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Skate or Die: Hurley and the Aesthetic of Skater Culture

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"Return of the Living Shred" design by 2SHAE.

As one of the leading areas for surf and skate culture, Orange County also houses the majority of surf and skate company headquarters. Hurley International, one of the world's largest surf and skate companies is based near the coast of the O.C. A company based in these alternative sports but bound by art, Hurley also infiltrates the fine art world in many ways. They sponsor art exhibitions with galleries and museums, collaborate with artists to create graphics for fine art prints, t-shirts, and more apparel items, and reside at the forefront of the surfboard and skateboard design industry. They also invite local high schoolers to participate in their printing press, helping to create custom fine art prints. On November 21, from 6-9pm, Hurley Skate Park in Costa Mesa will be open to the public for a celebration and a re-envisioning of the relationship between skateboarding, graffiti and fine art. The entire skate park will be covered in artwork, including custom made large-scale works by an esteemed cadre of artists.

Craig Stecyk in the Hurley Printing Press
Craig Stecyk in the Hurley Printing Press.

Over the years, this skate park has become a staple in the O.C. skating community, but artistically it was never a central area for to display Hurley's artistic development. Hurley Art Director Jason Maloney has made a strong effort to bring interesting and amazing street art to decorate the Hurley headquarters complex for nearly five years now. There are multiple locations for graffiti murals at the Hurley headquarters, but now, they are bringing art to life inside and all over the skate park.

"It's about 6,000 square feet, and all of it will be pretty much painted except for the deck. We have a wall in the back that I do on weekends, just with my friends, so no one will bug," says Maloney. "We've flipped that wall 3 or 4 times." They have also incorporated another wall into the constant art flow at Hurley headquarters, and call it The Monthly Throw Up. Tim Hedricks is the latest artist to come and grace the featured monthly walls:

"[The skate park] was just like a toy yard, a bunch of amateurs, graffiti everywhere...and not the best expression of the brand. Lightbulbs were burned out; it was dark. We had 20 gallons of gray paint and we just buffed it out, which is like painting over it," says Maloney. "We did one [graffiti] session in here and thought 'well, why don't we just do the whole park!?' And then it just snowballed from there. We got friends, and then friends and then more friends of friends--and no one was paid, all just friends, all doing cool shit."

Though this re-imagining of the skate park has no larger function other than to invigorate those who frequent it, and enthrall the community, the project came together seamlessly. With the inevitable announcement of the project, over 30 different notable street artists got involved, representing ten or more different graffiti crews.

"To have this many crews in one area is groundbreaking in the graffiti world," Maloney says. "You don't have these guys together. Like, the crews that these guys run together don't normally get along. But they're older and established; they're all big names, and they've squashed all that, and its just about the paint--its all about painting now. But they're from crews that normally wouldn't run together, which is kind of rad. I think there's like ten different crews in this alone--all up and down the west coast. And they all have different styles...One of the most fun projects I've worked on."

EVOL and KRUSH collaborative piece at Hurley Skate Park
EVOL and KRUSH collaborative piece at Hurley Skate Park.

Hurley was first established in 1979 by Bob Hurley. Originally, Hurley was a surfboard manufacturer and served many big corporations such as Lightning Bolt, Wind-an-Sea and Wave Tools. But in 1999, Hurley International was born and it didn't take long for Hurley to branch into the skateboarding industry on top of their surf industry monopolization.

In 2002, the company was sold to Nike, Inc. but the brand remains relatively independent from its parent brand. A major part of the company's success has been the sponsorship of surf and skate teams as well as their support of the arts and endorsement of pop-punk bands such as Blink-182 and All Time Low.

Southern California has always been the epicenter for surf and skate culture. By the 1960s, a good number of surfboard manufacturers in Southern California such as Jack's, Kips, Hobie, Bing's and Makaha realized the skateboard market was something to capitalize on, and started building skateboards that resembled small surfboards. They assembled small skateboarding teams to promote their new product lines, and people latched onto to the phenomenon immediately--Orange County especially.

Skateboarder Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 4.
Skateboarder Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 4.

As the popularity of skateboarding began expanding, the first skateboarding magazine, The Quarterly Skateboarder, which later turned into Skateboarder Magazine, began production in 1964.

One of the first pioneers of the skate culture that really brought it through to the masses was Craig Stecyk, who also was fully immersed in street art culture and LA art history over the years. Stecyk was fascinated by the art of skateboarding and wrote and photographed a local skate team from Santa Monica, California--the Zephyr team, who became famous for their unique skating style and legendary status over the years. With a team of 12, including Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Peggy Oki & Stacy Peralta, they brought a new progressive style of skateboarding to competitive skateboarding and based their skills on the style of Hawaiian surfing more than anything else.

