Thursday, December 27, 2012

Skateboarding: A Terrible Way To Get Around

When I picked up my first skateboard in 1984 I was seeing it with almost no preconceived notions. In those dark days between the high-water mark of the late 70‘s and the post bones-brigade mid-80‘s A lot of kids who stumbled into skateboarding via a cheapie banana board bought on a whim saw their skateboards the same way. Even now, reducing skateboarding to its simplest state is an interesting exercise. Put yourself in that headspace where preconceived notions do not exist and you can break skating down into its elemental forms.

In the most basic sense a skateboard is a vehicle, but its a pretty terrible one. In speed and versatility it can’t compare with a bicycle, and every kid has a bike. You also need good pavement to ride a skateboard, and a stray pebble can still take you out. Even under ideal conditions pushing around on a skateboard punishes your knees and requires levels of concentration way beyond what a bicycle requires.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Part 1: Stone-Age Throwbacks (Ca. 1984)

The thing I remember most clearly about getting my first skateboard was that I didn’t want it.  It was a Christmas gift from my uncle Harry; a light blue plastic banana board with open bearings and wide, translucent red wheels. The trucks were so narrow the inside edges of the wheels nearly scraped the kingpin housing and bushings. If you stood in the middle of it with both feet together the bottom of the flexible plastic deck would almost scrape the ground. This was either 1983. I was about ten years old.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Lords Of Duct Tape: A Manifesto

Skateboarding has finally gotten old enough to be introspective. Its history is varied and vast enough now that people are making efforts not just to preserve it but to contextualize it, mostly through biographies and documentaries of the subculture’s elite innovators. If you really want to understand modern skateboarding though you can’t get the whole picture just by examining its superstars. Those stories are important, Sure. In the 80’s skaters like Christian Hosoi, Mark Rogowski, Tony Hawk and his Bones Brigade counterparts expanded the sport and helped shape modern skateboarding, but they were also over defining it. The road they paved was destined to be a dead end because what they did was fundamentally inaccessible to most of the world. It was anchored by contests no one outside of a few geographical areas could see and dependent on an infrastructure of for-profit parks that were destined to evaporate at the first financial hiccup.

In the 1960‘s skateboarding was born in the streets. In the early 80’s it almost died because it outgrew them. To survive it had to both devolve and evolve. It not only had to go back to the streets but streets beyond California. It had to hit the streets of middle America and the deep south and all the other places where you couldn’t make it to a beach or a bowl without a plane ticket or a week's vacation. For skating to become what it is today it had to become something anybody anywhere could grab and take possession of and help define. It not only had to move beyond being something surfers did when the surfing sucked, it had to become more than something you did in a concrete pool or a half-pipe.