Soren Johnstone’s feature-length documentary, Hicks on Sticks, follows a driven group of skateboarders and musicians as they trek through small towns and rural areas with a goal of inspiring kids to follow their passions. Coming from areas that didn’t have skate parks, they innovated on steep roads, public staircases, and parking lots. After years of honing their craft, they loaded up three vans with boards, ramps, and people and hit the road. Hauling tons of equipment with faulty brakes and suspended licenses, the crew barreled down Canadian highways—pulling into town after town hoping to find packed venues.
After their first three shows, it became abundantly clear that no money was going to be made and certain cuts would have to be implemented. But it’s here where the effort and tenacity of the group is really highlighted. Working for food stamps and beer, the skaters built new ramps and improved their setup—all to deliver the best show possible to the small groups of people who bothered to show up.
Ian Comishin, the driving force of the tour, is shown in a great light throughout the film. Choosing to stay sober and abstain from the wild partying (at first) to put all of his effort into the shows, the young leader pushed his crew through disappointing turnouts, injuries, and strained relations. When the money wasn’t coming in and the sound crew left, all of the unanswered questions fell on Ian.
The Hicks on Stick tour was a financial failure (Ian’s skateboarding company found itself staring at its demise) and the end of a number of friendships but there are a number of ways that it should be considered a success. The tour stands as evidence that hard work and drive can create something incredible and inspirational… even if it ravishes your company’s bank accounts. At the very least, it can plant seeds for future generations and clear the way for more incredible events to take place.
As far as the actual film, Johnstone combines excellent footage from the 1999 tour and current interviews. The use of so much live footage and not having to rely on still photographs makes Hicks on Sticks a dynamic effort. The soundtrack switches back and forth between nostalgic indie pop and energetic punk—showcasing the bands that played on the tour almost as much as the skaters themselves. The two-hour running time was a bit strenuous but it’d be difficult to find a section where chunks could be cut. Johnstone tells a captivating story which deserves to be seen. It’s very entertaining and absolutely worth watching.
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