Sidewalk Surfing The Web
Skateboarding and the internet have had a really weird relationship. Roll back 15 years and imagine skateboarding before we had access to Thrasher videos on a device that fits in your pocket. Printed magazines were big enough that the UK had 3 monthly magazines dedicated solely to skateboarding. New video parts could only be seen by paying £20 for a DVD. In order to get recognition and known for skateboarding you had to physically travel to other cities and countries and appear at competitions to get noticed and hopefully sponsored.
I would say 2017 is still a weird transitional time for skateboarding and the internet. It’s not that it hasn’t evolved to match the moving goalposts of technology, as website like The Berrics have proven successful in taking what we thought of as skateboarding related entertainment and interpreted it through web content. Even without Youtube, The Berrics was ahead of the curve and conveyed the idea of a skate magazine through digital content that other companies have emulated and imitated in order to stay relevant.
The old ways no longer apply when you have guys like Roy Purdy getting invites to The Berrics due to a huge youtube following. The new faces of skateboarding are the guys who bring the most youtube subscribers – no one cares about the hermit grafting away on hidden ledges if no one is there to film him.
The multiple skate mags we used to have in the UK no longer grace the shelves of WH Smiths (if anything only Thrasher still sells and only because kids think it’s a fashion brand). If you go on the Kingpin website now it’s buzzfeed style list articles about how shit it is that skateboarding is popular – “10 celebrities who shouldn’t skate” or “The top 10 worst board graphics”. Through failing to move with modern trends some of these magazines have fallen into a deep hole of negativity and bitching that apes the older guy at the skatepark who spends his time telling you how shit modern pros are and how he could do all of the trendy tricks 15 years ago. Admittedly this is what I am like most of the time so I should check myself!
When I started Terribleco in 2003 the skateboarding industry was exactly as I described at the start of this post. There was a time when i was opposed to putting videos online. I felt it cheapened them – if it wasn’t on a dvd it felt like there was something missing. Even now i prefer to put videos on Vimeo as i never felt Youtube and it’s general usage rules made for a good place to watch a video that i had put hours into creating. Once it gets fed into the Google corporate machine it is subject to a level of strict control that skateboarding exists to defy. The real moment i realised how important Youtube was for skateboarding was when i couldn’t get my camera out without every kid under 12 asking if i was a youtuber and if they could like and subscribe.
Skateboarding is more than the technology of the time. Like with pools in the 70’s, street spots in the 80’s, the complete near death in the 90’s and the Tony Hawk fuelled boom of the 00’s, we find a way, we adapt, and we thrive. That’s what skateboarders do. How we keep our integrity on the way… Well, that’s the real question.