First thing’s first. We want to thank our vocal readers who participated in the ‘Top 10 Blade Video’ series we did last month! Narrowing down 3 decades and hundreds of titles wasn’t easy (for you or for us), but the results are in on the reader’s choice for Top 10 blade videos of all time.
If you’re just catching this, quick re-cap: We spoke with filmers, videographers, editors in blade media (past and present) about the full-length videos that influenced them, then turned it over to Be-Mag readership to voice their top picks. (If we had done edits, we’d still be counting!)
Editor in Chief Kevin Little delves into the final video selection and provides some insights into each title and reasons why each has earned their place in the collective history of rollerblading.
PHOTO: RYAN LOEWY, @ryanloewy
1 | LEADING THE BLIND
There were very few videos as highly anticipated as the release of 4×4‘s team video Leading the Blind. When team mates Brian Shima and Jon Elliott departed the iconic Mindgame wheel company to establish 4×4, it created a seismic shift in the blading landscape. Although it was never expressed directly, it seemed like the 4×4 guys had a chip on their shoulders to drop a video that would be as momentous and impactful as Mindgame’s freshman project, Brain Fear Gone.
When 4×4 assembled their super-team with the likes of legendary bladers such as Alex Broskow, Chris Haffey, Pat Lennon, and Brian Shima, you had all the right ingredients for an epic production! Then you have Jan Welch teaming up with Pat in the filming and editing responsibilities, which gives you the ’92 era ‘Olympic Dream Team’ in blade-form. Lord knows how much more epic Leading the Blind could have been had Jon Elliott and Rob Thompson had full sections like they were originally intended.
The very first few seconds of Leading the Blind come at you like a bat out of hell and surprisingly keeps that same fevered pitch throughout the entirety of the video. LTB features so many legendary tricks, yet highlights such as Haffey’s massive fakie 720 down the El Toro set, Pat Lennon‘s two story gap to royale, Shima’s picnic table setup to death drop soul grind, and Broskow’s mind blowing 5 rail transfer are forever burned into my mind! LTB set the bar so incredibly high as far as amplitude that no video as a whole has come close to touching it since (IMHO). I’d wager that is one of the reasons why it rests at the top of our reader’s polls for the best blade video of all time.
2 | WORDS
The Mindgame wheel company had their work cut out for them after releasing their revolutionary debut video, Brain Fear Gone. Trying to live up to the hype that came along with such an innovative video must have been a daunting task for the team (then composed of Dustin Latimer, Aaron Feinberg and Chris Farmer) to have created a sophomore production that lived up to (and arguably exceeded the level of skating in) Brain Fear Gone.
For a video limited to only three cast members, Words delivered a mind blowing production that further cemented their legacy of pushing the boundaries of what is possible on skates, either from seeing skate spots outside of the typical ledge/handicap rail/stair rail formula or re-imagining trick potential with implementation of parkour-esque movements. One of the most memorable moments of the video being the onslaught of tricks that Dustin Latimer performs on the body of his Honda, which likely gave car enthusiasts full blown aneurysms at the time.
Mindgame set many trends and elevated the game in their short tenure and some of the tricks done in Words are still very much ahead of their time (even by today’s standards). The team compilation that is included in the bonus content in the Words DVD still stands as some of the best six minutes ever assembled IMO. The montage shows the best clips from the video in a stripped down, raw format that still gives me goosebumps even after all these years of repeated watchings.
3 | BRAIN FEAR GONE
Few videos have made such a massive impact on the landscape of modern blading as Mindgame’s freshman video, Brain Fear Gone. With a revolutionary lineup of Dustin Latimer, Brian Shima, Jon Elliott, and amateur rider Omar Wysong, BFG was highly anticipated at the time of it’s release. Few could imagine the amount of influence it would have some twenty years later!
The legendary skating featured in BFG helped propel the progression of blade tricks into the next decade. The level of amplitude seemed to be dialed up a notch in comparison to other films that were released around that same era. Although most will remember BFG for its epic hammers, the video helped popularize (the somehow still controversial) trend of freestyle (ungrabbed) tricks. It’s fairly common place in 2020, but it wasn’t commonplace prior to BFG. Mindgame made thinking outside the box and being unconventional cool, sparking the imagination of leagues of skaters globally. It inspired skaters to see spots and tricks differently, allowing each skater to come up with their own adaptation and take on how they could stand out. It is highly unlikely that we would have sub-genres of skating such as “mushroom blading” without Mindgame’s early influence upon the community.
