If skateboarding isn't for everybody, it isn't for anybody... pt.1
(And we all know, it was always for anybody)
By the time I sniff out a session: maybe 10 minutes in, I know the score. You guys have all seen me... I show up, usually head to whatever is 3ft. or shorter, start stalling smiths and "finding my center". Then I start the heckling: good natured quips and jibes meant to loosen us up, suss out our attitudes, and perhaps turn things "back to fun" for a while.
You see, skateboarding has gone through I'd say about 20 years of grooming, and we have been trimmed down to the visceral competition of defining the "pecking order".
If you shred, you rule the roost.
If you suck, you are low on the totem.
But I came to skateboarding, a refugee, discovering speak-easy culture and the punk rock freedom of self-definition.
I am an "old guy".
You probably don't remember this, but around 2001, a lot of us "old guys" returned to the fold of skateboarding. Some documentaries were being made that rooted us back into the 70's era "come one come all" culture, and we started getting our boards out of moth balls...
I had been on my board for years and years by then, I took a break in the early nineties to settle my issues with spirituality, matrimony, higher ed, and fatherhood, and had been scooting around regularly since 96.
But I noticed the competitiveness and groupthink, the retail kingpinnery and the corporate brand money grabbing, turning skate culture into something "for those who can cut it". It was "for the strong".
"The Strong" wound up meaning it was for athletic, young, impressionable, intellectually pliable, boys. Mostly white. Mostly middle class or up.
If you were a minority: You had to rip.
If you were chubby: You had to be on the come up, without questioning the abuse you go, losing weight and learning tricks. You had to be a Try Hard and toe the line.
If you were a girl: god help you. Through the nineties, 2000s and on, girls were the objects of attitudes straight outta the 50's...
Over it all, skateboarding was for "those who could do it".
And this, kids, is why little kids, who are too smart for that kinda shit, ride scooters. We did this with our marketing and our retailers and our don't-question-retail-authority-boys club-culture.
And now we have the previously unwelcome "old men" coming around making new skaters who don't fit the mold.
Not only old men, but also "skate moms" who are putting urethane on the concrete with mobs of kids who are finding shelter under their encouraging wings.
It is a new dawn and the future is looking bright!