The street is to skaters what the ocean is to surfers

 

COMMENT by RAINER CHLANDA

 

Rainer Chlanda (pictured above) was born and raised in Alice Springs, as was his love of skating. When he relocated to Melbourne in early 2010, skateboard underfoot, he quickly got  a job with Skate Services YMCA which runs the city’s Skate Safe program. Stints on Skate Safe continue to be a regular part of his youth work employment.

 

Alice Springs News Online asked him for a perspective on what ‘the street’ means to skaters, why skating the street is central to their culture. His views are not published to specifically reflect on the trial of skateboarding in the mall (and he does not represent local skaters) but rather to give a broad insight into skaters and their passion for the urban environment.

 

As many may be aware, skateboarding spawned from surfing sometime in the 1950s as an alternative to surfing when the waves were flat. Just as surfers achieve their eloquence by unifying with and conquering the ocean (something that has occurred naturally), skateboarding can only achieve its yearned artistic expression when done in a ‘natural landscape’. Skateboarders define any terrain that isn’t purposefully built to skate as natural. Skateboarding is inherently something done outside of regiment.

 

Right: A skater’s ‘natural landscape’: whatever is not purpose built for skating.

 

To understand this you have to understand what skating is, or more correctly what it is to its community. Skateboarding can be, and often is, dismissed as kids playing with toys, but by using this kind of shallow reasoning one could diminish music as simply a series of noises.

 

I for one see skateboarding as having more similarities to dancing than to any organised sport: there are no rules, no structure, no limits, just pure unbounded freedom. The skateboarder could be better understood as a dancer with the mindset of a street artist, constantly looking to adapt to and utilise the urban landscape in the course of making something spectacular. Skateboarding is an art form.

 

To the untrained eye it may look like skateboarders are doing different manoeuvres in a uniform fashion, but a major element is the ‘style’ with which they perform their tricks. Their style is their trick selection, creativity, and expression through body language. Style can only flourish through innovation, and innovation can only exist in a natural environment. Otherwise we would be merely using provided obstacles for their intended purpose. This is why skaters consider skate parks a training ground, where we practice before taking our work to streets. If skating were solely confined to the skate park it would lose its soul. Freedom and creativity are paramount.

Above: A skater’s style is trick selection, creativity and expression through body language. 

 

I may stand alone on this, but I even feel it’s somehow comforting that a subculture exists that is able to source endless creativity and joy from this vast concrete jungle we live in. We breathe a second life into the sea of construction, initially intended to provide for basic purposes, void of any passion. We see the urban world through different lenses: where some may see a banal, stinking, desolate parking lot, we may see paradise.

 

Aldous Huxley said, “A child-like man is not a man whose development has been arrested; on the contrary, he is a man who has given himself a chance of continuing to develop long after most adults have muffled themselves in the cocoon of middle-aged habit and convention.” I feel skateboarders are living testimonies to this statement, we have hung on to the spirit of the mischievous child. And just like a mischievous child, if a figure of authority tells you not do something, this creates a further incentive to carry out the act.

 

This is not to say that skaters are antisocial or people who pride themselves on being public nuisances. It’s more that we’ve found something that is, and needs to be, completely unbounded, and any threat to this essential element is therefore met with resistance.

 

You’ll find if the public accept and welcome skateboarders into their domain the skateboarders will feel compelled to be courteous and considerate in response. Doing something out of your own volition is empowering, it gives you a sense of ownership and pride in the act. Conversely following an order makes you feel subservient, dejected, despondent and disengaged, often creating contempt for the enforcer and the organisation they belong to.

 

In a nutshell, respect gets respect. Embracing the skating community is embracing harmony.

 

Below: The board alternative when the surf’s flat.

 

Be Sociable, Share!

17 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Nawisha
    Posted December 2, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    Cute kid.

    View Comment
  2. Neil Rilatt
    Posted November 14, 2013 at 9:23 am

    I was outraged this week to see a number of cars and trades vehicles driving down the mall during the busiest part if the day. In addition, I regularly witness motorbike riders in the southern, pedestrian end of the mall, as well as riding across the park in front if my house – an ostensibly children friendly zone. Cars! Motorbikes! In pedestrian and public places! Surely much more of a danger than a non motorised piece of wood.
    Of course, the vehicles are sanctioned in these areas for trade deliveries, mall repairs, security and policing, but they are there and no one is trying to ban them under the assumption that as long as they are allowed there, accidents will happen. Because generally they don’t. And really, that’s because the people piloting these vehicles are sentient beings with special awareness and finely tuned motor skills, enabling them to exert control and not ram into pedestrians willy-nilly. The anti-skateboarding collective talk like skateboards are some catastrophic and uncontrollable force that will mow down pedestrians at random – the assumption being that the skaters don’t have the spacial awareness of other vehicle drivers and can’t control themselves around other people. Nonsense. I imagine if people are sitting on the seats, no skater is going to demand they move on so they can grind it up – they are also human beings and are capable of complex notions such as ‘respect’ and ‘not just ramming everyone all the time’.

    View Comment
  3. Dehney
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 9:20 am

    The streets are built for everyone and anyone so get a grip on your self.
    Alice is a small town and the kids don’t have much going for them at all unless they up and move like most of us have done, and I’m pretty sure you have more chance getting hit by a car then a skater hitting you on the street. People look out for each other. I’m living in a big city now and I see heaps of skaters using the streets and there has not been one problem with them and the public.

