Recollections of Transworld
Words by Adam Abada
After the shock and grief of loss, depending on its size, we are left with a reconciliation. The story no longer ongoing, we fit it into a common paradigm of structure and look at things as a completed whole with a beginning, middle, and end. This is when the tricky idea of legacy comes into play, leaving us to parse through the seemingly endless unfolding of history and meaning to find out what something really meant to us: was it a trendy contemporary time capsule, or does it carry an inherent value for the culture it was a part of?
It can’t be overstated how important Transworld Skateboarding was, especially for anyone who started skating from its inception in 1983 through the 2000s. Even after the weakening of print and a move towards more regular, shorter offerings on the internet, Transworld remained a strong presence in skateboarding, and not just because of its past. It was growing and changing with skateboarding as we were. Now we’re left to figure out for ourselves where it fits in the whole picture and how our individual skateboarding lives are affected by it. I find it hard to look through the years of Transworld images in my head and make sense of them because they’re so inherently intertwined with my development skating. While many of the pages from Transworld seem to be pieces of skateboarding’s very fabric, the things I remember best are always connected to a personal story.
I was a kid who was born in Manhattan and grew up in New Jersey. My dad owned a bodega on 4th St. and Bowery, which would soon become my defacto base for exploring the city in the high school days of taking the bus in. One day, my Dad came home with the February 2002 issue of Transworld - it had Tony Trujillo on the cover doing an invert. I had and still have no idea where he got the issue from, but somehow on that night three things lined up: 1. Peter Bici came into the store, “Bowery Food Convenience.” I can only imagine he had a skateboard with him because somehow he and my dad struck up a conversation about how I skated. 2. Somebody had a copy of the newest issue of Transworld. Maybe my Dad had already picked it up at a newsstand for me? This seems weird, because I don’t really remember him ever doing this. Or, maybe, Peter Bici had the copy on him because: 3. There was a photo of Peter Bici in a whole section about New York – a section that included skaters’ reactions to 9/11 – skating the Brooklyn Banks. He was doing a wallride and the caption read “NYC Peter Bici making it nice at the Brooklyn Banks.” Peter Bici signed that photo with “To Adam, Keep Skating - Peter Bici” and my dad brought it home to me. It’s still hanging up on my wall. I now remember that issue of Transworld the most.
This doesn’t do much in the way of solidifying Transworld’s legacy or anything, but I think that’s just the point. The legacy of anything is how it has affected and changed us. Often, the ending of things is a sad feeling, but those endings have new beginnings and we can use the sadness and memories of the past to inspire what’s to come. So, we decided to hit up anyone who worked at Transworld and hear their thoughts on their favorite issues, no parameters whatsoever. These are individual snapshots of the thousands, even millions Transworld has offered and we hope at the very least they help you recall some of your own memories.
Name: Jaime Owens
Years: 2013 - present
I think I'll just got with my first issue of Transworld that I got as a kid, the December 1986 issue with Rodney Mullen on the cover. It was the first skate magazine I ever saw. My sister brought it home from the grocery store because she thought I'd like it since I had been skateboarding for a while. I never knew skate mags existed at the time. We used to look at the BMX mag, "Freestylin'" to see any glimpse of skate ads in the back. So, I was blown away that there was a fully dedicated skate mag. I ripped every page out and put it on my wall like every other skater of that era. It's funny that a lot mags from that era didn't survive because of that practice, so I was delighted and amazed to get a job at Transworld in 2013 and to be able to get a mint condition issue of that December '86 one. That issue will forever be a special memento to me. A day didn't go by while working here, that I didn't think to myself, "I can't believe I work at Transworld!" The times here and the crew here are forever part of my life and feel honored to have been able to experience it with them and to be part of a legendary skateboard magazine like Transworld Skateboarding.
