Baggy pants, Axion footwear, a fish eye lens, and some of the best skaters in the game. In 1998, the blood sucking skateboard company Toy Machine released one of the most influential skate videos ever produced, happily titled Jump Off A Building.
The allure of the video was the team Toy Machine had at the time, including now legendary skaters such as Bam Margera, Brian Anderson, Mike Maldonado, Chris Senn, Elissa Steamer, Kerry Getz, and Toy Machine’s founder Ed Templeton. Not only was the cast appealing, but it was coming right off the heels of Toy Machine’s previous video, 1996’s Welcome To Hell, which many consider to be one of, if not the, most legendary skate video’s of all time. And of course, I understand why. It’s an insanely epic video for it’s time, defining the generation of 90’s skateboarding with the tricks performed by just about everybody mentioned above with the exception of Bam Margera and Kerry Getz. But that’s exactly why I think Jump Off A Building is better. It had to follow Welcome To Hell, so when you’re already in Hell, what do you do then? Precisely, jump off a fucking building. And that’s just about what these guys (and one gal) do.
The title is the sole reason why I watched it back in 2003. I remember visiting my hometowns closest skate shop, Suburban Blend, which was thirty miles away. I thought many different things when I first read the tape’s cover, thinking either it was going to be instructions on committing suicide, or someone ollies off of a building. Either way I was interested. I knew of Toy Machine and Ed Templeton, but hadn’t seen Welcome To Hell yet, so this was my introductory video into the world these skaters were living in. Perhaps that’s not true, now that I think about it, I was watching Jackass on MTV at that time, so Bam Margera was on my mind back then. Maybe his involvement in the video is what triggered me to watch it, nevertheless I vividly remember begging my worried mom to buy me the VHS tape.
During this point in time I was an active skateboarder, visiting every skatepark close to me as possible, and hitting every urban skate spot my home town on Dunkirk, New York as possible. Because of this, I was constantly being harassed by the police, hobo’s, angry residents and business owners, and of course, my parents. Every true unprivileged skateboarder can relate to this struggle, and I think that is what made videos like Jump Off A Building and TV shows like Jackass appealing to young street kids. It was anarchic, much like us, and it was exactly the kind of content that we needed to be watching to make us feel like we weren’t alone and that hopefully we could one day make a career of it as well.
What I truly enjoy about this video is how much it showcases street skating before every spot in California and elsewhere got skate blocked. The spots that the team visits really show how 90’s America was still such a fresh arena to skate. The ledges, handrails, curbs, banks, stairs, all of the street spots mentioned in Jump Off A Building really stick to the titles value of abusing the street’s urban architecture. Rarely does a part show a legitimate skatepark, and when it does, it’s usually Bam doing some insane tranny trick that he’s become known for.
Each skater’s part has had an immense influence on the skateboarding world, especially in the 1990’s when the video came out. All of the skaters dish out a diversity of street tricks, all claiming their own style and expression. In the beginning of Elissa Steamers part, in her intro line she no comply’s to switch, and then switch no comply’s almost losing her balance screeching, “I almost fell!” before kickflipping a stair set sticking the landing but the board slips out from under her at the last second making her scream, “Fuck!”. For me, it counted, as this made the intro to her part more sympathetic, although I’m sure she’d kill me if she heard me say that. Towards the end of Chris Senn’s part he bombs a San Fran hill so fast that the camera guy is barely able to keep him in frame. According to the Skateboard DVD Review, “Chris Senn pulls a cool run for the camera then takes off downhill at high speed ripping tricks that the camera can barely keep up with. Now THAT is skateboarding,” And I couldn’t agree more.
In the end, what I love about this video is that it is just filled with true blue skateboarding. That part is definitely undeniable and I’m sure any skater over the age of 25 would agree with me. The skaters, the tricks, the spots, the slams, the soundtrack and most importantly the time is what makes this skate video so special. If you haven’t seen it, you should, and you can see it here below.