse Andy Kessler.
California’s skateboarding pioneers were surfers, kids who rode in empty backyard swimming pools when they couldn’t ride the waves.
Because there were fewer pools in New York, young rebels there were forced to pioneer city skating. In the late 1970s, a group of a few dozen teenagers turned the features of the urban landscape – stairs, poles, flower planters – into obstacles to be challenged and conquered.
“It was about making that action happen with your imagination,” J.J. Veronis, one of those rebels, told The East Hampton Star. “And Andy was king.”
Kessler, born in Greece in 1961 and raised in New York, was the unofficial leader of the Soul Artists of Zoo York, the city’s first skateboard crew. The Upper West Side was their laboratory – and their fishbowl. When they began skating, they had to order their gear by mail from California; in large part because of their rolling advertisements for the sport, New York developed its own burgeoning scene.
Kessler received his first skateboard from his mother at age 10. Like most Zoo Yorkers, he dabbled in graffiti and drugs as a teenager. After the crew disbanded in the 1980s, he became an addict. But he recovered. He then helped take skateboarding off city streets.
Despite his dedication to street skateboarding, Kessler long advocated the creation of a haven where New York’s skaters could ride unbothered. In the mid-1990s, his lobbying persuaded the municipal government to build its first public skate park. The city hired him as lead designer, and he eked out a living creating several more.
Kessler continued skating into his 40s. While young skaters tended to be unaware of his contribution, an ignorance that sometimes bothered him, the older ones never forgot. In 2005, dozens helped raise thousands of dollars for his medical care when he broke his femur in a wipeout.
Though he could be unpleasant – “Some days you caught him and he was a jerk, some days you’d sit and talk for hours,” skate-park builder Tim Vander told ESPN – he was widely beloved.
Kessler died Tuesday of a heart attack following an allergic reaction to a wasp sting at a cottage on Long Island.
He was 48.
This pic is dedicated to Andy Kessler. I’m sure he’d know what the kid on his back and under his skateboard is doing. But up until my husband and I witnessed it, we wouldn’t have been able to guess.
The (Special mahalo nui loa to the skaters at Keopuolani Skate Park, Kahului. Maui, Hawaii) Mississauga Muse
“Often, especially when Kessler was nurturing what would become the East Coast scene, the kids who gravitated toward skateboarding were misfits and malcontents, the shy outcasts who’d been intimidated and sullied by the complex pressures of social interaction. Skateboarding gave them an identity and voice, and Kessler, by example, gave them the confidence to declare themselves to society.”
“This is who he was and how he’ll be remembered, as a man who understood the abiding and cathartic power of resilience. You don’t give in. You take every run —on the ramp, with recovery, at City Hall.”
Bret Anthony Johnston from “The End of Falling” New York Times Blog, “Happy Days, The Pursuit of What Matters in Troubled Times”
READ THE TORONTO STAR ONLINE
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