I don't skate. I'm an outsider looking in, so for those who actually skateboard, I might just sound like an idiot, or maybe I'm just stating the profoundly obvious, I don't know. Ben grew up skating most of his life, and has recently been doing a little bit again. He has always watched skate videos. I started watching too. At first it sort of all looked the same to me, and while it was impressive, I didn't really see how someone could just sit and watch other people skateboard. I could do a 5 minute video, but three of them back to back? Not so much. Until something switched and I started noticing things that I appreciated. While I still couldn't name each trick, I started noticing how they did their tricks; their style. And the artistry of the video-editing in skate videos started to blow my mind a little. Over time I realized I was developing favorite skaters and favorite video sections. And I found that I wanted to watch them MULTIPLE times. Who knew? As an outsider, here is my brief opinion of what makes skateboarding so awesome and why it should be more broadly appreciated than it is.
It is as much an art form as it is a sport. It's actually really similar to dance in that while it is brutally athletic, it's also expressive. The attention to detail is intense; having to apply just the right amount of pressure at the right time and place to flip the board exactly right all while maintaining the right speed and balance for both a physical and visual affect. The video component adds to the whole visual art of it as well. It involves just watching and appreciating how tricks look when done in different locations, on different surfaces, and from different angles, even in different lighting. In addition to video-editing, there is music. Oh, the music! Skaters get to pick which song they want to go with a particular section they've been shooting. And to me, this is where you get to see if a skater really knows himself well. I can never get into sections that have thrasher music- but that's just a matter of personal taste. I guess my reason is that thrasher music does little to express a rhythm for me. My favorite sections are often the ones where a skater can pick a song that has a rhythm and a feel that just matches the way he skates. Skating definitely has rhythm. And depending on whether a particular skater specializes in a lot of smaller stuff (smaller not necessarily being less impressive), or jumps a lot of big gaps or what have you, that rhythm varies from skater to skater. Some of the best videos come about when a skater knows his rhythm and style and can pick music to match. While I still don't have extensive knowledge of skate videos, my absolute favorites thus far are Cory Kennedy's and Marc Johnson's sections in Pretty Sweet, as well as Andrew Reynolds' section in Stay Gold. I couldn't get a hold of any sections from the Pretty Sweet video on youtube (we bought it on iTunes). I did, however, find the Andrew Reynolds one on youtube. He skates some big gaps in this video, and I think the music fits perfectly with that.
Why isn't skateboarding more widely appreciated? There are too many reasons to go into, and it gets weirdly political too. Unfortunately, there are some skateboarders who get caught up in alcohol and drugs and end up getting in trouble all the time and they're the ones people look at and say, "Skateboarders are a bunch of dangerous punks." There are always the bad apples that give everybody a bad name. There have been attempts to make skateboarding more mainstream, like the X-Games. My issue with that is that it removes most of the things I like best about skateboarding. It tends to leave it kind of stale and soulless, although admittedly still impressive. To me it seems like the X-Games wants to make skateboarding about the angry/rebellious image, about competition and money and energy drinks. And I guess a lot of skateboarders do like those things. But if you look at skateboarding itself, as this thing that began organically from people just being creative, it's not money-driven, angry, or even competitive at all. It's cooperative. It's about taking all these pieces and creating something new out of them that didn't exist before. They took roller skate wheels, attached them to a board and began redefining space. Railings, stairs, bushes, mailboxes; I've seen all these things made into something totally different in skateboarding. And when you watch videos, what are all the skaters doing? Are they trash-talking and competing? Nope. They're cheering each other on, and supporting each other. They're celebrating when another skater finally lands a trick he's been trying to get all day. When you watch interviews with the skateboarders themselves, they spend time talking about other skaters who inspire them and whose work and attitudes they appreciate. That's kind of what I like about it so much. While I do think skateboarding deserves wider appreciation, I'd be satisfied to leave it as it is if it means it can maintain its cooperative, expressive and artistic nature.