Along with these many attributes, BFG had a clever presentation in the form of a secret team rider placed in silhouette of the video cover and a secret anagram in the form of the title (BFG is Aaron Feinberg‘s name rearranged). This is a move you’d be hard-pressed to replicate in the digital age. It would be extremely difficult to keep a secret rider under wraps today. It would go viral in minutes! BFG came out at just the right time to create a truly memorable viewing experience for the blading community.
4 | COUP DE TAT
The cast of USD‘s first video, Coup De Tat, reads like the blading hall of fame, featuring the legends Jon Julio, Dustin Latimer, Kevin Gillan, Champion Baumstimler, Josh Petty and Brian Shima. Coup De Tat boasted itself as being the most anticipated video in rollerblading history and at that point in time, they were 100% right. To top off the prestigious lineup, USD had Joe Navran at the helm, who is one of blade game’s most respected and admired videographers.
CDT featured dialogue from the team introducing their fellow team member’s profiles, which was a unique touch that showcased the personalities to each rider and left you more endeared to that particular skater’s identity.
You can tell that when you assemble a group of the world’s best skaters together, that you are going to come back with pure magic. To say CDT’s lineup brought out their A-Game would be a massive understatement! The boys absolutely smashed it – from highly technical true spin moves which were all the rage at the time to stylish lines and gnarly drop rails, Navran seemed to have brought out the best from each skater. He captured cutting edge, stylish skating and wove together sections effortlessly.
CDT was so enduring because each team member brought something different and appealing to the table. You had the surgical stylings of Kevin Gillian, the charismatic personality of Josh Petty, the raw fuck-it attitude of Champion Baumstimler, the inhuman, nuanced control of Dustin Latimer, the iconic steeze of Jon Julio and the balls-to-the-wall stunts of Brian Shima.
Navran laid out the classic team video format. CDT was light hearted some points while also showing the harsh reality skaters had to endure such as injuries, dealing with law enforcement and harassment from property owners. CDT made the skaters appear as a family rather than random riders who happen to ride for the same company. It was cohesive from start to finish, which is a tough thing to accomplish.
5 | ROAD TO NOWHERE
The release of Brandon Negrete‘s video Road to Nowhere was a pivotal moment in rollerblading. RTN and it’s contemporaries seemed to usher in a new age of rollerblading where the skating took a much needed step-back from the need for gnarly, death-defying hammers and refocused itself into a more widely accessible ‘style-over-stunts mentality. It showed a shift toward skaters who favored slimmer, tighter fitting attire over XL sweatpants. (What, you thought you would come to Be-Mag and escape without an infamous “pantz” reference? Think again, mon frère!
RTN features Chase Rushing, Michael Collins, Sean Santamaria, Brenton Wheeler, Kaya Turski, Micah Yeager, and Mike Lilly (with a special appearance by Alex Broskow). The now cult classic video didn’t get nearly enough credit at the time of its release. It’s griwb popular over the years, in thanks in part to novel thing called the “world-wide-web”….or something like that.
The vibe you come away with is good natured and up-beat. It’s a video that doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is one of the main reasons why it is so appealing.
That being said, RTN is ripe with incredibly stylish and formative performances from the motley crew of savages. On the avante guard of toe rolling was Chase Rushing‘s inventive usage that were years ahead of it’s time. You had the youthful, freshly coming into his energy of a pubescent Michael Collins. There was the trend setting stylings of Micah Yeager. The side-splitting and mindblowing rippings of Mike Lilly. Solid and smooth grinds and gaps from future X-Games skiiing champ, Kaya Turski.
More than anything, you came away feeling like you knew every one of them by the end of the journey.
