With its entry onto the Olympic podium, skateboarding deals with a test of its outlaw roots. Where some see a subculture offering out, others see a sport with far more space to grow.
Frontside, behind, ollie, shove-it: from its terminology to its conventions and history, skateboarding is both a sport and an entire subculture.
“It has an athletic side, of course, but it’s also a way of life,” Charlotte Hym, a member of the French skateboard group, informs FRANCE 24. “There are videos, music groups, art – there’s really a lot of things connected with skateboarding.”
“It shouldn’t be seen as a sport in the strict sense of the word,” concurs Hym’s French colleague Vincent Milou. “It’s more a state of mind. When you start skateboarding, you don’t need anything. You just leave the house with your board and you skate.”
There are an approximated 3 million skateboarders in France, however just a small portion – about 3,800 – come from any sort of organisation. For most, the idea of going into a competitors hardly crosses their mind. They’d rather socialize with their buddies, practice techniques, and movie clips at regional street areas.
“The street is really the most fun place to skate: you can unleash your creativity, try out new tricks, and use the urban landscape as your canvas,” states Hym.
Long deemed a criminal activity by skaters and non-skaters alike, skateboarding is still welcomed with suspicion by much of the general public. Since its early days, it’s been prohibited in lots of public locations, and skaters continue to take on frequently with cops and guard.
At the very same time, skateboarding has actually slowly gone mainstream, thanks in part to competitors like the X Games, which debuted in the mid-1990s, and computer game like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, very first launched in 1999. It’s likewise swept in and out of popular culture, from music to movie theater, including in 3 significant films in 2018 alone.
But skateboarding’s mainstream approval has actually reached a brand-new level with its Olympics launching, which breaks down into 2 contests: park and street. Both males and females are completing for an overall of 4 gold medals — which in itself is noteworthy in the extremely male-dominated world of professional skateboarding. Tampa Pro, among the most significant yearly United States contests, did not consist of a ladies’s occasion up until simply in 2015 – its 26th year running. Thrasher, the most popular skateboard publication, has actually included just 3 ladies on the cover in its 40 years of regular monthly concerns, even as the variety of ladies skaters has quickly grown in the last few years.
The Tokyo skateboard circuit will include not just ladies like 28-year-old Hym, however 2 of this year’s youngest Olympic professional athletes: 13-year-olds Sky Brown, representing the UK, and Rayssa Leal, of Brazil.
The Olympic street skating competitors centres on street-style challenges, like stairs and hand rails, while the park or bowl contest hearkens back to the empty yard pool that skaters became their play area beginning in the drought-ridden California of the 1970s.
Skate leaders like Tony Alva were very first drawn to swimming pool skating due to the fact that it advised them of browsing, another brand-new Olympic sport this year and the basis of much early skate culture. The picture of skaters hopping fences for a possibility at sculpting around other individuals’s empty swimming pools just contributed to the sport’s outlaw credibility.
‘People shouldn’t start skateboarding to get to the Olympics’
Skateboarding’s induction into the Olympics has actually just deepened the dispute over whether it is a sport at all.
In the run-up to the Games, one Texas skate store provided its own sardonic take, on a Tee shirts reading, “Skateboarding is a crime, not an Olympic sport” – turning the more familiar motto, “Skateboarding is not a crime.”
Setting aside its legal implications, lots of choose to explain skateboarding as a culture or an artform, and not something to be commemorated on a podium.
Aurélien Giraud, another French staff member and leading competitor for gold in the street contest, states it doesn’t need to be one or the other.
“Those who are against the Olympic Games are those who were already anti-competition. For them, skateboarding belongs in the street,” he informs FRANCE 24. “I hope that [the Games] will make more people want to do it, but at the same time, people shouldn’t start skateboarding to get to the Olympics. That’s not what skateboarding is at its core and it would be a shame to limit it to that.”
Jérémie Grynblat, Giraud’s supervisor, concurs that the Olympics will bring skateboarders more than it eliminates.
“I think it’s good news for skateboarding,” he informs France 24. “We’re going to have a lot more kids getting interested… so more skateparks, more recognition, and we will be taken more seriously at the institutional level. It’s also enticing on a business level, I won’t hide it. If we sell more boards, skate shops will do better.”
In Grynblat’s eyes, a comparable calculus reaches the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
“Why did the IOC add skateboarding [to the Olympic program]? To make money selling TV rights. Young people today prefer to watch skateboarding than the 400 metres [race],” he states. “We’re fighting to make sure that the right people are at the heart of this Olympic project. If it ever gets taken over by people from outside the skate world, we’ll probably shut the door on it.”
For now, Grynblat is encouraged that Olympic skateboarding deserves a shot.
“But I completely understand those who are afraid that skateboarding will lose its soul,” he includes. “They’re purists, committed to the idea of freedom associated with this sport, and don’t want people who have nothing to do with it to appropriate it for financial reasons.”