photo: gordon eckler
Skateboarders’ brains contain tons of factoids that matter very little in the “real world,” like who the first person to skate up a handrail was, or who invented the salad grind. We love to tease each other about who knows more about short-lived brands and pros who are now dust in the wind, and we wear that knowledge like a badge of honor. Now you can objectively fight over who the biggest skate nerd in your friend group is thanks to Gordon Eckler’s Skate Trivia card game.Gordon’s new game is published by Gingko Press, which has printed a lot of books about street culture, street art, and skating in the past. That means the game will likely make its way into proper book stores and fancy retailers, but thankfully it’ll also be available directly at your local skate shop.
We asked Gordon about the process of producing and pitching the game, who his fact-checkers are, and how he was able to verify questions that are skate folklore.
Do you think anyone finds having extensive knowledge of skate trivia to be a turn-on?
[laughs] I’ve never been turned on by skate trivia. I think you’re thinking of the bar nights that are popular in places like Brooklyn. I’ve never been to one of those, so I can’t really say.
Skate trivia nights are pretty popular in NYC, but they’re overrun by old white guys who only care about stuff from the ’90s or before. Is your game different?
Very different. Early on when I was “road testing” the game with friends, I realized that if the trivia was all about one era (’80s, ’90s, etc.) then one person in the car would have the edge. But if I mixed the trivia up from all years, areas, geographically, etc., anyone in the car had a chance to get one question. Over the years the four categories that always seemed to keep coming up were Names & Nicknames, Footy Tape, Teams & Companies, and Tricks of the Trade. Anything that didn’t fit within one of those four categories I put into Wild Card. I really do my best to mix it all up, but truth be told, I need to add more from the last 10 years. I’m working on that now.
photo: ethan indorf
What were the criteria for what questions made it into the game and which ones got nixed?
When I first started really working on the game, circa 2004, I’d say, I set the requirement for myself that something had to be in a magazine or video for me to be able to use it, because how else would someone be able to answer it? I later scrapped that and decided that as long as it’s true and had been verified by a reliable source, then it’s fair game to become a question.
Years ago I sent almost 200 questions to Lance Mountain that were all about tricks. Lance not only read them, but he marked up my PDF with notes about each one and in some places how to make the question even harder. Some of those stories that he sent me were so good, I had to use them.
If I think it’s expert hard, I’ll make it multiple choice if I can. I have to work within a set character count on the cards, so some questions, based on the length of the question, can’t be multiple choice.
“LANCE NOT ONLY READ THEM, BUT HE MARKED UP MY PDF WITH NOTES ABOUT EACH ONE AND IN SOME PLACES HOW TO MAKE THE QUESTION EVEN HARDER.”
You have a pretty star-studded list for curators and fact-checkers – how did these relationships come about? Did you ever work in the skate industry?
I’ve never really worked in the skate industry, but I did skate for teams from the time I was 16 to 30. I skated for Consolidated, Freedumb clothing, The Unbelievers, ACE trucks, Creature, just to name a few. I grew up in Maryland, but I moved to San Francisco in 2004, and that’s when I started to meet people who I had been writing trivia about. Just skating, going on trips, and meeting people.
I got Bryce Kanight’s email address off of his website and just hit him up. He and I started shooting photos together and became friends. I don’t really remember how I met Mark Whiteley, but he was a HUGE help in connecting me with other big names to verify questions. He was the editor of SLAP Magazine at the time and had a grip of connections.
But all of that was in the days before Instagram. Nowadays, I just go straight to the person the question is about. Nine out of 10 times they’re stoked that I’m writing a trivia question about them and are down to help me out.
photo: ethan indorf
Every skateboarder is a bit of a historian in a way. Where do you think this stems from?
Honestly, I don’t know. Skateboarders are inherently competitive, know-it-all, nerds. How many times have you heard a song and instantly asked the person next to you, “who skated to it?” We’ve all been on road trips with our friends, and that is where this game started. We lived in Maryland and would drive to southern PA to skate indoor parks there. It was a two-hour drive there and a two-hour drive home, so we had time to kill in the car.
Some dudes would wear headphones, but my good friend Brian Ball and I started to challenge each other with skate trivia to pass the time in the car. After a few years of that, we had hundreds of questions. To date, I’ve written over 2,000 for sure. Not all of them are good. I got better over the years for sure.
“SKATEBOARDERS ARE INHERENTLY COMPETITIVE, KNOW-IT-ALL, NERDS.”
Did anyone say you were crazy for pitching a skate trivia game? Gingko has done a number of books on skating, but a trivia card game seems very niche, even for them.
