Everyday Hybridity

Dr Paul O'Connor
Anthropology/Sociology/Cultural Studies/
Hong Kong/Ethnicity/
Skateboarding/Everyday Life

Lecturing in Anthropology at CUHK

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  1. Skateboarding as a Culture: Skatepark Etiquette

    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. 

    image

    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.

    image

    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?

     
     
  2. Urban Renewal and Play Spaces - Skatepark in Cape Town

    In April this year, the international PLAYscapes competition sought to find which world city is the most fun – London, New York City, Buenos Aires, Bangkok, Moscow, or Cape Town. To answer the question, they asked professional and student architects as well as designers from cities around the world to propose ideas which encouraged public interaction and turned redundant city spaces into fun creative places or transformed a neglected forgotten part of the city into a fun ‘playscape’. The competition aimed to encourage and reward design excellence at a small scale which integrates function, structure, details and the needs of those living in urban areas. Over 500 registered entrants took part and the jury panel included representatives from Building Trust International, Project for Public Spaces, BMW Guggenheim Lab, Landscape Architects Network, 3Space, Neon Stash, Land8 as well as academics and professionals from the fields of architecture and landscape design.

    The City of Cape Town proudly submitted the Gardens Skate Park design to the competition in order to show how creatively we can transform negative space in our city into a fun place with opportunities for interaction and play.

    Follow the link

     
     
  3. Skateboarding in Hong Kong - Helmets and the LCSD
Yesterday Warren Stuart and I were on RTHK Radio 3 discussing Skateboard Culture in Hong Kong and the new rules at 4 public skateparks in the territory that make wearing helmets mandatory. You can listen to the interview here.
There has been a number of issues with these rules. In many cases they have been ignored or rejected by users who are circumventing the new policy in a variety of ways. There has also been a noted decline in the number of users in some skateparks in the territory. In one case the Lai Chi Kok skatepark that has been open for 13 years without the enforcement of any helmet rule has basically become empty.
The introduction of the rule raises a considerable number of issues.
A large amount of public money has been spent on construction of these skateparks. They have been built for the community and are free to use. At the same time they provide an alternative to the street which can be a dangerous and problematic place for skateboarders to use. The street is also an uncontrolled environment for younger teenagers. With the introduction of unpopular rules skateboarders are eschewing the skateparks for the streets
Safety issues. In many ways helmets are regarded as a much safer option for skateboarders, BMX, and rollerbladers. However, part of skateboard culture rejects rules such as these. Skateboarders for example may not wear a helmet when they are skating ledges and small transitions but will choose to wear a helmet when skate larger vert obstacles. The imposition of rules my non-skaters has always been met with suspicion by skateboarders. A key part of skate culture is that skateboarders try and manage and control it.
Park usage. There are 2 new skateparks that have big bowls that take up roughly a quarter of the total park size. However these have never been open to the public. Even with the introduction of the new helmet rule the large bowls remain closed unless an organisation books them for an event. Then only members of that organisation can officially use the booked bowl. One has to question how skateboarders in Hong Kong can ever acquire the skills to ride these bowls in such situations.
The previous policy of the parks that required users to sign in and provide a waver had no issues. This method also provided the LCSD with data on how many users accessed the park, their ages, and genders. In sum an excellent tool to see who the parks are servicing. Since the introduction of the helmet rule no further data on numbers of users is being collected and they therefore have no firm numbers about the effect of the new policy.
Many are in favour of a reversion to the previous arrangement. In this way helmet use was optional, but recommended and users could sign themselves in. It remains to be seen how things will develop from this point on.

    Skateboarding in Hong Kong - Helmets and the LCSD

    Yesterday Warren Stuart and I were on RTHK Radio 3 discussing Skateboard Culture in Hong Kong and the new rules at 4 public skateparks in the territory that make wearing helmets mandatory. You can listen to the interview here.

    There has been a number of issues with these rules. In many cases they have been ignored or rejected by users who are circumventing the new policy in a variety of ways. There has also been a noted decline in the number of users in some skateparks in the territory. In one case the Lai Chi Kok skatepark that has been open for 13 years without the enforcement of any helmet rule has basically become empty.

    The introduction of the rule raises a considerable number of issues.

