professional skateboarder, dad, videogame character, ceo, kid chauffeur, global hopscotcher, food explorer & public skatepark defender. I'm old; get over it.
Oct 8.3 min read
Skateboarding will be in the Olympics in less than two years. I spent my weekend at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires to get a better perspective of how that will work and my potential role in the process. The politics and bureaucracy are complicated at best, but there are a few people working tirelessly on skateboarding’s behalf that are up for the challenge. Although I am sometimes chosen to be an “ambassador” to skating, I am not one of them. In many ways, I am on the outside looking in with a critical perspective. I believe the Olympics need the “cool” factor of skateboarding for their summer games more than skateboarding needs their validation, in the same way snowboarding provided a youthful energy to the winter games. I also believe that skateboarding has leverage in keeping the format authentic and the culture represented properly. There are many issues to work through: governing bodies, qualifying events, judging, mandatory apparel, helmet usage, etc. And it all seems overwhelmingly impossible to resolve when you’ve attended the stagnant meetings or are cc’d in email chains. I am often asked how this will all work and I don’t have all the answers; I only have decades of experience that hopefully leads to a voice of reason in a web of conflicting interests.
The naysayers are loud and clear: skateboarding is not a sport and we didn’t start doing it in order to win medals or to be embraced by the mainstream. This sentiment is true in many ways, but we’ve had skateboard competitions since the beginning. There is a human desire to be rated through comparison. Even those that despise skate contests or who staunchly denounce that skateboarding is not a sport are content to pass judgement on who has the best style, what tricks are acceptable or who has the best flick. No matter how pure our intentions are, we still tend to judge in the most informal settings.
Will skateboarding be accurately represented in Olympic programming? Will we hear Dead Kennedys blasting from the sound system, or will competitors be trying tricks after their time is up just to hype the crowd (or for their own glory)? Probably not, but there is an opportunity to show the positive attributes of skateboarding on youth, and to showcase the undeniable skills of some of the best skaters to our biggest audience ever. There is also a chance for boys and girls from the most challenged corners of the world to find a better life through skateboarding with this newfound exposure and acceptance. I have confidence that it will inspire a new, diverse generation to embrace skateboarding as a lifestyle, a culture and an art form. Some will consider it a sport from the get-go, but perhaps that’s what it takes to introduce skating into countries that don’t readily understand the intrinsic v alues it can teach: determination, creativity, self confidence, perseverance and a sense of community among uniquely creative individuals. I’m sure many of us will still be labeled as outcasts, troublemakers, vandals and punks because of our skating backgrounds and influences. But a select few- who have devoted themselves to competitive skateboarding through discipline and hard work-will represent their countries on a global stage and be recognized by a new audience. As a skater that competed regularly for over 20 years while often being treated like a freak for following my passion, I accept both scenarios.
I wrote a thing about skateboarding in the Olympics (yes, it's happening):