The early 2000s were a golden age of journalism in skateboard history. In the United States, the freshly rebooted Skateboarder Magazine explored the subtleties of skate culture with some of the day’s finest skateboard writers on staff. The Skateboard Mag elevated the look and quality of print magazines, while the holy trinity of Slap, Thrasher, and TransWorld Skateboarding maintained their unique voices at newsstands worldwide. Magazine publishing was even still lucrative enough to sustain outliers like the lifestyle driven TransWorld vehicle Stance.
Over in Europe, Kingpin Magazine set out to provide a platform for a unified European skate scene and published four language editions (English, French, Spanish, and German) on a monthly basis at the height of its print run. Every country across Western Europe was home to at least four regular print magazines, and the amount of words written about skateboarding – and the number of writers getting paid to pen them – was at an all-time high.
Fast-forward to 2020 and look how times have changed.
Printed skateboarding magazines have mostly gone the way of the dodo. The majority of skate mags from 20 years ago have either gone fully digital or ceased to exist. The latter also applies to full-time jobs for skateboard writers and other chroniclers of skateboard history. In a digitally disrupted skateboard media landscape, the death of print publishing has left a gaping hole in the economics of skateboard journalism; a hole only very few writers manage to fill these days in what has become a constant hustle of side gigs and one-off article commissions for brands or skate retailers.
On that note, how does a new generation of skateboard writers even get a start under these circumstances?
Enter Daniel Fedkenheuer. At age 24, the New Jersey transplant has established solid roots in the California skateboarding scene. He has successfully applied his writing talent to Concrete Wave magazine as one of the few titles that still published a print edition until recently, as well as digital outlets such as Everything Skateboarding and the Stoked Rideshop website. To pay the bills, Daniel landed a full-time job at one of the skate industry’s most storied brand conglomerates, Dwindle Distribution in El Segundo.
Over the last two-and-a-half years, Daniel also chronicled skateboard history from 1999 until 2020 in a new book titled The Next Wave, published in partnership with the Skateboarding Hall of Fame and Museum (SHoF) in Simi Valley, California (also read our Illpaper interview with SHoF mastermind Todd Huber). Available now, the full-color softcover book paints a vivid picture of the past two decades through interviews with skateboard industry representatives such as Don Brown, Mark Waters, Soy Panday, and George Powell as well as pro skateboarders including Paul ‘P-Rod’ Rodriguez, Vanessa Torres, Leo Baker, and Greg Lutzka.
In our ILLUMINATED PAPER interview, Daniel Fedkenheuer explains the genesis of his skateboard history book The Next Wave and details leaving his East Coast life behind to pursue the skateboarding life in sunny California. Grab a nice cup of tea or coffee for this one.
Please introduce yourself and how you got involved in skateboarding.
My name is Daniel Fedkenheuer and I am 24 years old. I first got involved in skateboarding about a decade ago, after my hometown in New Jersey built our local park. I took a few years learning how to tre flip and learning which office buildings in town had no security guards.
Was skateboarding also the reason for leaving New Jersey?
By the time I fell in love with the lifestyle that the skate industry projected, I realized that the scene in northern, suburban New Jersey was nearly nonexistent. As I got older and prepared to move out of my hometown, I started networking online and taking steps to pursue a career related to skateboarding more seriously. As soon as I graduated college, I followed the dream of moving out to California and have been working in the industry ever since.
“Writing became my vehicle for going to events, visiting different companies and connecting me to the world of other skateboarders that my hometown lacked.”
How did you decide to become a writer and, by extension, how did you start writing about skateboarding?
In the process of trying to put my name out there, I linked up with Michael Brooke, former editor of Concrete Wave Magazine. Though I lacked any prior experience, he embraced the fact that I was eager to get involved.
That’s awesome. I got started by connecting to a skateboard distributor in Germany who was starting his own magazine in the early 1990s. They sat me down and said, ‘This is an Apple Macintosh computer’ and we took it from there. What was your first task at Concrete Wave?
I started by redesigning their website and naturally, we needed content to fill it. To do so, Michael guided me through different writing assignments and connected me with dozens of people from his network in New York City and beyond. Writing became my vehicle for going to events, visiting different companies and connecting me to the world of other skateboarders that my hometown lacked.
MOVING TO CALI IN SEARCH OF SKATEBOARD HISTORY
You secured a full-time position in the skateboard industry to facilitate your move to California. What are your responsibilities at Dwindle?
My full-time gig at Dwindle is working as an Inside Sales Representative. After some recent changes, I currently oversee sales for all of our core skate shops in the United States, Canada, and South America. I work with a solid group of outside reps to process orders for skate shops and make sure that they are stocked with the right mix of product that moves for them.
