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Ryan Holmes

Ms. Grant
UWRT 1103 – 045
Why Can’t I Skate Without the Hate?
In the grand scheme of things, skateboarding is a relatively new sport. Originally referred
to as “Sidewalk Surfing”, skateboarding was born when surfers strapped roller skate parts to
blocks of wood, or boxes, so that they had something to do when the waves were flat. No one
knows exactly when the very first skateboard was made, all that is know is that skateboards
started appearing in surf shops in the late 1940’s to early 1950’s to be used when surfers had
downtime. Skateboarding styles at the time mimicked surfing maneuvers, and skaters also rode
barefoot. At this point in time, when skateboarding was fresh and the public had not yet held an
opinion on what to make of the sport, most people were indifferent about skateboarding as a
whole. As time went on, “Sidewalk Surfing” progressed into freestyle skating, then to vert
skating, and then onto the infamously popular style of skateboarding today, street skateboarding.
Street skateboarding historically has strong ties to the punk movement, which could possibly be
a reason why skateboarding, along with punk, was received negatively by the general public.
Ask any skater around with some experience in the streets, and they will probably be
more than happy to share accounts of various run-ins with the police, arguments with angry
property owners, and ridicule from pedestrians. Beyond the minor damage that skateboarding
can cause to rails, ledges, and various obstacles, there seems to be other reasons why the public
doesn’t seem too happy with skaters. While various skateboarding media outlets portray street
skateboarding as reckless and rebellious in nature, like Thrasher Magazine and their many

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satanic-looking logos and the slogan “Skate and Destroy”, other skateboarding media outlets
show the beauty of street skating as an art form, like Transworld Skateboarding. While both
magazines usually feature the same crowd of professional and amateur skaters in their issues,
street skateboarding gets a bad reputation because Thrasher is much more popular within the
skateboarding community. In other words, it is more likely that one’s first impressions on
skateboarding will look more like Thrasher than Transworld, which is a major cause of the
negative view of street skateboarding by the public.
For some strange reason, despite all the hard work and dedication skateboarders put into
their sport and passion, skaters are still treated as outsiders. The same qualities of athleticism,
endurance, passion, strength, and persistence that are praised in sports stars like NFL
quarterbacks, NHL captains, and Olympic athletes are scorned in talented skateboarders. The
truth is, skateboarding requires the same amount of athleticism and persistence as just about any
other sport.
Many cities, towns, and universities have made it their duty to make skateboarding out to
be criminal in nature. The streets become battlegrounds for skaters trying to hone their skills, but
activities of similar nature performed on anything but a skateboard go unquestioned. Many
universities have banned the harmless practice of “Trick Riding”. According to the University of
North Carolina at Charlotte’s policy “Trick riding is defined as any type of movement where the
wheels of the skateboard, roller skates, or in-line skates are deliberately removed from contact
with the surface in a repetitive procedure. Reckless operation and excessive speed shall also
constitute a violation” (16). Yes, the policy flat out bans any type of skateboarding that is not
direct transportation, and while obeying the policy and using it as transportation, a campus police
officer could cite a skater for a bogus “reckless operation” violation if they happened to be riding

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down a hill too fast. The apparent bias of the policy isn’t very justified because they don’t
specify an area where skaters can safely meet, practice, and become a community. In 2012, only
thirty deaths were due to skateboarding, and most of them were due to reckless, negligent, or
drunk drivers. It should also be noted that most of the incidents were at night and when visibility
is low. Although some of the incidents were the fault of the skater, not one skate-related death in
2012 was the direct result of a failed trick attempt (Skatepark). Cities, towns, and universities
can’t expect skaters to give up their sport and passion because some group of executives that
don’t understand the sport got together and decided that they didn’t want to deal with complaints
from pedestrians that aren’t in any danger. For institutions that pride themselves on diversity and
encourage students to create their own self-image, universities like UNCC seem to be pretty
harsh when it comes to skateboarders artistically expressing themselves. Instead of banning the
innovative aspect of the sport, they should bring awareness to the fact that skateboarders are
passionate and here to stay, regardless of how negatively viewed they are by the majority.
It is important to note that skateboarding isn’t received negatively everywhere. Generally,
skateboarding is viewed more negatively on the east coast than it is on the west coast. The reason
for this is that skateboarding had its origins in the west, and many famous professional
skateboarders still prefer to reside there. Ironically, skate culture on the east coast is remarkably
similar to skate culture on the west coast. The top skateboarding cities are evenly distributed
between east and west coasts. The two biggest cities in skateboarding are Los Angeles and
Philadelphia, and both of them represent the presence of west and east coast skaters respectively.
Despite both coast flourishing with skaters, the difference in public opinion of skaters between
east and west coast is astonishing. In California alone, there are over one hundred public
skateparks open for skaters to make use of. Many of them are close to one another, so when

