Rollerblading is now entering its fourth decade of existence. In that time we’ve seen many things come and go, some for the better, some for the worse.
Few, if any of us, mourn the loss of front flips, Sidewalks, XXXL t-shirts, Flyaway helmets, or any of that other ’80s and ’90s crap that made us all look like a cavalcade of imbeciles.
On the other hand, there are those extinct taxa whose unfortunate and untimely deaths triggered somber and agonizing lamentation within our ranks. I bow my head to the VG series, Cozmo wheels, Fiziks frames, grind plates made from every imaginable material, a dozen contest series now lost, and countless other blading companies and organizations who fought the good fight.
Of the former: good riddance. Of the latter: may their souls roll forever in peace…
…on a nice mini… with fresh Masonite… and good coping that slides.
Sometimes it’s not all that difficult to come up with a good reason why something went extinct. Sidewalks, for instance, looked pretty stupid. They were too slow, too safe, and too easy. But those, to me, aren’t good reasons. There are loads of other tricks that can be done slowly, safely, and easily. A better reason for the demise of Sidewalks has to do with the fundamental way we conceptualize and perform tricks.
All grinding tricks, whether one- or two-footed, hold each foot in a position sustainable independently. You can imagine that a forward pornstar is built from the two fundamental stances makio and torque. The front foot is essentially doing a makio, the back foot a torque. Same thing with our most basic trick, the frontside. The front foot can now be imagined as doing a fastslide, and the back foot a pudslide. Each one of those is entirely sustainable on its own. And this theory holds true for all other grinds: unity, soyale, mistrial, X-grind, soul, royale, and so on.
But not so with Sidewalks. The front foot is doing a makio, sure. But what about that back foot? A one-footed grind on the laces of your boot? No sir. I don’t think so. Go out and try it though, I’ve definitely been wrong in the past.
Now, it’s important to think of what I just said as a theory — though certainly not a bad one. The tricks that have endured the test of time fit nicely with that theory. The ones that don’t went extinct. Remember Tom Fry’s backside heel? Gone. That heel foot is totally unsustainable on it’s own. We still love you though, Tom. (By the way, Mr. Fry, if you happen to be reading this post, I’d really like to get in touch with you about your eponymous contribution to rollerblading language).
As an aside, I should point out that I’m not saying other tricks aren’t possible, or that they’re undesirable. I’m simply saying that a two-footed trick with at least one independently unsustainable foot is endangered from its moment of birth.
When it comes to deciding why certain terms are either endangered our extinct, we have even better tools at our disposal.
Currently on the chopping block is the term farside. While many of us older guys (and gals) recall the term fondly and even with some degree of nostalgia, a lot of people out there may never have even heard of farsides before.
But not to worry, it probably isn’t going to come back, despite its fascinating linguistic characteristics.
First, let me explain what it is, or was, just so we’re all on the same page.
One conceptualization of farside defined the rail’s shape, the skater’s approach, and his (or her) foot orientation relative to the rail’s sagittal plane (that’s a ten dollar word for the imaginary vertical line that divides left/right symmetry). So, first off, this conceptualization demands that the rail must be round. People with this conceptualization imagined that a round rail has a near side — the side nearest you when you approach, and a far side — the side opposite the one from which you jumped. The second thing this conceptualization holds has to do with the skater’s approach. If you were a left-foot-soul, this would have put the rail on your right hand side. Righties approach with the rail on their left. The final characteristic of this conceptualization of farside had to do with having at least one foot locked in soul position on the far — as opposed to near — side of the rail.
The people who conceptualized farside this way distinguished it from topside largely due to rail shape. If the same fundamental maneuver were performed on a ledge, the trick would be better described as being “topside” since a ledge doesn’t necessarily have a “far” side (imagine, for instance, a ledge next to a wall).
The second popular conceptualization of farside was largely identical to what I just described, but with one crucial exception. Rather than conceptualizing the trick relative to the rail’s sagittal (again, left/right) plane, the people with this interpretation defined tricks relative to the angle (or tweak) of the skater’s ankle. For them, it had nothing to do with rail shape. What that means is that a skater could still do a topside soul (for instance) on a round rail if the skater’s soul foot was tweaked over enough to replicate doing the same trick on a ledge. In other words, if your soul foot was all the way flat, you could call it a topside soul. Farside was reserved for instances in which the soul foot was held nearly vertically, or “boned out” as some people used to say.