Name: Mackenzie Eisenhour
Position/Years: European Editor 2005, Staff Writer 2006-2014, Associate Editor 2014-2018
I also would have to go with the fist issue I owned; the Dec. 1988 issue (Vol. 6, No. 6) with Jef Hartsel on the cover at the Suzuki Banks. This was the first skate mag I owned. I had seen mags before this one but this was the first one I could really study in depth. So it became my introduction to almost everything in skateboarding. Inside that issue was a feature article titled “Functional Forms” devoted to skateable architecture. I would list that article as my most memorable as well.
The “Functional Forms” article was my first exposure to not only real street skateboarding, but also the combination of things that I would fall in love with—amazing graphic design (by GSD), crossed with interesting writing (by “Carl West”) mixed with epic skate photos from across the world (LA, SF, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, NYC etc…), all repurposing urban space and architecture in ways never intended. It was like discovering this secret society that existed just beneath the surface—and this magazine article told you exactly how to join.
It fucking blew my mind. It still does. I would stare at those photos for months. I couldn’t believe those spots existed. I would dream of skating them. I couldn’t believe that it was somebody’s job to write about them and photograph them. I began dreaming about doing that too. The stuff I do today on my Instagram (#skatenerdstarmaps) still ties back to that first issue and “Functional Forms” feature to some degree.
Name: Keegan Callahan
Position/Years: Creative Director, 2012 - now
Issue No. 385 Mar-Apr 2017
I couldn’t be more proud of where we took TWS during the last few years. It’s been surreal contributing to the legacy of a brand that I grew up idolizing. It’s hard to single out any one moment or memory, but for me issue No. 385, the first of the redesigned bi-monthly format, is particularly special. A beautiful blurbless display of skateboard photography on the cover sets things off in the right direction. Yaje had the last part in the then upcoming TWS video, Riddles in Mathematics, so having him come through with a ground-breaking maneuver for that specific issue was just icing on the cake. We somehow leveraged the financial hard times that were driving the switch to bi-monthly, and used them as an opportunity to go fully highbrow, thick uncoated paper, clean layouts, even took the logo off the cover all together. It was a major contrast from the paper thin neon blurbed issues from a few years prior. At the Riddles premier I remember watching as people got their first glimpse of the new Transworld Skateboarding Magazine. Pros, fans, and industry heads, carefully studying the magazines as they picked them up, recalculating their connections to a brand that has been with them, through varying levels of love, scrutiny, and even disdain, since their earliest connections with skateboarding. It was truly awesome to have the opportunity to positively shape the experiences people had with TWS, and maybe even win back some of our biggest critics that were lost along the way.
Name: Blair Alley
Position/Year: Online Editor/Contributing Editor, Transworld Business 2002-2004, otherwise 2004-2018
Well it’s impossible, I think, for me to pick one article or one issue. I started at Transworld working for Transworld Business in 2002, then moved over to TWS in 2004. So I will say starting in 2004 is when I felt truly a part of the history of this amazing place.
Skin (Phillips) was newly EIC after Grant and Dave left, and Skin had hired Eric Stricker to edit the mag and the two of them basically rebuilt the staff from scratch. I slid over from Biz to be the Online Editor, and they started building the all-star photography staff starting with Seu Trinh (he shot almost every cover in this era, on film—just killing it), then eventually Mike O’Meally, Oliver Barton, and later Dave Chami. Skin was tight with Dan Sturt and started running his photos again at this time (Rowley ditch ollie cover) and a full portfolio in this issue—August 2004—this is my issue of choice for this article, by the way. Grant and Dave had banned Sturt after the Danny Way poaching, and Sturt was always my favorite photographer, and I’m sure Skin liked his work too, so it was rad to have his photos back in TWS. It felt like a new era and it was ours. During the layout of this particular issue, Sturt was in the office a lot, so it was rad to see him and hear his stories. He’d kick it in the art director Aaron Regan’s office for hours while Aaron laid out that article, and Aaron would tell me all the stuff Dan was saying and doing because he knew what a Sturt fan I was.
