There are no rules in skateboarding. Stand on it. Push with one of your legs. – They’re not even rules, just general suggestions. Practice until you progress and overcome your fears. Again, optional extras.
You should certainly have fun while you’re doing it.
Actually, there should be one rule, and I’m proposing that we implement it immediately, and enforce it with the appropriate sanctions:
Support your local skate shop!
If you’re just getting into skateboarding, your initial research into the costing and purchasing of suitable board, trucks, wheels, bearings, griptape and everything else you might need to go with it (riser pads? grab rails?) has more than likely been done online.
That is to be expected, my local library contains no information whatsoever regarding the durometer values of skateboard wheels, nor the relative merits of ceramic bearings. We live in an age of information, and the internet is the tap from which all knowledge flows.
It’s all too easy though, to go from that point of having pinpointed the products you’d like to get your hands on, to then pricing them up online, weighing up the delivery time / financial savings ratio, and then buying from a big online retailer.
Buy from your local skate shop. It’s not always possible, I know, but it’s worth thinking about. Get on the bus, go into town and have a friendly chat with the skaters there about what you’re after, and pay the little bit extra for the good advice, and eyeball the setup before you buy it. You might even be able to stand on a few different setups to see if your research was good, and maybe try out pads and helmet for accurate sizing. Not only that, but you’ll have just done the most important thing as a consumer of skateboarding gear:
Supporting your local skate scene.
What is it exactly? Often we’re invited to think about what skateboarding is not. i.e.:
- A Crime
- A Fashion
- A Sport (controversial)
On the other hand, much harder to define, often skateboarding is:
- An art form
- A way of life
- A waste of time
- An extreme sport
- A Crime
- A crazy mixture of jazz and Newtonian physics.
Most of all, skateboarding is a community of people who share one thing in common; Rolling around on a plank of wood, and learning to get around the places they inhabit in ever more interesting ways.
Your local skate shop is the hub around which the community revolves.
Your local skateshop invests time and energy organising skate jams, video screenings and visits from pro skaters to your local spots.
They consult with local government over the building of new skate architecture (we’ve all seen terrible skateparks built by local councils, with no skater oversight)
Your local skateshop provides a focus for the local scene, and a place for kids to come to check out the new boards, and rub shoulders with the local sponsored skate stars. It shows kids what it is to be a skater, and to share in the values of the skate industry, rather than being a spectator from the outside of a massive online retailer’s website.
The big online sports websites aren’t going to organise skaters to come to your school, or to get the pros to visit your town, or put bands on while you watch the latest video. Kids don’t learn about what it means to be a skater from the online world. That only comes from personal contact with other skaters and seeing how the industry works first hand.
In the pre-internet early 90’s, Rollersnakes in Nottingham was our go-to place, one of us always needed a spare kingpin or some other adjustments made to our trucks. They had a mini ramp IN THE SHOP. We would skate there all day when it wasn’t too busy, and then often buy drinks, and maybe new t-shirt, or even some new wheels. We saw several american pros skate there, and it gave birth to a few skaters who were good enough to get sponsored.
The industry needs you!
From the very beginning, there has been a history in skateboarding of boom and bust.
1965 was the first big boom, then a bust and another big boom in the mid 70’s after the invention of urethane wheels. Then again in 1985 with the big decks and vert riders, and then again in 1995 with the advent of the X-games, skate video games, and the democratization of skate film-making.
Skateboarding isn’t going away. It no longer appears to ‘die’ like it used to, it just suffers a temporary illness or perhaps a short bout of exhaustion. Skate shops have in the past not survived very well through these periods of ill health, although there will always be a hardcore of enthusiasts enough to keep a small outlet open, (skateboards are consumable by design, if you ride a lot, you’ll need to replace a lot) but a big boom will create new skaters and new opportunities.
In any case, big fads attract the attention of big players in the marketplace, and they will use their big budget marketing strategies to muscle in on the action wherever possible. Small independent skate complanies are often off-shoots from larger companies, a pro skater might go into business producing their own brands for example.
- Alien Workshop (Neil Blender from G&S),
- Almost (Rodney Mullen & Daewon Song)
- Birdhouse (ex bones brigade riders Tony Hawk & Per Welinder)
- Hockey – formed by Jason Dill and Anthony van Engelen after leaving Alien Workshop.
And so on. And it’s these smaller brands that allow smaller skate shops to differentiate themselves from the big-box online stores that only stock the big names, offering the choice of supporting a brand that has skateboarding at it’s heart, rather than big business.
A bit like boutique record shops that stock vinyl (and cassette tapes! never thought I’d see those again!) and posess the agility and the ability to champion local music scenes and bands, small skate shops can choose to support local brands, and in turn help publicise their own skate scene. They form a grass-roots connection with skaters, and inspire more people to pick up a board and begin their love affair with skateboarding.
The bottom line
It’s important and healthy for skating to benefit from mass popularity. Pro skaters are getting paid more now than they ever were, and that’s down to mass-selling of their products. But they would have never had the chance to get that good without a grass-roots local skate scene. We shouldn’t sacrifice the local skateshop for the ease of online shopping.
So the next time you’re getting a new set of wheels, or a new deck, remember: browse online, but then get to your nearest skateshop to get the actual goods. You’ll be helping the local economy, and breathing a bit more life into your local skate scene.