    • A large amount of public money has been spent on construction of these skateparks. They have been built for the community and are free to use. At the same time they provide an alternative to the street which can be a dangerous and problematic place for skateboarders to use. The street is also an uncontrolled environment for younger teenagers. With the introduction of unpopular rules skateboarders are eschewing the skateparks for the streets
    • Safety issues. In many ways helmets are regarded as a much safer option for skateboarders, BMX, and rollerbladers. However, part of skateboard culture rejects rules such as these. Skateboarders for example may not wear a helmet when they are skating ledges and small transitions but will choose to wear a helmet when skate larger vert obstacles. The imposition of rules my non-skaters has always been met with suspicion by skateboarders. A key part of skate culture is that skateboarders try and manage and control it.
    • Park usage. There are 2 new skateparks that have big bowls that take up roughly a quarter of the total park size. However these have never been open to the public. Even with the introduction of the new helmet rule the large bowls remain closed unless an organisation books them for an event. Then only members of that organisation can officially use the booked bowl. One has to question how skateboarders in Hong Kong can ever acquire the skills to ride these bowls in such situations.
    • The previous policy of the parks that required users to sign in and provide a waver had no issues. This method also provided the LCSD with data on how many users accessed the park, their ages, and genders. In sum an excellent tool to see who the parks are servicing. Since the introduction of the helmet rule no further data on numbers of users is being collected and they therefore have no firm numbers about the effect of the new policy.

    Many are in favour of a reversion to the previous arrangement. In this way helmet use was optional, but recommended and users could sign themselves in. It remains to be seen how things will develop from this point on.

     
     
  4. A look at skateboarding in Hong Kong courtesy of Hoyeung Lam and the filming of Alex Rodriguez. This evocative video provides a glimpse of skate culture in Hong Kong and the thoughts and passions of a skateboarder and their environment. 

    They did a great job.

     
     
  5. As a skateboarder and an academic working on skateboard ethnography, this old excerpt from Powell Peralta’s Public Domain (1988) is poignant. I remember watching this as a teenager with friends and being amused at the attempt to try and intellectualise skateboarding. The piece is intentionally done in jest, and is typical of Peralta’s flamboyant videos of the time. 

    I read this parody as a preterition, highlighting something by omitting it. It both introduces an academic interest in skateboarding, but by turning it into a joke it rejects its. It makes fun of the suggestion that skateboarding has mores and social structure, a relationship with the city, but at the same time it celebrates such ideas. 

    Currently I am placing skate culture in a reading of social theory that touches on Bourdieu, de Certeau, and Lefebvre. What seems absurd in doing so is the disconnection between the playful, almost pointless pursuit of skateboarding, and the recognition that it has a much more intense meaning. Skate culture and its guarded authenticity is a subject most worthy of this sort of academic scrutiny, not least because it has sophisticated methods for self-refelction and adaptation whilst remaining void of a rulebook and a dominant controlling institution.

     
     
  6. One of the really eye catching projects of skateboard philanthropy in recent years, is that of Skateistan. This remarkable NGO is an amazing vehicle for the promotion of skateboarding in Afghanistan, but it is also one of the most profoundly successful NGOs in Afghanistan. It has had huge success.

    There is plenty of information about on the project and I have posted on it twice before. However, today I am posting about the amazing book that the project has published. It is full of excellent photographs, and inspiring text. We get to hear the stories of the skaters, the volunteers, and insights into everyday life in Afghanistan.

    Highly recommended.

     
     
  7. More skateboard philanthropy. Hong Kong Board Rescue is asking people to donate old boards, wheels, and even bolts to help kids who can’t afford or get access to a board the chance to get skateboarding.

    This Saturday at Tseung Kwan O skatepark it will be Hong Kong’s ‘Go Skateboarding Day’ celebration. There people can also donate their old hardware.

    本星期六(6月28日)的香港滑板日於將軍澳滑板場內將設有舊滑板回收收集箱,
    請把你們用舊了的滑板或滑板配件帶到將軍澳滑板場捐贈給HK Board Rescue,
    我們會把滑板維修後轉贈給沒有能力購買滑板的朋友。
    現在我們有康民處管轄的免費極限運動場,但仍有人因各種原因而不能擁有自己的滑
    板,
    希望這一個小小的動作能帶給其他人玩滑板並非做壞事的訊息並能給他們玩滑板的機
    會。

     
     
  8. Hong Kong Go Skateboarding day postponed till the 28th due to the bad weather.

    Hong Kong Go Skateboarding day postponed till the 28th due to the bad weather.

     
     
  9. Skateboarding has traditionally been close minded in regards to sexual orientation. We still don’t even have an openly gay professional skateboarder. Because of this atmosphere, Sam wanted out. His plan was to leave skateboarding at age thirty, come out on Facebook and live judgment free in Iceland.

    Sam turned thirty last week, and we are happy to report that he never went through with his plan. Instead, he decided to come out and to share his struggle with the world. This is Sam’s story.

     
     
  10.