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Birling the Skatepark Effect

Aaron Cayer - Kickflip to fakie [o] Manion

Aaron Cayer - Kickflip to Fakie [o] Manion

There was once a time when skate parks acted primarily as warm-up spots. They were the appetizer. Street skating was the main course. Entire days were sometimes spent skating at parks, but there was always an understanding that “real” skateboarding occurs in the streets. Skate parks were where you learned or refined certain tricks in preparation for taking them to a local street spot. To the classic security guard question: “Isn’t there a skate park around here?” when getting kicked out of a spot, many of us have thought “No matter how many skate parks there are, street skateboarding will never go away.”

The influx of skate parks around the world is having a similar effect on skateboarding as TV’s rise in popularity must have had on books. This effect is two fold. Firstly, the more skate parks there are, the less street skating there is and, as this phenomenon grows, we see a secondary effect. With plenty of awesome skate parks available, offering every kind of obstacle with impeccable conditions, newer skaters are questioning why anybody would even bother with street skating at all. Why would anybody choose to make life harder for themselves? Why deal with the cracks in the sidewalks, skate stoppers, horrible run-ups or short landings? It parallels a popular thought in society amplified by streaming services such as Netflix: why would you read a book about something when there is already a documentary film made about it? It is challenging to validate why you have personally chosen the tougher path, however for those who are convinced - there isn’t even a discussion to be had.

Adam Wawrzynczak - Fs Blunt [o] Cayer

Adam Wawrzynczak - Fs Blunt [o] Cayer

The streets are filled with obstacles, repurposed by skaters for maximum fun. This creative process is the essence of street skating. It’s how skaters learn what is even possible on their boards. Skate parks act like the cleaned up, “greatest hits” versions of street skating with the most popular obstacles from the street being re-made with pristine concrete.

How do these obstacles become popular in the first place? They first need to be discovered – while skating from point A to B. This is facilitated best by cities which are in a constant state of flux. Street skaters are bombarded with potential as they cruise through the back alleys, construction sites and new developments of their surroundings. A city offers up the clay and the skaters mould it; and because cities are ever changing, there will never be a shortage of new material to investigate. Skate parks, on the other hand, are stagnant. The onus of creativity rests upon the skater to do new tricks on obstacles which are fixed in place and designed to be skated.    

When presented with a choice, humans will more often pick that which is easier. The more challenging path, nonetheless, almost always yields more satisfying results. You can microwave yourself a Michelena’s “Parmesan Bacon Linguine” dinner set in 2 minutes but you cannot fool yourself into thinking it tastes as good as some homemade pasta. That which is worthwhile, takes time and effort.

Tom Pajdlhauser - Wallie [o] Cayer

Tom Pajdlhauser - Wallie [o] Cayer

It is one thing to see kids packing a skate park and enjoying it – that is awesome. Knowing that they will stay there and not treat it as practice for street skating, is another. Worst of all, it is possible that the “cat is out of the bag” so to say, meaning that the skate park effect will continue to grow. It is tough to convince someone who is accustomed to escalators, to take the stairs. 

The magic of skateboarding takes place in the streets. Skating only at parks makes sense in certain scenarios: for example, with older skaters who only have about an hour per week to skate. The same goes for those who prefer transition skating. It would be a shame, however, for young skaters to give up on street skating, for it is an invaluable creative outlet. Skateboards are tools, used to tap into the unknown potential for fun within a city. It’s your vessel for exploration and is meant to take you off the beaten path. Street skateboarding is as real as it gets, and challenging for a reason. Long may it last.

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