Wrote this as an intro for Skateboarder a while back. Think the Feb-March 2012 issue.
We’re walking a very thin line in skateboarding right now. Or maybe it was long before we even knew there was a line to walk that we took a running broad jump far beyond it and never looked back. Regardless, here we are in 2012. We have a “street” league where people skate a skatepark for hundreds and thousands of dollars, more and more skaters are getting managers to handle their business affairs, schools offer skateboarding PE classes, there’s little to no balking at any level of corporate sponsorship, and the overall jock vibe at any skatepark is at an all time high. Times are strange and I often wonder how we got to this point. Is it some sort of trickle down from the X Games, Bagel Bite, video game, and TV show deals of past years? I don’t know, but I do know that now it’s to a point where there’s no questioning it any more. This is the way things are, and that’s that. And it’s fucking depressing.
We’ve entered this paradoxical state. The main thing that defines us as skateboarder (riding a skateboard) hasn’t changed and is still illegal to do in the streets, but we’re more family friendly and palatable to the average Joe. We’re not getting called “Skater fags” any more. Instead, people are telling us to do kickflips. We’ve gone from being our own counter culture to just another facet of popular culture, so while what we’re doing hasn’t changed, the public’s perception of it has. To the average citizen nowadays, at most we’re a nuisance with no regard for property instead of the drug addled societal dropouts they saw us as years ago. There’s nothing wrong with that, but by gaining acceptance in mainstream society, we’ve also lost a big part of what set us apart from them to begin with.
In his Divulge interview, Gino Iannucci said “ Nowadays you see pros doing ads with Bentleys, Lambourghinis, diamonds and foxes and to me that stuff’s just whatevs. I kind of miss the days when skaters used to be these hoodlum outlaws. That’s what we’ve traded for what it is now.” That was ten years ago.
Most people don’t want the same things they did when they were 18, 21, or 25. No one wants to just scrape by forever and with the outside money coming in, a lot of skaters don’t have to any more, which they shouldn’t have to. Maybe skateboarding is just growing out of its angry, adolescence and is settling into this complacent white bread middle ground alongside traditional sports. I only worry because I wonder where the fucked up, confused kids who would have found a haven in skateboarding up to this point are going to turn when they look at skateboarders the same way they do football and baseball players and say, “No thanks.”
To a lot of people, skateboarding is just an escape from everything else they have to worry about in life. It’s something they can just do it for the sake of doing it and let all the peripheral bullshit in life melt away while they’re rolling around. But with skateboarding, or music, or art, or anything with any semblance of self expression or soul, I think there should at least be an option to put more and get more out of it than just escape, otherwise we’re just jerking off.
Finding skateboarding changed my life for the better in more ways than I can count and I want that to still be possible for kids when I’m dead and gone. I want skateboarding to be like a book that some lost kid can stumble onto and read 20 years from now and it will still have the same power and message to him that it had to me and anyone else who’s life has been improved by this silly little toy.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, skateboarding as a culture is evolving. We have to consider where it’s heading, what we’re becoming and if we’re okay with that. It’s always easier to go with the flow, but that doesn’t mean we’re not heading for a cliff.