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The Cult of "cultof..."

A try-hard analysis of skateboarding's fanpage culture

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There is a certain group of people in this world who’ve got something what makes them so special that lots of people are kind of obsessed with them, soaking in every kind of news, knowledge or output related to the person. A person like this is mostly a star or celebrity that also functions as a role model for their “fans”. There often is a cult with indivuals that have that kind of “extra” thing in their personality, what they do or how they look. In a modern world of social media and people being connected throughout the web, you can see this in form of fanpages or (more earlier days) blogs. A community, that follows “the cult”. So in skateboarding. After the Instagram page @cultoftom started and took off, many accounts followed. That’s why I wanted to get in touch with people behind that fanpages, understand their motivation of basically creating an account featuring someone they don’t know personally. What makes a cult a cult? Welcome to a little analysis with input from people behind the fanpages of Tom Penny, Tiago Lemos, Jake Johnson, Max Palmer & Kevin Rodrigues.

First things first: A cult is something that existed way before the internet. Originally, the meaning of a cult went way more in a close to religious way: “[…] By the nineteenth century, it evolved to mean an unorthodox group of zealous and eccentric believers.“ Even if you could, more or less ironically, use this quote to describe a cult in skating, you can see the actual meaning is a bit deeper than the incredible need of getting your hands on the same pants as your idols wear in their Instagram Story – if they even have a social media presence. A good amount of the people who have a lot of fans don’t have a channel to communicate with them, which can increase the apprectiation of rarely seen content or even make people creating presences for them, as the admin of @cultofjkjhnsn: “Because he doesn’t have an Instagram and someone had to do it”. This is the same reason for @maxpalmerclips: “First of all he has no IG so that was reason number 1 for me. I’ve also got tired of trying to find clips of him and I thought maybe I’m not the only one who thought like that, so I’ve wanted to create a space where you can find all the clips of him without researching the whole internet.”

So a big point is the natural phenomenon of shortage. If there’s less, you want it more: “A new Kevin (Rodrigues) clip always puts you in a good mood because you don't know when it's gonna come and I really like that. I grew up on watching 411VM and on video, and there were so many guys who didn't have full on skate careers and would just have a few tricks here and there. And I remember all those tricks. Those were my favourite skaters. It's the same with Kevin. He is the modern day Scott Johnston lol” (@cultofkrod).

"His "Dancing On Thin Ice" part. Thats a special part. It's only 15 or so tricks, but every trick has a strong impact. It's the best case for 'less is more'."

On the other hand, there are individuals who have a cult in skateboarding even if they feed their followers regularly. For example, Tiago Lemos is pretty active on Instagram plus putting out full parts almost every year. So the question is: What else makes a cult? “I think about that sometimes, too. Haven’t figured that one out. But something that is above natural but at the same time connects to all of us” (@cultoftiago). If we go back in history and dig through lecture you can find several stages or theories of what makes a cult, but there is one point that you can find in any reading peace about the cult phenomenon: a charismatic leader.

"I don't think anyone thinks of it as an actual cult. Skateboarding is funny. The whole industry is based on having crushes on other peoples skating. We're all just fans."

Actually, I don’t know how charismatic a skater has to be to make thousands of people being glued to a screen if they see footage of him or her (nacho-bacon-nutella snack, anyone?). Also I think it’s clear that none of these skaters would consider themselves as “leaders”. So I think we can stop the comparison to actual cults in history here. “I don't think anyone thinks of it as an actual cult. Skateboarding is funny. The whole industry is based on having crushes on other peoples skating. We're all just fans” (@cultofkrod).

But definitely, the skating itself plays a role of building the fanbase: “The VX footy from his (Tiago’s) Dime era is dope. He always felt like an underdog to me, but killing it as no one else. And I always think that is inspiring. The first clip im thinking of is that nollie bs heel on that spot in Canada where you skate over a bench and a three or four block. To do a nollie bs heel on that spot with so much power, confidence and style is unreal” (@cultoftiago). Sometimes there’s also one certain video part what makes people fans. Some admins pointed them out: Max Palmer’s part from the first 917 video, Jake Johnson’s “Mindfield” or Kevin Rodrigues’ “Dancing On Thin Ice” video part.

"I reached out to him when he started his Instagram account. I asked if he wanted me to delete it, but he was very sweet and thanked me for doing the account."

As some of these skaters we are talking about are more on the quite side, you maybe wonder if they recognize the fanpage or get in touch with the admin: “I reached out to him (Kevin Rodrigues) when he started his Instagram account. I asked if he wanted me to delete it, but he was very sweet and thanked me for doing the account.” Mostly all admins we’ve asked have been in touch or at least recognized by the skaters itself (just remember Max Palmer talking about @maxpalmerclips and making jokes of him being his unpaid intern).

Another question is the energy and effort running an account like this takes. Finding clips, screen record Instagram Stories before they are gone, or actually have a group of people who even do the work for you and send the clips to post: “All we do is search on Youtube or anywhere that might share videos on the internet... Other than that a lot of stuff gets sent in from maybe someone that had a camera at a demo or a filmer that never released some footage. If anyone is reading this and has some stuff send it over! Let's get it seen!” (@cultoftom). Here you definitely can see the actual energy of a fanbase, which is surely also containing other prominent skaters: “Sometimes people will send them to me, or I see them on various peoples stories. Shout out Ben Chadourne, Hjlate Halberg, Paul Grund, Alex Pires, Augustin Giovanonni and anyone elses content I have used” (@cultofkrod).

"One reason why I continued to post was that Tiago showing love from the beginning. He would send me clips and stuff."

A special one regarding this point is Tiago Lemos. As we asked the @cultoftiago admin if he’d continue the account even if the skaters wouldn’t like it, we got an interesting bonus insight: “No definitely not. One reason why I continued to post was that Tiago showing love from the beginning. He would send me clips and stuff.” – How smart & lovely.

"Penny had a huge impact in the 90s and that will always be remembered. And we want to remember it."

One big and last question before rounding this up: what makes the trend between a cult and a trend? “A tough one. Penny had a huge impact in the 90s and that will always be remembered. And we want to remember it. A trend is obviously something that comes and goes but a cult has a deeper meaning to it” (@cultoftiago).

So maybe it takes some time if we can say what or who is a cult in skateboarding. There are clearer cases and some where time will tell. It’s just safe to say there are lots of ways of thinking about it. Does is even matter? Probably not. As we pointed out before: skateboarding is still a lot about fun, even this overthinking try-hard analysis. A last quote by @cultofjkjhnsn maybe answers the “What makes a cult?” in a very open but smart way: “Writing "cult" before the actual name :-)”. Keep falling in love with skateboarding!

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