Stecyk documented the team and ran a series on the team called the Dogtown articles, which eventually immortalized the Zephyr skateboard team. The team became known as the Z-Boys and would go on to become one of the most influential teams in skateboarding's history. Stecyk is now the lead designer and one of the dedicated creative geniuses at Hurley, helping to make Hurley's brand more in tune with their artistic roots and youthful spirit. Stecyk has been instrumental in bringing passionate artists together for this project, and looks forward to seeing Hurley athletes, street artists and the local skate contingent all uniting under one roof for this unique, creative, community event. "Nike, NSB and Hurley support open-ended artistic expression and public access to skate terrains," Stecyk said. "The park is regularly open to riders."

In the 1970s and 1980s, Orange County became a hub for this underground sport. Anaheim was one of the first places to house a publically-accessed skate park, Surfer's World and also was home to other skate areas, like Sadlands, that drew hundreds of skaters from all over the Southern California area. The U.S. Open of Surfing has been taking place in Huntington Beach, aka "Surf City" for 100 years in 2014, but the OC offered expansive space and room for growth for many surf and skate companies such as Vans Shoes, Etnies, RVCA, Volcom, Thirdchoice and Quiksilver.

Hurley Skate Park before re-imagination
Hurley Skate Park before re-imagination.
KASL, EVOL, Jason Maloney, and 2SHAE's new pieces at Hurley Skate Park, in progress.
KASL, EVOL, Jason Maloney, and 2SHAE's new pieces at Hurley Skate Park, in progress.

Maloney has been working on this project for months, and even included local teenagers from Pacific Coast Hoodlums to decorate some of the ramps and walls. "To be a part of this is a big deal to these kids. It encourages them," said Maloney. These kids skate here, so they know Jason, and they found out about the project just from being around and seeing what was going on through Instagram--the only real form of marketing that Maloney and participating artists utilized throughout the preparation of this project.

"What started off as a 'let's paint' on the weekends with some of my LA graffiti writer friends at Hurley in the back parking lot, has now turned into a museum of all the top west coast graffiti writers," said Maloney.

Cat Cult x Stink at Hurley Skate Park
Cat Cult x Stink at Hurley Skate Park.

"I grew up surfing and doing graffiti, and I never thought graffiti would be accepted in the way that surf was. It's amazing to see how far it has come," said participating artist, Brock 77. "When Jason reached out to me about working on a project at Hurley, it seemed like the perfect combination of art and surf."

"The companies are secondary--this is about the art. The younger generations juxtaposed against the older generations of graffiti artists...Everybody's bringing their A Game," Maloney said. "The cherry on top is when you get the kids in here skating. That's gonna be sick."

2SHAE work in progress, at Hurley Skate Park
2SHAE work in progress at Hurley Skate Park.
Madsteez standing on his new piece at Hurley Skate Park. Also pictured: new work by Yanoe, Craola, and Sramars.
Madsteez standing on his new piece at Hurley Skate Park. Also pictured: new work by Yanoe, Craola, and Sramars.

Greg "Craola" Simkins is an L.A. born and bred artist and makes regular appearances at the Hurley headquarters. His paintings, designs, murals and graffiti works have gained him international notoriety, but he has also been important in the development of video games such as Tony Hawk 2x, Spiderman 2, Ultimate Spiderman and other projects at Activison, Mattel, Disney, Vans, Kid Robot, Epitaph and many more.

Hurley Back Wall Throw Ups by Craola and Jason Maloney
Hurley Back Wall Throw Ups by Craola and Jason Maloney.

The influence of commercial design and illustrative characters are clear inspiration for Craola and for Jason Maloney. Both artists have done extensive work for the Mouse monarchy. Maloney's signature Tippsy the Elephant character has been a staple in his graffiti and fine art for years, and stems from an influence and re-imagination of the famous Disney dancing pink elephants in Dumbo. Craola also reinterprets the mouse in many of his pieces, finding new creativity through redefining a vintage-looking Disney-esque character.

KADY, CLOWNS, PLEK, MEWS, and SPE136 new pieces at Hurley Skate Park
KADY, CLOWNS, PLEK, MEWS, and SPE136 new pieces at Hurley Skate Park,.

At the Return of the Shred event, the Hurley Printing Press will be in full swing, offering attendees an opportunity to have a limited handmade print or limited printed t-shirt, free of charge. People who come will also be able to meet some of the graffiti artists, some of the professional Hurley Skate Team skateboarders, hang out in the skate park lounge and even witness live music by Bad Cop / Bad Cop an all girl punk band featuring members of the Angry Amputees, Compton SF, The D'Maggs, The City, The Radio Sweetheart, and Cunt Sparrer.

The artwork of these monumental graffiti artists completely changes the atmosphere of this complex, and the chance to meet stellar artists and skaters in a comfortable and casual environment is an opportunity of a lifetime for many local OC kids. Many of these kids never get to see this unique crossover style of art that bridges the gap between street art, skate/surf design and fine art in one place.

GREAS at Hurley Skate Park
GREAS at Hurley Skate Park.

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