Posted by:on August 27th, 2004
Edited By Bob Denike
High Speed Productions
Copyright Date: 2004
Review Date: 2004
At almost four pounds, if this isn’t literally the heaviest book in skateboarding, it sure is figuratively. Steve Alba’s quote “Hells Angels have Harley Davidson. We have Independent” is about all you need to know about Built to Grind, the book that chronicles the history and contributions of the founders of Independent Truck Company and their riders. If you are only going to buy one book about skateboarding, Built to Grind is at the top of the heap. If you aren’t going to buy any books, you should buy this one anyway.
Built to Grind’s 316 pages are packed full of images and words that will appeal to skate historians as well as those who just wants to look at good skate photos. The majority of the content covers the late seventies and 80’s which is understandable considering that was when the foundations were laid and the stories that became legends took place. The beginning deals with the state of the industry in the late 70’s and the general atmosphere that led to the birth of not only Independent trucks, but also Thrasher Magazine and the course of skateboarding for a generation. Whatever your opinion of Thrasher today, the book makes a pretty good argument that the magazine, which was funded by Indy principals, basically kept skating alive during the last dark age. It was an underground renaissance through the Skate and Destroy ethic that fostered creativity and a collective identity for the disenfranchised. The edge in Thrasher Magazine and one particular Independent advertisement ignited the decision to start up Transworld Skateboarding and it’s reactionary Skate and Create ethos. If polyurethane wheels are Plymouth Rock, than Independent Trucks is the shot heard round the world for skateboarding as we know it today.
Alright already. That’s enough of the theoretical baloney. Is it really that heavy? Yes, but only if you want it to be. The great photos are surrounded by interviews and short pieces on the founders and team riders of note. What about the backlash that the Dogtown movie had? Is this more of the “we invented everything and everyone?” Well, it is to a certain extent but the overall attitude is not of reverence and is more approachable than the holy aura that Dogtown laid down. Make no mistake, there is no lack of attitude.
One of the highlights is the timeline of actual truck production that shows the different stages of trucks beginning with the separate development of Stroker trucks and an independent suspension model by NHS (Santa Cruz) by the parties that eventually met and hatched Independent. Built to Grind recognizes that it nothing happens in a vacuum by including pictures of early competing technologies as well as a short piece by a Tracker founder Dave Dominy. Built to grind is also peppered with pictures showing various logo developments, production techniques, promotional pieces, and other tasty tidbits of Independent’s history.
Independent Trucks were made because at the time nobody made a truck that turned and held up well to modern skating. It wasn’t just a California manufacturing rivalry. Even in the eighties of the Midwest it was widely regarded that Trackers didn’t turn and Gullwings were a joke. Ventures were kids that couldn’t afford Indys. Ironically, Independent now has to make trucks for a majority of kids that aren’t even interested in turning. Just as Harley Davidson’s image has become watered down through mass exposure and a sometimes inferior product, so too has Independent’s image been dragged from the underground and forced into the strip malls and grade schools of America and the world. Does a truck company warrant the expenditure and vanity of a self-published tome? It does if it is Independent. The direct and indirect contributions of a simple piece of hardware and the people that surround it should appeal to any skater regardless of age or truck affiliation. There’s not much of anything negative to say about the book, except I would have liked to see the ad archives reprinted at full size instead of postage stamp size. That and I have a hard time believing that the independent crew invented Slam dancing, but I wasn’t there. I would have been appropriate to see more actual production pictures, like a step by step illustration of the process. I’m sure they could have done that without revailing industry secrets. Oh yeah, Built to Grind should have been available in hardcover. That’s right. It would be worth it.
Some featured writers, skaters, and luminaries:
Bob Denike, C.R. Stecyk, Fausto Vitello, Richard Novak, Jay Shuirmann, Rick Blackhart, John Hutson, Henry Hester, Steve Olson, Steve Alba, Duane Peters, Steve Caballero, Mark Gonzales, MoFo, Brian Bannon, Tommy Guerrero, Christian Hosoi, Jeff Grosso, Eric Dressen, Ray Barbee, Colin McKay, Danny Way, Tim Brauch, Andrew Reynolds, Peter Hewitt, Bucky… and more.
No Tech: NHS Inc. P.O. Box 2718, Santa Cruz, CA 94124
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