WHAT SKATEBOARDING MEANS
These have been weird times. The world has changed. I don’t mean that in the short term, either. We will likely see irrevocable change in our world. Here in the United States, distancing measures are only just being lifted. The last few months have given us all a chance to think about things. We’ve had a lot of time to ourselves. At least some of us had our skateboards.
Skateboarding is where creativity meets athleticism, where aesthetics mean sports. I’ve always loved sports. I played a bunch of them growing up. Soccer, basketball, and a ton of hockey. I still play hockey on occasion. When I was in junior high school (you may know it as middle school or some sort of European thing I am unaware of) is when I first started skating. It went along with all the other teenage personality development stuff. I got into punk and I skated. Granted, I wasn’t a particularly strong skater. To be honest, that’s still true. I don’t have much dexterity on a board. I can’t do many tricks. If I hit a kickflip it’s a cause for surprise and celebration. Of course, we all know that skill isn’t what matters with skating.
Some people are great at skating. They can do tricks. They can skate in a halfpipe. It’s a manifestation of their skills in the world. They can impress. They have a talent they can share. Even those skaters though, by and large, aren’t judgmental of the skating of others. Does it happen? Sure, but the ethos of skateboarding has always been egalitarian. If all you ever do is skate around and never even try to ollie, that’s your business, and you can do it free of jaundiced eyes gazing upon you.
You can skate as a mode of transportation. You can skate as an athletic endeavor. You can spend your time working on your skills. It’s a craft, a hobby, a way to spend your downtime. It’s more creative than, say, playing basketball. It’s a better workout than, oh I don’t know, making origami. Skating is simple and complicated at the same time, like many good things are. It can be different things to different people. You can’t really say that about, you know, baseball.
It’s also social when you want it to be. When I skated as a kid, I was usually skating with my friends. To this day, it’s something that a lot of people who grew up skating do with friends. You bullshit with each other, you skate around a bit, you have fun. Granted, there’s less loitering and being obnoxious than when you were a teenager, to be fair. You’re not clogging the street with your boards anymore. Skating as a hobby, as a passion, can grow with you.
Of course, during the pandemic, during a time when many of us were legally discouraged, or straight up disallowed, from spending time with each other, the community nature of skating became even more evident. We lost that aspect of skating, but we didn’t lose skating in total. Many of us spent months only leaving our houses for exercise. A chance to get some fresh air to avoid getting stir crazy. You could grab your board to do that. I was going on incredibly long walks, just because I had nothing else to do. I saw people on their boards. I never hopped on a board myself, I stuck with walking, but I was happy that they had a way to spend their time, a distraction from the swirling chaos. You could practice your kickflips to a point where it became meditative. Some of us like a solo hobby. I have been known on occasion to go play hockey by myself at a local park. That’s part of the beauty of skating. It can be whatever you want it to be.
That will remain true, even when we get out of this madness. The world will change, but skateboarding will remain the same. During these trying times, having something meaningful has been vital to our mental health. We’ve needed stuff to cling to. For many, skating was part of that. That was probably true before all this. Skating has long been a refuge, and it always will be. It doesn’t discriminate. It welcomes athletes and creatives in equal measures. Whether you are incredibly skilled or can only really just push yourself around, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you have your board, and you can do with it what you want.
This may sound like some overly philosophical heady bullshit to be laying at the feet of skateboarding, and that’s probably true. Give me a break. I’ve been largely stuck in my home for over two months. I’m processing a world that has fallen to pieces just like everybody else. This chaos has made the stability of skating over the years just that much more clear, though. Skateboarding has value. Clear, resonant value. Maybe we don’t notice that enough. Wherever you are on your board, and whatever reason you have for hopping on it, I’m glad you have skating. I’m glad the world has skating. Hell, even if you can’t stand on a board without nearly wiping out at least you can play Tony Hawk Pro Skater, right? That game rules no matter how you slice it. There, I cut through the sincerity. Now we can all go home happy.