It’s April and the 2020’s are already proving to be a fucking chore. I feel like I’ve aged 10 years in the space of 3 months. Stuck in lockdown, with our state mandated “one exercise outing a day”, bouncing off the walls consuming all of the Netflix Shows and Youtube Skate Videos we can. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that before this we maybe took skating together in public places for granted. The 2020 that could have been, and the 2020 we have ended up with, are worth comparing to remind ourselves what we might do once this passes.
The horror of everything happening outside of skateboarding has probably blinded us from looking at where skateboarding could go this decade, but given the path the 2010’s took, I think the 2020’s (post COVID-19 roadblock) will just be a continuation of the curve.
The stark contrast between the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s skateboarding scenes is not really reflected in the 2010’s – which saw a mishmash of literally everything that came before, as people skated both wide boards and popsicle sticks, rode massive wheels and tiny 90’s wheels, skated in Vans old skools and chunky DC’s, and everyone skated pretty much anything that was out there to shred. 2010’s skateboarding was not defined by a single trait and was an example of the wide reach and growing diversity of skateboarding.
The long overdue growth in women’s skateboarding, the embrace of skateboarding’s variety, and the feeling that finally, skateboarding was here to stay, and wouldn’t disappear and be considered a “fad”, is the legacy of the 2010’s. If this was the direction things were heading in, 2020 had promise, but then Jeff Grosso died and suddenly “skateboarding in 2020” went dark.
Like Jake Phelps, who passed away last year, Jeff Grosso was one of the people who truly embodied the rebellious, aggressive, counter-cultural nature of skateboarding, and was taken from us far too soon. Survived by his son, Oliver, the skateboarding world mourned for one of transition skating greatest shredders. Grosso was the tip of the iceberg, and whether coronavirus related or not, we’ll likely see other beloved skateboarders taken from us before this is over.
In 2020, Skateboarding was supposed to be legitimised by its entry into the Olympics. Legitimacy is something that probably doesn’t mean a lot to many skateboarders, but the statement of “Skateboarding is an Olympic Sport” is powerful. It is an instant argument winner against relatives who look down on you for playing with a useless wooden toy. It can shut up any security guard who thinks he’s got one up on you because he’s in a uniform, and you’re an adult riding a skateboard. It contributes to the growing belief that skateboarding isn’t a “fad”, it’s a way of life, and the more people understand that, the better. With the Olympics postponed, who knows what this means for skateboarding, or sports in general.
The Coronavirus outbreak is obviously a huge, looming, all encompassing threat, and the longer we don’t take it seriously, the longer we will be in lockdown. With that said, it’s really weird that in 2020, skateboarders are being kicked off of skateparks. Black is white, up is down, skateboarders are being told to get off skateparks. You’ll have a better chance of skating at a street spot for an hour than skating at a skatepark. Stan Byrne was kicked off Dean Lane. Pip had someone call the rozzers on him for skating a mini ramp.
I talked about stark contrasts of previous decades, but nothing is in starker contrast than the 2010’s being a decade where hundreds of brand new, shiny, concrete parks popped up, and 2020 being a year where skateboarders are told they cannot use them. I talked about legitimacy, but it seems like government bureaucracy still doesn’t know what to do with skateboarding in times like this – it isn’t play, it isn’t sport, but it definitely is exercise, and clearly no one knows what to do when they encounter skateboarders trying to get their daily skate in.
They are so determined to stop young people congregating, they are dumping sand on skateparks to stop sessions. Now, I agree people should be staying home or changing up their sessions to isolate themselves, but sand dumped on skateparks is going to ruin parks, making them slippy for the first couple of months once parks are open again. I also honestly doubt councils will be quick about cleaning it up once this is all over.
It is a ridiculous, knee-jerk reaction to what we do as skateboarders, whereas mass gatherings to clap for the criminally underfunded NHS, where ferry drivers are allowed to do fucking donuts in the river thames, get nothing but a nod of approval from authorities. As is often the case, bureaucracy take a heavy handed, nuclear approach to skateboarders breaking the rules, and this is no different.
Humans who skateboard dared to hope as 2020 started; skatepark campaigns went up a gear, people looked to the influx of new skaters as positive signs that skateboarding would get bigger and better, and attitudes began to turn. But as people pushed forward, something was resisting and slowing progress down.
The War Memorial Ramp Renovation campaign was gearing up for some big moves this year, roping me in to help them bring back Covpark Combat, and then using momentum from this to show demand for an improved park. The campaign has been seriously impressive, making much progress in a very short amount of time, and I was super excited to be working with them on Covpark Combat. With lockdown in place, and mass gatherings banned for the time being, who knows when we’ll see it happen.
And I guess here we are in limbo, then. Everyone is ready and waiting to see where skateboarding takes us. Locked down, surviving on solo sessions, building makeshift ramps to occupy our time, bombing the odd hill on our “one unit of exercise” per day. I know the world has bigger problems than “when can we skateboard again?”, but when skating is such a huge part of our lives, nobody can blame us when we feel withdrawal from it.
2020 will probably go down as a year of things which could’ve been. The world as we know it from the 2010’s will almost certainly disappear for good. Working from home will become more normal, scrutiny on hygiene to stop the spread of disease will increase, and travel will seem that little bit more scary. With a rapidly changing world, I just hope there is still room for skateboarding. What’s certain, is this time will pass, and once it does, I can’t wait to skate with you all again.