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Cultivating Hopefulness through Nostalgia:

Reinvigorating Playfulness through skateboarding

I met Miles on a skate tour eight years ago in eastern Canada, where we spent two weeks in a van amongst 20 others. We never met before, but during those days, we connected and have kept in touch ever since. These past years, I’ve become familiar with Miles’s writings and I really recognize myself in Miles’s reflections on skateboarding. There is a criticism but also a genuine love for it and Miles has a great ability to transform those feelings into words. – Sarah Meurle

I’d been polishing cutlery for a few minutes in the basement of the restaurant I work at when suddenly, I heard the unmistakable ominous sound of a chainsaw coming from the speakers. I shut my eyes for a second and looked across my work station towards my younger co-worker and said, “Name the skate part.” I can’t remember if he figured it out or not, I feel like him and I didn’t grow up in the exact same era of skateboarding, but it didn’t matter to me, I was already transported. Speedway blared and I immediately got shivers on my arms and, in that moment, I realized I had completely forgotten Mind Field ever existed. After hearing that song, I was trapped. “Can you play some more Morrissey?” I asked the cook who was in control of the speaker, but I never got my wish. Instead, I moved stations and went into the office where I spent a good hour folding napkins, getting ready for evening service. 

It’s hard for me to find time in my day to go skateboarding; between school, work, therapy, relationships, the weather. It hasn’t been at the top of my priorities. It’s brought me a lot of anxiety to have my perspective of the culture shift over the years. It’s been a source of mourning to accept that I can’t handle the culture, the boys club, the perpetuation of toxic masculinity; the 40,000 word honors thesis I wrote to demonstrate how cis-male-gaze-heteronormative skateboarding is. I can intellectually dissect the myriad ways in which skateboarding, as a culture, pisses me off, but this summer, I’ve learnt to hold space for my contradictions.

[Illustrations by: Fabian Fuchs]

At the height of my anxiety-filled summer, I found solace in watching the newest season of King of the Road, something I never thought I’d do. I’d spent so much time dissecting the things that repulsed me about skateboarding culture that I’d forgotten how free the act of skateboarding simultaneously made me feel. At 29 years old, with zero sponsors or desire to impress anyone with my mediocre trick selection, watching grown-ass men pile into a van day after day brought me back to my late teens/early twenties, where all that mattered was the weather. I ran through catching up on the newest season of KOTR and eventually found myself watching the previous season that featured an almost completely sober Deathwish team and “female” surprise mystery skaters. 

"While skateboarding has its issues, it’s hopeful to see a shift in discussion, to see platforms give space to a conversation that goes beyond our walls"

The first video I ever watched in its entirety was Baker 3 and, as an adult, I can see how it glorified self-destructive and harmful behavior and, as an adult, I can snicker at a grumpy, sober Lizard King featured in Viceland’s KOTR season 2 because as I had suspected, all good things must come to an end. When I watch Jake Phelps egg on a guy to skateboard a handrail while injured simply because a woman has landed something on it, I shake my head at how fragile the male ego is. When I see Jamie Foy being surprised with his pro board, tears streaming down his face, only to hear Andy Roy in the background proclaim obnoxiously “Jamie! There’s no crying in skateboarding!” I want to hop into the television screen and yell, “Let him fucking cry!” because I don’t understand why skateboarding has to be stagnant to remain “authentic.” 

I’m a total skateboard nerd. Even in my own denial, even when I sit on the couch and sigh and my roommate asks what’s up and I answer, “I don’t know, maybe skateboarding’s just this nostalgic thing for me,” and she snickers because every day she hears the sound of skateboarding coming from my computer as I compulsively watch. Perhaps, at this point in my life, skateboarding lives nostalgically in my youth, but perhaps if I keep giving it space, much to my chagrin at times, it’ll reinvigorate a playfulness we can sometimes lose as adults. Speedway got me rethinking of Mind Field and, a few nights later, I found myself staying up until 3 a.m., artisanal Coca-Cola in hand like the sober asshole I’ve become, compulsively watching Jason Dill interviews, searching for something bigger than skateboarding.

There’s a sentence he doesn’t finish in his second Epicly Later’d episode where he goes, “Everything is fucked in America right now and white people are blowing it, and cis…” and it trails off; cut. I’ve obsessed over this sentence for far too long. I’m not sure if it makes me a skate rat or a skate rat trying to find something more than skateboarding in a character like Dill, but I’ve scoured the internet to find clues as to how that sentence was supposed to end. I believe in the same interview there’s footage of Dill’s New York apartment in 2007 where “GENDER, BENDER, RIPPER” has been spray-painted onto the wall. Looking for clues as to how Dill was going to finish his sentence is a hopefulness I’ve learnt to cultivate. 

There’s this apolitical anarchist ethos that’s followed throughout skateboarding’s history allowing it to exist comfortably as subcultural. But if you look closely, you can see a shift. Jim Thiebaud speaks about creating graphics within the skateboarding industry that have a political engagement with the rest of the world via Solo mag, Lacey Baker has publicly spoken to the sexist discrimination and lack of representation within the industry, creating space for other women in the process, and Dill, well, he’s a special character in our world who’s always dared to speak to a greater audience.

While skateboarding has its issues, it’s hopeful to see a shift in discussion, to see platforms give space to a conversation that goes beyond our walls. As skateboarding becomes more and more mainstream, I hope we keep breaking down the borders we’ve put up to “protect” skateboarding because skateboarding is a great tool in teaching perseverance, discipline, humility, and exposing us to different life experiences. In this world of shit that we exist in, much of us who skate are rooted in it because at some point in time, it created a solace for us, an out when we couldn’t imagine one, and for that, I’m eternally grateful.