By Alfredo Madrid
For some, skateboarding is a mere pastime. For others it is annoying, dangerous, and quite an utterly dreadful repellant. Yet there are those who stand by their wooden planks as a chivalrous knight would his sword during the heat of battle in the olden days. Skateboarding is a lifestyle for an immensely diverse amount of members who have managed to indelibly form an ever-expanding subculture worldwide.
Skateboarding was born in Southern California when surfers created a device that would let them “ride” the streets and sidewalks when the waves just weren’t making the cut. The advent dates as far back as the 1940s or 1950s. Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world , is also the abode and epicenter of skateboarding.
With its comely nature scene and weather that permits and encourages outdoor activity, Los Angeles has electrified the skateboard scene, drawing skateboarders from all points of the globe. Most of the major companies are situated here, as are some of the best, top-notch talents in the industry. Southern California could quite possibly be the mecca of skateboarding.
Sightings of professionals and amateurs “destroying” or “killing spots” (skateboard lingo in which the act described is equivalent to a full-blown display of mastery, bravery, and technical ability on any terrain, especially life-threatening locations where one’s safety is at risk) is a common occurrence in sunny Los Angeles.
As skateboarding continues to expand ever larger and captivate public attention at an accelerated rate, the mainstream media is loosening its grip on what it presumes is the negative characteristics and features of the activity. Quite frankly, at the moment, skateboarding is in. It has become a lucrative business, almost as cutthroat as the entertainment industry itself.
Public skate parks have sprouted up all over SoCal seemingly overnight. As for the street spots, some of them are still heavily patrolled by authority, or are simply disfigured with knobs that deem them un-skateable or have been obliterated by fuming tenants and business owners.
Yet skateboarding’s presence as a feature and unshakeable attraction in Los Angeles is undeniable. From the art shows and galleries in Highland Park, to the dive bars strewn throughout the city, and even to late-night parties in Echo Park or the vast Warehouse District, skateboarding continues to reign as quite a popular and omnipresent activity.
In “Skateboarding,” Fabrice Le Mao writes, “all skateboarders, whether professional or not, have an influence on the art world because of the way in which the activity links different social and cultural worlds—skateboarding is an inspiring image and is full of innovative activity in its own right. It seems hardly surprising that some artists deeply appreciate the creativity that comes from the ‘Sport.’ ”
The cataloging aspect of skateboarding brings aboard another seemingly motley and endless avenue for consideration. Whether in a black-and-white photograph, in a classy theater rented out for the evening at a skateboard-movie premiere, or in a kid’s homemade “Sponsor me” tape, documenting skateboarding on film goes hand-in-hand with the act of skateboarding itself. Los Angeles is immensely fruitful for such tendencies with its stock of available and burgeoning spots.
Amateurs, professionals, beginners, and all hybrids of those in between comingle on the streets of Los Angeles, all with one goal unifying them : shred, skate, and destroy. It isn’t the possibility of fame, travel, or money that motivates the devout skateboarder. The drive is the insatiable desire to overcome one’s fear of an obstacle and then proceed to execute the trick with finesse and fluid style.
A few compatriots of mine elaborated on the theme.
Josh Sierra, 24, a Los Angeles native, grew up skating this impressive city. His conception of what skating is and his belief that a successfully executed trick will lead to both psychological and physical satiety, is a keen observation. Sierra appears to be under the assumption that success on the board has a metaphysical effect on the mind.
“I skateboard because it forces me to combine heart and mind in order to realize a higher mental and physical potential, which can only be found through perpetual motion,” Sierra said. “I guess, psychologically that is."
“When you combine your mental intention and it coordinates with your physical potential, it's very rewarding, that is trying and not getting it right but finally landing it. You’ve got to go out of your comfort zone if you want a more rewarding session; you have to purposely make it harder on yourself if you want to get better.”
Joseph Aivazian, 31, from Glendale, Calif., just outside downtown Los Angeles, had a different take on the subject.
“It’s like going into the abyss … mainly it’s just fun and adventure for a really free-spirited individual – a complete escape from reality.”
“Tony Hawk’s Game came out, skateboarding was really popular … my older cousin skated,” said Tony Karr, 21, from Los Angeles, in reference to what initially motivated him to try skateboarding.
Gabriel Martinez, 34, also from Los Angeles, spoke of skateboarding in a somewhat spiritual sense. “Basically, I started because it looked like a magical thing to do,” Martinez said. “I like to get my Zen on … exercise, get my mind off things. It’s pretty therapeutic. … It’s fun doing tricks with friends; a high-five or two feels good.”
Mikey Ayala, an Eagle Rock native, 30, was attracted to the craft’s stylish aspect.
“I was into a lot of sports, but I got over it. Skateboarding allows you to express yourself individually by still being physical. … I met a lot of the people I do music with through skateboarding,” Ayala said.
As can be surmised by the attentive reader, allowing oneself to ride a plank of wood on four wheels down the street is neither safe nor dangerous. It is an experiment that allows the individual to step away from conventions. Nonetheless, it has enamored thousands the world over, and as can be expected, it is by far most definitely welcome.