If we didn’t have skateboarding during this pandemic and 2020, where would we all be? Mentally, physically, spiritually, it’s safe to say none of us want to even think about what life would have been like this past year without skateboarding.
Still, regardless of how bad this year was for each of us or is being portrayed in contemporary media, 2020 began with how everything in skateboarding should: riding our skateboards to escape, expand and create our own world. However, as we all know the month of March brought forth the global pandemic of Covid 19. With it, for the first time, skateboarding could not escape the world and its troubles. Instead, every skateboarder had to adapt like never before.
From the skateparks to the skate shops, to the streets and the driveways, not one of us was immune to the pandemic. And that’s what is truly unique about this adaptation. It included all of us as a community and industry. Whether you’re a pro skater, a beginner, an instagram skater, a company owner or a raw street skater, we were and still are all in this together.
And together, more connected than ever by a global pandemic, we brought forth the incredible powers of skateboarding to foster not only a thriving skate industry but a strengthening of community and belonging.
Words by Zane Foley
Photos by Zane Foley & Denia Kopita
Skating the Unskateable
The pandemic spared no one and that is especially true for businesses. Whether big retail, corporate, government buildings, large or small business, entire shopping malls and downtown districts became ghost towns overnight. Obviously, we don’t mean to be insensitive to the tremendous hardships every one of the employees and business owners have endured during these times but strictly speaking from a skate spot perspective, a great unveiling of previously unskateable spots returned to the skate spot landscape. Let’s be frank, with the majority of businesses closed or affected from the pandemic, skateboarders were left to pirate open waters previously only visited by night missions with lights and generators. It has been open season all year long, with skaters finding more and more spots or revitalizing old ones by the day. Not only are new spots revealing themselves like coins in a dry well, security guards are at home, police have been instructed to only respond to crimes above misdemeanors, and cell-phone wielding Karens are no nowhere to be found. Skateboarders have been left alone like wild animals to roam the empty streets for skate spots. Places like schools who haven’t seen a student in months or movie theatres, libraries, sports parks, and non-essential businesses all became prey to hungry skateboarders normally left salivating at the jaw. This factor played a major role in the production of skateboarding this year, which saw several full-length videos and amazing street parts from some of our favorite pros. It also led to more DIY projects being completed than ever before both inside and outside the confines of the skatepark. Both two more reasons why skateboarding thrived in 2020.
One of the prevailing aspects that allowed skating to thrive in 2020, was the simple fact, skateboarders were left alone. Certainly as a byproduct of millions of people quarantining but also a general lawlessness being somewhat acceptable. DIYs started sprouting like wildfire across the skate landscape. For a ton of these DIYs, they were even built at skateparks, BBQs were erected and ditch spots saw fresh puddy and barrier made quarterpipes sprouted even in the hearts of downtown metropolis. We all know how DIYs are some of the best spots for a plethora of reasons. They bring together people under a creative banner and promote the DIY mindset that fuels skating’s unique drive to skate and create at all costs. Coupled by the fact skaters were traveling less and the fact skaters are some of the most creative people on the planet, the forces that went into building these DIYs created some of the best and most intricate spots we have ever seen. The best part? Many still have not been destroyed by the general public or city workers who ring true the statement, here today gone tomorrow. It also simply but profoundly illustrates how skateboarders were more empowered, more connected and more trusting of each other in sharing pins, breaking the law and taking matters into their own hands. All signs of a healthy and thriving skateboarding community.
Video Production: Full Lengths and Multiple Parts
Skateboarding as an industry has always been inherently unique in how our media is produced via videography and street skating. After all, we have built an entire media landscape off of trespassing and breaking the law and then going ahead and not only documenting it, but promoting it in plain sight. While contest skating and branded content took a hit this year, street skating seriously thrived in 2020 in terms of finished product. In comparison, Hollywood’s film production was one of the hardest industries hit by Covid. Just like film, who suffered from the gathering of large groups made lawfully impossible, all of America’s major sports were prompted into Covid bubbles, bursting as more and more players tested positive and less and less fans tuned into games. Skateboarding collectively enjoyed a host of video projects, including three full-length videos from DeathWish, Primitive and Sk8Mafia. Each one of these videos showcased their entire squads in a mix of pre and post pandemic skating. Either way, their releases were a serious shot of inspiration and came at a time when they were needed most. To really top it all off, we also saw tremendous video parts throughout the year from skaters like Tom Knox, Shane O’Neill, Aurelien Giaraud, Elijah Berle, and Mason Silva, who became the crown jewel of an amazing 2020 SOTY class. Skaters like Elijah Berle and Mason Silva each put out several parts with their respected sponsors, making this year’s SOTY battle one of the best to date. Which brings us to our next point.