REST IN POWER TO THE LATE, GREAT, BRANDON JESUS NEGRETE
6 | KFC 3: STRAIGHT JACKET
I was attendance for the premiere of the KFC 3: Straight Jacket at the Eisenberg Hoedown many, many moons ago. I distinctly remember Adam Johnson selling me a physical DVD of the video and offering me whiskey in substitution for the $5 change which he owed me (I gladly accepted after a long day of skating and filming.) With my belly filled, I was then prepared to witness one of the best blade videos among a crowd of ruckus and wild fanatics.
When the first clip showed AJ queuing the star-studded introduction from his hospital bed having sustained a collapsed lung in one of the nastiest falls I have ever seen, we all knew we were in for a wild ride! The beginning few notes of Pink Floyd’s Astronomy Domina kicked in and it was sheer pandemonium for the next half hour. The powerhouse profiles in SJ featured the biggest names in blading (past and present): Chris Haffey, Brian Aragon, Chris Farmer and KFC’s hometown superhero, Alex Broskow.
AJ highlighted the crème de la crème of blading throughout the several montages. The legendary KFC alumni make appearances as well as classic shots from stuntmen Erik Perkett, Don Bambrick and Ben “I am My Own Hype Man” Weis. The video’s memorable soundtrack featured classic joints from Queen, The Rolling Stones, Lyrics Born, Aesop Rock, and The Faint. After this, every skater had these tunes in their IPods and computers.
SJ stands tall as one of the videos a videographer strive to leave as their legacy, an absolute classic that stands the test of time and has as much replay value twenty years later as the day it was released.
7 | CHANCE OF RAIN 3
Chance of Rain 3 by Carter LeBlanc is the most recent video in this Top 10 list. It dropped earlier this year and has already earned a place among the heavy hitters on this list (for good reason too!) COR3 features full parts from Jeph Howard, Avery Christenson, Carter LeBlanc, Dustin Spengler, Derek Brown, Alex Sams, James Truitt and Sam Asken.
It clocks in an astounding 1 hours and 15 minutes of raw blading shot predominantly in the Seattle Washington area. With well-executed editing that creates a jovial ambiance, creative use of angles, and an eclectic soundtrack, it stands on its own.
The cast offers their own interpretations of blading, which presents a well-rounded and entertaining collective. From the death defying, hammer-filled sections of Jeph Howard and Alex Sams, to the tech-wizardry of James Truitt, the saucy stylings of Dustin Spengler, and the consistency of Sam Asken, COR3 makes an unlikely group feel cohesive! Even skateboarder Derek Brown came through with a solid profile and made great use of Seattle’s architecture.
The video stands as a perfect example of why you don’t need top-of-the-line video equipment and an all-star roster to make a classic. Although we are not the type to welcome wet weather, if the forecast calls for another chance of rain, it’s safe to say it’ll be welcomed wholeheartedly.
8 | VINE STREET
Vine Street served as Dom West‘s breakout release that put him on the map in blading and highlighted how special his filmmaking style was. Dom enlisted his 58 Vine Street mates to film sections – CJ Wellsmore, Rian Arnold, Craig Blocklehurst, Simon Dorabialski, Tien Nguyen, Charlie Ruckly, Jamie Knapp and Mass Alhattawi. James Bower and G.O.A.T. contender Richie Eisler came on for what would be seen as a magnum opus. When you’re shooting with your best friends in the gorgeous city of Sydney, the deck is stacked in your favor.
The whole Vine Street crew showed off their distinct chops, which West enhanced with music choices complimented each rider. West has a natural eye for finding visually appealing shots to include in his productions. He is able to see those magic moments and weave those strands to create an ambiance that keeps you enthralled the whole way through. West’s film work today can be seen globally on National Geographic and Netflix. That should tell you something!
It’s worth nothing VS’s release signified a much needed shift in media exposure towards skaters outside of the U.S. It also serves as a reminder of Australia’s powerhouses within rollerblading history such as Tom Fry, Tim Ward, Scott Crawford, Blake Dennis, and Josh Clarke. You could see the torch being passed from old guard to new in the Australian scene. The breakout section from Wellsmore signified his meteoric rise in the blade world.
If you were looking for a video that would accurately describe the power and beauty that resonates within rollerblading culture, VS would be a superb example to lead with.
