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Since the COVID-19 pandemic shut the NBA and NHL down just over a year ago, forcing them to finish their seasons in a “bubble,” the sports world has become a drastically different place. After all, most sports require participants to meet somewhere like on a field or in a gym, and they can’t be practiced while maintaining social distancing.
But some sports are different. Some sports can be practiced almost anywhere. Some sports don’t involve teams, and allow participants to maintain social distance. Some sports are just immune.
As it turns out, not even COVID-19 can stop skateboarding.
As youth sports campaigned for the past year for leagues to be reinstated and for organized activities to resume, skaters largely carried on. They didn’t need to go to the skatepark, or wait for a local school or rec league to reopen – they could practice anywhere. As a result, there was a huge uptick in skateboarding and other action sports during the pandemic, instead of a retraction.
Skateboarding sales skyrocketed during COVID
Just before the pandemic took hold, the University of Southern California released a study that found “multiple benefits in skateboarding, ranging from mental health to education and careers.”
The Pullias Center for Higher Education at USC’s Rossier School of Education concluded in Feb., 2020, that skateboarding “improves mental health, fosters community, and encourages diversity and resilience.”
That study couldn’t be better timed for a pandemic that spreads almost entirely indoors. Action sports are among the safest outdoor activities during the pandemic. Perhaps this is why participants of these sports weren’t as slowed down by COVID lockdowns and restrictions as more traditional, team-sport athletes were. Instead, sports like skateboarding skyrocketed in popularity.
Various outdoor activities and action sports have seen massive growth during the pandemic. That includes skateboarding, as well as kitesurfing, windsurfing, biking, and even parkour. But skateboarding is by far the most common and accessible action sport out there, since all you need is a board.
As skateparks went through a wave of closures, skaters adapted by finding new places to skate – sometimes inside their homes. After all, if there’s one word to describe the skating community, it’s resilient.
In the UK, after indoor skateparks reopened last July, they saw record numbers of participants, helping to continue the growth of the sport. Worldwide, the pandemic has caused a shift away from more organized team sports, and toward more freestyle, action sports like skateboarding.
Skateboarding as a socially distant sport
The skateboarding community has proven itself to be creative, tech savvy, and crafty with video production. Often, documentary skills are developed side-by-side with skating skills, since the only thing better than landing the sickest tricks is showing them to the world. It’s only natural, then, that skaters are able to “skate together” virtually, sharing tricks and often building their own skateparks to showcase them.
According to Skateism, skateboarding thrived in 2020 because “skateboarders were left alone.” They wrote that over the past year, DIY skateparks have “started sprouting like wildfire across the skate landscape.”
The DIY mentality is a core principle of the skating community. As Skateism puts it, these makeshift skateparks “bring people together under a creative banner and promote the DIY mindset that fuels skating’s unique drive to skate and create at all costs.”
As people had to get creative in order to remain active during the pandemic, many turned to skateboarding when “their driveways and cul de sacs became their only domains.” As a result, “a new generation of skateboarders will be born from this pandemic.”
Skateboarding provides social interaction – and a good workout
Skateboarding provides benefits for both physical and social health and can even decrease anxiety. Remember, it's not just about learning a trick, but landing and performing it for an audience – documenting what you're doing and watching what others are up to.
This social interaction component has been the key to skateboarding helping people through the deep isolation of the pandemic. Skaters are using their creativity not only to continue practicing and competing, but also to continue interacting and growing the community while staying physically apart.
In an interview with the Guardian, Skateboard England’s head of digital engagement, Neil Ellis, states, "We expected it when the Olympics started, but we didn't expect this increase that's come through COVID. The skateboard shops have had their best year ever."
But the pandemic has also opened up skateboarding to a new generation — adults. People in their 30s and 40s who were commuting to work before the pandemic have found themselves stuck at home, and have turned to skateboarding for exercise.
Last summer, one such middle-aged skater, 42-year-old John Roher told Baltimore Magazine he took up skateboarding during the pandemic for the first time since he was a teenager.
A nurse and a father, Roher said he started skating again due to the convenience, especially with a toddler at home. He found he could get a quick, "good core workout" without having to take a long bike ride, and luckily, had an accessible skatepark near his house.
"This is a lot more conducive to get my activity itch scratched, and it reminds me of being a kid, I guess," he said.
Develop your skateboarding skills in a safe, socially-distanced setting
If you’re looking for somewhere to skateboard, or want to try it for the first time, check out DIVERT. They provide the perfect place for developing your skateboarding skills while maintaining social distancing – they’ll even provide the board and the helmet!
DIVERT’s skateparks are crowd-controlled and feature lines for beginner, intermediate, and advanced riders, so there’s something for everyone. With a skateboard in your hand, a fun, productive, and challenging workout is always at your fingertips, no matter your age, background or skill level.
Just schedule a session and go get on a board – and remember, COVID can’t slow you down!