YNWH: Skateboarding’s four most self-defeating words There’s this guy I know. Pretty well, actually. He runs a small microbrew skateboard company out of his garage. He personally hand-builds, hand-shapes,and hand-silkscreens every single skateboard that comes out of his ever-expanding workshop. He’s a true craftsman, an artist in every sense of the word. Strange thing is, he’s not a particularly popular guy. At least, not insofar as his local skateboard community is concerned. Listening to him tell it, he’s practically hated. Or he thinks he is, at least. Apparently, he has been “blacklisted” and “86’ed” from more places than he can even keep track of. The local DIY… 86’ed. The local mini ramp… blacklisted. Special events, demos, and contests all over the region… banned. Intimidated out of his local coffee shop, even. There are a great many places where, apparently, he is just not welcome. In rare instances, he’s even been physically threatened and/or assaulted, just to insure that he would go well away, and never return. Why is this…? Well, it’s not because he’s a mean guy or anything; he’s actually one of the coolest chaps you could ever hope to meet. Pretty good skater, too. If I had to speculate, it’s more than likely because he’s a threat to the status quo. He’s a throwback to a time when skateboards were made with pride, by hand, and made to last. That’s a verboten paradigm in today’s world of disposable toothpicks. Shops won’t sell his boards, simply because they last too long. But kids keep on buying them anyway, directly from the craftsman himself, over and over again… which is a threat to the area businesses and brands that only peddle status quo. And, he talks. A lot. About deep stuff.Important stuff that the status quo definitely doesn’t want to hear, and absolutely does not want discussed or disseminated. In short: he’s hated, because he’s a threatening outlier to their gravy train. A threat that has to be either entirely stopped, or at least effectively subdued.This case is not an isolated incident. Far from it, actually. For being as “forward-thinking”, “libertine”, “enlightened”, and “inclusionary” as we’d like to think we are as a lifestyle and a “culture”, the skateboarding world can still be a whole wide world of impenetrable andexclusive cliques, far too much of the time. Anything that steps outside of the accepted status quo does tend to get shunned, ostracized, belittled, or bullied. I’ve seen it happen, firsthand. Far too often, actually. Tony Hawk, of all people, comes immediately to mind. Hard as it may be for millenials to believe, Tony Hawk was not always the beloved skate superstar that he is today. In the early 1980’s, he was widely condemned for the highcrime of ollieing into his airs. Something that is so commonplace and accepted today that we take it completely for granted as an absolutely normal way toskate. But at the time? It was tantamount to high treason. It didn’t make him particularly popular with most of the “status quo”, that’s for sure; Duane even famously spit on him one time at Colton Skatepark, if I recall the story correctly. He got ridiculed and made fun of a lot for “cheating” at skateboarding. It must’ve really sucked. Duane’s spit is probably some pretty gnarly shit. Nowadays, Tony gets the last laugh. He’s a skateboard superstar zillionaire that every kid (and many adults) love, respect, and admire. And the detractors learned a tough lesson there: never make fun of the future. Unfortunately, skaters can’t remember tough lessons for a damn sometimes. Women in skateboarding have had it pretty rough over the years. It’s true. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a female get “shamed” by guys for skateboarding, I’d probably be able to put the keyboard down, retire to Fiji, and drink Mai-Tais forever. Sometimes, it’s outright bullying. Other times, it’s a bit more subtle and understated. Nyjah Huston once opined, quite publicly, that skateboarding is not for girls at all. In many ways, our “culture” has been telling girls and women for decades that they’re just not welcome here. That they don’t measure up, that they don’t have what it takes. That this is a boys club, and a boys club only. Thankfully, that perception is starting to change. But it’s been a very slow, and very painful process. It certainly hasn’t been particularly easy for anyone. Especially the girls.Maybe this is just perception at work. Maybe it’s not as bad as it all seems. But when we, as an industry, actually have to produce and market a product that says “Girl Is Not A Four Letter Word”, then we certainly have a very real problem on our hands, not just a perception problem. A problem that, unfortunately, does not begin and end with the likes of Nyjah Huston. If there wasn’t a very real problem at work, then why would we ever need such a product, or such a statement, in the first place…? There are other examples. Listening to a lot of uneducated imbeciles telling me that I’m too tall and far too fat to ride skateboards has been a constant throughout my life. It’s true: I’m ridiculously towering, and a lot bigger-boned than I probably should be. Thankfully though, I’m not predispositioned to acquiesce to the perceptions of uber-ignorant and over-opinionated assholes trying to tell me what I should or shouldn’t do. That’s a nice way of saying “Get Bent”, by the way. My stance has always been that if I wanna take my 300-lb ass out to go for a roll, well buddy, I’d like to see you try to stop me from doing so. Dumb dudes aren’t inclined to take me up on that, because they’re at least intelligent enough to realize that saying “no” to