I’m a skateboarder. I say that like other people say they are a musician, a basketball player, or a hiker. All one really has to do is participate in an activity to say that they are that. So, what is skateboarding? The simplest answer is riding on a piece of wood with wheels attached to it, and while this is true in its purest form, the answer is not so clear cut.
Just as music varies from the sweet child hitting a toy xylophone to the complex brilliance of a classical composer, the skateboard is a simple toy, yet also contains immense depth and difficulty. There are also great differences in how and why people skate, like how kids playing basketball as a team differ from the loner who goes out and shoots hoops for themselves. Even further, there is the pro baller getting paid thousands to millions of dollars for wearing a clothing brand. Yet through all these differences they all still say “I play basketball” in the end, and skateboarding is like that. To some, skateboarding is just a fun hobby that is good for the body and they enjoy it in the same way a hiker enjoys walking trails. To others though, skating becomes a way of life that holds limitless potential, and that potential must be realized. This is analogous to a hiker walking off trail and climbing the most difficult terrain that they can. Sometimes these kinds of people don’t just enjoy their surrounding passively, but rather immerse themselves and thrive off of the new and often dangerous potential.
My passion for skateboarding has been a light of inspiration since the beginning. After ten years of obsession and contemplation I still want to investigate further. Skateboarding is a wildly individualistic thing, yet it brings opposites together, so I knew I couldn’t answer the question alone.
In preparation for So What is Skateboarding, I came up with twenty-nine questions about the personal experience of skateboarding. Over fifty skaters filled out the questionnaire. While it would have been better for statistics sake to make it multiple choice, that kind of format is like a school test, and no skateboarder likes tests. What I was looking for was the wide-eyed never-defined collective opinion that all different skaters had for the board.
So our story takes place in the little mountain town of Prescott Arizona, nestled in between Phoenix and Flagstaff. It’s big enough to have a well made skatepark, a scene of progressive skateboarders, a skate shop that has sponsored skaters and kept the community active, and good quality skater-made videos. Even more importantly, Prescott is small enough that the scene is fairly friendly and tight knit. It isn’t a huge scene like California where there are pros and opportunities with spots and sponsors all over the place. The spots are rough and sponsorship is barely existent, so the skaters that progress do it for the right reasons. With these qualifications, I was sure Prescott was a good slice of skateboarders to talk about, ranging from the beginners to the skaters that have gotten sponsored by big name companies.
What I intend to accomplish with So What is Skateboarding (SWIS) is an insightful exploration into all the aspects of skateboarding in this new millennium. I choose this decade because I began really skating in 2001 and have lived with skateboarding intimately ever since. There are a ton of terrible books and web pages about skating out there that all give the same historical and technical information with no heart or real truth. I realized there needed to be more resources about real skateboarders today written by a real skater of these times. I believe the deep nature of skateboarding can be of value to anyone, skater or non-skater. I want to go beyond the skin deep impressions. I want to look at all the diverse aspects of skateboarding that make it so vastly unique. Most importantly though, I want to find the divine qualities of skating that are universal. I say skateboarding is the most powerful creative activity to develop in the last fifty years, yet somehow it lacks the respect it deserves. I aim to change that.