I lurk the slap forums enough to know that the ”new“ Stereo should obviously be shut down, that its an embarrassment to the crew that made A Visual Sound and that Jason Lee is a millionaire a-hole who should be signing over all his checks to Kyle Leeper so that he can quit his day job.
Except I don’t believe any of that.
The 2004 promo video Way Out East was a great mission statement and I can get behind anybody that’s had Clint Peterson’s back for a decade. Besides, the new Stereo could never be the Stereo of A Visual Sound again—its 2 decades later, interests expand, skateboarding changes and random Jason Lee manuals at Stoner and boneless ones from Dune is about all the footage we’re going to get from the AVS team (though I am holding out for more Mike Daher tail-stalls to Japan out). Anyway we could say the same thing about Girl now vs Mouse (Yes, Pretty Sweet’s editing is over the top but do you really want any of those video parts to just disappear?), Mindfield-era Workshop to Photosynthesis or even the inverse: what business does Element have with a dope low-key team (OK, excepting Nyjah on the low-key front) when it was the “Bam Show” only a couple of years ago? Things change. I’m cool with that.
A well-rounded skater with a penchant for gigantic gaps, a standard kit of jeans and hoodies and virtually no “lifestyle hammers.”
Still, Jordan Hoffart on Stereo is a surprise. But maybe it shouldn’t be. Despite being one of the gnarliest guys out, he’s been in sponsorship limbo since Powell axed its team awhile back. I don’t know why he couldn’t find a new spot but I suspect its his lack of a gimmick. He has no “image” and for years he was associated with the direction-less Powell (Fun! Stacy’s back! Re-issues! Fire everybody relevant!). In an environment where sponsorship is about the degree to which you can “see him on [fill-in-the-blank]” whether its for style, terrain, outfits or who somebody skates with, Hoffart stands out for standing out. He’s just a well-rounded skater with a penchant for gigantic gaps, a standard kit of jeans and hoodies and virtually no “lifestyle hammers” to speak of. He sorta comes off as a lone wolf and as a result no one knows where to file him (I am ever the optimist so I “could’ve totally seen him” on Girl, Expedition, Workshop, Element, or Baker. Had this happened when he got dropped he’d be just a few years away from “Can you believe he used to skate for Powell?! LOL.”).
A clearing-house for discarded vets?
Stereo on the other hand has had a hard time getting a team to coalesce. They consistently pick up veteran pros (and the occasional veteran am like Ben Gore) that seem like a good fit for the classic 90s-era vibe but the lack of a true video project since the 2007’s A Journey Through Sound promo (which suffered from Dune and J. Lee’s theater kid antics) and the consistent sense of “Hey, what happened to [insert sick am like Joe Pease]?” makes it feel like they have done nothing (a Slap post in regards to Hoffart getting on Stereo was simply a picture of a coffin. Message received.). They also haven’t turned a anyone pro in the last 5 years (with the exception of Ben Gore who was already a known—if underground—commodity from Rasa Libre). Its almost as if they are afraid to make this kind of decision, and it feeds the idea that they are a clearing house for discarded vets like Kyle Leeper and Raymond Molinar (Note to those whose behinds just started aching: I like these dudes a lot and thought that Molinar was a “really great fit” for Stereo). I mean, does anybody really expect them to turn Ben Fisher pro or will they just waste the next few years of his life before they decide to “part ways on good terms”?
How do board companies establish an identity? It boils down to two things: major videos and who they have the foresight to sponsor (and the resources to keep on the team. Powell had Silas Baxter-Neal on flow and just let him drift away. Good for him.). Viewed through that lens, it makes sense that Stereo is seen as shadow of its 90s self. Their reputation is built on full-length videos that are pushing 20 years old. The same might be true of Girl with Mouse or Mosaic-era Habitat and except that they produced multiple projects since then. You might like those older videos best but you haven’t forgotten that the brands exist. The other half of Stereo’s legacy is the foresight of giving pro boards to Ethan Fowler, Mike Daher, and Greg Hunt amongst others. All skaters that were doing something different and didn’t give a shit about the industry.
So, 2014-era Stereo has got their work cut out for them. Major projects aside they seem to be hustling—board graphics have improved majorly in the last few years (despite the over-reliance on generic logo models), their clips and commercials have always been great but the Stereophonic Sound series has been surprisingly heavy, and say what you will about Dune’s constant presence behind a microphone as MC of Fuel TV this and host of Ride Channel that but he’s going hard at getting his face out there and I can only assume that part of his motivation is to get his company really get going.
I like Jordan Hoffart on Stereo. It strikes me as evidence that the company is not sitting around worrying about how it will look to have a Zero-esque stuntman on a team known for style above all. And Hoffart gets some added visibility. Even without a board sponsor he’s been charging ahead—his Welcome to Stereo edit (below) is his 2nd video part in less than a year (along with some crazy footage in last year’s New Ground from Bones Wheels) and he’s not slowing down. Here’s hoping Hoffart and Stereo do what needs to be done to put the past behind them.*
*Hint: Its a full team video anchored by Hoffart’s willingness to put himself in harm’s way.