Kevin Marks picked up his first skateboard magazine in 1986. He remembers the cover well, with seasoned pro Mark Gonzales foot-planting on a concrete bank, captivating art adorning his board. Years ago, he lost the magazine. He’s on a mission to get it back.
“I know where it is,” Marks says. “And I will be trading back for it when I return to San Diego.”
What: Video Days: Look Back Library
Where: Bluetile Skateshop, 621 Harden St.
When: Wednesday, April 27, 6 p.m.
More: 803-376-1880, bluetilesc.com
For now, Marks is eastward-bound, picking up other skate magazines along the way during his Brother Boarder Power Slap tour, a 55-stop road trip of skate shops and parks where he exhibits thousands of skate magazine pages documenting the sport’s various eras and highlighting the importance of these publications to the subculture. This week, the collection comes to Bluetile Skateshop in Five Points.
He’s got enough material to hone in on the region at every destination. Even in a place like South Carolina, which doesn’t export a ton of pro skaters, Marks has covers with the state’s prided heroes — Charleston’s Blaize Blouin fronting a Lapper issue and North Augusta’s Brian Howard on SLAP.
Marks knows that he’s working in a narrow niche, and he understands that it’s increasingly difficult to get people out and off the couch. But he believes that the quality and diversity of his collection are enough to draw interest.
“I’m always looking for mags, talking to skate shop owners, older guys at skateparks,” Marks offers.
All these finds go into Marks’ main project, the Look Back Library. The idea is to set up skate magazine libraries across the country and eventually around the globe. Already, Look Back has established locations in Portland, Oregon, and Tampa Bay, Florida, and various spots in California, along with a de facto headquarters in Fort Collins, Colorado. Marks is hoping to set up a library at the HIC Warehouse Indoor Skateboard Park in Aiken.
For each spot, he curates a specific collection, making it so the owners or managers have to do little work. Then Marks looks to see how the locals react.
“My biggest hope is that the community starts to add to the library to make it grow,” he explains.
“I call it a collective or a network,” Marks continues. “Mags are being given away on Craigslist all the time. ... If you’re on the computer a lot, spend some time searching your area, see what you can score. I cringe the hardest when I hear about mags going in the landfill or the recycling bin because the owner didn’t know what to do with them when he moved.”
Spawned from work with another skateboard nonprofit, the Look Back Library started in October 2015. But Marks’ own skateboarding roots go back to Marty McFly.
“I found skateboarding by seeing the movie Back to the Future in 1986. I got my first board soon after that,” Marks recalls.
His hometown of Wichita, Kansas, wasn’t prime skateboard country. Magazines connected him to the culture and gave him a sense of self. Now 44, Marks lives most of the year on the road, “on my own terms,” he says.
It’s a purer existence that he sees reflected in a particular ink and paper element of magazines — an element that he sees as possibly fading.
“So much of the Internet within skateboard media is video clips,” he says. “I feel like outside of a handful of interviews, kids don’t read much anymore. Growing up in the middle of nowhere, skate mags were my connection to the greater community of skaters. I read and re-read all the articles, and they helped shape my interests and gave me a sense of skateboarding’s past.”