For those who may not be familiar, SkateVideoSite has long been a hub where curious skaters could look up the soundtracks to their favorite videos in hopes of finding that elusive track that got stuck in their head the moment they heard it. The site has also helped editors avoid committing horrible ABD faux pas by giving them access to a running list of songs that have been used by other editors before them.
For the last few months, though, SVS has been undergoing a major overhaul and the team is finally preparing a relaunch with even more features and data. The team has already spent close to two decades meticulously archiving skate videos—both underground and major big-budget productions—all for free, out of the sheer obsession with skateboarding and data.
Librarianism and archiving in skateboarding will have a lasting impact as skating continues to grow and evolve, and these guys are doing invaluable work by documenting that history as it develops. We got to speak with Markus Seppälä, the site’s founder, as well as site moderators Maikel Jas and Paul Jensen, about their work with the site and their outlook for the next generation of SVS.
When did you start skatevideosite.com?
Must have been around 2003. It was first called xtreme-net.org. In 2005 I changed it to skatevideosite.com when I had a better idea of where the site was going.
What made you decide to make a reference site like this?
Well, of course, being a skater from a young age I really enjoyed skate videos. I was also pretty good with computer stuff, so combining the two came pretty naturally. I loved coding so much that I started doing it in my free time.
I spent the first years just trying different programming languages and building stuff for fun. I made some basic games, first just text, then with graphics. I also made some virus-like things to prank my friends – nothing harmful, just annoying. Got a few laughs from that. All of that made me decide to get an education in IT.
At first, I really didn’t have any end goal in mind for the site. There was a lot of trial and error with features before I decided to focus on the data and simplicity. I’ve always struggled with web design. I still do. The site has never really looked good. But I like to think the data makes up for it.
Have you ever considered yourself a librarian of skate culture?
Not really, but I guess it describes the work we’re doing around the site pretty accurately. I’m not really a leader type. All those traits came purely from a need-to-do thing, and it’s been stressful at times. But I think it’s important. Skateboarding is not that old, but it evolves pretty fast and a lot of things will get forgotten if they’re not documented.
“Skateboarding is not that old, but it evolves pretty fast and a lot of things will get forgotten if they’re not documented.”
How did you collect all the data for the site?
I first collected everything I could find online, skimthefat.com was around when I started, and it was an important source for a lot of the data. The next step was watching skate videos. I listed the skaters and the songs if they had credits or I knew them. Often, they were not listed and I had to google the lyrics which was pretty painstaking work.
How many hours would you estimate you’ve spent working on the site?
It’s impossible to estimate. It was thousands just in the first years, so it must be over 10,000. It’s been 18 years now. Probably close to one-third of that total time spent working on the site was spent collecting data. But that’s just my time, which is just part of the whole team’s effort.
Tell me about the site’s team.
We have a small team – at the moment we’re less than 10. Most of us are from Europe, and a few are from the US. I take care of the technical side. I’ve done the coding and hosting side of things. At the moment maybe five people add new videos. Lately, I got help from Sean Villars, a software engineer. He’s doing a complete makeover for the site.
Most of us were young when we started with the site. Many have moved on to concentrate on their jobs and families. Though the team has gotten smaller during the years, many of us have been around for more than a decade. Everyone does what they have time and motivation for. I really appreciate them all and all the people that have helped us in the past.
You told me the site was hacked. Can you talk about that?
The old site worked pretty well but it was a security nightmare. I guess we were bound to get hacked, eventually. Everything that they could get to was deleted from the site. I had everything backed up, but we had tons of high-quality DVD covers that were lost.
WordPress was the easiest and most secure solution to bring the site back online, but it’s only temporary. As I said before, we are doing a complete makeover for the site and bringing back the much-requested song search soon.
Based on your data, are there really less full-length skate videos coming out today than in the past?
That is the picture I’ve got after YouTube and Instagram started to get big. More and more clips and independent video parts got released. Maybe there’s just more stuff in general and full-length videos get less attention. Maybe I’m just a bit sentimental about the old days. We tend to view the time of our youth as the golden age for everything.
I think a skate video can be a piece of art. It can tell stories and share feelings. It can lift you up or share your melancholy. And it can hype you up to learn something new. I think they’re absolutely worth making still. It’s just the trend of the internet for things to get more compact as people’s attention span gets shorter.
Why have you kept the site going for this long?
The site felt like a big part of me when growing up. I’ve made a lot of good friends through the site, and it has connected a lot of people. Also, I think preserving the data is important. If we quit, a lot of that data is lost.
Site Moderator Since 2005
Lay down the basic goods for me, would ya?
Markus is the boss. I joined in 2005. I started skating about 17 years ago and I got hooked on skate videos and the music.
You know the typical question, “What kind of music do you like?” I would just say the music from skate videos. It was super diverse. So I started looking up the soundtracks so I could download the tracks.
