411VM has been all but canonized in skateboarding history, and understandably so: the format and segments changed the way we look at skate videos. We’ve read plenty of lists about the best 411 segments, but oddly enough, we never hear anything about the commercials that ran during the breaks, and that’s a shame. Tossed into a myriad of terrible effects, trick captions, and ads for brands that should have never existed is some real gold. Here’s a time capsule of our favorite 411VM commercials that have stood the test of time.
OutKast montage, Fourstar, Issue #33 - You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to make something classic. Take the FourStar commercial from Issue #33: it’s just three clips recycled from The Chocolate Tour, three iconic logos associated with the featured skaters, some maps, and an OutKast song, combined to great effect.
Donny Barley, Destructo Trucks, Issue #27 - Long before Destructo started pumping out pink and purple trucks, they had a great team and were pumping out black-and-white commercials that ran through the late twenties. Thanks to Dan Wolfe’s expertise behind the lens, all of these clips were memorable, but we had to give it up to Donny Barley’s montage from issue #27, for that wallie tailslide alone.
The Hour Is Here, Alien Workshop, Issue #41 - Alien Workshop is a brand known for their eye for detail, and their 411VM commercials were no exception. We stumbled across enough great AWS commercials to fill up an article on their own, but we especially love the teaser for Photosynthesis from Issue #41, with the classic J Mascis song. It’s got that timeless AWS feel and gives us a glimpse of some clips that didn’t make it into the final production.
Team Montage, 60/40 Skateboards, Issue #14 - Look past the trippy editing, voiceovers, and questionable fast forwarding 60/40 utilized in this commercial and you’ll find some great Gonz footage, including the first Kilty McBagpipe. Honorable mention goes to the 60/40 team montage from issue #4, which features another great chunk of Gonz footage.
Stevie Williams Line, Chocolate Skateboards, Issue #36 - This clip is still the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Stevie Williams. Four difficult tricks popped waist high and done with that one-of-a-kind authority that let Stevie get away with that nut grab at the end. Yeah, we know you read about this one a lot, but it really is that good.
Andrew Reynolds, Emerica, Issue ? (2001) - Emerica was another brand that produced plenty of noteworthy commercials, but we went with this one for the ‘Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood’ song, and the shots of Reynolds interacting with kids on the session that didn’t make it into This is Skateboarding. It’s interesting to see the disparity in Emerica’s overall aesthetic and editing style at the turn of the millennium compared to now.
Tim O’Connor, Element, Issue #25 (1997) - The Giant Distribution mini-ramp made many cameos in 411. Partly because 411 was distributed by Giant and the ramp was sitting right outside. I can imagine someone in the office editing, “Wait where’s the Element ad it’s due today! - Umm Tim’s here maybe he can film some tricks on the ramp?” Boom. There’s your ad. “Wait, we need a song? - Just use a voice over of Tim talking about skateboarding…” It was that simple. It’s very fitting this commercial starts off with a quote from Tim saying, “Videos back in the day inspired me so much more.”
Adrenalin promo, Issue #35 - The melodious cacophony of clocks ticking, cars driving, and static crackling sets the tone for Adrenalin’s second iteration. With guys like Mike Rusczyk, Mike Manzoori, Jon Miner, and Chris Senn on the team, this commercial deluged viewers with bumps, banks, natural inclines, and other spots that felt out of place in the late 90s, but have aged like a fine wine.
Mark Gonzales & Nate Jones Stunt Double, Real, Issue ? - The stunt double concept started in this Real commercial and was passed to 411VM for a ‘behind the scenes’ feature before finally ending up in Real to Reel, where most people will recognize it from. Regardless of origin, this skit’s cemented in skate video history, and for good reason: it’s a funny concept that was easy to execute, Nate Jones and Mark Gonzales have two of the best styles of all time, and Gonz’s facial expressions during the backside tailslide are great.
Gino Ianucci, Chocolate, Issue #25 (1997) - Gino Iannucci footage is always going to make any best of list and this commericial is a perfect example of why. This line on paper sounds kind of awkward, but the quirkiness of the tricks mixed with Gino’s style make it flawless. The way he kickturns from switch to regular right into one of the best nollie 360’s ever done is burned into my brain. Throw in the little puppet running in and out of the frame as a little Gino hype man and you’ve got a classic.
Reese Forbes at Pulaski, Element Skateboards, Issue #10 - Forty-five seconds or Reese Forbes charging through Pulaski, powering through ledge tricks, and snapping over standing trash cans. This is how skateboarding is supposed to look. Twenty years on and you could still use all of this footage to the same effect.
Antihero, Issue ? - Essentially a greatest hits montage of the whole Anti-Hero team shredding everything in sight. The juxtaposition of transition skating set to Dr. Dooom’s rapping slash shit talking is perfect. Very raw. Very Anti-Hero.