Unlike football, with its host of issues surrounding respecting/not beating the living shit out of women, skateboarding is an activity dominated, in large part, by teenagers. The entire economy of skateboarding relies on these teens captivating an audience of even younger teens, who emulate their lifestyle and perceived image, creating an intensely obsessive, never-ending cycle.
It’s that near-sacred identification that makes awkward X Games and Street League interviews so maddening. Skateboarding, and the culture around it, engulfs its members so heavily that hearing anyone strip it down to “winning” makes us cringe. Skateboarding is a rejection of that cookie-cutter form of existence that, to teenagers at least, is best understood through how different it is from being a jock. As a young male, choosing to skateboard is actively refusing the obvious path of male dominated sports, it’s like telling everyone around you that you have no interest in being an All-American boy. It’s saying that you want to determine, on your own terms, how you define yourself.
Some skaters still hate the fact that a world renowned athletic shoe company makes very high-quality shoes for skateboarding. Those skaters warn that the association of athletics to our beloved toy reduces it to a sport occupied by prep school boys from model homes. But there are fewer skaters (or at least fewer loud ones) upset with the fact that we act like “jocks” when we deal with women – that most of us still perpetuate the misogynistic status quo.
“We’re desperate to keep the narrative of this thing in the right hands and as a result turn a blind eye to immature, sexist and homophobic behavior.”
As skateboarders, we’re defensive of our history. We’re desperate to keep the narrative of this thing in the right hands and as a result turn a blind eye to immature, sexist and homophobic behavior from the skaters we are inextricably tied to and identify with. Like a loudmouthed uncle, we choose to give these people passes because of their “legend status” or for the love of skateboarding.
Calling out a good skater for his questionable words or actions is the type of thing that can open pandora’s box of internet hatred despite it being undeniably true. The party-line seems to go as follows:
“It’s just skateboarding.”
“Stop taking things so seriously…”
“You were like that when you were younger, too.”
Growing up, I wore Kr3w AR jeans in a size too small because Corey Duffel was my favorite skater. At least, he was until I found out he called Stevie Williams the N word. I remember feeling as if I could shit out my own heart when I stumbled upon his now-infamous Big Brother interview. It was weird to feel unwelcome in the thing I most identified with. I was 12 then, I didn’t touch my skateboard for a week.
“It was weird to feel unwelcome with the thing I most identified with”
It’s important to separate our fandom of skaters from our own values and personal beliefs as human beings. But this is difficult when we are continuously marketed “I skate, therefore I am.” Corey Duffel received a nearly career-ending amount of push back for that Big Brother interview. He was young then, still a fresh enough face, and it was easier for Duffel to learn his lesson because, ultimately, there are plenty of skaters of color out there to advocate for non-racist pros. Unfortunately for women, there aren’t as many voices in the industry.
Nyjah Huston, the most recognizable pro skateboarder in the world thinks skateboarding is too tough for girls. One of the few recognizable women in the industry is the butt of jokes about “what pros she’s hooked up with.” Filmers regularly zoom in on non-consenting women’s asses in skate videos. The experience of skateboarding, for young girls and women, is filtered through a series of expectations that lead anywhere but skateboarding. Still, women find playing with this kids toy—marketed since its inception for young men—a worthwhile way to spend their time. Skateboarding is, of course, still fun.
Nyjah’s comments about girl’s skateboarding, according to him at least, stem from experience with “the wrath of the concrete.” In his apology, he conveniently pointed to his little sister as someone who he wouldn’t like to feel this “wrath.”
The assumption that girls can’t “handle” skateboarding relies on a frame of thought that assumes their submission. It’s the same frame of thought that doesn’t know what to make of anyone who doesn’t fit into a pre-packaged traditional sports mold. Skateboarding is the culmination of of the types of decisions we should be encouraging more girls to make: “dangerous” ones.
The object itself, the toy that we’ve devoted ourselves to like none other, is wholly democratic. There are no size requirements for skateboarding, no advantages for height or strength that are found in other activities. Instead, skateboarding relies on momentum, it carries you as far as you are willing, blind to any categorization that those dreaded after school activities are so obsessed with.
The central conversation that has taken over the industry of late is how much money we’re all comfortable with being “worth.” As if Ishod Wair being able to afford a mansion is going to suddenly turn him, and skateboarding at large, into some evil corporate behemoth. That it’ll take away skateboarding’s power against these institutions. But we as skaters should be more concerned with how much of those institutions we still embody.
I want to see more of this and this. I want to see the look on guys’ faces when they shout things like, “you’re being a bitch!” at the park and realize that they’re outnumbered by women. I want to see skateboarders act like they actually care about being so different from everything else. Because otherwise, we might as well play fucking football.