I remember the first time I watched PJ Ladd skate. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. The control that man has over his skateboard is unfathomable. I could liken his technical control to that of today’s Luan Oliveira or Shane O’Neil. It is as though he can literally do anything he wants with his skateboard regardless of the level of difficulty or thoughts of impossibility.
In 2002, he released a video called PJ Ladd’s Wonderful Horrible Life. It was filmed entirely in Boston and contains some of the most technical skating I have ever seen. It opens with a kickflip nose manual to a 6 foot drop, followed by some technical flatground tricks, including a ghetto bird and a varial heelflip rewind (after which he botches a kickflip somehow). It picks up in technical difficulty the entire time, incorporating lines that I have yet to see matched. I’m talking 7 trick lines with flip-in flip-out ledge tricks and flip tricks I didn’t even know what to call. His ender line started with a Chicago flip, which, if you don’t already know, is a fakie cab 540-flip (the body does a 360 and the board does a 540 while flipping once), and in the process barely lifts his arms above his chest, utterly and flawlessly effortless.
Even to this day, I watch this part awestruck by it’s perfection.
PJ Ladd’s talent isn’t confined to just flatground technicality and smoldering ledge tricks. He also kills it on stairs and handrails too. At one point, he switch 180s a 7-set and immediately frontside flips a 10-set. There was a space of maybe 15 feet between the landing and the take off. I mean, he landed the switch 180 with his feet ready to do the frontside flip because there wasn’t even enough room to adjust, let alone set your feet up properly. Sprinkled throughout the entire part are a healthy portion of switch, fakie and nollie flip tricks down big sets. The guy absolutely kills it.
At the end of the day, watching this part for the first time changed my entire outlook on what skateboarding was, is and could become. This was 10 years ago, that that outlook still has not been effected as much since then by any other part. Wonderful Horrible Life, to me, was the epitome of pure, raw, technical skating.
Written by Steven Santangelo