“The Mystery of Now,” A Documentary Featuring Apache Skateboards, to Debut Locally at Globe-Miami-San Carlos Mountainfilm on Tour
“Growing up, I didn’t see any Native pro-skaters. It was me creating for myself,” remembers Apache Skateboards team rider Doug Miles Jr. “It’s just what I wish someone else would’ve done when I was a younger kid.”
Now considered a skating legend among local youth, with 19 years of skateboarding and numerous sponsors behind him, San Carlos Apache pro skateboarder Doug Jr. appears on the big screen alongside his father, San Carlos Apache artist and founder of Apache Skateboards Douglas Miles Sr. in “The Mystery of Now,” a documentary short shot on the San Carlos Apache Reservation. Directed by Los Angeles-based filmmaker Audrey Buchanan and co-written and co-produced by Douglas, the film was released at the beginning of this year. Over the course of 16 minutes, it reveals a rich mosaic of imagery centered around the Apache Skateboards team, the skateboarding community in San Carlos, the positive influence of Apache Skateboards on youth, and the essence of living on the reservation.
The film has made waves in the international film community, selected for National Geographic’s Short Film Showcase and featured by film festivals such as Mountainfilm, the annual documentary film festival based in Telluride, Colorado.
On Oct. 18, “The Mystery of Now” will debut locally during Mountainfilm on Tour’s first-ever visit to this region at High Desert Middle School.
“‘The Mystery of Now’ is very timely. It’s about time to talk about Apache Skateboards,” Douglas says matter-of-factly.
“I’ve been talking about Apache Skateboards on social media and the internet for the last 15 years,” he says, adding that the art and skateboarding communities have been slow to appreciate its value.
“People didn’t want to recognize or admit that there was a such a high level of creativity, fun, and raw expression on the San Carlos Apache Reservation,” he says.
It was 15 years ago that Douglas founded Apache Skateboards; its genesis really began unknowingly with a father making something for his son.
At the time, Doug Jr. was a teenager and had picked up skating. Money was tight, so instead of buying his son a name brand skateboard, Douglas bought him a blank skateboard deck and painted an Apache warrior on it. After Doug Jr. took the board out to skate with his friends, all of his friends wanted one.
It made sense to Douglas.
“They had never really had a skateboard that really represented them fully, that represented Apache imagery,” he says.
That is when Douglas decided to create Apache Skateboards, a skateboard organization and brand. Apache Skateboards has not only been a platform for skaters, skateboard apparel, skating events and workshops, but for videography, music, photography, art shows and community projects as well, with the central aim of bolstering youth and uplifting future generations. At the heart of the operation is the Apache Skateboards team, which includes Doug Jr. alongside other Native American team riders such as Reuben Ringlero, Tashadawn Hastings, Elijah Albert, Trevino Noland, Tracy Polk Jr., Di’orr Greenwood and Irwin Lewis.
It wasn’t long after the team formed that Douglas began receiving emails from different Native American tribes asking the team to come to their community and work with their youth, help them build a skatepark, or hold a skateboard event or competition. Ever since, in addition to working in San Carlos, the team has traveled to numerous Indian reservations across the country to work on these projects, from New Jersey to the Red Lake Nation in Minnesota, all the way to the Agua Caliente Tribe in Palm Springs.
“Apache Skateboards is a transformative vehicle for youth empowerment in their own community,” Douglas explains. “Apache Skateboards uses skateboarding and creativity and art, the inherent power of young people, to not only have fun but to create something new that can build a community.”
“The Mystery of Now” was a collaborative effort between Buchanan and Douglas to translate all of this into a film unlike any other.
“I’ve known all along what makes Apache Skateboards amazing,” Douglas says. “The film gave me the opportunity to present it in a different medium… To condense all the beauty, power, and wonderful things I saw in my community, in the youth, in the culture… so people could see it the way I saw it.”
And that’s what makes “The Mystery of Now” so powerful. The film combines grit and perseverance with the serenity and beauty found in San Carlos, paying homage to ancestral ties while delivering an uplifting, pervading sense of hope for the future. Reflecting on both pain and joy found in San Carlos and neighboring Native American communities, the film highlights the resilience of those whose lives it places a lens upon. As Douglas shows, for Native Americans, survival and art are one in the same.
At the heart of Apache Skateboards is that connection between art, youth and community. Giving back to the youth is what makes the brand tick.
“They’ve done something that still really isn’t understood and really isn’t respected,” Douglas says of the team. “To build these communities up, to build young people… teaching these kids to skate, showing them how to skate, skating for these kids, encouraging them to have fun, encouraging them to be themselves… For the fun of it, to teach other kids it was okay to be themselves and to not fit in.”
In late September, young skaters turned out in droves to trade old skateboards for new ones during Cowtown’s Ride for the Res and Skateboard Trade Up held in San Carlos, an event hosted by Apache Skateboards and sponsored by Vans. The event was held at the San Carlos skate park, where Apache Skateboards has organized countless skating events since the group’s inception.
