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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@peejayohhsee
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  1. The changing style of Nike Skateboard Commercials (Golf)

    There is a great article in adbusters from a few years ago about how Nike won over the skateboard community. It makes reference to early attempts to advertise in skateboard magazines. I include below one of the early Nike TV commercials which takes the innovative rage, “what if all athletes were treated like skateboarders?”. You will note that the advert has almost no skateboarding in it at all, and also no known, or professional skateboarders. Fast forward to 2014 with Nike’s now powerful role in skateboarding shoe manufacture, sponsorship, and media production. We see the renewed theme of skateboarding and golf. But now we also have iconic skateboarders Paul Rodriguez and Lance Mountain. The message is somewhat different in these new commercials, skateboarding is not a game. Note the emphasis on game, not sport.

    Nike 1998

    It is now actually pretty difficult to find much information on this campaign as it was widely received negatively by skateboarding and was met with a big campaign by consolidated skateboards "Don’t Do It"

    Nike 2014

    And back from 1989 Ban This when Nike had no interest in skateboarding we see the Bones Brigade making jest of golf in their own way. Again with Lance Mountain, and also Tony Hawk, Ray Underhill and Steve Saiz. So Nike has not done anything new in this regard. Yet when you watch this final video the commentary sounds far too much like Street League. See for yourself.

    image

     
     
  2. Drew University is holding a conference in January of 2015 with a component focussed specifically on skateboard culture. They have a call for paper proposals that closes in November. Check it out and spread the word.

     
     
  3. Those following the skateboard scene in Hong Kong will know that there has been problems over the last 6 weeks with a new mandatory helmet rule at 4 of the major skateparks. Last night saw the scene above from which you can see the short video on instagram. Skateboarders at Lai Chi Kok skatepark who were not wearing helmets were met with a group of police and a police dog.
It is an intimidating scene to have in a space specifically designed for skateboarders. To compound the issue this very skatepark has been used, without the mandatory helmet rule, for the last 13 years.

    Those following the skateboard scene in Hong Kong will know that there has been problems over the last 6 weeks with a new mandatory helmet rule at 4 of the major skateparks. Last night saw the scene above from which you can see the short video on instagram. Skateboarders at Lai Chi Kok skatepark who were not wearing helmets were met with a group of police and a police dog.

    It is an intimidating scene to have in a space specifically designed for skateboarders. To compound the issue this very skatepark has been used, without the mandatory helmet rule, for the last 13 years.

     
     
  4. My new blog project - My first board

    My first board. I recently watched the skateboard documentary Hill Street and was struck by how passionately the skateboarders in the film recalled their first boards. Their stories painted a picture not just of their skateboard origins but also of the different eras of skateboard history. References to clay wheels, and ‘Back to the Future’ positioned the speakers in these different times.

    This new blog seeks to capture such narratives providing people with the opportunity to submit and share their own stories. Check it out and spread the word.

     
     
  5. 'Skateboarders Win', states the headline of the report in the Guardian today. The redevelopment of the undercroft at London’s Southbank Centre has been stopped and the space can be preserved for skateboarders.

    The agreement, which involves both sides withdrawing various legal actions, resolves a battle that has been going on for nearly 18 months, since the centre announced plans for a spectacular £120m redevelopment which could only be funded, it said, by moving the skateboarders further along the Thames.

    This success is also a triumph for participatory politics and further recognition of skateboard culture. Here we see a community determined to preserve not only a specific space, but a narrative of their own cultural history. It goes without saying that Southbank is recognised beyond the London skateboard scene and is one of a legion of skateboard spots globally famous.

    The Long Live Southbank campaign which has even garnered support from London Mayor Boris Johnson can celebrate with their numerous supporters in this victory.

     
     
  6. 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?

     
     
  7. 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

     
     
  8. 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.

     
     
  9. 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.

     
     
  10. 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.