by Coltyn Nelson
The silence of a calm suburban neighborhood is broken suddenly as a group of teens tear down the street, dressed in black, whooping and yelling as they skate recklessly past houses while concerned neighbors gaze out, seeking the source of the disturbance. “There goes some skater trash!” says a father to his young son as the group goes screaming by.
Skater Trash. In the eyes of an average citizen, the suit standing on the corner, a mother waiting for the bus, a homeless person, or a proud business owner… what do the people think of us? We mash through our cities and skate everything at will, focused only on the path ahead, the trick we’re trying, or our destination. We are oblivious to who owns it, who’s watching, and most importantly, what they think. Or, if we are aware, we don’t care.
Suppose we stop to question these people; the business owner who peers out his front window horrified to witness his brand new ledges as they’re lathered with candlewax, an Uber driver fed up with dodging skaters downtown, or an elderly woman who turns her nose up at a group trying 360 flips on the sidewalk, “don’t you boys have something better to be doing?”
A point was made to pull the opinions from these people about what they think of us skate degenerates, where and when did the lowly opinions of us Skater Trash form in their lives? Where does this hostility originate from? Was it the opinions of wise parents who turned them away from skating at a young age? Or maybe that neighbor with a skateboard that ended up being the town’s nuisance…
I began to record and write down what these people were saying to us, mainly in an effort to understand what they believed we ought to be doing instead, or because I wanted to remember forever their high and esteemed opinion of myself and my friends:
“You’re in the wrong motherf*cking neighborhood, white boy.” -Erratic homeless woman in West LA.
“You all just need to go and play around somewhere else.” -Homeowner guarding a vacant lot turned D.I.Y.
“You should be in college.” -Elderly female dog-walker
“I don’t care, you can come back here any day before two o’clock.” -Negligent security guard.
“Your parents must not have raised you right.” -Soccer mom offended by wax and nosegrinds.
“Is that a Thrasher sweater? I bet you have a subscription to HighTimes magazine.” -English Teacher
“When I was your boys age, I was flying airplanes for the AirForce!” -Veteran and church official.
“That’s what you decide to spend your day doing?” -Disgruntled old man who was confused as to why I would spend any amount of time trying to 5-0 stall a step outside of the gas station as I waited for my friends.
“Skater fag!” -Screamed 1000 times over by road warriors from the safety of a passing car.
The purpose for engaging with these skater-haters was not so that we could make up and find a solution, agreeing to only skate at the skatepark when they designated. No, it was simply to give them a chance to voice their opinions vocally so that they may hear how futile and silly their arguments sound as they try to persuade a group of teens and adults to stop playing on their skate-toys. This will never work.
Even when they have a point (which they often do), if it is voiced with hostility and disrespect, you’re likely to be met with that same discourse and maybe then some when dealing with skaters.
Things are getting better, though. Business owners aren’t so quick to condemn us to hell for skating their steps now that their niece is likely enrolled in the local skate-camp, and there are sure to be a lot less dads discouraging young ones from picking up a board nowadays, too. In fact, is is more likely that he’ll be the one skate-coaching his mini-me at the local park.
Skateboarding is more mainstream than it has ever been, gaining exposure in all corners of our society. As this happens, maybe the perception of us skaters will change for the better. But so what? The acceptance of society and the general public was never an end-goal for skating, nor something that skaters aspired to do when we picked up a skateboard.
“Two hundred years of American technology has unwittingly created a massive cement playground of unlimited potential. But it was the minds of 11 year olds that could see that potential.”
-Craig Stecyk, 1975
As Skater Trash or Olympic athletes, there will always be groms in the streets causing mayhem and waxing shit; jumping off buildings and skitching cars, getting harassed (and returning the favor), all while using the obstacles found in our cities as a catalyst for creative expression and entertainment. This attitude and approach will never die as long as the kids have a say in it.
Whether they know it or not, the future rests on the shoulders of that group of Skater Trash mashing down your street. The kids are alright!