Over the course of recent history, as the outside has pushed in on skateboarding and smooshed us between prefabricated boundaries, skaters have managed, for the most part, to giggle loudly and sidestep the literal and figurative roadblocks dropped in front of us—many times using the barriers to skate on, through, or over—evolving our movements as we play.
From time to time, though, some cement-headed city or state employee figures out a way to delay the forward ways of the local skate population. They ticket, they demolish, they block, they confiscate. This hurts.
Skateboarders are like normal humans in many ways, but one way in particular ties us most tightly to our stubborn brethren and sistren. When giggling and sidestepping don’t work, we scramble and find other methods to keep doing what we want to do, even if it means learning the arcane and illogical language of city and state employees.
One useful language bit that skateboarders regularly pull the pin from and toss into city council meetings and the offices of state representatives is a clever little explosive that upon detonation screams, “SKATEBOARDING IS OUR TRANSPORTATION.”
I can only speculate why, but for some reason this volatile appeal works quite well—oftentimes concussing the local bureaucratic heavies into siding with, if not feeling bad for, their local skaters. When you talk to city or state employees and say “transportation,” the images that grind through their grayish matter range from chartered jets and $80,000 Hummers to bio-diesel maintenance vehicles and crunched-up taxis. Between the extremes, they might take pause to remember their own cars, trucks, and busses. Then, making the uncharacteristic leap to sympathy brought on by the sad idea of having their own Chrysler Voyager ticketed, demolished, blocked, or confiscated, they break down. They picture themselves hitchhiking or riding a girl’s bike to work.
This also hurts.
Into their Dictaphones they whisper, “How could I, in good conscience, take away any person’s primary mode of transportation—even if they are a bunch of non-voting little shitbags?”
Here’s a secret:
Skateboarders are good liars. But as any city or state employee can tell you, in every lie there resides a little truth.
Plywood hood. Billy Waldman flips the script. Photo: Tod Swank
Even if we say so, skateboarding for transportation is really not an issue with most skaters—at least not in the traditional sense. As soon as most of us are able, sometimes sooner, we drive cars and truly have no strong desire to skate all the way across town to jobs, to the grocery store, or to a movie. Skating that far is difficult, it can make you lopsided, and our wheels, for the most part, are too small and too hard.
But the little bit of truth is the best part of every lie.
The transportation that skateboarding affords skateboarders is one that takes us beyond the rush-hour commute, carpooling, and the wheel tax. Skaters travel to places that others can’t, cross borders others won’t, and go farther when others stop. We travel through any and all voyages less impeded—making friends, learning lessons, and bashing into immovable objects just to see if maybe, this time, they’ll move us. And we do all this because we ride our skateboards—technically transporting ourselves, but literally just goofing around in a relatively small area.
Even if you do come across the rare someone who habitually gets from point A to point B by skating there, you can put your money on the fact that she sees her board not as a vehicle, per se, but as a way to transport her daily schedule through the turns, pops, and slides of an evolved playtime—her destination just an excuse to turn around and do it all again—getting nowhere slow and harkening back to the highlights of her own recent history.
Giggling and sidestepping are severely underrated, by the way.
Highlights in recent history. Photo lifted from SK8SVS