Does your ‘day job’ connect to your writing work about skateboard history?
In truth, my full-time work is pretty separate from the writing I do on the side. I would love to make it more connected though. I’ve formed relationships with a bunch of shop owners, skaters and artists through this job. My plan is to start collaborating with these people and feature them in future publications.
Speaking of publications, what kind of media and magazines do you write for?
As of late, I’ve been trying to make some new connections and align with smaller, independent publishers. I recently started working with Stoke Much, a magazine based here in LA. By nature, their aim is to highlight the creative culture of skateboarding and the guy behind it, Zach Moldof, encourages long form content. After writing something as literal as a history book, it’s been a refreshing change of pace to experiment with some more conceptual writing for their upcoming issues.
SKATEBOARD HISTORY WRITING IN 2020
Overall it feels like the amount of writing about skateboarding has dramatically declined, with all the print magazines gone and everything pivoted to video. What are your thoughts?
In the printed form, it certainly feels as though traditional editorial has fallen by the wayside. It’s sometimes disheartening to think that the only consistent literature we get as a community are the monthly Thrashers and the occasional Free Skate Mag issues that make their way over from Europe.
Do you think that digital media can fill the gap and document skateboard history?
Obviously, there are some solid sites out there that have demanded space for editorial on the web as well. Chrome Ball has been holding it down for years and Quarter Snacks always keeps up with things.
But isn’t it gnarly to think that these are all one-man operations, or very small teams on bootstrap budgets, who provide this kind of core commentary, especially compared to having full editorial staffs and travel budgets at skate mags in the early 2000s?
It would be nice to see more support from the industry on projects like those though. I would much rather see brands putting their money towards creating meaningful, sponsored content rather than dumping their marketing budgets into 30-second pre-roll ads on Thrasher.
When you looked at print magazines for the skateboard history book, did you notice a sharp decline in the number or publications and frequency?
Partially, yes. As a prime example, Transworld started to cut their circulation and eventually stopped printing altogether as I was in the middle of working on this project. I was especially upset to have seen that because the last batch of issues that Keegan Callahan designed were beautifully laid out.
On a smaller scale though, it seems like I’ve been finding tons of new indie zines through Instagram these days. That side of print media has always been active and will continue to be, despite Thrasher’s-near monopoly on the mainstream.
“I would much rather see brands putting their money towards creating meaningful, sponsored content rather than dumping their marketing budgets into 30-second pre-roll ads on Thrasher.”
WRITING ‘THE NEXT WAVE’ OF SKATEBOARD HISTORY
Let’s talk about the book. First of all, congratulations on such a major achievement. What made you choose the time period in skateboard history between 1999 and now?
The concept for the book came about when I was still writing for Concrete Wave Magazine. For context, the magazine was born out of a well-known book called The Concrete Wave that Michael Brooke published in 1999. His text covered skateboarding’s history from the ‘50s up to the turn of the century. As the 20-year anniversary of the book approached, I pitched the idea of writing a sequel to it, covering everything that transpired since the original book hit shelves.
I’m well-familiar with ‘The Concrete Wave’ and everyone writing about skateboard history still looks to it as a resource. On that note, what kind of materials and sources did you rely on to tell this history?
The majority of the research for this book was conducted online. Some brands, like éS, have their timelines extremely well documented on their individual websites. Beyond that, folks like Jenkem have done an exceptional job of keeping their finger on the pulse of the most topical conversations in skateboarding this past decade. I referenced their site constantly in the process of preparing for interviews and trying to organize all the different stories.
How about finding printed publications and books about recent skateboard history? It seems like the death of print journalism also impacted history books.
Adapting this research to the printed form did require inspiration from a number of previously published books. To call out a few specifically, The Illustrated History of Skateboard Footwear was a useful example of how to catalog a significant amount of talking points across several decades. Also, Iain Borden’s, Skateboarding Space and the City helped provide an understanding of how to integrate higher-level concepts into the conversations regarding specific individuals and companies.
“As the 20-year anniversary of the book approached, I pitched the idea of writing a sequel to it, covering everything that transpired since the original book hit shelves.”
TELLING SKATEBOARD HISTORY THROUGH INTERVIEWS
You paint a very thorough picture of the last two decades of skateboard history in ‘The Next Wave’ and the research really shows through. When I researched the 1970s for my books, I made some surprising discoveries. For instance that insurance was not really the full reason the entire skate park area died down. Did you make any surprising discoveries about this recent history you are covering?
