Meet and Greet – Skateboarding as Expression of Self in the Public Sphere
Posted on January 16, 2013
In terms of a public sphere of influence, it is not specifically a particular location for me but an action within the public sphere. It is art. It is feeling. It is emotion and a connection to my surrounding environment. Riding for me is meditation. It is zen. New places are improvisation. The same places depending on time of day and light are improvisation. Skateboarding roots are based in surfing. It was created to fulfill a need for when the weather and surf weren’t right. It is expression. It changes moment to moment.
Skateboarding has become more of an accepted sport, but to accept it as sport is to confine it within certain ideals on certain surfaces within a specific framework. Skateboarding and skateboarders are marked. As much as it has become a commodity, it still is a signifier of other. It is at times destructive to architecture and environment. It is a symbol of rebellion. It is a symbol of non-conformity. Ironically it is this symbol that has become commercially viable and profitable. I am an individual like everyone else. For most it signifies this negative and is further reduced by law enforcement, city officials, and the general public. Skaters are seen as punks, riff raff, outcasts, trouble makers, the disinterested.
The sign stands for different things for different people. For some it is freedom and individuality, for some difference and non-conformity, for some conformity and acceptance within their social group. Depending on what group or perspective you hold, it represents something quite different–even within the community of skaters.
I’ve negotiated all of these things. I had an off-brand skateboard when I moved to California with my mother after my parents divorced. We had to keep our skateboards in the library when we went to school. We could pick them up after class. There was a guy, who from my perspective at the time was a giant, who waited at the end of the day to see who the poser was in his midst. He was super tall and had a Mohawk. I couldn’t afford a mainstream board. I would wait for him to leave and with the guidance of some of his friends he would leave the library. My mom, being a mom, wrote my name with a Sharpie on the skateboard. I firmly believe that because that I was new he couldn’t associate the name with a face. It totally saved my ass. After I saved enough money, I could buy a mainstream board. It’s the board pictured in this post. I waited, like usual, for everyone to pick up their boards and go home. One day after I purchased the new board, he then waited to see who had the Steadham. I grabbed my board and started off when I heard,”Hey!” I beat him to the punch. He was going to buy it, but now wasn’t because I had it. I was now in the club.
Now I’m old(er) and the signified is much different, but the sign is still the same. Where once I could ride my longboard from parking garage to office, I am greeted by campus police. It doesn’t fit within their scope. It doesn’t fit within policy. It’s not a bike. It’s not a scooter or roller blades. It’s a safety issue, I’m told. It doesn’t have a place in traffic laws. Even though it helps me break the dawn, the time before the students migrate, it signifies other. Even though for me it is peace.