A few months ago, the office started to think about contenders for 2019 Underground Skater of the Year when we realized something: for better or for worse, the industry has changed to the point that the concept of “underground” is in flux.
Big box sponsors, hip to the changing tides, are starting to realize they need to sponsor skateboarders with cult followings to better reach all demographics. Guys who were once billed as “underground heroes” are now credited in major productions with a million views. Every other video premieres on Thrasher, regardless of how big or small of a production. And, thanks to Instagram, skateboarders can access a captive audience of hundreds of thousands with relative ease.
Over the past year, we’ve watched some of our favorite skateboarders find more widespread success, and while we’re thrilled for them, it’s disingenuous to continue referring to them as “underground.” As such, we had to really call into consideration what qualifies someone as the Underground Skater Of The Year. The five rules below aren't steadfast qualifications as much as they're guidelines to follow.
- How big is their board sponsor? Do they even have a board sponsor, or are they flow?
- Do they have a proper shoe sponsor, or are they relegated to pro-flow or a foreign team?
- Are they working out of a small town scene, or a major city like NYC or Los Angeles?
- Who’s hosting their video parts and interviews: Thrasher, or a smaller outlet like Free?
- In addition to skating, are they working a real job just to get by?
With all this being said, we’ve crunched the numbers and we present to you your candidates for 2019 Underground Skater Of The Year. Take a look below and let us know who YOU think should take the final USOTY crown of the decade, or let us know who we forgot. We will make our pick a week from today so make your voices heard in the comments and all hail the underground...
Matlok Bennett-Jones - We don’t know a ton about Matlok, but after popping up in Atlantic Drift, dropping tons of old footage that still holds up, and that crazy last line in his Kitsch part, it’s safe to say he has our attention. Not to mention, there’s no denying that Matlok would be a great pro skater name.
Joshua Bos - The Bos boys have really carved out a niche for themselves over the past few years, thanks to those crusty Upstate spots and VX filming. Josh’s latest full part, wide open, dropped in April along with his first Politic board, and it might be his best footage yet - no small feat considering how productive this family is.
Mark Del Negro - The first USOTY 2019 contender to go pro for Hopps this past year, Mark took his quick snaps and one-of-a-kind trick selection around the world with Helas before heading back to Philadelphia and dropping more footage in Untitled 004.
Dustin Eggeling - The other USOTY 2019 contender to go pro for Hopps came out swinging with lots of long ledge lines, awkward tricks, and that great style you’ve come to expect from him in Shady Blues. But he outdid himself with a surprise part in Deep Dish’s Seven just a few months afterwards.
Dom Henry - Between his Southbank clips on the ‘gram, his going pro announcement, his impressive Free interview, or one of his five video parts this year, we never went more than a few weeks without seeing Dom in 2019.
Neil Herrick - Recent NYC transplant and newly christened 5boro pro Neil Herrick stayed busy in 2019, putting the finishing touches on his Vanish part in Philadelphia, spending ten days in Puerto Rico, garnering the cover of North Mag, and sparing enough footage for the Dial Tone edit, Deep Fried, and Bottom Shelf.
Vincent Huhta Hasselberg - Vincent may be asleep at the wheel while he’s skating, but luckily for us, that doesn’t keep him from stacking footage. His Sour Solution 2 part and that line where he wallies through the H were enough to put him on skateboarding’s radar, not to mention his throwaway footage and his parts in local Swedish videos.
Kevin Liedtke - Always the most low-key of the Sabotage crew, Kevin Liedtke really came into his own in 2019. He stacked enough killer footage at all the classic Philadelphia spots to fill out three full parts, all of which have been on constant repeat.
Matt Militano - The breakout star of Vanish put his lanky style to good use, wallieing into and out of tricks once thought impossible, throwing in extra spins or spinning the hard way where others wouldn’t dare, and bringing the back noseblunt to new and exciting places.
Jerry Mraz - Jerry is an underground hero and deserves to be listed every year on principle alone. Luckily for us, his amazing all-night, all-cellar door part in Rust Belt Trap made the decision this year a no brainer.
Callum Paul - Pass~Port lensman Geoff Campbell once remarked that Callum rarely takes photos of his skating, meaning he’s so underground that even his teammates are often left in the dark as to what he’s doing. According to his Kitsch part, he’s been finding new ways to skate the Melbourne Library, boardsliding up rails, and making questionable curb combos look cool.
Jon Rowe - Most people who hate the pressure of sponsorship and drop out of the industry end up skating less. On the other hand, Jon Rowe quit Politic a few years ago to skate for fun and still comes out with gnarly two song parts on a regular basis.
Trevor Thompson - After an amazing part in 2018’s Sir Palmer, Trevor spent the year going pro, filming one of our favorite parts in WKND’s first full length, Death Dance, and handling sales and fielding your complaints about restocks over at the WKND offices.
Brett Weinstein - It was all but guaranteed that Brett would have a killer part in the latest Deep Dish video, but that doesn’t make his quick reflexes and fast skating any less enjoyable to watch. Don’t forget about his Chrystie part and lots of footage from their trip to Mallorca, either!