By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
But to the same extent that street skaters feed off each other's adrenaline, normal people often shun it. One of the sheer joys of skateboarding is that you can do it anywhere. Police, security guards, and grumpy pedestrians usually want you to do it somewhere else. Every street skater has at least one story about a run-in with a cop. Skaters seem to thrive on the rebellion; it's an us-against-them world where those who don't skateboard just won't ever understand--and bluster they may, but they won't ever stop skaters from skating.
It's about 2:00 p.m. on a May afternoon, and Seth McCallum, another up-and-coming local skater who is developing a national name, is standing at the top of the entryway stairs at the Towle Building, an office tower on the corner of Second Avenue and Third Street in downtown Minneapolis. He glides up to the edge of the top step. "I've got to look at it first," he says, explaining that the ritual is part head game, part superstition. Then, from across the entrance plaza, he speeds toward the stairs and leaps off, down to the sidewalk. His fanny smacks the concrete, and his board shoots into the street. A couple of smokers sitting nearby moan in empathy. McCallum retrieves his board and walks back up the stairs. A balding, stocky, middle-aged man in shirtsleeves scuttles through the revolving door. "Take it someplace else," he orders.
McCallum creeps down the block. "We'll just pretend like we're going away, and then I'll go again," he says. He skates up to the other corner of the plaza, past a woman who has just come out. McCallum is poised to start again when the revolving door spins and the same stocky man emerges, scowling. "I was nice the first time, but I'm going to call the cops!" he hisses, brandishing a cell phone menacingly.
"Call the cops," McCallum retorts. "I just need one more." He pushes off, skates up to speed, and hurls himself off the steps. This time he lands, both feet planted securely on the board, and he pulls around in a graceful figure eight. He holds his hands high in the air and casts a defiant glare at the man, presumably a security guard, and the other people who disapprovingly shake their heads at him from the plaza.
"I hate people," McCallum huffs as he walks away. "The woman with the cigarette, she was saying something when I went back there. I know she was talking to me. But under the rumble of my wheels, it's just murmurs."
To those who consider skateboarding more of a nuisance than an amusement, the concept of turning "professional" is perplexing, even laughable. What differentiates a pro from an amateur? For that matter, what differentiates a pro from a hooligan?
There's a pretty common roadmap in the skateboarding world. First a skater gets sponsored by a local skate shop, which usually offers discounts on gear. Then, after appearing in videos and magazines, a talented skateboarder might be invited by a manufacturer to skate on that company's team, which includes both amateurs and professionals. Once sponsored, the skater gets equipment for free. Peterson has sponsorships from Fobia, Consolidated Skateboards, Vans shoes, Elwood Clothing, Spitfire wheels, Independent trucks (which makes the metal brackets that hold a skateboard's wheels to its deck), and Killing Machine hardware (which makes the nuts that hold the brackets).
The next step is to turn pro. Peterson has been sponsored by Consolidated Skateboards for about a year and a half, and he's only now about to make the leap. Exactly what that means is hard to pinpoint. Peterson himself provides only a hazy definition: It means he'll have his own "model." For further explanation, Peterson refers to a Consolidated ad in the June issue of the skateboarding magazine Thrasher. It's a photo of Peterson, soaring high above a flight of a dozen or so stone steps, his long arms outstretched like the wings of a crane. At the bottom of the page are the words: "CLINT PETERSON. God told us to give Clint a model.... So we gotta, cuz we don't wanna go to go to [sic] hell or something."
When Consolidated issues the "Clint Peterson" model, tentatively scheduled for August, Peterson will officially be a pro skateboarder, responsible for developing the graphics that are screened onto the underside of his board. The artwork on the Consolidated board he currently skates on incorporates a bright sky-blue background, with a cartoonish drawing of a pale pink udder and the block-printed words "Goat's Tit." Consolidated issues models with new graphics every couple of months, so by turning pro, Peterson, who draws, sculpts, and sketches cartoons, will have a chance to wed his twin creative interests.
The financial arrangements can vary from pro to pro, but the usual deal is that each time a pro's model sells, the pro earns a royalty of a couple dollars. This creates a cycle: Peterson goes forth into the world, filming videos, getting photos in the skating magazines, competing in contests, making a name for himself. Consolidated helps out with this, providing his equipment and sending Peterson and the rest of the company's team of skaters on tours, by van through the United States, or by plane to Europe. The theory is that as more people see Slice, he'll sell more boards, and he--and Consolidated--will make more money.