Another story about this issue: That Seu Trinh cover shot of Rodney became the best selling TWS issue of all time and won Seu and the mag a Henry Luce award. Now, several years later, like in 2017, I was hanging with Seu and we were reminiscing, probably telling stories about Skin and those years and Seu said, “Skin told me that when that issue came out, Dan Sturt asked him who shot that cover photo of Rodney. Skin said Seu Trinh shot it. Then Sturt said, ‘Tell him that’s the only photo I’ve ever seen that I wish I’d shot.’” Fucking insane right!? So getting back to those years, 2004 and on, having O’Meally, Oliver and those guys dropping by the office, sitting in on their conversations, seeing their Hasselblad film stills after getting back from a star-studded trip with the Girl or Cliché team abroad was amazing for me since it was always my dream to be a skate photographer. Those guys were so kind and generous (especially Skin! He straight up gave me cameras and gear!) and welcoming, it was a dream come true. Then the other side of this was the TWS video department: Jon Holland, Jason Hernandez, Ewan Bowman, and more. I didn’t see these guys as much as they were always out filming, but they had an insane two-room editing office with bunk-beds and I had several late nights hanging with them, getting to check rough edits of In Bloom, Subtleties, And Now, etc. And again, each and every one of those dudes couldn’t have been nicer and I’m close friends with them all to this day. Then the icing on the cake was when Skin would see fit to actually run my photos in print, alongside these legends—a full-on I’m Not Worthy, Wayne’s World moment. My photos weren’t on the level of those legends, but Skin’s generosity once again, was huge and he opened the door for me to get out and travel and shoot more. Enough about me, but those years 04~to whenever, were so influential to me. Eric Stricker was such a passionate visionary, a mentor to me, and everything a magazine editor should be. Mackenzie started writing a bunch for us, and to me he’s the best skate journalist out there and a five-star general skate nerd. Skateboarding is lucky to have him. Just a special, talented group of guys to work with and be around. I just feel super lucky to have been in the mix.
Name: Mike Fitzgerald
Position/Years: Sales Manager, 2009-present (continuing on with ownership changes)
My most memorable issue of TWS was November, 1995. This iconic cover shot of Josh Kalis by the Legendary Skin Phillips will be burned into my brain forever. The composition is so unique, you really can't ell where Kails is popping the Backside 180, or where he's going to land. There was an aura of mystery around this shot and to my knowledge the footage never came out. I read an Interview with Kalis about this and he mentioned there's only a little bit of concrete to land on, then you ride into dirt. Regardless of the clip, the cover photo alone is timeless. Skin's perspective and the colors are incredible. San Francisco was the mid 90's Skate Mecca, and the Golden Gate Bridge contrasting against a blue sky and Kalis in the adidas Shell Toes are definitely period correct for '95. Beyond the classic over shot, Eric Koston and Guy Mariano having Pro Spotlights in the same issue was unbelievable! Koston was just on top of the game and all of his photos were proper. Everything Koston has in there is flawless and innovative. Mariano was really elusive in these years so seeing all these new photos of him in one place was shocking. I also remember Mariano had a wide variety of looks, tricks and terrain throughout his Spotlight. His diversity ranged from a switch back tail on a handrail to a body jar in backyard pool. Mariano came out of obscurity and proved once again he's unfadeable. When this came out I was 15 and picked up a copy at Pacific Drive, it was a must have. The lasting impact of this particular issue of TWS is with me to this day.
Name: Greg Hunt
Position/Years: 16 mm filmer, videographer, 1999-2001, credits: Anthology, Sight Unseen, i.e., Videoradio
I don’t really have just one. Pretty much any issue from 89 or 90 is really special to me just because of how much I loved skating then and how much I studied each mag. There’s the Hensley cover issue, the Mike Vallely interview issue that stand out. Also the photo annuals were so epic... I’d say those are probably my most memorable, I loved all the portraits and colorful photos.
Name: Grant Britain
Position/Years: Photo Editor and Senior Photographer, from the founding, 1983 until 2003
The most memorable issue was probably the Swank Push Issue in June 1987, it was one of the most difficult covers to get approved - it wasn’t just a “guy in the sky” and had a major impact on the skate world - covers could be anything after that.