9 | VG4: PUPPETS OF DESTINY
It is safe to say that rollerblading would not be where it is today without the profound influence Videogroove had on our community. VG’s editing style, quirky advertisements, timeless soundtracks, and scene reports set the series apart from other videos during that era. If you were granted a coveted VG profile, it essentially meant that you “made it” within the skating world. You earned a lifetime of bragging rights from skaters forever. That remains true to this day.
The VG series helped shape our culture and with each new release, you could see the level of trick progression grow. The refinement of confidence and composure was apparent with each new video. The span of progression between opened up a whole new world of possibilities and there was a massive gap of trick progression during the span between VG3 to VG4 in trick vocabulary – the invention of royales and backslide tricks came other variations such as unitys, farfegnugens, mistrials and soyales.
What made VG4 especially significant were the featured profiles of Jason Marshall, Eric Schrijn, and Jon Julio. Those three individuals were easily the best skaters of their time. Each of their sections helped to show how individualized and expressive inline skating could be. Rollerblading was still in its infancy and these 3 skaters showed a style and confidence that was far removed from the unrefined arm-flailing and knee-dragging typical then. There are few things more satisfying than seeing Jason Marshall backsliding through a steep kink rail or a boned out rocket fishbrain by Jon Julio or a fast paced signature top acid from Eric Schrijn. Plenty of skaters can say they had noteworthy tricks, but few can say that they have ones that helped to define an era of skating. These guys did just that.
VG4 also featured important scene reports from San Francisco, Minnesota, Peru, and the UK, as well as other notable names of that era such as Randy Spizer, Steve Thomas, Champion Baumstimler, Erik Burke, John Starr, Ryan Jacklone, and Arlo Eisenberg. Tricks that set the bar were Randy “Roadhouse” Spizer’s infamous royale on the Bercy hand ledges and a young Santiago Azpurua with the first documented 900 landed in a skate video (years before Tony Hawk would hand-drag his way into adulation).
10 | WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IN?
What Do You Believe In? was an ambitious collaboration that teamed some of the brightest minds behind the scenes of the blading industry to create a cinematic experience unlike any other video before it (or after). WDYBI was written and directed by the digital messiah, Arlo Eisenberg, and edited by Joe Navran (Future Prospect productions) and produced by Shane Coburn (Trendkiller).
Arlo Eisenberg‘s art direction for WDYBI was much different from the typical skate videos of its time. The skaters highlighted all acted out skits which helped to transition between profiles. The many White Rabbit appearances placed throughout the video and the cryptic imagery helped to create a mysterious experience and left you attempting to de-code the hidden meanings within the video. There was a storyline, something atypical of skate videos.
WDYBI grouped the biggest names in blading then – Rachard Johnson, Brian Shima, Josh Petty, Jon Elliott, and Jaren Grob. Rachard Johnson seemed to have the most traditional, straight-forward section of the video as it showed him cranking out his signature tech tricks on chest high ‘WTF’ rails. Jon Elliott‘s impressive profile shows the rocker barreling through crowds of masked men, throwing stacks of WDYBI propaganda at him as he laced front torques on down rails, ending with him adorned in a papier mâché rabbit mask zero gapping into the shadows. You also had Jaren Grob‘s street skating prowess on display when he was better known as a competitive park skater. But Jaren showed he could drop a hammer in street or park just as easily.
Brian Shima‘s fast-paced profile saw the legend skating at peak form, stomping massive gaps and rails. There is even a once thought to be lost clip of Shima’s topsoul 360 drop from what looks like the top of the Earth’s exosphere. Josh Petty‘s triple header profile had shown him comeback with heat after numerous knee injuries. He delivers arguably the best profile of his storied career. The section features three separate songs – one hip-hop, one drum and bass, and one rock. Petty had big disasters to rails, innovative budget switch ups, and some of the nastiest fastslides ever done. His profile also featured a hilarious back and forth with Aaron Feinberg that is still a riot to this day.
WDYBI was a landmark video that dared to stray from what a skate video should look like and re-imagined what a skate video could be. It didn’t win win accolades for the skater’s acting prowess, yet it will still go down in the history books as one of the most popular and influential videos of all time.