Skaters Speak


While digging through the history of Bay Area skaters, it is inevitable that I’d come across Thrasher Magazine. Eric Swenson, Craig Stecyk, and Fausto Vitello, founders of the magazine, started it in the Bay Area. The most prominent thing skaters talk about is…skating: how to skate, new moves, who is performing the latest moves, and most importantly–where are the best places to skate. Thrasher Magazine put out a special edition called, “Epic Spots: The Places You Must Skate Before You Die.” This covers the most epic skate spots around the world. Believe it or not, California carries a lot of space on the list of epic spots. The Bay Area holds its own as well. The book shows detailed pictures of street spots and certain intersections that offer skaters a wide range of challenges. Each picture is accompanied by a short description of what and where it is. Many of the spots listed are public domain, therefore they are subject to local laws–if skateboarding is illegal in that area, people could be ticketed or worse for doing so. Others are private facilities, such as the Pink Motel in Los Angeles. According to Thrasher, “this mellow, whale-shaped pool is skateable only to those with money to spend.”

Bay Area places to skate are changing–shifting. The Hayward Area Recreation and Park District has been increasing the number of skateparks in their district. According to one of the directors, youth activities, including skateboarding, are important to the Park District. Of course while the Park District increases the amount of skateparks they have, they also increase the amount of control they have over the sport. Ricky, a twenty-one year old local skater, has been involved in trying to create independent places to skate for many years now. Bordertown and Wasteland were built and run by skaters. These locations were well off the beaten path–away from people so the skaters could practice their sport without the fear of harming anyone else. According to Ricky, Caltrans had no interest in the land the skaters used until after they used it. At the Wasteland site, Caltrans made a deal with them to move their skate facility away from the support beams and they would not destroy it. The skaters, complied, moving it into an empty field away from the beams. A few weeks later Caltrans went ahead with the demolition. At this point Caltrans is wanting to demolish the other skater built park, Bordertown. Ricky expressed his exasperation and acceptance that he is probably on the losing end of the battle, but he still wants his voice heard. He only wishes he could have free reign to build his own park, without the politics and without interference from others. He also said that he’s like to be able to sit down with Caltrans and work things out in an equitable manner. If only the big companies were interested in being equitable…

Beyond needing a place to skate, there is a general perception that skaters are troublemakers. This perception has led to anti-skating laws and skaters being arrested simply for skating which precipitates the perception of troublemaking. It’s a vicious cycle. It’s interesting to note the varied responses concerning this cycle and views on authority from skaters themselves. Much like many other aspects of life, skating becomes a part of you. For some people, that need feel a board beneath their feet is simply part of who they are. Rudy Bazorda tells a story about going to Trader Joe’s during its busy time and having to take several passes around the parking lot on his board because of the crowd before reaching the object of his desire–a curb at the edge of the lot. He drew a lot of attention in the process, and could imagine their thoughts all along. Bazorda asks, “Why is it criminal to view architecture and public property as open to creative interpretation, especially when there is no property damage or measurable problem?” That is a very interesting question indeed.

Public perception can shape the direction of a subculture or community. As Albert Camarillo points out in his article, “Cities of Color: The New Racial Frontier in California’s Minority-Majority Cities,” outside perception concerning what happens inside a neighborhood affects what actually does happen sometimes. When the rest of the world sees the neighborhood as low-class, crime-ridden and laden with drugs, it will affect property values as well as who wants to live there. The same is true for a sub-culture. If the outside world views it as undesirable, those views can affect how that sub-culture will react and who will want to be laden with that stigma by becoming a member.

Satva Leung tells an epic story of mistaken intentions. He was building speed for a trick, a cop thought Satva was trying to run from him. The outcome was less than ideal. According to Satva, “A lot of cops are on some power trip when they arrest kids for skateboarding. They say we don’t have anything better to do than destroy public property.” He thinks the cops should find something better to do than harass kids for having fun. Garet O’keefe expresses that this may be the product of a clash of two separate subcultures. He claims to be “a good white boy who never got in much trouble with John Q. Law” for skateboarding. O’keefe believes that non-skating officers may not be able to understand the emotions involved when a skater creates. On the flip-side, when confronted by the officer, a skater may challenge his/her authority and/or fail to recognize the officer’s ignorance or even jealousy. “At that intersection of two subcultures, conflicts inevitably arise because of myopia in both directions.”

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