Funny, but making it into a card game was their idea. I had tried to make the game into an iPhone app back in 2010 but got derailed due to a lack of funding and time. So the whole project went into a box around 2011. Then in 2020, I started a design studio called Plaid Again and one of my goals was to figure out what to do with all of this trivia I had written over the years. At that point I had around 1,400 questions, so I pitched it to Gingko as a book. To my amazement, they got back to me in like four days.
David, who runs the company, asked what I thought about this being a card game and only releasing 250 questions at a time in a series. I was speechless. This was a dream come true.
photo: ethan indorf
Were there any facts that people have believed to be true for a long time that you found out were false?
Ed Templeton told me a funny story not long ago about the company TV Skateboards, which was owned by Ed and Mike Vallely. To Ed, “TV” meant “Television”, but to Mike “TV” meant “Templeton Vallely.” Then at some point, the company switched distribution, and to avoid any legal issues they changed the name of the company to Television Skateboards, which made Ed happy.
That story had killed a question I had written because I thought it stood for “Templeton Vallely,” but then Ed went on to tell me about 10 more awesome things that I was able to turn into rad trivia. So it all worked out!
“IT WAS JUST FUN STUFF WRITTEN IN SPIRAL NOTEBOOKS BACK THEN.”
You mentioned that this has been in the works for 20 years. Does that mean you’ve been actively collecting bits/facts for the game since then, or have been trying to get it published for 20 years?
[Laughs] That’s an awesome question. Funny, but I got lucky as hell. The first person I pitched it to, Ginkgo Press, picked it up, for which I’m beyond grateful. As for the past 20+ years, I started coming up with trivia questions to kill time in the car on road trips starting back around 1995–96. It was just fun stuff written in spiral notebooks back then. I didn’t start to form it into a game until around 2004–06.
2004 was a long time ago. What have you noticed as the biggest change in skate culture since then?
YouTube. By far. When I first started working on this I had to find VHS copies of videos. I had to really hunt for stuff. Now, I hear of a video, no matter what year it came out, I can almost always find it online, normally on YouTube. It’s so crazy. Working on this game has never been so easy. But you gotta know what to look for.
I think skate videos really started to pick up momentum being released via YouTube around 2012. I read a book recently called The Next Wave: the history of skateboarding 1999–2020 by Daniel Fedkenheuer. It’s good. In there he has a chapter on the evolution of YouTube and how it changed skateboarding, and I agree.
photo: clinton perry
You mentioned that you are looking to stock in local shops. Any big accounts that you can direct people to for purchasing?
All wholesale orders are done through Gingko. As for skate distribution, we have representation in Australia (Project Distribution), Canada (Ultimate Distribution), UK (Rock Solid Distribution), and here in the USA shops can get it through AWH Distribution.
I’m starting to see shops post about the game on Instagram, but only if they tag me. But it’s starting to get out there, which makes me so happy. I’ve worked on this for so long, to see it out there and know that people can finally play it is beyond rewarding.
I always tell people to first go to your local skate shop and ask them if they are gonna stock the game. But if they don’t plan to, you can purchase the game directly from me at SkateTriviaGame.com. Purchases made there are packed and shipped by me. I always add stickers and fun goodies.
Were there any questions that were left on the cutting room floor for being too edgy or raunchy?
So many. On the cutting room floor that is. But they end up there for a number of different reasons, not necessarily for being “edgy or raunchy”. It could be anything from being far too hard even if it was multiple choice, too obscure, or most commonly because I think the question would really bum someone out if it came up again. We all did dumb stuff as kids, and some things just need to be left in the past. I get that.
photo: ken nagahara
Who do you think the biggest skate nerd in the skate industry is?
That’s a really hard question — there are so many. But I’ve connected with some really great people who really love skate history and want to help out, which is rad. If I had to put a single name down on paper, Templeton Elliot and Matt Derrick are both really high on the list. Temp has a podcast called “Mostly Skateboarding” and Matt is the manager of the DLXSF shop on Market Street in SF. They are both serious skate historians. Jason Strubing is a good one too. He can pull out some nerdiness for sure. Schmitty too.
Do you think that there are some questions that could be false because the skaters who fact-checked them were drunk when the event or trick in question happened?
No, not really. I’ve had a few people tell me “Dude, we were all doing so many drugs back then, I have no idea who the first was to do (blank) or where the first (blank) went down.” That’s why stuff from the ’70s and early ’80s is hard to verify. But then again, some of it is very well documented. This is also not to say everyone who skated back then was doing drugs and drinking their faces off. It’s more because cameras weren’t in everyone’s pocket the way they are now.
Interview by: Alexis Castro
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