Incredible SOTY Selection
We are not naïve to the fact each SOTY class is a representation of the year in a palpable and relatable way. We all know who won by now but we also know how tight the race really was. In fact, nobody knew who was leading the race until it’s very announcement. A clear indicator that this year’s SOTY class was truly remarkable. We saw multiple parts from 2020 SOTY Mason Silva, and death defying video parts by skaters like Pedro Delfino, Jamie Foy, and Miles Silvas. We all enjoyed the style studded parts from skaters like Tom Knox, Alexis Sablone, and Elijah Berle. And in a commendable nod to non-traditional skaters, Thrasher highlighted the accomplishments of womxn and non traditional skaters with their first ever 2020 honor roll. An honor roll that we found particularly in line with Skateism. See below for more details! Every single one of these skaters are a testament to their dedication to skateboarding and the ability skateboarders had in adapting to a Covid world. Every minute of logged footage was certainly in-part to skateboarding having a new lease on life with the amount of skate spots available and the sheer production involved with skaters remaining dedicated to their craft. But the fact remains every one of these skaters gave back to their community by simply but profoundly doing their thing. Skateboarding in many ways is a perfect amalgamation of community and the individual. Certainly, these trying times show us that when we do our thing in support of our community, we can all thrive together and enjoy it.
Sold Out Skateshops
The pandemic was undoubtedly hardest on small business, and that includes skate shops. Luckily for skateboarding, the majority of skate shops, which were already battling their own problems before 2020, saw a resurgence in skate shop buying. Perhaps a syndrome of retail therapy should be mentioned here but also with sales going through the roof with products, many of the local shops were backed up and actually selling out. This is also largely in part that manufacturing has taken a downturn as China and Mexico are the leading producers of skate products. Skate shops are having a hard time keeping up with the demand as international shipping came to a halt and more and more people wanted to support their local businesses. While a part of this also came from the fact that many brands themselves do their production or are assisted in their production overseas, and the limited travel meant a limited stock. But the main reason has generally been understood that people were buying skateboards like never before as the CDC had skateboarding as one of the enduring activities safe enough to do during the pandemic. Ultimately, more people tried skateboarding for the first time. Full completes were flying off the shelves like hot cakes. Which brings us to our next point:
More People Skating for the First Time
2020 and the global pandemic was more than what we couldn’t do but about what we could do. For those first few weeks, city centers became ghost towns, toilet paper and hand sanitizer were being hoarded as churches, restaurants and coffee shops all closed their doors. One of the free activities that was relatively safe and has always been rather accessible, was skateboarding. Thousands of people, parents and grandparents were buying their first completes for their kids (and themselves) as their driveways and cul de sacs became their only domains. While this assisted in skate shops experiencing a revitalized economy, it also means a new generation of skateboarders will be born from this pandemic. More people falling in love with skateboarding will always be a good thing, even if it comes with some growing pains. But still, this phenomena may have single handedly kept the skateboarding industry thriving. Which means people got to keep their jobs and skaters get new supporters. Sounds like a win win.
Thriving Skatepark Communities
In a poetic irony, social distancing brought us closer together in our skatepark communities. Skaters are going to skate, some of us more responsibly than others. But in a pandemic world where we are all discouraged from traveling, even to the next town, skate parks saw locals spending more time at their local than ever before. Pro Skaters who moved to LA for the industry flew back home to be with loved ones, and a general stay in place order permeated the entire world. While social distancing meant meeting less people, your local park became one of the few places you could actually meet a new person (from six feet away). That new person wasn’t necessarily someone you have never seen before. But that person you know is a local but never really talked to. As we all craved some human attention, we all branched out forming stronger bonds at our local parks. We see now throughout instagram skate parks building their own DIYs, cutting holes in fences that were previously pay-to-skate and even BBQ pits being built in the corners. Skaters are pulling out their cameras, making montages, painting murals and just collaborating at a deeper more meaningful level. If you think about it, there may be no better gauge for a healthy skateboarding community, than taking a look at the local skatepark. Have you taken a look lately? Skaters seem pretty happy.
