February 10, 2016

R.I.P. Switch Crooks Kitty

You can't always remember the way important questions are asked. The way Steve Nesser remembered it, he and Clint Peterson were hanging out and, pretty much out of nowhere, Clint asked Steve a good one. "How much of Chad's life," talking about Chad Benson, who knows if Clint phrased it like this, "has been spent in crooked grind position?" Steve relayed this story one Saturday noon session at Familia HQ, as Benson zoomed in circles doing crooked grind fakies on the bank to ledge, as he's often wont to do.

Wont to do for the last decade or two. Benson's been crooksing for a while under various guises -- he was a flow guy for Planet Earth Skateboards in the very middle-90s, complete with shelltoes, and has had his name on a board for three different local board brands. He strictly wore white shoes even after he gave up on Superstars, lots of Kalis' first DC pro model. Benson would probably admit to bumming out his share of kids at the skatepark over the years, but it's mostly just because he's hyper. As of late, he's taken to wearing a lot of black, and was even seen in the past couple of weeks wearing a Thrasher tee.

Clint didn't remember the question coming up the way Steve did. Maybe it was the way the question was phrased. "He," Clint said, meaning Steve, "was probably watching him in the crooks position for the 3,000th time that week when it occurred." No matter, how much of Benson's life do those guys think he's spent in crooks position?

Said Clint, "Ha, that's good, how old are we now? I'd have to say a good year of his life, three-quarters of it being switch, of course." Of course.

A year, for reference, is 8,760 hours long. Steve guessed lower. "12 hours," he said, before adding, quickly, "24? I would have to dig into that."

Chad turned 40 in December last year, so depending on who you ask, Clint or Steve, he's either spent 1/40th of his life in crooks position or, at minimum, 1/29,2000th of it.

Unruly fractions like 1/29,2000, when it comes to lifetimes, seem to be reserved for fleeting experiences like laughing or riding jet skis. However, for real enthusiasts -- Benson loves his crooked grinds -- it seems too minute, too little for a true fanatic. How much and how long are/were crooked grinds in Chad Benson? It was worth an interview in the back room of the skatepark:

PS: When did your cat die?

CB: Let me think. March 2011.

And when did you get the cat?

That would be 1998.

And what did you name your cat in 1998?

Switch Crooks Kitty.

What kind of cat was it?

Himalayan.

How did you explain that name to people?

We just called it Crooks and nobody really asked. Except for the skateboarders, then I told them it was Switch Crooks Kitty and they really liked it.

So was it actually named Crooks or was it Switch Crooks Kitty?

On the certificate that she was registered under it was Switch Crooks Kitty.

How long did you agonize over that name?

Never, it was instant.

Crooked grinds came into vogue about '91, did you learn them that year?

Yes – I might have learned them before '91 because my friend Dave Flannigan learned them before I'd ever seen them and he called them “toaster grinds.” I went and learned them from him and we did them in the old Government Center garage and did them on the bottom step at The Fed.

So was it before Dan Paterka started doing them?

It's before I saw [Paterka do it]. It could have been right around the same time. I learned them because of Dave.

Dave Flannigan, what's he known for around here?

He is now a professor at the University of Minnesota.

Oh! I got him mixed up with Cardwell.

Flannigan! Different Dave. Dave Flannigan was my brother's best friend growing up in high school, with Nate Reiman, and they're the three that taught me how to skateboard.

And when was that?

Uh, 80s, late 80s?

Can you put a date on it?

'87, probably. We had a miniramp in our backyard before we moved to Rochester.

You lived in Benson, Minnesota?

I lived in De Graff, outside Benson. We went to school in Benson, all of us, and Dave and Nate would always come down to my house to skate the miniramp in the backyard. It was like a ditch, but then they re-did it and made it into a little 3-foot miniramp after seeing Shackle Me Not.

Do you know who did the first switch krooked grind? Did Koston do the first switch K?

I would guess it's Koston, I don't know.

When'd you do yours?

Ah, switch crooked grinds – probably '93? Probably, and I learned to pop out of them in the middle of a ledge, I remember learning that at Flushing in New York City.

In like, '98?

In like '98 – I'd always have to come off the end until then. I could always fall out 180 in the middle, but I could never pop out to fakie until I learned them at Flushing.

What's your favorite...shit, it's gotta be a switch crooked grind. What's your favorite switch crooked grind that you've ever done?

That switch crook fakie tre was a battle – that was like a two year battle.

That took your ankle out, right?

Yeah, that was at that loading dock spot in Eden Prairie.

It's in the intro to Weekend Warriors where you roll the shit out of it wearing a KG jersey.

Yeah! I could do it on fake-boxes then but never do it outside until the Familia video.

And that was on what ledge?

