Community is a central part of skateboard culture, and something we often talk about, especially when extolling the virtues of skating to outsiders. I’ve heard and experienced first-hand how wood and wheels connects us to people, whether locally or on the other side of the world. Every subculture has some kind of bond between its members, and I really believe that skateboarding exhibits that bond in many special and unique ways.
But something that doesn’t often get talked about is that, just like everyone else, we are prone to the same fallacies and cognitive biases as the rest of society. I dream of a skate culture that leads with sincerity and honesty, and truly exemplifies the positivity we attribute to ourselves. This, of course, is beneficial to younger generations who see us as role-models, but also crucial to helping us grow into whole, healed, mature individuals.
Part of the journey of maturing as a society involves addressing problems along the way. Skaters are not barred by the same constraints as many other subcultures, which puts us in a rare position to be revolutionaries in social thought, and architects of cultural invention. To me, that means an honest dialogue about some of the more prevalent problems in our community, and the world: misogyny, discrimination, bullying, addiction and mental health, toxic masculinity, and ableism, to name a few.
These issues are not the kind that go away when they’re ignored – very much the opposite. Having the uncomfortable, sometimes difficult conversations is how we drag our problems into the light, and see them for what they really are: dead ends; empty, and void of any substance. And to do that, we need to look inward.
If we sincerely care about youth who discover a love of skateboarding, we need to do better and be better. I can relate to someone who sees and emulates the wrong things; growing up, I lacked the self-esteem to build my identity on my own terms. Similarly, in the absence of greater wisdom, kids can be swept into carrying all the baggage of the old guard, in addition to their own. However, they’re not stupid – neither were we at that age. They’re incredibly smart and discerning. They know when things don’t line up—when our words don’t match our actions, when we’re hypocrites at best, and full-on liars at worst. They will also go along with it, because they’re not always equipped to navigate their own brokenness, much less our own.
We need to be careful about the words that we use. It’s not our job to think for others, but invite and encourage them to think for themselves, without fear of judgement or rejection. Skate culture should be a safe culture. It’s not our job to try to make clones of ourselves, or to use others to prop up our fragile ego. It is our job to uplift and empower those around us. I really believe it is our responsibility to bring our best to the table when working or even just skating with young people. It’s more than just encouraging talent – it’s helping to shape the lives of those who look to us to be examples of good men and women, whether or not they’re skating a year from now. That is how we make a difference, within our community and far beyond it.
Changing our culture isn’t about modifying behavior or following a different set of rules, or even having all the answers. We don’t. But we are addicted to comfort, and that is the first thing that needs to be torn apart, because it’s killing us. All of us. This change is about rising up, speaking out, and walking into the unknown with courage and humility. We owe it to the younger generation to be people of integrity and authenticity. Let’s walk the talk, set the bar higher, and be an example to the rest of the world.