Skateboarding is an identity
The founding principle of skateboarding is simple: anyone can do it anywhere. More specifically, anyone with a skateboard can do it anywhere they’re brave enough to use it.
At its core, skateboarding is rebellious because it’s unconstrained by rules – unlike most recreational activities – and uncontained by the boundaries of a field or court. The objective is also open-ended: express yourself. Skating is free speech with a board. It’s art. It’s a movement. It’s a community.
As legendary artist and filmmaker Craig Stecyk puts it in the groundbreaking “Dogtown Articles” he penned for Skateboarding Magazine in the mid-1970’s, skaters are “urban guerillas” who “make everyday use of the useless artifacts” around them. With a camera and a front-row seat to the skateboarding revolution, Stecyk watched “the minds of 11-year-olds” unlock “a massive cement playground of unlimited potential.”
They didn’t need to find the best waves or a vacant park. With a skateboard, the world was an untouched canvas, waiting to get carved up. And in the nearly 50 years since those kids discovered a new frontier, the movement has grown into a cultural identity for the masses who have come to embrace it.
All you need is a board
Unlike sports that require participants to buy lots of equipment or learn rulebooks and strategies, skateboarding has a very low barrier to entry. The best way to learn how to skateboard is to pick up a board and start doing it.
There’s plenty of lingo, sure, and a living glossary of terms and trick names, but at the end of the day, there is no right and wrong way to skateboard, and no test to pass or bar to overcome to be a skater. You don’t have to boardslide a handrail if you don’t want to. You don’t even have to do a kickflip. The goal is whatever you decide – just get on the board and see what happens.
Skaters are a family. Photographer Todd Henry said in a photo essay for Vice that he started skateboarding “as an outlet for expression, and a reason to get out,” and as a result, he's made “several friends for life.”
As participants feel the warm embrace of the skating community, they develop a sense of belonging and acceptance with fellow skaters all over the world.
The skate community is diverse
Skating brings people together. Skateboard friendships supersede geographic boundaries, economic barriers, and cultural divisions. Skateparks, and skate spots, are filled with young and old people from all walks of life.
Clinical psychologist and Hardcore Humanism founder Michael Friedman wrote in a post for Psychology Today that at the skatepark, “every age, race, sex and musical taste” is represented, “yet they all appear connected, part of this living, breathing, flowing society.” Friedman continued to explain that there exists no conflict because skateboarding supplies everyone with a sense of purpose, which “can also provide a cultural identity.”
As he sums it up, “Being at a skatepark says something about you that may override other differences.”
Skateboarding has been shown to improve mental health, reduce stress, increase resiliency, and foster a sense of community. It has even been employed as a method to fight crime. It’s no understatement to say that skateboard friendships have made the world a better place.
Plenty of celebrities and more traditional pro athletes also have a passion for skating. When the San Diego Padres acquired pitcher Mike Clevinger – who nearly quit baseball to pursue skateboarding when he was in high school – none other than San Diego skate legend Tony Hawk reached out to him almost immediately on Twitter and offered to show him some of the best skate spots in town. He even sent him a board – which was put to good use. And practically overnight, a skate-based celebrity friendship was born.
People who initially bond over skateboarding often share a deeper creative drive. Through skating, they find like-minded partners who share their desire for self-expression, and carry this creativity over into collaborations on artwork and various other forms of media.
Skaters are creators
The skating scene is a breeding ground for creative development, as it should be. In a sport whose driving force is self-expression, it’s only natural that the creativity of participants would carry over into other fields.
Look no further than Stecyk, who opened a tiny surf shop in Santa Monica, Calif., in 1972 – with fellow skateboard pioneers Jeff Ho and Skip Engblom – that became the birthplace of the skateboarding revolution. He started taking photographs and documenting the origin of skateboard culture as it happened. In 2001, he co-wrote the iconic Dogtown and Z-Boys documentary with Stacy Peralta, and two years ago, he published a book by the same name.
Documenting the art of skateboarding can be an art-form in itself, and skaters who want to make videos showcasing their work often learn valuable artistic, musical, and video production skills that can be parlayed into careers in other industries.
Grab a board and go for it!
Skateboarding can seem intimidating at first, but it’s only as intense as you want it to be. Just get out to the skatepark, and the community will embrace you.
If you’re trying to break into skateboarding, programs like DIVERT can help by providing a safe, constructive space to develop your skills, making skateboarding and other action sports more accessible.
All you have to do is grab a board – it just might change your life!