A question that brings much debate; is skateboarding a sport or an art? Many would argue it’s a sport, pointing to the fact there’s a competitive aspect to it making skateboarders athletes. Others see it as more of art, a form of expression in live-action. With the city or the skate park as a blank canvas, and the board as your paintbrush.
“I consider skateboarding an art form, a lifestyle and a sport.” – Tony Hawk
Or could it be a mesh of both? Let’s take a brief look at skateboarding’s origins. Skateboarding stemmed from surfing in the 1950s, referring to skateboarders at the time as “asphalt surfers”. It was an alternative to surfing when the waves weren’t good. An outlet for freedom, mimicking tricks and motions from surfing. As it evolved into an industry in the 1960s, contests began to surface. As businesses got involved, skateboarding became a bit more organized, and like anything with business, it was looked at from the perspective of how can a profit be generated.
The original idea of just “cruising” for enjoyment was transformed into how can this be made competitive? How can we generate a profit? As a result, competitive skateboarding was born. During the 1970s and 1980s, competitive skateboarding peeked with pool and vert competitions. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, street skateboarding became predominant. Competitive vert skating died off until the emergence of the X-Games in 1995.
After landing “The 900”, Tony Hawk became one of the most well-known names in vert skateboarding. Helping launch the X-Games into the mainstream. With the mainstream comes advertisers and sponsors seeking to make a profit off the participants and the event. There’s no doubt that competitive skateboarding has provided careers for many of the most well-known skateboarders across the globe. Most participants who reach the podium at the pro level receive a significant cash payout. Pros often rely on the contest circuit as a source of income. They also rely on their sponsorships, however, in many cases the income from just endorsements isn’t adequate enough to make a living. Unless the opportunity for a signature shoe deal lands in your lap.
“I think that things are poetic when they don’t have a boundary. Without rules. My life is poetic.” – Mark Gonzales
Competitive skateboarding has its benefits. But is it everything? Is being the best and only caring about winning what skateboarding is all about? We say no, from its start skateboarding has always been about enjoying the freedom that comes with cruising on a plank with four wheels. It’s about having no boundaries and most importantly having fun while you’re doing it. It’s about the endless creativity involved with linking lines together. It’s about the endless possibilities that come with learning and creating new tricks. It’s about pushing oneself and improving. At the end of the day, skateboarding has always been about individuality, freedom, and creativity.
We can’t fail to mention the other ways skateboarders make an income. Photo incentives from predominate magazines for ads and interviews land skateboarders a pretty nice check. The art of skateboard photography and videography plays a significant role in skateboarding. Publication companies like Thrasher, TransWorld, and even 411 Video Magazine back in the day offered a creative outlet to showcase skateboarding in a more artistic and cinematic way. Often times skateboard photography and videography is more organic, boundary-free, and sporadic. There are no rules, there’s no competition, it’s just you, the environment, and what you can produce and display. All for the sake of documentation for others to enjoy and consume. This element truly makes skateboarding an art.
Now, who’s to say if skateboarding is completely an art or a sport. Suppose it’s completely up to one’s interpretation. One’s choice, that’s the best part. Skateboarding is whatever you want it to be. No one should be making that choice other than you. No one should be forcing you to compete and no one should be forcing you to produce a video part. Unless that’s what you want… there’s that personal freedom again we’ve been talking about. For example, the guy who likes to stack photos/clips doesn’t have to skate contests, and the guy who likes the organized competitive jock aspect of skateboarding doesn’t have to take part in the more creative or artsy aspect. Some skaters prefer both, this is how they make ends meet as a professional.
Guess the point is you don’t have to choose one or the other and you definitely don’t have to be pushed to compete or produce clips unless that’s your goal or you signed a contract. Skateboarding always has and always will be about having fun. When it stops becoming fun, it’s no longer what skateboarding is really all about. Individuality, creativity, freedom, and most importantly fun have always been at skateboarding’s core since its inception.
One thing is certain though, skateboarding is a unique lifestyle and subculture that few truly understand or appreciate. That makes it special and in comparison to other more mainstream activities, skateboarding’s roots have always stemmed from the outcasts, unpopular, and misunderstood. That’s what makes it different, that’s what makes it what it is. A culture full of individuals who take a different approach to life and see things through a different lens. Those who think outside the box and never really sought to just “fit in”.
Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments. This a hub for respectful discussion. Thanks for reading.