I wrote this short essay for my friend’s zine because I know he loves skateboarding and art and the two are one and the same. Sort of.
“It’s art. It’s technique. It’s form… It’s what looks good!”
J. Dill, On the topic of skateboarding
Skateboarders are naturally creative. They need to be. The world is their canvas and their boards are their tools to express themselves as they wish. No rules. No limitations except for their minds. From the wooden frames of the ramp to the unpredictable nature of the street; from the expressionism of poured concrete to the abstract spirit of freestyle, every skateboarder finds their place and perfects their skills.
The artistic integrity of professional skateboarders depends entirely on their ability to respect and defend their ancestors. Street skateboarders flock to the vast workshops of San Francisco, New York, Paris and Barcelona to redesign and refine the techniques their predecessors mastered in the multiple plazas and schoolyards of the city.
Sometimes the modern skateboarders draw inspiration from opposite ends of the artistic spectrum. For example, Ricky Oyola’s minimalist use of Philadelphia’s innercity architecture placed in juxtaposition with the surrealism of Japan’s Gou Miyagi has spawned a new genre of expressionism in Bordeaux, France, where powerslides are no longer limited to four wheels.
Even though skateboarding is a creative art form, it also embodies the qualities of a martial art with clearly defined technique and skill needed to perform tricks of the highest standard. The culture respects the skateboarder who has a response for every game of S.K.A.T.E. just as much as it respects the skateboarder who performs a singular trick perfectly.
Federations and corporate entities attempt to harness the creative force of skateboarding and use it to their own profit. However, core skateboarders have a sixth sense for authenticity and are quick to disown and condone any party that tries to benefit from the art form’s marketability. In the advent of globalization and free markets the popularity of the skateboarder identity has grown to the point that it has become difficult to recognize who is a true artist and who isn’t.
To distinguish between artists and imposters, analysis of equipment, health and posture are vital. The use and wear of a pair of shoes, signs of bruising on elbows and shins, or the manner in which a person handles their skateboard when walking are clear indicators of integrity. Grip tape thumb and mall grab are two benchmarks of the skateboard culture that separate the real from the fake.