All of a sudden there was a skate video I couldn’t find the soundtrack of – Lordz They Don’t Give a Fuck About Us. It took me ages of searching all kinds of forums to find that soundtrack. There was one forum on this crazy small site called xtreme-net.org. It had all the videos and the soundtracks. You could make a profile on it and add your own photos and videos.
It was a small site but was complete with the information. In that information was the soundtrack from Lordz, so I made a profile and I started looking up other soundtracks that weren’t on that website. Then I sent those over to Markus and he added them. At some point, he asked me if I wanted to be a moderator to help him keep it up to date. I was super happy to join.
What are you hoping for in the site’s return to full life?
I’m hoping to get the Instagram account going and start making some content there. I’d like to do something different than just sharing the sickest clips that everyone is reposting, though.
My personal vision would be to put more importance on the history of skating and videos and parts. I know kids who started skating maybe five years ago and they don’t know who Arto Saari is.
Why do you think it’s important for cultures to record and remember their histories?
I see skateboarding as a really inclusive culture. I think that’s a great thing to share with the world and other groups. When you have something tangible to show, you can share it with and communicate with other cultures. Having all the documentation archived could help to show people what that is.
What do you do for work?
Right now I’m a data analyst for music. That’s technically my title. I’m mostly in the back office working in Excel with spreadsheets.
What’s been one of the best things about being involved in the site for so long?
I’ve seen the big picture, the evolution. I really saw in detail how skateboarding was moving away from the impact of bigger videos and print magazines and entering the digital era. I hope people will keep making full-length videos and don’t just go after what is more effective for marketing and commercial things. The algorithms of social media right now are dictating things.
I just want people to keep making good videos. We’ll keep building the site and making the data available and searchable for everybody.
Site Moderator since 2009
Minneapolis, MN & Los Angeles, CA
How you got involved in Skate Video Site?
I’ve been skating since the mid-2000s, and I started getting into skate videos during Baker 3, Skate More, and Round 3. I got involved in the website around 2009. It was a pretty expansive resource I came across and had all the info I wanted. I frequented it enough to the point that I became a contributor. Then, I was finding gaps in the information that was there. I was adding enough content that Markus asked me to be a moderator.
Do you think there’s anything in your personality that drew you towards this kind of data archiving in skateboarding?
It’s probably just the way I am normally. I’m very organized and it makes sense to me to want to contribute to this kind of website. I want a complete database. I know a lot of stuff and I feel like it doesn’t make any sense for me to just know it. It feels important to me to contribute that information to a larger scale.
There was a good skate scene in Minneapolis. I had all these local videos and tried to include them there. If you looked at the site in the early 2010s you’d see all the stuff you’d expect, like a new Toy Machine video or whatever, but there’s also a lot there that I thought were the gems of our local scene. I liked using it to prop those up.
“This isn’t a career or job for me so I try to do things to help move it along”
People are out there waiting for the site to come back.
I know! For me, it’s a passion and I’ve kind of fallen into it. I’ve seen a lot of interest in the site as far as my experience. On SLAP or Twitter, people are asking about what’s going on with the website. I’ve been trying to forward that to the rest of the moderators. This isn’t a career or job for me so I try to do things to help move it along.
Before, it was just a database and wasn’t particularly beautiful. I come from an art side rather than a developer’s side. I’ve been working on some logos and visual design stuff which is going to come in after we get all the hard data back to what we need.
What is the community of moderators and people working on the site like?
I would say it’s changing. I’ve been involved with the website for 12 years up until now. High school, college, and then after. It’s a diverse group. Some are more active than others.
With the new site upgrade, I think it would help to move it to the user base. With developers, I kind of want to shift it into a kind of masthead with editors and positions.
There’s a really strong European scene of contributors which is nice because then there’s a lot of things on there I wouldn’t have caught. It’s not just the American scene on there. There are some contributors from Spanish-speaking countries. I want to say Brazil contributed a lot, too. Jorge was there before me and I want to say he contributed, like, half of the website. He did so much for the website and then just disappeared and never came back.
How would you describe the importance of this type of data archiving to someone who doesn’t care about skating?
It’s a visual culture that drives skateboarding. It’s not just the Reynolds’ frontside flip. It’s the song he skates to, the filmmaker who shot it, the way it’s composed. It’s why I even do video production.
I’m realizing that there’s a deep history to the site with a lot of moving parts.
Yes. Definitely. I remember when skate companies used to trade us hard copies or digital downloads of their videos – back when they were being sold that way on iTunes or something – to ensure we’d keep piracy off our website. It was pretty weird like we could somehow distribute them to our user base.
We’d also get some pretty wild submissions from people. I come from a filmmaking perspective, so I personally try to keep a standard of filmmaking and skating. But sometimes people would add something and it’d be a new scene or put together by someone you don’t see and it’s just awesome.
I remember seeing some kids from Brazil who put up their cell phone video of these crazy spots on raggedy boards. It was still so clearly skateboarding. It’s really wild to have access to that. There’s so much outside of the American-centered skate scene, but you can see the influence of those big videos affecting other skate scenes.