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Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Updated: October 20, 11:40 AM ET
Everybody Loves Muska

By Adam Salo
EXPN

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I have a secret that I have to admit: I wasn't always a fan of The Muska. I know. I know. The dude is so awesome, how could I say such a thing?
Let me explain.

Way back when, just as Chad Muska's star was beginning to rise, he rode for a company called Toy Machine (perhaps you've heard of it?). Before, Element, before, Kr3w and Supra, even before Shorty's, Muska really broke out onto the scene when he was skating and filming with the Toy team, which then consisted of Ed Templeton, Jamie Thomas, Elissa Steamer, Donny Barley, Satva Leung and Brian Anderson. In '95-'96, Toy Machine was one of the most respected and emulated teams in skateboarding (still is actually: Nick Trapasso, holy crap!) and Muska was one of the lynchpins of that squad. Now there are exceptions to every rule but, seems to me, if you were a Toy fan back then, you fit into one of two categories: a Muska fan or a Jamie Thomas fan. Sure, there were Barley fans, Templeton fans—most kids swore allegiance to the whole team and aesthetic of Toy Machine—but Jamie and Chad really brought out the fervor in their followers.

It was easy to spot a devout Muska fan in '95. Just look for the kid at the demo who dressed almost exactly like Muska:
Brim beanie? Check.
White tank top? Check.
Green cargo pants? Check.
Etnies Raps or Scams? Check.

Though Muska has always been a trendsetter in skate fashion, he didn't earn his place in the hallowed halls of skate history on outfits alone. Dude was, and still is, gnarly. Muska was slated to have the curtain call last part in Toy's vid, Welcome to Hell. But, in what's been much talked about since, there was an infamous blowout between Muska, Jamie and Ed at the premiere when a last minute editing snafu delayed the screening. Muska left the team and his footage was removed from the video.

Fans of Muska and Toy Machine debated the scenarios of the parting for months. In a time before message boards, the spot for gossip was the skate shop counter where rumors and allegations ran rampant. Skaters found themselves on opposing sides of the divisive issue.
Not riding off into the sunset just yet, Muska's still enjoying the warm glow of the limelight.
It seems ridiculous now, but at the time, I felt strongly that Muska had done wrong. To me, he represented the glitz, glamour and excess I was sure would ruin skateboarding. Without knowing any of the people involved, I assumed things that I didn't have any knowledge of. So did a lot of people.

Time went on and everybody grew up. The tiff between Muska and Jamie Thomas was quashed and the two enjoyed a few years as teammates together again on C1rca. Muska's career thrived. He spearheaded Shorty's board division and built a legacy on skate skills, personality and true individuality. People loved Muska, and he was really enjoying the limelight.

With a personality like his, it's not surprising that folks in Los Angeles loved him, too. Soon, Muska was rubbing elbows with the likes of Paris Hilton and the Olson twins. Muska was so up in the mix, his on-board time took a slight downturn. Not to say that the man wasn't skating; he was just enjoying the fruits of his labor and getting to know other aspects of life (Dude: Paris Hilton—can you really blame him?).

When it seemed we might lose Muska to the temptations of Hollywood, he decided skaters shouldn't count him out just yet. He started popping up in mags and videos again. He grabbed at the opportunity to be a key figure in Kr3w clothing and Supra shoes. And he still had gas in the tank to throw craze all over the streets. When Element signed Muska onto their board team in time for him to film a part for their much anticipated video, This is My Element, it was clear Muska-mania was back in full force.

I'm a chump for saying this, but I still wasn't convinced. Though I'd come to realize that the characters and individuals are what make skateboarding great, I still wasn't a Muska fan, yet. When he got on Element, some friends at that company were telling me he was the most down-to-earth skate rat. I didn't buy it. A dude that's gotten that much, lived that long in the spotlight—no way could he still identify with the grimy guys out in the street. I was wrong.

As luck would have it, I ended up calling Muska on an assignment for Skateboarder magazine. I figured, "Rap with the dude for a minute, get the story and be out."
We were on the phone for almost two hours.

In those two hours, I learned two things:
(1) Chad Muska can talk! Homie loves to tell stories, and he's got a real knack for giving all the funny details.
(2) Chad Muska loves skateboarding more than almost anyone I've ever met. Regardless of whatever fame or fortune has touched him, regardless of the other interests he's let enrich his life, Muska is a skater's skater. He's looking for skate spots and pushing down the street every day. I can respect a man like that.

Today you can still spot Muska fans at the demo, though the kits have evolved as Chad's tastes have matured:
Supra Skytops? Check.
Sunglasses? Check.
Signature Kr3w jeans? Check.
There are some guys that are a bit more subtle in their fan-dom, though no less enthusiastic when you ask them if they're down for the Muska.

I'm one of those guys now.

Muska shows you the way a board is supposed to look: like it's been skated. And he drops a subtle hint to all you fashion-forward folks: it's okay to coordinate.