‘To be a skateboarder’

There was a time in skateboarding where to be a skateboarder, the most important factor was actually going out skating. Indeed, many skaters were social misfits and outcasts who sought to escape ‘the mainstream’ at any and every opportunity byway of doing something with a skateboard, in a subterranean world of car park curbs and County Council built benches, that few were interested in. To a genuine skater, all that really mattered in the world was whether you had a board, a place to skate regular, maybe access to a local skate store and a monthly skate magazine to brows in class under the desk; that was the beginning and end of everything for many skaters. And yet these rather unusual behaviours byway of skating, bought many misfits into a sub-culture and brotherhood that was diametrically opposed to almost any other type of athletic activity. Often, in this rather exclusive sub-culture, misfits found a home or an identity previously missing from their lives. In many ways, these were the glory days of innocence in skateboarding, whereby simplicity had great power and life (and skateboarding) were much simpler.

Today, things are very different in skateboarding: ‘skateboard award shows/events’ ‘jock behaviour’ ‘fashions’ ‘extreme sports moniker,’ ‘main stream/corporate ties/media’ ‘big business’ skateboard collecting in the mainstream, overt complexity in tricks, ‘attitudes’ ‘keeping up’ ‘being in’ or having the latest ‘wifi’ gadget stuck to your head 24/7 or relentlessly ‘texting’ someone about some insignificant drama or event, seem a day-to-day part of what skating has become. Indeed, and dare I say it, skateboarding has increasingly become ‘cool’. An activity no longer engaged in by a minority of misfit skaters themselves, but by a much wider section of society at many levels simultaneously. Whether we like it or not, skateboarding is more popular today than perhaps at any time in its history. These changes have created a skateboard industry that is vastly different to what has gone before and radically altered the face of what it means to be a skateboarder. Nevertheless, the past and present are always interconnected and mutually dependent.

As a means to partly capture and understand how we got to where we are today in skateboarding, I created the ‘Transition Skateboarding Trilogy’. For, a great deal of what skateboarding has become originated in an era that unfolded in the 1980’s and 1990’s. More precisely, a period many call the ‘phat pants and tiny wheel era’ although this is perhaps overly simplistic, as this transitional era spanned a broader reality and had it roots in the 1980’s. Moreover, its effects were felt well into the 90’s and many of them unknowingly remain with skateboarding today (popsicle profile boards and overt complexity in street tricks) to name but a few.

My intent in creating the ‘Transition Skateboarding Trilogy’ is to fill-in a pivotal gap in the history of skateboarding whilst recording many aspects of skating in the context of everyday life in a ‘past and current’ form. In doing so, I seek to honour aspects of skateboarding now long gone, but equally show that it is still possible to be a skateboarder at any age today and create your owns rules and subterranean world outside ‘the mainstream’ and thereby find liberation and sanctuary in a world now saturated and dominated by ‘social media’ which is fast sucking the soul and creativity of humanity dry by way of egotistic emphasis upon insignificant dramas, all the while filling the pockets of media and technology companies.

Personally, ‘I won’t be a monkey in anyone’s zoo’ i, so my suggestion as an alternative to such lemming behaviour is: we do well to remember as skateboarders that life is always here and now, so whilst you have the chance, leave all your gadgets behind and go skate instead as ‘a design for life’. ii

To those who choose this path: GL with your endeavours ‘to be a skateboarder’.   

i ‘Not Fazed’ RIDE Going Blank Again 1992

ii ‘A Design for Life’ The Manic Street Preachers, Everything Must Go 1996.

Transition and all the material composing this project is copyrighted. No reproduction in any form is allowed without the permission of the author.

‘The world of skateboarding is no longer peopled by ‘kids’ alone.

Today, a whole generation of skateboarders exist who’ve grown into adults.

Alongside skateboarding they face the very real and challenging demands of everyday life, like finding (and holding down) a job, paying ‘the bills’, housing, feeding and clothing themselves, health-care, engaging in relationships, getting married, having children, and much more.

However, such is the ‘enduring and addictive nature of skateboarding’ that a large part of their heart and soul still lies in this escapist and liberating activity, to the point that at some level, their desire to pursue it still strongly remains.

For, the path of the ordinary skateboarder in everyday life has no end.’ djl