Overview

skateboarding


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An individual sport in which the boarder balances on a board that is attached to wheels, and performs a range of physical manoeuvres of, at a competitive level, increasingly acrobatic and sophisticated complexity. Skateboards were first produced in the 1960s, in California, when the activity was known as sidewalk or concrete surfing. The introduction of polyurethane wheels in 1970 expanded its market, and it was a popular fad among the young in the 1970s in the UK as well as the USA, though health and safety issues eroded its profile in the 1980s. It re-emerged in popularity, based on a more streamlined and advanced product in the 1990s; and has become so popular that, given its appeal to new global youth markets, its possible inclusion in the Olympic Games (within the cycling category) has been debated. By no means all have supported this possibility, as a condition of acceptance would be that skateboarding comes under the control of the International Cycling Federation. To the governing body of the sport, the International Skateboarding Federation, it has been more important to uphold its mission principles, fostering ‘freedom of self-expression and authenticity’, and maintaining the ‘integrity and authenticity of skateboarding as a sport, a passion, and a lifestyle’. As a lifestyle sport, with star practitioner Tony Hawk (born San Diego, California, 1968) its figurehead and his video games a legendary success in the electronic games industry, and its high profile in the X Games (Extreme Games), skateboarding is branded and marketed for a limitless youth consumer market. It has less need of the Olympics than has the Olympics for this quintessential youth activity.

Skateboarders also continue to celebrate the anti-establishment ethos of the practice. Justin Hanna, of Canadian company FIGJAM Apparel, is unequivocal on this point:we need to make sure that the culture of skateboarding is respected. Skateboarding has its roots in pushing the limits, being anti-establishment and anti-authoritative—setting its own style through creativity that harnesses the individual spirit. To mold exactly into what the IOC has in store for skateboarding would be a denial of its very roots…Skateboarding has also been an illuminating example of the tensions that can characterize the growth and commercial development of an alternative or lifestyle sport; and of the persisting dominance of ‘traditional masculinity’ in the core values of a purportedly progressive sport (Becky Beal and Charlene Wilson, ‘ “Chicks Dig Scars”: Commercialisation and the Transformations of Skateboarders’ Identities', in Belinda Wheaton, ed., Understanding Lifestyle Sports: Consumption, Identity and Difference, 2004).

we need to make sure that the culture of skateboarding is respected. Skateboarding has its roots in pushing the limits, being anti-establishment and anti-authoritative—setting its own style through creativity that harnesses the individual spirit. To mold exactly into what the IOC has in store for skateboarding would be a denial of its very roots…

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.


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