By Ed Syder
“Growing up in the Cornwall skate scene of the 1980s and 1990s, Ed Syder details the thrills, spills, romance, excitement, and obsession of a sport that, for those involved, defined a generation worldwide.”
“For anyone who ever puzzled over the axel width of their trucks or oogled board designs in a skate shop, Ed recalls the teen anxiety of not having the coolest equipment as a beginner, the epoch-changing shift from vert skating to street skating, and how things just got weird when there were girls at the skate park.”
“Visually-inspired by the board graphics that Ed still drools over to this day, My Skateboard Life stays true to skating’s punk roots with a zine-like presentation that’s both honest and celebratory. Illustrated in the distinctive high-impact black and white style that made him a star in the Manchester music poster scene, there’s no better way to relive falling in love with skateboarding all over again.”
Part graphic novel, part ‘boarding scene poster book, My Skateboard Life is a memoir of a world I have no connection with. My only experience with skateboards ended as soon as it began, 30 years ago when I put a friends brother’s board in the path of an oncoming mini. That taught me a valuable lesson – never skateboard down a short, steep drive with a busy main road at the end of it. So no, boards and I aren’t really that close.
Ed Syder never had that problem though, he was a boarder through and through, from his very first, rather crappy, board, all the way through to right now, where he hits the skate park as a grown up, still in love with the feeling of boarding.
My Skateboard Life is Syder’s love letter to both boarding and to his childhood. It’s filled with moments we’ll all recognise, boarders or not; that embarrassed panic at the disco when a girl notices you, troubles with friends, those long holidays filled with boredom, glorious boredom, and the thrills and fears of childhood (here it’s a vert-ramp, you and I will no doubt have our own personal moment we can use to empathise).
Haven’t we all been somewhere and felt just like Snyder in the first board shop he ever walked into? The dazzling, technicolour board art burning into his brain, filling him with desire and envy – something he fell in love with then, and remains an adoring fan of all these years later.
You can see that in the way he shapes a page, images swirling and poster-like as he does the various pin-up style pages that break-up the storyline.
But that’s part of the problem. My Skateboard Life is just filled with moments. And they’re relatively disconnected moments at that. There’s just not enough of anything going on here to really make it sing.
God knows Snyder’s artwork, all crisp black and whites, a super-smooth, clear line, can be quite lovely to look at. The cover instantly engages, the faces are so crisp and clear, Charles Burns-like in a way.
But there’s not the consistency it needs to really fly. For every beautiful pose, every super face, or great full page, there’s something that has too many faults, too many inconsistencies.
However, let’s accentuate the positive… take a look at this one:
That’s gorgeous that is. The line of the road sweeping round, the perspective shift, the blank, open face, the serenity within that face, even down to the panel boarder disappearing into the undergrowth each side to the white of the skyline. Gorgeous.
And there’s lots of that in My Skateboard Life. But throughout there’s never enough linked together often enough.
Art problems aside, it’s the content that really struggles to deliver. There is a narrative here, a journey, a memoir of discovering boarding, of growing up, with all the struggles, embarrassment, and joys that entails, but Syder underplays it. And it’s that that is the big problem with My Skateboard Life.
There’s a huge potential sitting in the ideas, and there’s enough in the moments to make me wonder what else happened, to want to see Syder expand upon what happens. But, all criticisms aside – this is Syder’s first comic work. That it’s flawed shouldn’t be a surprise. Look back at anyone’s first published work and you’ll be able to say the same. The most important thing with My Skateboard Life is that the potential is there.
Syder’s second book is currently in production. Provisionally entitled Hello Space Shower TV, it’s described by Syder thus: “Set in April 1994, it’s about some teenagers that run away from home”. Based on the possibly unfulfilled promise shown in My Skateboard Life, I’m hoping that Syder will go from strength to strength.