“Does it get much better than this?”, a warm, content, and caffeinated Mark Gonzales asks Van Wastell during a mid-session pit stop amid the madness that was 2006’s Krooked Kronichles. If you were Van in that particular situation, the answer to that question was presumably and most definitely, “No, it can’t get much better than this.” The same can be said of Van’s style.
You see, I remember watching Van’s part at the Kronichles Boston premiere 9 years ago, which actually took place in a middle school auditorium in Wakefield, Massachusetts. The world was a different place back then. Dave Bachinsky had just kickflipped El Toro weeks prior, George Bush was still president of the United States, and Myspace was still cooler than Facebook. Things were all sorts of crazy back then…back in 2006.
What struck me about Van’s part is how cool he looked on a skateboard, which was only made cooler by his use of Cheech & Chong’s ‘Earache My Eye’. As for the skating, his tech wizardry, transition knowledge, and demonstrated ability to frontside flip like a motherfucker all carved out a special place for him in my heart.
Fast-forward two years, and the entire skateboarding community is reminded of life’s brevity – Van Wastell had passed. In the wake of this tragedy, footage of Van began to surface – footage being saved for larger projects, works in progress. And it was all really fucking good. Among this footage was something that though privy to Van’s seemingly endless bag of tricks, basically melted my brain upon viewing. Luckily, once capable of thinking some five minutes later, I was able to rewind and review multiple times to confirm what I had seen.
The piece, which I’ve just now decided to refer to as such since it is unarguably a work of art, was a frontside body varial. Made possible with the assistance of some propped up wood and a picnic table, Van reinvented the game and changed lives quite literally in one swift motion.
At SMLtalk HQ, we are huge fans of ‘taking a step back’ and ‘really letting this one sink in’. It is with complete sincerity that I urge each and every one of you to do the same thing with the below video:
In case you have no idea what’s going on, I’ll break it down for you. Van hit that kicker, and literally the moment, the MILISECOND all four of his wheels became airborne, his feet retracted themselves, like two magnets, away from the skateboard until the last possible moment before landing.
Let’s give it the Gif treatment, for infinite replay purposes:
Make no mistake here – what you have just witnessed was pure magic. This was no bullshit, no rehearsal, or planning whatsoever, complete and utter creative genius. The fact that this moment was caught on film was a miracle in itself. And the reaction? Lets talk about that reaction. Van was just as surprised. What the hell just happened?
Van Wastell. Truly in a league of his own.
A few years ago, skateboarding began to see a huge resurgence of this magical maneuver. Like a less popular no comply, people began finding ways of incorporating body varials everywhere. Large scale, Clint Walker’s unprecedented triple set body varial comes to mind. AO also carries the torch in 2015, shifting stance to dismount from smith grinds. Brad Cromer, however, has come closest to recreating a body varial of Wastell proportions, as seen in 2014’s Outliers.
A part of me wants to believe that given his Krooked veteran status, the body varial was passed on, in spirit, thru Van to Brad. Still though, we realize that Van’s body varial is unattainable. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do, or try this trick. If anything, having a benchmark for perfection is a great thing, because there’s always something to strive towards.
‘You see ______’s body varial over that bump to ______?’
‘Yeah, it was ok. Nothing like Van’s though :-/’
All of this brings us back to Gonzo’s initial question, over a decade old at this point: Does it get much better than this?
Well, if we’re talking about a Van Wastell body varial, I think we all know the answer to that one by now.