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skaters get tired of one park, they can move onto the next. On the east coast, skaters have no such
luxury. Due to negative public opinion, many towns and cities are hesitant to construct public
skateparks because they do not deem them to be very important compared to other things, like
nature trails, and dog parks.
Regardless of how you view skateboarding, there is no question that it has influenced
popular culture drastically. Everyone has owned at least one pair of skate shoes, and because of
the popularity of skateboarding and skate shoes many big shoe brands like Nike and Adidas
started making skate shoes. Vans skate shoes are still very popular among skaters and nonskaters, perhaps even more popular than they were when they were a relatively new shoe brand.
While type of shoe might not seem like much of a direct influence of skateboarding on
popular culture, other more direct examples include the Element brand. Originally a top producer
of skateboards, Element has grown to be so much more. They strive to “Bring progress to
skateboarding” (Schillereff). Element is a skateboarding company that was started on the east
coast, and has been dedicated to bringing skateboarding into a more positive light. Element host
various outdoorsy events, and is one of the most positive skateboard companies around. Element
is also immensely popular among non-skateboarders as well. Just about everyone has seen their
elemental logo with the tagline “Wind, Water, Fire, Earth”. Both non-skaters and skaters sport
this logo on backpacks, shirts, and even hats. Despite the positivity the company brings and
being founded on the east coast, the public opinion of skater remains negative. It is very strange
that even though many brands that are directly related to skateboarding are bringing positivity to
popular culture, skateboarding itself is still considered a counter culture.
Many iconic skateboarders are some of the most down to earth people, and are very good
role models and sources of inspiration. Longtime pros such as Tony Hawk are now family men,

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and in Tony Hawk’s case, donate a lot of money to charity. Rodney Mullen, the godfather of
street skateboarding and the creator of the flat ground Ollie, kickflip, 360 flip, late flip, underflip, and many more technical tricks, actually has a master’s degree. Bob Burnquist uses his
position to help the environment, and was passionate enough to overcome asthma to become a
professional skateboarder. Jereme Rogers, despite his tattooed, punk appearance, is actually quite
religious and believes God gave him the ability to skate so that he could spread God’s love. Most
people wouldn’t consider these types of people to be bad influences, but unfortunately most of
these friendly, faithful, and compassionate skaters are stereotyped because of the sport they
In addition to the community of pro skaters being generally respectable people,
skateboarding can bring a lot of good to developing countries’ youth through programs like
Skatistan. Skateistan keeps kids out of trouble, gives them opportunities to get an education, and
encourages physical activity through skateboarding. One would think that a skate program of this
nature would get more publicity than it does, but sadly this program is relatively unknown.
Skateistan is proof that skaters have the capacity to be a positive influence, yet most skaters are
still regarded as burdens on society and treated as such.
In conclusion, despite the best efforts of skaters everywhere to creatively express
themselves through their passion in skateboarding in harmony with the rest of the world, skaters
still continue to be looked down upon. As biased skateboarding policies continue to be created
and places to skate diminish, the general public could care less. The negative image of skaters is
the only image, regardless of how much money they give to charity or what good they do for the
environment. Youth programs that are the direct result of skateboarders giving back to society,
like Skateistan, gain no publicity and as a result do not change the public image of skaters. Any

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efforts by skaters to make peace with cities, towns, and universities continue to be in vain
because of prejudice and stereotypes. Skaters are forced to either find places to skate, which
mostly consist of private property, or give up skating for good. Most skaters choose the harder
path because of their love of the sport, and in return only add to the image of skaters being
criminals and vandals. At the bottom of this is the negative public opinion of skaters, which
needs to change because skaters are not leaving. In the words of Laura Beth Nielson, "If your
town does not have a skate park, then your town is a skate park."

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Works Cited
"About." Element Brand. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
Cave, Steve. "Is Skateboarding a Bad Influence?" About. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
Nielsen, Laura Beth. "Skateboarding Is Still a Crime, But the Sport Is Admirable." The Huffington
Post., 22 Mar. 2013. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
"Skateboard News, Videos, Photos and Events." Transworld Skateboarding. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov.
"Skateboard NGO for Youth in Afghanistan." Skateistan. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
"Skateboarding." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 31 Oct. 2014. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
Smith, Michael J. "Other Voices: Skateboarding: A Guilty Pleasure." N.p., n.d. Web. 10
Nov. 2014.
Thrasher Skateboard Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
"Top 5 Skateboarding Cities in the U.S." City Data. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
Waters, Teresa. "2012 Skateboarding Fatalities." Skaters for Public Skateparks. N.p., n.d. Web. 10
Nov. 2014.