“The flashy and painful parts” by Cole Nowicki via Simple Magic

“The flashy and painful parts” by Cole Nowicki via Simple Magic

One thing that is certain is the uncertainty of our shared history, especially in the online age. Like a scar or a gaudy gold ring, the past only exists if we carry it with us and show it to everyone we can. There have always been those who’d rather not, instead, misconstruing, lying about, and banning what it is that made us who we are. However, now that so much of our history lives on and through the internet, something as simple as forgetting to pay a domain hosting bill, a sneaky piece of malware, or a company’s desire to save on server space can easily erase decades’ worth of archives.

Earlier this year, the once ubiquitous image-hosting site Imgur removed an unspecified number of “explicit images” and “old, unused, and inactive content,” which, as Ars Technica noted at the time, “It’s nobody’s obligation to host images indefinitely for free, but Imgur has been around long enough that such a culling will likely result in untold amounts of link rot—web pages missing vital pieces of context.” And just last week, a glitch at Twitter (Now “X”) deleted most pictures and links posted before December 2014.

While we like to think that the internet is forever, it simply is not. When it comes to skateboarding media, what happens if Thrasher’s YouTube page ever gets accidentally deleted or removed due to some policy violation? The Library of Alexandria of modern skate videos is gone. If Instagram ever self-immolates like Twitter, a generation’s understanding of skateboarding and its vehicle of discovery will vanish.

That’s why I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that Kevin Marks’s work with Look Back Library is an essential step in preserving skateboarding history. What started as a project to improve a local skate magazine library has since grown into a network of nearly 180 Look Back Libraries around the world. Print magazines, while now niche in the wake of the internet’s takeover, are still the record of skateboarding culture itself.

Sure, much of what was in their pages during the golden era of print was more or less dictated by industry trends, as skate mags were initially designed as marketing opportunities for brands, but that doesn’t mean they don’t carry significant historical importance. Plus, that dynamic has been changing in recent years with the rise of smaller independent magazines whose mandates aren’t solely driven by appeasing advertisers.

Keeping our connection to print in the way Marks does is invaluable and gives us a direct link to the glossy pages of skateboarding history. It’s also a significant amount of work, as Marks is constantly travelling, collecting magazines, and establishing and fleshing out more and more skate magazine libraries. It’s a worthy effort that keeps the past — including the flashy and painful parts — alive and in the present.

Simple Magic is a weekly newsletter about skateboarding, the internet, and other means of escape. It’s written by Cole Nowicki and comes out every Friday. Sometimes on Wednesday. Pretty sure there was a Monday post one time, too. Be sure to click on the following link to subscribe:

We, at Board Retailers Association, are here to help you to succeed by providing resources and programs that enable you to lower day to day costs, increase margins and create more remarkable customer experiences. We provide a voice for our Retail Members and will never share your information. BRA has been “protecting retailers and a lifestyle” for over 20 years.

We, at Board Retailers Association, absolutely see the value in increased goodwill, customer loyalty, and customer experience by encouraging BRA Retail Members to align with and collaborate with at least two non-profit Community Partners every year. Our current list of BRA Community Partners in no particular order include @4Ocean, @boardsforbros, @theskateparkproject, @surfersforautism, @skateparkrespect, @surfskatescience, @grindforlife, @surfingheritage, @exposureskate, @lookbacklibrary, @createaskate, @skateshopday and @surfshopday. If you would like to be introduced to the awesome people behind any of these outstanding organizations, email and include “BRA Community Partner intro” in the subject line.

If you are not yet a BRA Retail Member, you can easily opt in to either Regular (no cost) or Distinguished ($100/yr.) Membership via this super simple join form