Monday, June 11, 2007

"Urban"* Skateboarding

Back when I was a kid falling off skateboards, it was mainly a white thing. Not everyone who did it was white, but that was the general milieu. White. Middle-class. Sort of suburban-ish.

Over the years I've seen plenty of wheeled trends sweep through the decidedly un-white, un-middle-class, un-suburban neighborhoods around here: scooters, go-carts, pocket bikes, etc. But skateboards? Definitely not.

The times they are a-changin':
  1. I saw the first neighborhood kid on a skateboard a few weeks ago. The armchair-sociologist lazily dozing in the back of my brain snorted, mumbled something about statistical anomalies, and fell back asleep.
  2. I saw another kid on another skateboard. The armchair-sociologist harumphed about bell curves and put a pillow over his head.
  3. I saw a whole group of teens a couple of blocks over practicing tricks together—Ollies and other arcane shenanigans—up and down past the flooded-out houses. Down the street, a younger kid practiced the same tricks by himself in his driveway.
  4. Yesterday a kid skated past in an oversized t-shirt that said "THUG" on the back.
It's official. Within the narrow confines of my world, it's a Thing.

Is this a localized phenomenon? Is there some broader trend?** Minions, bring me data-points!

* This "urban"-codespeak is a confusing business. If I create a radio station exclusively devoted to playing songs about or pertaining to cities, what format would it be? (And, tangentially—just because I'm curious—what would be on its play list?)

** Is this old news? Has there already been some BET feature you will politely point me to? Will I have to mutter some embarrassed apology about not having cable? Is the New York Times about to kill it with a large glossy article in its weekend magazine?


  1. Skateboarding was illegal in my hometown in California. My illicite telephone-psychic Uncle Dennis gave me a skateboard for Christmas one year, and my evil stepmother threw it in the trash the second he left.

    But that doesn't really answer your question. I've only seen white kids on skateboards here in the Great White North, but no doubt that will change now that I'm paying attention.

    -Mindless Minion

  2. * Municipal music?

    ** I always thought the white kids took up skateboarding because they weren't any good at basketball. Perhaps Katrina has destroyed the local court system, forcing the sport's adherents to turn to a new endeavor that embraces potholes, debris and other navigational challenges as par for the course?

  3. You didn't get the memo about Urban?

    The code changes every few years and you have to work to keep up.

  4. Oh, those BET features! They're so comprehensive. I live in constant fear.

    Skating always seemed a handy way to get around, like roller skates you can instantly remove. But I was never coordinated enough.

    And now I'm too old to be seen skateboarding to the mall.

  5. I'm white, but I'm good at basketball. Granted, I grew up in Kentucky and both of my parents graduated from the University of Kentucky. That probably explains that.

    I couldn't do an ollie if my life depended on it though. I've tried for years.

    I live in Atlanta now and a few years back I started seeing packs of black kids skating around town. They're still doing it. Probably why Nike started making skate shoes.

  6. Anonymous12:58 PM

    I can't confirm it but there seems to be a connection to the rise of skateboard culture in the city to hyphy music - at least out here in NorCal. We got at least one song about Vans:

    And, the Hood Games:

    Pharrell of The Neptunes is a skater so that probably helps get the word out that it's cool to shred

  7. Have you seen the mohawks?
    I have noticed as well, and no, the courts are up and going (can't flood a hoop).

    But what better sport for a trashed up city environment?

    I have also noticed a re-emmergence(sp?) of old-style tags like



  8. Anonymous7:56 PM

    Just a quick note about this... when I grew up in California, skateboards were (and still are) cheaper than surfboards. Much cheaper, so everyone could do it. There's an easy way to check how "urban" it has become... What, we don't get "Skateboarder" magazine in New Orleans?

  9. Anonymous9:26 PM

    Harsh has been tagging in New Orleans forever, he's a thirty-something white hipster dude. And black kids have been skateboarding in New Orleans since at least the late 80s.

    I think this is more a case of people just not noticing these things until now.

  10. Maybe so, but it's definitely kicked up a notch* in my lil' neck of the woods.

    * Bam!

  11. I was in NYC last weekend and saw a whole pack of kids doing skateboarding tricks in Brooklyn, just off Flatbush Ave.

    Well, okay--that's overselling it. One kid was doing tricks, the others were standing around with their boards trying to look cool.