Of these two conceptualizations, it was the first one that caused the term farside to fall into disuse. The second one — which eliminated the rail as a basis for orientation — survives as the predominant term for describing soul-foot-based stance orientations.
Now that we’re all on the same page, we can deal with why the term farside died.
interesting take. While I thought it designated rail shape, I always thought farside meant coming off the rail on the farside as you land. Where as in topside you would come off the rail the same side you approached it.
Thanks for reading, man. And yeah, I’ve heard that take, but only pretty recently. I might see if I can track down anything on where that interpretation comes from. Any idea where you first heard it used like that?
Really cool stuff, Frank! I couldn’t help but start thinking the same way as ballog. Mostly in relation to square rails, as they have both a topside and a farside. You could even go deeper with that and dive into darkside tricks.
Thanks, Geoff! You’re definitely right about square rails having both a topside AND a farside (assuming you lock the right way each time) but don’t forget that a square rail also has a near side. Supposing that you’ve got a square rail down the middle of a staircase, you could do a soul, a topsoul or a farside soul. If you’re dealing with a round rail in the same situation, you’ve only got two sides to work with instead of three. If you want to get tech about the angle the soul foot sits at, then you’d be in line with that second conceptualization I mentioned in the first part of the article. As for darksides, that’s definitely a topic I’m looking into writing a piece about. Thanks for reading, man!
Now what about a square rail Frank using the term farside how would that work ?
Hey Jarrod, thanks for reading dude! Concerning farsides on square rails, I completely agree with what you’re implying and what Geoff said above. Using farside for that stance on a square rail makes perfect sense to me. But for my money, doing a farside on a square rail rail just wasn’t part of the original debate back in the day. One thing that I would add though, would be that there wasn’t a specially encoded term for that use of farside. In other words, if you were skating a square rail and locked on the way you and Geoff are talking about it, it would seem like a crazier trick and you’d probably want credit for the extra difficulty. In that case, my guess would be that you’d probably just come out and SAY that your trick was farside on a square rail. Doing that would make the language used to describe the trick a little bit more cumbersome. The thing I can’t figure is this new (or new to me usage) that deals with where you land. No other trick name–frontside anything or backside anything–specifies where you land. I’d be interested to hear if that interpretation holds for backside royals, say, or frontside nugens. Another thing I’d further add is that it’s kinda rare to describe a trick without first describing the rail–I mean in terms of normal conversation. If it’s an established rail or spot that everyone knows about, you’d already be familiar with the rail being reported on.
Thought provoking. Shredded!
Now I was under the impression that far sides and dark sides could only be done on a square rail or shotgun box ect and if it was a round rail that it was either a soul or top soul. Because when grinding a round rail you right on top of it and if you lean to far to the negative side to just slip off. I think when talking about a square rail the term far side will always apply.
Thanks Rob! I can’t wait to see your section in Dag Days! @Bryan, I think you’re exactly right about the modern usage of “farside” and “topside”. But be careful though because a lot of our terms have changed their meanings over the years. Thanks for the comments you guys.
jesus so boring and pretentious
It’s fair to say this is boring if it isn’t your cup of tea, but I don’t see how you could consider this pretentious in any way.
@bballog If you actually topside, you will always come off on the same side. If you just farside, you will always come off on the farside of the rail.
I always remember it was just a respect thing, where if you just did a farside it was lame, you weren’t tweeking it over and doing it right, you were half ass’ing it. I remember there being debates about whether you could actually do a topside on a rail or not, or if it always had to be on a ledge.
I still use the term “farside” all the time. The curse of the OG. All the kids assume you’re senile.
As far as I remember, farside was primarily used to describe approach when the term started. For some context though, when I started skating, grinding didn’t exist. The closest we had were quarter (1/4) stalls/rolls in which you would turn a multiple of 90º and land with one foot on the deck and one foot on the top of the transition.
When soul tricks first started showing up farside became a useful term to differentiate approach but it wasn’t competing with topside as a descriptor because topsides weren’t invented yet. The back and forth debate about what is and is not a true “topside” or “topsoul” was soon to follow once they were invented and I think Frank is right on describing how that went.
