Skateboarding in Northeast Florida has a long and colorful history dating back to the 1970s, with the legendary Kona and Emerson Skateparks at the epicenter as retail spots like Nicotine and, later, The Block Skate Supply catering to generation after generation. While Kona’s fabled ramps and rails offer a point of commonality for the city’s skate scene, the real heart and soul of the sport has been on the streets, where skaters risk life, limb and legal action to practice their craft on curbs, stairs and benches, bounding over really solid obstacles across the region.
This aspect of the craft has been documented, primarily, over the past year by Nate Cary, aka Able, a music producer and skateboarder whose online Able Skate Mag has quickly become the media outlet of record for skaters and fans alike. “When I was in middle school, I had a print skate magazine called FREE,” he said. “I did the same thing then that I’m doing now. Now I’m just doing it for a larger audience.” His use of drone photography has added a new dimension to the genre’s traditional methodology, adding a dense, hyperkinetic flair that ably reflects the dynamic tension of all those bodies in motion. Connecting with Folio Weekly through Facebook, Able walked us through the past, present and exciting future of Northeast Florida’s skate scene.
FW: Give me a brief rundown on the history of skating in Northeast Florida. How long have you been involved in it?
Nate Cary: I’ve been living in Jacksonville for 20 years, but even before I got here, I’d heard about guys like Mike Peterson, Clyde Singleton and Cairo Foster. Those were just some of the guys who put the Jacksonville skate scene on the map.
In your estimation, how many active skaters do we have in the area right now?
That’s a tough one! More and more kids are doing it each year. I’m just going to throw out a guess of close to 10,000.
How long as Able Skate Mag been operational? How long were you planning it before the official launch date?
There wasn’t really any pre-planned launch—it just happened quickly. I fell while skating in August 2016, and I knew it was going to be a few weeks before it was safe to skate again. But I still wanted to stay active in the skate scene, and I figured since I was always filming and taking photos anyway, why not start a mag?
The classic style of skate video involves following the skaters on your own board, holding the camera in your hands. Is it hard to get good video that way?
I mainly film with a DSLR [digital single-lens reflex camera], so the hardest part is to keep the video from being too shaky. A good handle and a counterweight can go a long way. Oh, and tons of practice.
Where did you get the drone?
My girlfriend’s son was really into these small toy drones. I wanted to get him a new one for his birthday and decided to buy an extra one for myself so I could fly with him. It quickly became an obsession, and within six months, I owned a DJI Phantom and got Remote Pilot Certified with the FAA.
Tell me about the intersection/overlap between the city’s skate and the hip hop scenes. You’ve been closely involved in both; what’s it like from your perspective?
When I first moved here and got settled in with the local skate scene, all my friends were either doing grapf, break-dancing, or rapping and putting out mix tapes. I took my prior knowledge as a musician in North Carolina and learned how to make beats for local rappers. In fact, if it wasn’t for the local hip hop scene, there wouldn’t be an “Able.” A good friend of mine at the time, Glenn Young (RIP), recognized my variety of talents and pointed at me one day and said, “You’re ‘Able’,” and the name’s stuck ever since.
Discuss some of the local music you’ve used as background in the videos.
I’ve been a huge fan of Willie Evans Jr.’s music since I moved to Jacksonville. Batsauce is another amazing local artist I’ve used from time to time. Lately, I’ve gotten a beat or two from a young guy named MC Gingy. It’s all in the spirit of sharing local music I admire.
When you were growing up, who were your favorite skaters locally and nationally? Who are the most exciting local skaters active right now?
Mike Peterson was definitely a guy I looked up to here in Jax. He’s basically the textbook definition of [what] a pro should look like on a board. Nationally, my favs are probably the Gonz (Mark Gonzalez) and Daewon [David Song]. Those guys just have something magical. Most exciting up-and-comers? Ahh, man, I’m going to forget so many … Matt Fink, Subin Ro, Jamal Campbell, David Jordan, Bruce Tyler … Those are just some of the guys who surprise me every time I see them skate.
What’s your favorite thing about doing the mag?
My favorite thing about Able Skate Mag is shining a light on the local skate scene. When a young kid gets stoked to get a trick in an edit, or gets hyped on free stickers, that’s the kind of thing that makes it worth it. I know what it’s like growing up and being hyped to get a clip in a local video, or a picture in a Thrasher “Photo Graffiti” article. It’s the kind of thing that resonates a long time.
Ever had any accidents while filming?
No major accidents as of yet! [Knocks on wood.]