Exposure A Film About the Challenges of Skating In Alaska
The Adults of Skateboarding
Exposure: A Film About the Challenges of Skating In Alaska
Words / Cody Liska
Photos / Will Ingram
In 2006, Boarderline Alaska Snow and Skate went out of business. And along with it went the Alaska snow and skate scene, more or less. A community that relied on a summer camp, a snow and skate contest series, a skatepark and a yearly video that featured local up-and-comers was suddenly left with nothing.
But what does it matter, that was 10 years ago? It matters because when we talk about skateboarding in Alaska, we have to talk about its forbearers. We have to know where we came from in order to know where we’re going. And because Alaska’s history with board sports is so short, all of it is relevant. Shops like G&B, Gary King, Northern Boarder and Boarderline set precedence that are inevitably in the collective consciousness of today’s local boardshops. Shops like AK Boardroom, Blue & Gold and Boarderline Legacy are direct decedents of Boarderline. They’re the new adults of skateboarding leading the charge of rebuilding a community.
Rebuilding an entire scene is not an easy thing to do, especially if you’re working on a shoestring budget. It’s a collective effort that hinges on every moving part. Exposure: A Film About the Challenges of Skating in Alaska is one of those moving parts. Filmed over the course of three years, Exposure started as a passion project for Dylan Wales, owner of Soulstice Films. “Originally, I was actually filming something different,” Wales says. “I was really just getting started, filming with a lot of guys that I wanted in the video: Ben Sherbahn, Sam Medsker, Wes Wallace, Tim Blevans.” At that point, it was more of a solo mission than a group endeavor. Wales had about fifteen minutes of actual skate footage and was thinking about chopping it together into a quick edit, as traditional skate videos usually do.
Blevans joined the project early on. “We talked about how we wanted the whole ambiance of the video to be,” he says. “How we structured character development was big. I think we wanted to make it like a TransWorld video, you know? Where they had these forewords where [a pro skater like] [Eric] Koston would talk about Paul Rodriguez.” The vision to create something as enduring as Free Your Mind, a classic TransWorld skate video, became more attainable as more people got involved.
When Vasco Vea, owner of William Fraser Digital Creative Agency, jumped onboard, the storytelling evolved from a traditional quick edit to something more theatrical. “A big part of it was humanizing all the characters,” Vea says. “The skaters are going to watch it for the skating, but it was also important for us to give a general audience something they could digest and walk away from with a better understanding of the local skate culture.”
Vea is old enough to remember the Boarderline era. So are Wales and Blevans. They remember summer camp, the skatepark and the contests, but most of all they remember the videos. They remember how important those videos were to their youth and how they continue to influence them well into adulthood. They both went into the Exposure project wanting to create something that would inspire the same emotions those Boarderline videos – 100%, Survival of the Tightest, The 49th Chamber, to name a few – gave them. Feelings of hope and ambition that create hometown heroes. And how the past as well as the present affects the future of skateboarding in Alaska. These are just some of the things we talk about on an early Thursday morning in Fairview.
How important do you think skate videos are to the infrastructure of a skate community?
Dylan Wales: As a kid, I remember how big it was for me. When I first moved up to Fairbanks in ’96, one of the first videos I saw was the [Boarderline / JB Deuce] Northern Exposure video and that shit blew my mind. And it’s not like these dudes were all the way out in California or New York where other videos are shot. It was going on right here. It was like you were right there in the skate scene with them.
Tim Blevans: The first Boarderline movie I ever watched was In For Life and I watched Micah Hollinger’s part five times a day. This was when he was on Genetics [shoes] and he was wearing baggy pants and had a bandana on his hand. I wore sweatpants and Genetics every single day and I would try kickflip noseslides because I pretended to be him. So, it’s like this perpetual circle of influence.
Coming into the Exposure project, did you guys have a theme you wanted to stay true to?
D: Staying true to Alaska. I thought that was pretty important.
You guys talk about this in the video, but what was your inspiration for pursuing this project?
T: The old scene, for sure. Pretty much anybody that’s picked up a skateboard in Alaska in the last 15 years knows about Boarderline. And that was a big influence to me and Dylan. Even after [Boarderline went out of business], we always held onto it. It was important to us. I think that was our biggest inspiration. Every single year they were putting out a video and it was gnarly. And we wanted this video to be like that. To be able to pay tribute to all the dudes who paved the way for the kids who are killing it now.
Those old Boarderline videos created a lot of local heroes in the skate community. Does it feel like you guys are creating local heroes for this new generation of skaters?
T: That was kind of Dylan’s idea behind Exposure. It’s to really give these kids a chance, you know? I mean, there’ve been other local [skate] videos and there are definitely some hometown heroes, but to really give these kids a face and a name and a story is something we really tried to do. Like, everybody knew who Micah [Hollinger] was because of the [Boarderline] videos. He was super goofy and always had the cool skits and that was his personality and that kind of showed his character.
There’s a generation of skaters who have no frame of reference for those old days and you guys have chosen to educate them on it. I think this video is important because you’re paying homage, but also looking toward the future.
T: I have this theory that says you have to know where you came from to know where you’re going. History is super important in skateboarding. Even if you talk about stuff that happened pre-Boarderline. And, maybe it’s because of how big skateboarding has become, but there’s this translation that doesn’t happen, where kids don’t understand that there’s something besides Street League and there’s something besides Primitive Skateboards and all this other stuff that’s being fed to them. And, honestly, no matter how gnarly they think skateboarding is today, it was gnalier back then. Adrian [Williams] is still better than I’ll ever be at ledges.
Do you think this video is a byproduct of understanding the local skate scene?
D: I think it definitely caught the vision that I was going for. It touched base on what influenced me when I was a kid and what got me so hyped. When it all came together, I think it pulled on a couple heartstrings. Vasco [Vea] really brought a lot to the table, as far as storytelling goes.
T: Vas is a perfectionist. He doesn’t stop. He always wants it to be better. I saw some of the dolly footage and the gimbal footage and the drone stuff and I was like, “dang, that looks really cool.” Then I actually watched the video and I was like, “oh my God. This is no fuckin’ joke.”
Do you guys have any behind the scenes stories, something people wouldn’t know about the video unless you told them?
D: When I first got a camera and started filming the video, I made love to my wife and 9 months later I had a baby (laughs).
T: I think what people don’t realize is that we still do everything an adult does: we have families, we have jobs, we pay bills, but then we get out there and we do this, we skate every chance we get.
Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, we all start skating for the same reason, because it’s this thing that’s so abnormal in society. There’s nobody telling you what to do. There’s no coach screaming in your ear. There are no fees. And there’s this idea of freedom where you don’t have to do it with anybody. You can just go do it by myself.
What do you guys see your role as in the skate community?
D: I see my role as a dude who’s getting old, but I’m going to keep on filming, trying to progress the skate scene. I might be in intermission right now, but that’s because I’m just wrapping this video up. Then it’s gonna be right back into it.
T: My whole goal is to just show people skateboarding. I want to be like a father figure to these younger skate kids. It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, Asian, gay or straight. You can be three feet tall, ten feet tall, whatever it is, we’re all in it together. And that’s the beauty of skateboarding.