A resourceful skate culture embracing the unruly wildlands of the northeast
STORY BY Anthony Ohman
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Tom Mull and Ian Durkin
"a chance to renew an engagement with such a world and let our boards do what the Polynesians’ board once did ."
To be a skateboarder is to interact with your environment, just as well as it reacts with you. When the Polynesians began to surf in the 1800’s they had body, board and nature. Nothing more.
Vermont is a mountainous state, resembles a pocket, and is tucked away in the northeast corner of the United States. There are no oceans, and there are no waves, but there is dirt, ice and cracked pavement. Amidst the seasonal surfaces of Manchester, VT, the Mull brothers developed an expressionist approach to skateboarding. With an emphasis on texture; their aesthetic draws from Pacific waves, transcendental literature and roaring hillsides of early October. A home-schooled education that provided ample outdoor time gave the young Mull’s time to examine the capacity in which skateboarding can evolve. For the oldest, Charley, living in the Green Mountain’s gave the brothers “a chance to renew an engagement with such a world and let our boards do what the Polynesians’ board once did – act as a medium between us and nature, between us and a world outside that is more complex than the system of city and suburbia.” This engagement began unconventionally, with a plastic “Goosebumps” board Charley brought home one day as a kid.
Most professional skateboarders are surrounded by concrete wastelands with access to abandoned back yard pools. Steve and Dave Mull look for the roots of trees on weathered sidewalks and forage logs for backyard rails. An uneven landscape requires skateboarders to be lighter on their feet, more aware of surroundings and open to improvisation. This challenges the public preconception of skateboarding, often seen as destructive to society and publically protested on government issued street signs. It’s in the work of writer Henry David Thoreau where Tom Mullen countered a response to this ideology. “His thoughts on walking translate to skateboarding in contemporary time. The performance of walking; the phenomenological experience, and the philosophical implication all translate to skateboarding.” It’s that framework of thought that exists in the Worble’s current adage “re-wild or die.” To re-wild is to interact with nature without destroying the preexisting structures in place. Re-wilding evokes creation in an evolutionary form while also confronting a physical and densely populated world. In cities across America, skateboarding on any form of property is seen as trespassing and punishable by law. The Mull’s treat skating in urban environments as a way to reclaim nature, in defiance of private property. Thoreau writes in Walking that he was most bothered when his favorite paths to walk upon became fenced in; removed from the public and partitioned amongst the upper class. How else then is one supposed to reclaim nature, if not skate on it?
Their way of life has caught has already generated influence in skate communities through poignant artistic documentation. “The Worble is first and foremost a philosophy and collective.” Tom says, understanding how the brand has grown in recent years. “We don't want to get carried away with the business, but instead just focus on creating cool stuff. It’s been a venue for all the skating, filmmaking, art and just everything we are interested in. So, slowly we’re crafting it into something more cohesive and coherent.”