Nike SB and Freestylin’ Magazine’s ‘Generation F’ BMX Book

It’s all too easy to say, ‘Oh yeah – I was down with XYZ back in the day’, when in reality you had nothing to do with any aspect of it. With various brands muscling their way into the numerous subcultures, a number of interesting projects have gained attention far wider than they would have within their insular little scenes. Whether that’s for good or bad, I’m not totally sure yet, but it’s interesting to watch.

Nike’s last foray into the world of ‘extreme sports’ (sorry to use that term, but in reality that’s going to be the best way to describe the genre to any outsiders) had them finally cracking the skate angle properly, developing a solid range of products and forming a second-to-none team (OK… maybe Lakai or DVS deserve this crown). So when we heard that they were making in-roads into BMX, I was quietly confident that it’d be done nicely. And it was.

The shoes were interesting enough, but I’ll get back to those shortly. The focus of this editorial is the amazing promotional book that announced the launch of the project. Nike SB’s John Martin asked Mark Lewman (I could go off on a tangent here and break down this man’s participation within so many of the interests I’ve had over the years, but I’ll let you Google this yourself) a loaded question: if he could do anything for a BMX-related project, what would he do? Lewman reunited the ‘Freestylin’ magazine editorial team (that’d be Spike Jonze and Andy Jenkins, in case you were wondering) and between them, they put together an incredible outline of the pioneering days of freestyle BMX.

Editorial articles would’ve been good enough, but they tracked down the original riders and interviewed them all individually, giving an incredibly interesting series of personal accounts. If you ever had the fortune to read ‘Freestylin’ back in the day (or ‘Club Homeboy’ …or ‘Loft’… or any of their editorial produce), then this is the equivalent of the last issue ever. But in hardback. I’ll throw my controlled demeanour aside for just a second and just say it’s fucking awesome.

Kicking off the interviews is the founder of freestyle, Bob Haro. Other than a couple of recent Nike-related publicity interviews with Bob, I didn’t really know too much about what he’d been up to in recent years, so this was a treat. The same with the Mike Dominguez, Maurice Meyer and Craig Campbell sections, which I re-read as soon as I’d finished: these were the guys who were on the posters on my wall when I was 8 or 9 years old. Eddie Fiola, Kevin Jones, Brian Blyther, Ron Wilkerson… the list of legends featured goes on and on and on. Obviously, Hoffman is there as well.

I wish that Dave Vanderspek, Neil Ruffell, Pepi Winder and the other lost comrades could have been with us to have seen this. It’s amazing how this first wave of riders pioneered freestyle for all subsequent bikers ever since. Reading Joe Johnson’s account on his first tailwhip airs or about Wilkerson’s infamous crash (which left him comatose) filled me with awe and nostalgia. It’s not hard to find new-found respect for many of the riders who seemingly ‘disappeared’ from the scene, only to find they’d stuck to their morals, ditched their sponsors – and continued to ride for their own pleasure. Josh White is a perfect example.

The nice introductory letter and the tongue-in-cheek subscription card inserted into the pages made me smile. It’s precisely this attention to detail that makes a project like this stand out so much; instead of stamping their mark throughout the entire book, Nike let these guys do what they do best with minimum interference.

The only criticism I have for such an impressive project is the distribution. Limited edition projects are all well and good, but when something that’s as culturally important and interesting as this, I think it should be available to anyone who wants a copy. 2500 copies were printed, each with a nice box, but when you see multiple copies being flung up on eBay by the same sellers and then hear that a riding legend such as Dave Voelker didn’t get given a copy, you have to question the fairness. In short, if you weren’t connected (or lucky), you were going to have to pay the resellers prices to get a copy. Looking at my parents attic full of my old bike mags and dad’s garage strewn with my broken bicycle and skate parts, I had no real choice but to give in and buy one. I actually ended up unintentionally buying two copies after forgetting to cancel an auction bid – and gave my spare copy to my man C-Law over in Portland, because I knew he’d love this. To make it clear, I doubt anyone’s blaming Lew, Spike and Jenkins for the limited availability, but I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping that they follow this up with a widely-available sequel sooner rather than later.

I spent the next three evenings reading this book from cover to cover. Might as well ditch the nice box that it came in, as this is going to be picked up again and again. I’ll get to the shoes the book was intended to promote in a later post, which makes me wonder if I’m doing things the way they were intended by the people at Nike… Hmmm.

Courtesy of 23mag.com (seriously guys, thanks for this), here’s the entire book as an online flick-through. It might just tip you over the edge.

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