Growing up I’d heard the stereotype that skateboarders were bad at school, but I personally never saw it play out. A lot of the skateboarders I met in high school were kinda nerdy. One of them even scored a perfect 2400 on his SAT without studying, I’d heard. So it comes as both a surprise and expectation that skateboarders will finally get their own international academic conference, called appropriately, Pushing Boarders, taking place June 1-3 in London.
Pushing Boarders will consist of seven talks given by small groups of panelists on topics including race, female representation, and urban architecture, all as they pertain to skateboarding. The conference is the joint effort of Theo Krish and Philip Joa from SkatePal, Stuart Maclure from Long Live Southbank, and Thom Callan-Riley, Sander Hölsgens, and Dani Abulhawa from Re-verb Skateboarding.
If you think skateboarding would be better off not dressing up in tweed and getting overanalyzed, you’re too late. People have been writing scholarly books, papers, and articles on the topic for the past 20 years, there just hasn’t been a centralizing community to organize all that thoughtful work. It’s not unheard of for professors to include skateboarding articles on college syllabi too.
The organizers told me one of their primary reasons for creating the conference is to show younger skateboarders that it’s possible to pursue skateboarding academically. “Skaters who want to stay close to skateboarding when they go to university might study graphic design or filmmaking, things with an obvious connection to jobs in the [skate] industry,” they wrote me. “But we want to make this connection through the humanities and social sciences. If you want to do something with film, anthropology, charities, urban space, South Korea, social policies, pedagogy…why not use skateboarding as the prism to understand these fields?”
The panelists generally have distinct backgrounds and areas of expertise from one another — one panelist for instance, Dr. Åsa Bäckström, teaches at a health science school in Sweden and has been researching skateboarders for two decades, while another panelist, Karl Watson, is known for doing spine-twisting grinds and writing a children’s book — representing the inclusivity and eccentricity that skateboarding fosters.
Panelists also include a number of Jenkem writers and contributors — Anthony Pappalardo, Kyle Beachy, and Ted Barrow — as well as folks we’ve interviewed before, like Alexis Sablone and Neftalie Williams the Skateboarding Ambassador.
So if you happen to be in London goofing off for Summer break or know someone who is, head over to the conference to get your serious skate nerd on. Attendance at any of the talks is free but you have to register online beforehand.
And if you can’t make it, don’t worry. All the talks will be recorded and uploaded online afterward. “So many academic conferences cost hundreds to attend and then the findings/discussions are put in journals behind paywalls. This means hardly anyone outside certain circles get to read them. We’re all about making it available to everyone,” the organizers told me.
Our editor CK, who recently hacked Street League for beers, will be there so if you see him feel free to hit him with an old fashioned spitball or complain to him in person about his Office Picks. Cheers, mate!