It was on the one over...behind International Market Square. So yeah. And Nate [Compher] almost fucked it up.

Was Nate filming it?

No, Nate was skating too – he did the nollie crook nollie heel that day – and he was walking back to try again when I made it and his legs were over the top of the camera. So if you watch it, you'll see his pants on the side of the camera when I make it.

Can Nate switch crook better than you?

No.

The Familia Video from Familia Skateshop on Vimeo.

The switch crook fakie 360 flip happens at 0:59 into the video above. Internet records say the video was posted about six years ago, which means one of the first dudes to really do that trick was a preschool teacher from the Midwest. Benson was in a fantasy football league with Davis Torgerson this past season. They're both fans of the Minnesota Vikings. Davis had some food for thought when asked how long Benson's crooked grinded.

"About half the time he spent waxing the ledge," Davis fired back. Touché.

Benji Meyer has filmed at least four of Benson's video parts, including for Apocalypse, Midopoly, Anonymous and Weekend Warriors, over the span of nearly a decade. Asked about how much time Benson has spent crooked grinding, Benji said, "Too much! I met him in '91 and he was switchstance pointer grinding," an archaic term for crooks, "then." That timeline on the switch variant doesn't line up with Benson's, but either way, it's a couple decades of crooks both ways. Benji was kind enough to go through the archives for the clip below. He sent along the following program note: "He tapered off the switchstance pointer grinds around the Anonymous days. Couldn't find anything after this Shitheads Vol. 8 time." Still, it's a chronicle of switch crooks 1995-2001.

In that same timeframe, the late-90s, Benson and Neal Erickson skated together a bunch. Neal's got a mean crooked grind of his own and way back when, rode for Gullwing Trucks. Benson gave him a ton of shit for that before they were friends. When Neal got the question, he was the first person to try to crunch some numbers. "You figure he’s been crooking for 20 years, four days a week, 20 crooks per session, two seconds each," Neal said. "What’s the math?"

The math is 46.2 hours -- just shy of 1/7,300th of Benson's life. He really hasn't noticeably slowed down skate-wise, even as middle age approaches, so it's imaginable he could push things through age 50 and get up towards that 60 hour mark.

Benson and Dan Jackson have skated together since well before they were both Planet Earth flow trash. It's possible Dan has witnessed more Chad Benson crooked and switch crooked grinds than even Benji; it's also worth mentioning Dan has switch crooked his share of rails and sketchy ledges. When asked the big question, Dan was kind enough to show his work:

"His typical time range for a crooked grind is .5 to four seconds. I will guess the daily average of all crooked grinds in a session to be one second all told. Obviously some days are more crook-intensive than others, but a good, typical session average would contain 30 total crooked grinds. This gets us to an average total of 30 seconds per session. He has been averaging 4 days a week skating since the crook was popularized around 1991. 208 sessions/year x 25 years = 5,200 total crookable days. By my math, that equals 156,000 seconds, or 2,600 minutes, or approximately 43.3 hours spent in an active crooked grind position."
Benson's probably crooked grinded for about two days.

6 comments:

Dan Jackson said...

Hold the phone!!! I have been putting up with Chad's shit since way before Planet Earth days, which would have been around 2007. Tack about 5 more years on to that. These are important facts to correct, as I have suffered too much at his hands to get short-changed on the actual amount of suffering. Good work on the article and find it fascinating Neal and I came up with a very similar number!

-Dan Jackson

platinumseagulls said...

I've tweaked the wording to reflect your commitment, Dan.

Dan Jackson said...

Much appreciated, Mike. Now if only some way to reverse the mental damage done the past 20+ years...

Nick S. said...

Excellent article and informative interviews. Good job to everyone that contributed to the post. May I suggest the same treatment for Chad as it relates to backside tailslides (switch and regular)? The amount of time he's spent on those has got to be on par with the crooked grinds, or possibly even longer. Ah, forget it. Just call it a tie. Keep up the good work, dudes!

Benjamin Ragsdale said...

Dope, although at the risk of being the stickler, the 3rd Lair clip could not have been in 1996, as it didn't exist then. It was probably sometime in early 1997. Just sayin.

Wylie T. said...

This article was so delightful and thought-provoking, specifically in terms of:
(1.) How there's rhyming involved -- "Wont to do for the last decade or two."
(2.) How it touches on Benson's fierce intensity at the park and its corrosive effect on the young. Indeed Benson is intense, and indeed the young will forever be hamstrung in the face of a man who knows the cost of sustained recreation. (Fierce intensity is the cost, while skateboarding is the . . . -- yeah.)
(3.) How though statistics are revealing, accomplishments are more revealing, especially if the guy with the accomplishments is the only skater to mock me for skating on six hours of sleep. (Benson gets "tons of sleep," which may reveal the most about his accomplishments.)