    View Comment
  4. Laura
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 9:04 am

    Great article Rainer! I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with skateboarders adapting to new environments and using the streets as their canvas. This is half the thrill of skateboarding in a sense, making something out of nothing, conquering new and exciting tricks.
    If skateboarders treat bystanders with respect and are conscious of the people around them I don’t see the problem.
    I guess you can never really grasp the nature of skateboarding unless you have tried it.
    I for one love skating, it’s freedom, it’s expression, it’s challenging and it’s fun. I think it’s a healthy hobby and we should be encouraging it … any sport is dangerous and that is precisely why we choose to conquer them, it’s all about personal growth.

    View Comment
  5. Laura
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 8:57 am

    Great article Rainer! I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with skateboarders adapting to new environments and using the streets as their canvas.
    This is half the thrill of skateboarding in a sense, making something out of nothing, conquering new and exciting tricks. If skateboarders treat bystanders with respect and are conscious of the people around them I don’t see the problem.
    I guess you can never really grasp the nature of skateboarding unless you have tried it. I for one love skating, it’s freedom, it’s expression, it’s challenging and it’s fun.
    I think it’s a healthy hobby and we should be encouraging it … any sport is dangerous and that is precisely why we choose to conquer them, it’s all about personal growth.

    View Comment
  6. Terry
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 1:32 am

    @Melanie Ross
    Well Melanie, let’s hope it’s not one of your children who gets hurt. I am willing to bet that there will be “accidents” if this idiocy is allowed to continue. Give the young folks a skate park, even if the town cannot afford one, find the money somehow and do it, because I believe Alice will regret it down the track if you do not.

    View Comment
  7. Melanie Ross
    Posted November 11, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    And a fantastic article too Rainer Chlanda. Congratulations.

    View Comment
  8. Melanie Ross
    Posted November 11, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    Skaters are members of the public Terry. And why is skating a ‘dangerous sport”? What a grey, dull world we’d live in if we just did what we are authorised to do, where we are told we can do it, and when it’s ok to do it.

    View Comment
  9. Peter
    Posted November 11, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    Great insight as to what skateboarding is. It is more than a board and somewhere to skate.
    Is it not the freedom to express one self? Is that not what we all want? The freedom to express ourselves, enjoy our pastimes / interests?
    Whilst the mall does not accommodate everyone’s interests as many diverse activities as possible should be encouraged into the mall.
    By welcoming skateboarders and others as the mall can reasonably accommodate it can be turned into a wonderful eclectic mix of people.
    In Melbourne, Sydney or New York no one blinks an eyelid at skaters, cyclists, street artists or all manner of people.
    People just get on with it.
    Some marvel at the great diversity, others may not care for one group or the other however, in the main they all respect their right to express their interests, desires and behaviours.
    In a small town a novelty or a fringe group are quickly labelled. This is either through ignorance or a wish to control others.
    The sad thing is by doing this society misses out on so much. Live and let live.

    View Comment
  10. Ray
    Posted November 10, 2013 at 10:20 pm

    Very sensible Terry, much safer than riding on the road. Always teach my kids to give way to pedestrians and teach them courtesy about overtaking and keeping left etc. I think it’s a great idea and have never had a problem.

    View Comment
  11. Terry
    Posted November 10, 2013 at 1:00 am

    @Ray. You must be joking? If not it is something that needs to be addressed. What a crazy by-law.

    View Comment
  12. Terry
    Posted November 10, 2013 at 12:57 am

    @Laughing
    Cycles are and were always designed for roads … not footpaths … and runners run on roads knowing the risks. If you have children how would you feel if one of them was hospitalised by a speeding person on a skateboard on a pedestrian way? Get real.

    View Comment
  13. Laughing
    Posted November 9, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    So Terry, by your logic cyclists should only cycle at velodromes, and runners should only run on running tracks?

    View Comment
  14. Posted November 9, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Thank you for sourcing and writing this article. I support the skate boarding community and believe that we should embrace these members of our youth, our town and our future. Perhaps we could get a Code of Conduct signed by the skaters which would spell out how we as pedestrians and lawmen and councillors expect them to behave in various situations. Then if they break that Code – they could be given a short (stressing SHORT) trespass in town which will show that the Code is an agreement to a certain behaviour.
    The code breakers would still have access to the skate park. Why can we not work WITH the youth to give them reasons to stand and support our town instead of just shutting them down. When did we forget we were youths and no adults wanted to listen. Did we not all promise ourselves it would be different when we grew up and made the rules.
    We should be proud of our youth – they are doing something they love, not lazing about, not breaking into your house, they are an active part of the skating community.

    View Comment
  15. Ray
    Posted November 9, 2013 at 11:27 am

    Terry, it is perfectly legal to ride on footpaths in Alice Springs. Look it up and check it for yourself.

    View Comment
  16. Hal Duell
    Posted November 9, 2013 at 9:41 am

    Good article, and I respect the sense of adventure and thrill expressed in it. I wish you luck in your riding.
    But I think to compare skateboarding with surfing in the ocean is to create a false analogy. Surfers catch their rides out where the ocean breaks. This is an environment in which there are neither children, nor the elderly, nor, to pick just one example, the visually impaired.
    To bring the story back to Alice, we will now have a trial of skateboarding in Todd St North. I hope it works to everyone’s advantage. I hope there are no accidents. But a shared urban street is not the open ocean. Let’s not confuse the two.

    View Comment
  17. Terry
    Posted November 9, 2013 at 1:00 am

    Skating is fine, in it’s correct environment. A skate Park. On the streets it is dangerous to the skaters and the public (who the streets are built for).
    I believe that those that skate on public streets and put people at risk should be prosecuted, just as cyclist that ride on footpaths should also. Public streets are not racetracks, or places to play dangerous sports.

    View Comment

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*