a hugely sarcastic steamroller probably isn’t the wisest of propositions. Being a giant of a fat skateboarder, then, definitely has its benefits. Yeah, my tre flips might be mob as hell, and getting my ass and my belly to properly stand up on a 5-0 isn’t quite as simple or easy as it used to be. But at least nobody picks on me for sucking at skating. Probably because at the end of the day, I can still knock you on your ass. And there’s not a damn thing that you’re gonna do about it, either. But my question is, who’s gonna stand up for everyone else? My buddy ain’t exactly a burly buffster that can drive over his detractors and knock ’em on their asses. He’s only about 5’5”, maybe 150 lbs wet, and half of that is probably tied up in his beard alone. He’s not the sarcastic steamroller that I am. And neither are most girls. Or the Tony Hawk geeklings of the world. And for that matter, neither is 99.999% of the population at large. I suppose that, given my giant-sized proportions, I could easily and happily play The Jerk, assume a fascist philosophy, and exclude anybody and everybody that I didn’t personally like (or even agree with) from my favorite spots and scenes. I could even enforce that fairly effectively, if I reallywanted to. I’d probably make a pretty brilliant bully, if I was inclined to be one. It might be nice to have spots all to myself and my crew once in a while without a zillion flailers, newbies, ego trippers, and skate-hipsters stinking the place up. Problem is, that mindset fundamentally goes against everything that I think skateboarding should be about. In my world, skateboarding should be better than that. And being a guy with a lot of personal pride, I’m also a lot better than that. I don’t like everybody in the skateboard world. And I certainly don’t agree with everybody, either. But, I’ll tell ya this: everybody and anybody is always welcome to come skate with me, anytime they want. Because that’s the spirit of the whole thing. That’s what skateboarding should be all about. Anyone that doesn’t agree with that, in my world, isn’t really a skateboarder at all. They’re just being dicks. The cool thing about being as cool as I am, is that I get a lot of genuine love in return from everybody. Even though I can’t skate for a damn, I still get invited to all sorts of swanky spots and scenes to skate, hang out, take it all in, and live it up. That’s kind of sweet, isn’t it…? Well, I think it is. If and when I actually stop and think about it for a few minutes, I’m forced to admit that my entire life has been the net sum of being invited, with open arms and smiling mugs, to all sorts of neat places for all kinds of cool stuff. I doubt that I would have ever had it so good, if I’d been a ginormous dick to everybody that I’d ever met. “Cool is a universal language”, that’s my mantra. And if you play the role, and play it well, then you’ll get to go really far in life. Kinda like I have, I guess. My buddy pointed something out today that I thought deserved to be noted. Encouragement is actually pretty damn easy to do. Hate, division, and exclusion, by comparison, seem like they would require an awful lot of time and energy to pull off. Being a walking bummer seems like it would be a lot of work. So, why in the hell do people do it…? Is it to protect their vested interests in being King Catcrap or something…? Maintaining an air of “legitimacy” among other hateful, divisive, and exclusionary jugheads? Maybe selling a few more units of product to a hopelessly jaded and cynical marketplace? I guess I just don’t get it. It all seems rather pointless to me. Lame never really got anybody anywhere, did it…? Not long-term, at least. Thankfully, The Industry has taken a few steps to combat this sort of horseshit. We do, after all, have those “Girl is not a four letter word” completes all over the place. They do promote girls contests and jams (finally), and there is (thankfully) a lot of ethnic and age diversityamongst our pro and sponsored amateur ranks as well. The Industry realizes that being less welcoming and inclusive usually means less hardgoods and softgoods sales to their target lifestyle market. The Industry, quite smartly, won’t tolerate sacrificing perfectly profitable sales to subsidize ingrained cultural idiocy. I’d like to see it taken a step further. Why can’t we have “Bullies are just dicks” ads, stickers, and completes…? That might be a swell seller. If anybody ever has the cajones to produce and market such a campaign, I’d get right behind it. I’m sure Mike would, too. Maybe if we could get Tony to wear a “Bullies are just dicks” shirt everywhere he went, then maybe somebody would start paying attention to the problem. I mean, who’s gonna argue with Tony…? Besides Duane..?Regardless of what The Industry does or doesn’t do, at the end of the day, when I die… and given my penchant for unhealthy livin’, that death probably isn’t all that far off… I’d really like the nine (or so) people that are actually gonna remember me, to remember me as a really swell guy that was always pretty cool to everybody. But especially to my fellow skaters. Skateboarding has given me so much, and filled my life story with so many epic memories, that I figure it’s the very least I could do in return. Skateboarding would probably be in a way better place if more skaters actually thought and felt the same way I do, and stood their ground on it. Bud Stratford is probably the only moron on the planet that’s actually made a “career” out of writing highly principled essays about skateboarding. If you wanna tell this quack what a jerk he is, feel free to flog him on Facebook.