Bi-weekly, we get together for a marketing meeting. During these powwows, we lay out our marketing schedule and agenda, and discuss content. A LOT of times during these meetings we sit around figuratively throwing shit at a wall and hoping some of it sticks. A few months ago, sitting around the conference table discussing our marketing plans, it hit me. That little voice in my head said, “Hey, Ben! I don’t think anyone has ever analyzed every Thrasher Magazine cover.” And…without thinking, I immediately blurted this out to the group. Little did I know that this idea would stick and I’d be the one to undertake this endeavor.
Have you ever bitten off more than you can chew? Ever taken a bite so large you instantly regret it? We’ve all done it, and after nearly asphyxiating, we say, “Never again! From now on, I’m only taking small bites.,” but…if you’re like me, your eyes are always bigger than your stomach, and after surviving that first enormous bite, all you know to do is settle in for the feast.
As of today Monday, August 22nd, Thrasher Magazine has published at least 440 different covers (including bonus and collector issues). Obviously, it’s an incredibly big undertaking to catalog every cover, a task made larger by observing the following data points: year, month, skater(s), stance, trick, regular/switch, fakie, nollie, terrain (street or transition), shoe brand (if identifiable), and photographer or artist.
I’m not complaining, though, because as a skateboarder, actually, “Skatenerd,” I couldn’t think of a more fun project. Since there is so much information to digest, I have decided to split this article up into segments, starting with the beginning; 1981-1992. Part Two (1993-2005) will be coming out in the next few weeks. Enjoy!
From Illustrations, Black & White, and into Full Color: Thrasher’s Evolution from 1981 to 1992
Based on covers alone, it’s almost inarguable that Thrasher’s biggest evolution took place during this era. From the very first cover illustrated by Kevin Thatcher, to the last time a manual or “wheelie” variation graced the cover (Andy Kessler, June 1983), The Mag saw it all. Every discipline was covered; backyard pools, vert, downhill races, freestyle, luge, and even some snowboarding. Most notably during this time, skateboarding moved from the backyard pools and ramps into the streets and even some kitchens (Steve Rocco, December 1981).
Above is the aforementioned photo of Rocco taking it to the fridge. By the end of this period, street skateboarding would fully take over and audiences would see less transition and almost no freestyle on the covers. At the end of this period, Mike Carroll lands his first cover of The Mag in December 1992 (pictured above). It would be around this time that Mike Carroll and Rick Howard would depart from Plan B, which was under World Industries (owned by Rocco). Looking at the period this way definitely illustrates the changing of the guard that was happening at this time.
By today’s standards, skateboarding fakie, switch, or nollie is so common that it comes as a surprise to view the breakdown of trick orientation through this period. This graph doesn’t mean that people weren’t skating switch, fakie, or nollie, it just wasn’t making the covers. For this discussion, the term “regular” doesn’t mean left foot forward, rather it means skating your natural stance.
From 1981 to 1992, there were only six covers that featured tricks done by the rider skateboarding fakie. Everything else was done regular or is not applicable, meaning the cover was a portrait, illustration, or featured a neutral trick (e.g. hanging ten, nose wheelies, pogos, or luge). It wouldn’t be until the next era, ’93-’05, where covers become more diverse by trick orientation. It’s safe to say that, during this period, #switchgod didn’t apply to Thrasher covers.
Skateboard Stance (Goofy vs. Regular):
Goofy vs. regular is a timeless battle, and the debate continues to this day as to which stance is superior. I skateboard goofy-footed, so I’m always gonna hold it down for my goofy brothas. Let’s see who wins the debate in this era.
As you can see below, a lot of photographers received cover credits or partial credits (inserts) within this period. I was hyped to sit down and look at this era and determine who was the most prolific. Mofo was by far the most prolific leaving the closest in numbers, Kevin Thatcher in the dust.
While trying to stomach all of the photos, riders, photographer credits, etc., an observer would have had been utterly OBLIVIOUS not to spot that, in December 1982, the cover featuring Tom Groholski crushing a huge backside air was shot by Groholski. This is peculiar because, in today’s age of “selfieness,” there are a ton of photos and videos credited to the riders themselves, however, this photo was from 1982. Who is shot it? Was it Tom himself? I figured it was Tom’s brother, but I was stoked to learn that it was, indeed, his father. Jeff Grosso covers this in his web series “Grosso’s Loveletters to Skateboarding,” supported by Vans:
Outside of this particular instance, I don’t think we’ll ever see another cover shot by the rider’s own father. Now that’s #legendary! This tidbit, along with the fact that several prolific skateboard photographers also graced the cover of Thrasher Magazine shredding, makes this period my favorite. We’ve seen that happen now with guys like Arto Saari, but it originally happened with Bryce Kanights and Luke Ogden both on covers skating and from behind the lens.
Now, not every cover within this period featured just a single photo. Many covers had multiple inserts and could have several riders featured per photo, so there was A LOT to take in. With that being said, Steve Cab popped up on the cover of Thrasher in some form or fashion eight times during the first 12 years!
Here are all of Cab’s covers within this time period in order from top left to bottom right:
One of my favorite covers from this time would have to be the May, 1992 issue of Thrasher. It features John Montessi and Tom Knox and exclaims “DAMN IT ALL – SWITCHSTANCE” but neither Montessi’s or Knox’s tricks are switch. The first cover featuring a switch trick wouldn’t come for at least another year but I’ll get to that and go deeper into tricks in the next episode. I’m exhausted thinking about it but I’ll get to it, promise.
Till next time..History > illustration > photography > skateboarding > thrasher magazine