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The Chain Is There For A Reason
A diabolical nemesis
Do you ever see a spot and think, “Dude, that’s not cool. You shouldn’t skate that.” Not like a spot at a church or a memorial or whatever. The spot that should send skaters in the other direction is, of course, the chain. I say stick to the skatepark, but those aren’t safe either.
While skaters try to tell gravity no, a chain tells gravity yes. The catenary’s shape is the natural form of the slack between two points. The Gateway Arch, for example, is an inverted catenary in an even gravitational field. An upside-down chain, if you will. Mathematically on a graph, you form this shape using a hyperbolic cosine.
If a skater took the time to add up the thousands of ways to get scrambled on the chain, they might think twice, but hairball skaters in search of glory charge onward. It’s unhinged, but it’s what separates the skaters from the civilians.
A chain instinctually should trigger everything that could go wrong. Clip a bench or a bar, and instinct tells you when to bail. But when you can taste victory, the links of a chain might just hit you with the ‘ole vaudeville hook.
How many obstacles give with you, only to tangle you up and flip you over? Playing the chain game is land or slam.
“Give me the hook or the ovation"
— La Cage aux Folles
I was not allowed to hang out with a certain kind of kid while growing up. My parents could tell these kids had no regard for safety or respect for authority figures.
For lack of a better example, this kind of kid was Aiden Mackey.
Aiden is probably pretty cool, but this dude has no regard for safety judging by his skating. Not only will this man skate a chain. He’ll likely involve dirt and hills along with it. Hell, there might even be a manual.
He raised the stakes even higher with The Straus Square double chain. Chain in, chain out—pure insanity.
Cyrus Bennet is also a gnarly guy. While he was still on the phone number, he lined up a heelflip over danger and into a skinny spillway.
The Mona Lisa of Chains
Imagine for a second the homie telling you there’s a sick bank spot. Sounds chill? The homie fails to mention a curb at the bottom of the bank, eliminating Bertlemann’s and flip tricks.
The homie also forgot to say once you’re going lightning speed and come off the curb, the parking lot is full of SD bros unloading boats in their lifted trucks. Also, there’s a chain at the top of the bank.
This little gem of a spot is, without a doubt, the holiest grail of iron-linked obstacles. The victors of this spot are a Murderers’ Row of Osiris skaters and, of course, Tom Penny.
Mark Johnson played it safer than anyone with the nollie hardflip, which at least gets the trucks out of harm’s way, but things like an inward heelflip to manual is where conundrums lay.
The Safe Option
In my line of work, I write a lot about minimizing future catastrophes. “Avoid crisis by planning ahead” is the motto. Risk mitigation is the foresight to predict potential disaster without avoiding it completely.
While skating the chain is tempting, one way to mitigate risk is by meeting it halfway. If trying to trick the chain is inevitable, embrace its path and reduce its ability to maximize adverse effects.
Here’s a hot take: Clive Dixon boardsliding two handrails, connected by a chain, is a safer option than jumping over one.
It was predicted by the Zero camp and possibly by Daniel “Dan Rails” Haney, but Clive took the easy way out of the chain game and emerged seemingly unscathed. Play it even safer and put a rail over the chain entirely.
In the same vein of playing it safe, removing the link variable with a protective sleeve minimized enough risk for Stafhon Boca to boink over a chain and a five-stair.
Are Our Fears Hyperbolic?
The best class I took in college was called Naturalism. To sum it up, it’s a literary concept from around the turn of the century focusing on nature’s inability to care about the human spirit. It’s an evident struggle of free will versus survival of the fittest—fictitious journalism in a sense.
The protagonists in skate videos are primarily painted as heroes. Every once in a while, a villain appears in the form of a constable or a well-to-do citizen. But in a metaphorical sense, spots are the main villain. The chain is the most diabolical and naturalistic concept of the universe turning a blind eye to human safety when used in the wrong way.
Many skaters have won battles, but the war is never-ending. Click the links if you dare, but this is what can happen when someone tries jumping themselves into the chain gang.
Bastien! Bastien! Salabanzi took the SD chain to new heights with a cab flip. Impressive for sure, but not for Bastien.
The guy took his damn shoes off.
The fact that a contest would involve a chain is pure bloodthirst. For shoeless Salabanzi, the variable limit here is so high the limit does not exist:
Switch + Heelflip + Kicker + Chain + Bank × Unshod ÷ Headphones = ?
“It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.”
Danger will continue as long as there are skaters. The chain will continue to strike fear in some and make legends of others. If you plan on playing the chain game, godspeed. Go viral.