“Events like today, that’s the whole thing, just giving back and keeping the kids motivated to skate, doing something positive,” Apache Skateboards team rider Ringlero, who was featured in “The Mystery of Now,” explained.
Ringlero is originally from the Gila River Indian Community and has been skating for more than 20 years. He has been part of Apache Skateboards since its inception as both a team rider and filmographer. For skaters like him, skating was a means of staying out of trouble and keeping busy as a teenager.
“Skateboarding is a positive thing, so we try to do it to keep encouraging other kids to keep skating, because it kept us out of trouble, so you hope it’ll keep them out of trouble,” he says.
Apropos, the skate park in San Carlos plays a central role in “The Mystery of Now.” In the film, Apache youth congregate around the skate park with their boards, fueled by a contagion of excitement and energy.
“It’s a big community. You’re not just doing it on your own,” Albert says. “You come to the park and just encourage each other.”
Skating is a sport for the outliers, Ringlero explains, for the kids who don’t play basketball or get involved in other things. All the while, it teaches youth in formative ways, and that’s what the skate team works so hard to pass on.
Perhaps most importantly, as “The Mystery of Now” shows, skateboarding offers lessons in patience and perseverance. The risk of injury is high, and a skater spends a lot of time knowingly throwing themselves at the ground.
“It takes a lot of inspiration to keep coming back to skating because not everybody can take the falls, not everybody can take broken bones, torn ligaments – which I’ve already had before – and surgeries, and come back to it,” says Hastings.
Hastings is of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, an Apache Skateboards team rider who has been skating for the last 20 years. She began skating at age 15.
“When skateboarding came along, it was a big challenge for me,” she remembers.
But perseverance kept Hastings coming back for more.
“The feeling of landing a trick, you can’t really explain, any skateboarder will tell you that,” says Doug Jr. “When you land a trick after you try for so freakin’ long, ah hell yeah, it’s a good feeling.”
“It’s basically like a meditation,” Hastings adds. “It’s you against gravity, and defying it, and showing that the impossible is possible. And that’s what I’ve always liked about it.”
It’s also a creative outlet, a liberating means of creative expression, of creative identity.
Albert, an Apache Skateboards team rider originally from Bylas, doesn’t consider himself to be particularly loud, talkative or outgoing. He has been skating for the last 11 or 12 years. Despite the toll skating can take physically – he is recently recovering from two consecutive injuries – one of the things he loves is the challenge of trying out new ideas.
“When I skate, I can not care. It’s not about confidence, it’s just about putting my ideas out there and making them work somehow. And I think it’s like that for a lot of others,” he says. “You’re just doing your own thing and not really caring about what people think. You’re just happy about being on the board.”
“The Mystery of Now” is aptly named, weaving together the past, the future, and now. There is no distinction between the three. The story of the Apaches, the last ones to stand up to the occupation of their country, is a story that lives through Douglas Miles Sr.’s art and his skateboard designs and paintings. The perseverance of the past, present and future is all interconnected, and that is the essence of the film.
The legacy of perseverance plays a large role in “The Mystery of Now,” just as it has played a large role in Doug Jr.’s life. Spending the last 19 years of his life on a board, fueling the skating movement in San Carlos as a teenager and growing into it as a young adult, at a certain age, he realized he had to make a decision.
“There was a point where it was either you could quit skating or you could keep going; like quit, get a regular job,” he recalls. “You can just do that, but I thought, no, I put in too much work. I love it too much. I can’t just stop right now and quit.”
As shown in the film, Douglas has led by example for not only his son, but for others. Doug Jr. affectionately credits him for that; there’s no question that his “Pops” had a major influence on him.
“He was an artist,” Doug Jr. says. “He just kept doing what he wanted to do, and I saw that growing up… I saw him have a regular job, but I saw him hustle with his art, and that inspired me.”
“If all you gotta do is just keep doing what you’re doing, eventually you’re going to out-run everyone, you’re going to pass everyone up,” he adds. “And that’s when people start getting excited about what you do, when they say, ‘Okay, this dude is good now, he’s super good because he didn’t give up and he’s still going.’”
“A lot of people would be like that if they just didn’t stop.”
The desire to keep the legacy of perseverance and skating culture alive among youth is a passion that runs deep in the members of Apache Skateboards.
“I just hope older guys would put more time to skate with the little ones,” Albert says. “It’s more than an image, it’s a community you have to pay attention to, and I feel like I want to continue doing that.”
“I just love teaching the younger generation, because it’s something I wouldn’t want to ever disappear,” Hastings adds. “That’s what I love, just being able to pass it on, because this is an awesome sport and I don’t think it should ever slow down.”
Right now, they don’t have to worry. Skate culture in San Carlos is alive and thriving. “The Mystery of Now” attests to that.
Jenn Walker began writing for Globe Miami Times in 2012 and has been a contributor ever since. Her work has also appeared in Submerge Magazine, Sacramento Press, Sacramento News & Review and California Health Report. She currently teaches Honors English at High Desert Middle School and mentors Globe School District’s robotics team.