Skateboarding Led Protests
Perhaps the most profound thriving of skateboarding in 2020, was skateboarding’s ability to hone our voice in protesting the social injustice and joining the Black lives matter movement. In our article: Are Skateboarders Capable of Creating Social Change? We discuss how skateboarding found its voice in the BLM movement in the place it knows the best, the streets. We saw around the world skateboarders organize huge skate protests in solidarity for Black lives in cities like London, Paris, Chicago and Los Angeles. New chapters of activists in skateboarding formed intimate offline and online relationships for indigenous voices and people of color. Companies like Real Skateboards helped raise funds for victims of police brutality and overall promote a conscious participation with society that too often go unnoticed by the skate industry. From all of this, skateboarders became more educated on the socio-political, economic crises we in the past had turned an apathetic blind eye to. Ultimately, skateboarding became more conscious and as some of the most dynamic and inspiring individuals on our planet, this is not only good for skating but the entire world.
117 Social Skateboarding Projects in 2020
Skateistan and Pushing Boarders came together to survey social skateboarding projects in the later months of 2020, to document the big picture aims, impact and activities of these projects using skateboarding for social change. Using a 26-question online survey from nearly 120 total recipients, not only operated as an essential gauge of skateboarding thriving in 2020 but an intimate uncovering of how these projects were affected by the Covid-19 Pandemic. Unsurprisingly, 97% of the surveyors reported being negatively affected by the pandemic and with more than half of these projects being funded by non-profits, 2020 was unfathomably challenging. However, with each of these projects aiming to support marginalized young people and communities in need, the fact these programs were able to push forward is a remarkable testament to everyone involved, and thus, skateboarding as a whole. We’re talking about 117 projects in 61 countries worldwide, with 62% of respondents working full-time and only 8% primarily remote. All of which had a tremendous amount of volunteers, a mean of 66% of part-time volunteers. It’s extremely difficult to put into words just exactly what this means for those who are supported by these types of projects. But here at Skateism, all of us as skateboarders, are extremely proud of every single one of these social projects and those skateboarders who have made it their life to help others. In a world where it can be hard to find even a sliver of good news, here’s 117 reasons why skateboarding thrived in 2020.
Representation of Non-Traditional Skateboarders
It can be difficult to hommage a word like non-traditional when it comes to skateboarding, as skateboarding itself is defined by breaking tradition and defining your own experience. However, undoubtedly, the representation of non-traditional skateboarders and their accomplishments surged in 2020. Skateboarders like Alexis Sablone not only turned pro for Alltimers, but had her own Thunder truck as well as Cons shoes out. Skaters like Marbie Miller turned pro for There Skateboards, while Fabiana Delfino launched her new Vans collection led by the Sk8-Hi Pro. While we celebrate the pioneering accomplishments of these individuals who did their thing both on and off the board, companies and brands also came together to support non-traditional or less-represented groups in skateboarding. Jessie Van Rouchoudt of adidas partnered with Unity for the shoe company’s first ever gender-neutral clothing and shoe collection, while Rosie Archie founded a non-profit Nations Skate Youth, whose goal is to create a positive social impact through skateboarding and empowering of indigenous youth. These leaders all made Thrasher Magazine’s 2020 Honor Roll and certainly deserve all the recognition for increasing the representation and empowering of non-traditional groups in skateboarding. We salute each and every one of them and look forward to witnessing their impact first hand as we continue to bring you the premier non-traditional skate media Skateism is dedicated to covering.
Mental Health Powers of Skateboarding
Last but certainly not least, the mental health empowerment of skateboarding may be the most palpable thriving of all. Many of us, skateboarding is all we have during these times. Can’t go back home to visit your family for the holidays? Hit the skatepark for Christmas. Someone’s always there. A familiar face. A chance of meeting someone new (from six feet away) and or literally just the euphoria from getting our blood pumping. Skateboarding has always been a tool for optimism and passion. It’s one of the reasons we’re inspired to do what we do here at Skateism. But it’s never easy to take a slam and get back up. But we do. That’s what makes us skateboarders. It’s the great lesson skateboarding has taught us. Ride through it and ride through it with friends. We’re all so fortunate to be skateboarders during these unprecedented times for our spiritual and mental health. With a new reality comes anxiety. As reported by the World Health Organization (WHO), the new norm caused a spike in sedentary lifestyle, implicating to psychologists a deep effect on mental health and even a greater susceptibility to Covid 19. Further studies by Medical Journals such as PubMed have already attested to the unquestionable benefits of regular physical activity during the global pandemic.
SKATEISM is skateboarding’s DIY & diversity driven platform for journalism, events and activism. Founded in Athens in 2012 as an online magazine, SKATEISM became an internationally distributed printed publication in 2017 with a dedicated network of contributing skateboarders who believe that it is our celebrated differences and dedications that bring us together. In the homogenous industry of skateboarding today, SKATEISM is a platform for the underground and overlooked, the weird and the wonderful. Be sure to visit and bookmark this excellent resource: https://www.skateism.com/
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