I’d add that there was a lot shit talking about whether your wheels on your soul foot were touching when doing a topside trick and if that meant that it “didn’t count”. And for that matter, there was debate to whether a trick “counted” or not if you didn’t grab it which is pretty common not to do these days.
Cool article, Frank. Have you written about Royale vs Shifty vs Shifty Royale?
Probably the most boring article about rollerblading I’ve ever read. No wonder everyone thinks rollerbladers are faggots.
Thanks for reading Alan, Morgan, and Jesse!
@Alan: Cheers man!
@Morgan: Keep using it! Please!
@Jesse: Thanks for all of that. I really appreciate it. I might take up the Royale/Shifty thing at some point, and when I do, I’ll probably need to get in touch with you about it.
Any other OG’s out there want to suggest a topic, shoot me an email.
Anybody else, same thing!
Thanks so much for reading, yall!
Nice tackle: it’s still farside in my book. This comes up every time I use the term and kids don’t know what I’m talking about.
haha – thanks, Billy!
It’s become clear to me skating with some younger guys lately that there are definitely two dialects currently circulating in rollerblading. I often find myself code-switching between the dialects while interacting with guys who use a significantly different set of terms for things. The nice thing I’ve found is that a lot of them have been reciprocating and they’re translating back to me frequently. To me it’s win/win. No need to strong arm one way of thinking. In fact, I think balancing more than one way of thinking is what’s keeping the “jock” attitudes OUT of rollerblading in the first place. Thanks for the comment, Billy. I hope you’ll stick with the blog as I continue to earn my sea legs with it!
Also, sidewalks are next on the creativity chopping block (to the extent grinding can still be innovated). Negatives have been pretty sexy for a while — to think they were once equally maligned.
Spin-to-win sidewalk? Can’t wait.
To me, farside could be done on any object, the difference between topside or farside was the position of the frame on the object (or how far the ankle is bent).
What i used to reffer to as farside, is nowadays named as “darkside”.
Please bring back farside….
Hey Ths, your take on farside was covered in the article (though briefly)… and a whole lot of people share (and shared back in the day) your take on that one. Darkside gets into some very tricky linguistic and conceptual things, and I’m planning on addressing it here pretty soon. Thanks for your comment, man!
Acid walks were cooler than sidewalks, especially an alleyoop acid walk. Also, on a rail if the person is standing straight up, there’s no way it should be called a top side in my opinion.
Yeah, on a square rail it’s possible to do both a farside, and a topside soul… those would definitely be two different tricks.
What about doing a farside on a hubba/ledge. I get where you were going but there def is a farside.
Thank you for such a scholarly view of a dead term in an activity I love to do that you somehow made seem as exciting as reading a phone book.
Great piece, but i definitely agree with those who are pointing out that far side applied to a lot of objects, square and round. In fact one of the first far side sessions we had was a ledge at Venice beach. I think it’s in some movies? Arlo laced it. For a very long time top side was only really used around transitions as no one had managed to get them down on flat-to-flat street. Fry & julio pioneered the street top side world…
As for the side walks Jon has to take the wrap for them… And wheel barrows! How did such a lovely & talented guy invent the 2 worst moves in skating? 😉 (Love you Jon)
Thanks for weighing in on this. I should say that it was never my intention to suggest that only one interpretation of the term (farside) existed or should exist, either in the past, or at any time since. All rollerblading terms–just like the non-jargon language used in everyday talk–is constantly in flux. People make meaning based on prior knowledge, standard-ish syntactical constructions, and novel syntactical constructions. One of the many meanings that farside seemed to contain for a while was the idea that the term differentiated between square and round grinding surfaces–which is something that English prepositions almost NEVER do. From a linguistic perspective, this provided me with a fascinating challenge that I hoped to open my blog with in the hopes that people would take an interest. It seems to have worked, now I just need to find other examples that will keep people as interested as this topic has! Thanks again for your comment, Brooke. It’s great having you contribute to my posts here because you were actually present for so many of the topics this blog addresses! Be well, man!
According to what you say, sidewalks coud be considered as real tricks for this guy as he can hold each foot in a position that is sustainable independently.
It exactly is a one-footed grind on the laces of is boot. 😉