Being that I had been closely observing skateboarding for the time period that the book covered, I was not necessarily surprised by what I researched. I would say I was more surprised when I took a step back and reconsidered the implications of certain movements discussed in the text.
Ha, it is much easier to write about a period you actually experienced. What are some of these recent movements you explored?
Using the example of skate parks, I remember watching Rob Dyrdek first explain the concept of a skate plaza on MTV. When they started building plazas in New Jersey, I thought nothing of it. It seemed on-trend with what the rest of the country was doing. In the process of writing the book, however, I spoke to the people behind CA Skateparks about their work’s trajectory from the planning stages to Street League to the Olympics. Reflecting on that and putting it in context with skateboarding’s overall growth during this time provided a greater sense of appreciation for those parks that I once took for granted.
Speaking of context, who are some key interviewees and contributors that provide perspective your history book?
I placed heavy emphasis on interviews and outside contributions to piece these stories together, so there are a bunch of them. If I had to pick, Leo Baker’s feature towards the end is a critical one. We did the interview just before the Nike ‘Dream Big’ campaign and the Dazed article when their name change dropped. Both of these, plus the work they’ve continued to do in this space, heavily supports the statements they made about marginalized groups having more of a presence in skateboarding going forward.
There are also a couple pages that feature an excerpt of an interview I did with Chris Nieratko. He has a completely different approach to editorial than I do but the way he spoke on the role of skate shops fit perfectly into the book’s interlude. I know he holds skate shops near and dear to his heart and the way he articulated his perspective in that section of the book demonstrates it.
“However, the Financial Crisis of 2008 was a significant blow to the community – far more significant than I realized.”
PUTTING SKATEBOARD HISTORY IN PERSPECTIVE
In terms of skateboarding‘s popularity, 1999 was the start of an all-time peak and it has kind of flat lined from there. How are the ups and downs in skate participation as you researched for your book?
As the book elaborates on, the X-Games-900-Tony-Hawk’s-Pro-Skater era was a major catalyst for skateboarding’s growth at the time. For the mainstream industry, participation and sales charted well over the next several years.
However, the Financial Crisis of 2008 was a significant blow to the community – far more significant than I realized, being that I was only 12 at the time it was unfolding. Skateboarding’s saving grace at that time was technology and the internet. Just as Fully Flared put the cap on that era of mid-2000s skateboarding, the era of social media was right around the corner. As YouTube and Instagram democratized the skateboarding landscape, participation grew positively thanks to the lower barrier to entry.
Would you say right now we are in an upward trend as far as participation goes?
Skateboarding is undoubtedly in an upward trend. Using Dwindle as a benchmark for the rest of the industry, I’m seeing sales figures go through the roof right now. Online retailers are ordering unfathomable amounts of product, both for immediate delivery and for this coming holiday season. It’s only a matter of time before these boards make their way out of the shops and into the streets.
Your book also benefits the Skateboarding Hall of Fame. Please tell us how this partnership came about and how the book supports the work of the Hall of Fame?
About halfway through producing the book, Concrete Wave was sold and the original agreement to publish it under their name was voided. I was sitting on a bunch of content already and had more interviews lined up. Determined to keep the project aligned with an organization that matched the goals of the book, I offered the SHoF to put their stamp on the book in an effort to cross-promote.
The official launch at the SHoF was put on hold by COVID situation but once the smoke clears, the book will have its official retail home in the Simi Valley. The proceeds from all sales will go towards the museum’s mission to pay tribute to the skaters that have spearheaded the culture.
The Hall of Fame is the perfect place for it, especially because there’s not much written about the history of skateboarding. So, what will be your next project?
To be honest, the two-and-a-half years it took to conceptualize and produce this book were far longer than I anticipated. Though the satisfaction of holding a finished product with more than eighty thousand words is great, the process was strenuous.
I’m still fleshing out ideas but would really love to start publishing a zine in the next year or so. I’ve been really inspired by reading back issues of Frank151 lately and would love to print some shorter publications with a different theme for each issue.
And finally, what do you want readers to know going into the book?
I would say the thing to keep in mind when reading the book is how interconnected the skateboarding world is. If you flip through the index, you’ll find hundreds of people who have dedicated their lives to this culture. With the growing population of skateboarders around the world, there is no shortage of established community members that can help enable others. At all times, we should be encouraging new faces to step on a skateboard and become one of us. We are all in this together. Since day one.
Thanks for the interview and keeping skateboard writing alive, Daniel.
“At all times, we should be encouraging new faces to step on a skateboard and become one of us. We are all in this together. Since day one.”