Skateboarding has made the full circle of all popular American pursuits: it’s gone from being an underground, under-appreciated hobby for bored, rebellious kids in the suburbs to a nationally prized part of our culture. As befits such a nuanced and complicated sport, however, there is more to skateboarding than just the typical tricks that you usually see on TV.
Here are five ways to use a skateboard.
With the rise of skateboarding has come an increase in the number of dedicated parks and arenas that are meant just for the activity. This is probably the most typical and legally-sanctioned way of skateboarding today, preventing damage to property and (theoretically) keeping skateboarders safer than if they were out gallivanting around the city (which we’ll get to in a minute). Also, because the ramps and rails are designed specifically for skateboarding, the potential for tricks and action is a little higher and more controlled. It may not be as wild as it used to be, but this type of structured, articulated skating is probably the one biggest sign that the sport has made it as a part of the American mainstream.
Natural Spot Skateboarding
Natural spot skating is a throwback. It’s an echo of the original, rebellious intentions of skating: you’re doing something you’re not technically supposed to do in an environment that isn’t designed for what you’re doing. Because that’s the thing about skating; it’s all about re-purposing the things around you for your own intentions. The most creative thing you can do on a skateboard is turn a city into your own personal plaything, and that’s what these guys are doing here, grinding railings and rolling down stairs. Of course, this type of skating is dangerous: not only is it potentially frowned upon by the particular city and its residents, but also, the heights and lengths attempted can result in serious injury if mishandled. That’s why, when skating in a city, it’s important to be aware not only of where you’re skating but also your own skill.
People often have a narrow idea of what you can do on a skateboard: tricks in an urban environment or tricks in a park environment. But of course that’s not all. One under-appreciated spin-off of the sport is skateboard racing, which usually takes place downhill. One of the big draws of freestyle skateboarding is its challenge. Racing isn’t really what skateboards are meant for since they provide very little in the way of balance and control, so downhill skaters need to be very cognizant of where they are and how they’re moving to make sure they don’t end up eating asphalt. But in the right setting and with the right skills, you can go very, very fast.
Skateboarding doesn’t always have to be contained to a small area, either. Skateboards are perfect devices for traveling around a city, as these guys above show in Paris. Skateboards take very little human energy to move, and in flat areas, keep up their momentum pretty successfully. Plus, using a skateboard to cover long distances also allows you to mix in aspects of the other types of skating that we’ve discussed — tricks, downhill skating, and so on. Next time you want to see the breadth and depth of a new city, consider skipping the bike or walk and setting off on a board.
We’ve already seen this video of Bob Burnquist’s BASE jump skateboard grind, and we still feel the need to preface it with, “Don’t try this at home.” Burnquist achieves liftoff from an enormous, custom-built ramp and then parachutes to safety at the end of the jump, losing his skateboard in the process. But losing your board is worth it if you’re creating an entirely new wrinkle of a sport. Somehow, though, we can’t see this catching on too wildly: seems like it requires a very specific set of skills.
Cover Photo Credit: Rowan Peter – flickr.com