Style or difficulty when it comes to skateboarding? Which do you prefer? Or do you prefer both? Does a simple No Comply done proper hold the same weight as a crappy 360 Flip on flat? Is a proper Tuck Knee on a frontside air better than a blasted Stink Bug Air? Is doing an advanced technical flip trick below the lip better than a stylish kickflip blasted over the lip? Is it pushing Mongo or a traditional kick and push; with your front foot forward?
Suppose it’s all open to interpretation but does style matter? What if the trick was super difficult but executed poorly? Which is more important, difficulty or style? Or is it a mix of both? We’ve all seen the guy at the skatepark who can throw and go while cranking out some really technical tricks in a short burst. But they may not look as appealing as the guy who’s casually cruising around the park doing proper as fuck Kickflips knee-high every try in the middle of a line consistently.
Who’s better? The super tech guy who’s got a few short burst bangers under his belt or the fast skating, stylish guy, casually linking lines together with a mix of simple and advanced tricks throughout the park? Is there more value in the more challenging technical trick, even if it looks like vomit and is sketchy? Or is there more value in the stylish, knee-high Kickflip, done at full speed and executed with perfection?
How do we define style in skateboarding? Suppose it’s in the eye of the beholder. However, many would agree there’s a consensus on what looks “good” and what looks “bad” when it comes to style. Most skaters know when landing a trick feels sketchy. Or if it didn’t feel as good as it could have when rolling away. But that also brings up the idea of “good sketchy” as a style. Like the slight speed wobble or inadvertent powerslide after landing a trick. Or the infamous flailing arms after a gnarly hill bomb or handrail.
But what is “bad style”? I think most of us know it when we see it. It’s the toe drag or lunch break when landing a trick. What’s a “lunch break”? It’s when you land your trick on transition and pause overly long on a stall. For example, a blunt to fakie, you roll up the transition and lock into the blunt stall. But instead of popping in quick, you wait an excessively long time to adjust your feet right, making sure you’re balanced, displaying a lack of confidence in the execution of the trick. A lack of confidence in the commitment part of the trick. The act of actually landing and riding away.
That hesitation is known as a lunch break, and people notice it. It’s a negative mark against your execution of the trick, your style while doing the trick. It can happen with almost any stall or grind on almost any terrain. “Bad style” could be going too slow when doing a line or rolling up to an obstacle. It could also simply be an ugly trick, like a “Roast Beef” or “Stink Bug” air. What’s a stink bug air? See the photo below.
So what’s “good style”? It’s inspiring, confident, and effortless. When you see a person do a trick with style, it makes you want to try it and do it the way they did it. It’s the style aspect that gets you pumped or inspired. The way the person executed the trick with confidence, making it look effortless. Like they’re fully comfortable with the trick. It’s Stefan Janoski’s Trelfips, Grant Taylor’s Frontside Ollies, Koston’s K-Grinds, Chad Muska’s Muska Flips, Tony Trujillo’s Stalefishes, or anything John Cardiel or Mark Gonzales do on a skateboard.
Is it really about who’s better? Not in our eyes, but does style matter? We’d say fuck yes. The skater who can deliver on both style and difficultly has a leg up over the guy who does difficult tricks but in a lackluster way. Style is the “soul” aspect of a Trick, the “IT” factor. It’s the mastering of a Trick, knowing it like the back of one’s hand. It’s full confidence and control, it’s what makes skateboarding such an artform.
To put it simply, some skaters can do tricks, and some skaters master them. Which one are you?