There is increasing recognition of skateboarding as a culture and part of this popular recognition comes from the construction and use of skateparks. The designed exclusion of skateboarders from the city has been matched with the provision of specifically made places to skate, these being ‘skateparks’. In may ways skateparks are a boon for skateboarders as they are a pre-planned legitimate place to skateboard. However, skateparks come with a legion of problems that in some ways may be regarded as trivial, but these can also inform us about the perseverance of skateboard culture.
Much of the accrued knowledge that skateboarders possess about skateboarding is contingent. It is gathered through participation and in an informal manner. Rules about behaviour are thus learnt in practice with peers. Perhaps the most important rule about skating with others relates to watching and understanding when to take turns, recognising where people are skating and how not to obstruct their ‘line’. The worst offence being ‘snaking’ taking a turn out of order, or just as someone else is about to drop in or take a run.
The popularity of skateparks and a growth in the number of skateboarders has left many lamenting the lack of knowledge about skatepark etiquette. So much so, that now there are a variety of codes published online to inform the masses.
There first one I offer is a design from James Jarvis that details how to keep your park in order.
The next comes from the Ride YouTube channel and Spencer Nuzzi tells us the unspoken rules.
An even more irreverent and comic take is given by Jenken Magazine who detail the '7 types of people you will encounter at any skatepark”. This highlights again a concern about unwritten rules in the park. A recent instagram from Thrasher Magazine took issue with the popularity of headphones at skatespots. It has over 27,000 likes, but clearly there are some detractors from this opinion.
So, the increased popularity of the skatepark, and the concentration of skateboarders into one designated area, has resulted in new frustrations. But it has also resulted in the writing, videoing, and dissemination of the previously unwritten rules. This is making skateboarding arguably more rule oriented which it has long resisted. More some fear like a traditional sport.
This weekend at Hong Kong’s TKO skatepark I was alarmed to see that the gate to the park was padlocked during opening hours. The security guard had to unlock the gate to allow users access and then again lock them in. This was all in a effort to police only entrants who had helmets. It was not successful. It did however provide a very clear example of the the idea of the skatepark as a designated space, or as referred to in this interview “a skate prison”. Part of the recent concern in Hong Kong about the new rules of the bigger skateparks is that they are taking away the control skateboarders have over their own activities, or their own culture.
Next time you pass a skatepark, note how the rules signposted at the park differ from the rules noted in the links in this post. Questions that emerge are whose space is the skatepark, and who speaks for skateboarders?