20 February 2007

Under The City

Pic taken from NYC based 5boro skates.

History says modern skateboarding's birth was in 1950s California when bored surfer kids began looking for flat day alternatives. The truth is, people were probably riding some form of four-wheeled plank, decades, maybe even a century or so before that. Photographs and film footage exists of Depression-era kids racing rollerskates and wooden fruit-crate-scooters through the streets of New York. It is quite possible that some of these kids were riding these scooters without handles, I.E. as crude skateboards.

Many Skateboarders don't care about history and would rather focus on progression. For the most part, I think this is healthy as it keeps the youth in control of the culture. However, over the last few years, there has been a big celebration of the culture's roots. Yet, this has mostly been done by older skateboarders who romanticize the ramp and skatepark era of the 1970s and 1980s. Little has been discussed of skateboarding's real roots, the streets.

Skateboarding was born in the streets and is at its most profound when practiced on terrain that was not designed with skateboarding in mind. Lots of aging skateboarders tend to neglect this, as they carve around the bowls of the many skateparks that are continuously being constructed around the world. Modern skatepark design, is allowing these skateboarders to enjoy the form of skateboarding that they grew up doing; a form that for along time was not available to them. However it is incredibly ironic that many skateboarders champion 'Transition/ vertical based' skateboarding on intentional structures/ terrain as 'hardcore' or 'punk.' Yet, it seems there is little 'hardcore' or revolutionary about limiting oneself to the sanctioned confines of a designated 'park.' While I enjoy skateboarding in skateparks, ultimately it is really only training for the real thing or what is often referred to as 'natural' terrain, the streets. For its in the cities and urban environs that skateboarders are at their most subversive.

That is why, I'm pretty excited by a new documentary, due out later this year, about the history of skateboarding in the streets of New York with the working title of, The New York Skate Movie. There have been numerous documentaries on skateboarding's past in recent years, but mostly examining the rise and fall of skateboarding's vertical legends. What is exciting about this film, is that the lead character is, 'The City' itself. This film was created by
Coan 'Buddy' Nichols and Rick Charnoski who were behind the superb Fruit Of The Vine documentary about skateboarding in empty swimming pools (more 'natural' terrain). Nichols' and Charnoski's work is gritty yet artistic and is usually filmed in Super 8 and 16mm format. Check out the trailer here, grab a skateboard, step out your front door and...

For more thoughts on redefining the urban realm, read my articles in Wend #2 (on skateboarding) and #3 (on Parkour). I just got a couple of boxes of copies of each of these two issues, so if you see me, I'd be happy to pass one on. Also be sure, to check out the upcoming Foulweather #2 that will also discuss, 'finding the Beach, beneath the City.'