Recently on facebook with a skateboarding friend’s post the question of street skating versus park skating came up. A few skate nerds including me discussed what is better. My point was that pros or sponsored skaters should push the limits with street skating, but for an intermediate level skater like myself the parks make a lot more sense.
People that do not skate might not think this a big difference. With street skating you find ledges, stairs, rails, and other objects not designed for skating at all. This could be on public or private property, but from the creativity of the skaters they make use of it. When I was growing up in suburban Baltimore and then later in Toledo, there was no other alternative because the parks either didn’t exist or were inaccessible. I have great memories in Baltimore County of simply spending all day on York Road, a major road. We would skate the spots we knew, but always be searching for new spots. When I was older in Toledo with a car, I’d explore so many parts of Northwest Ohio that it always felt like an adventure. On the downside is that at 14 I was handcuffed for skating a parking garage, and would be kicked out of places for skating numerous times. I think there were summers that I’d get kicked out of somewhere every day. So I think street skating fuels creativity and a sense of adventure, but can also lead to conflicts with authority and an over the top sense of rebellion.
My friend’s recent post emphasized standards in skating, and that street skaters are better. Watching new skate videos is an experience, and they are dropping from heights, doing technical tricks, that are better than the mid 1990’s skating. Some of these recent films take years to film. Real’s Sense Day One, Flip’s Extremely Sorry, and Alien Workshop’s Mindfield all took over three years to film. In the 1990’s the tricks were the highlights, and they would show several shots of the same place. The famous skate spot in San Francisco ‘Embarcadero’ was overused in the footage back then. Great skating went down there, but the films now have a lot of variety. There are a lot of spots throughout the world in a skater’s part. It makes it interesting visually to watch, and if the parts were simply in parks, they would not be as good. I was drawn to street skating early on for the variety. I’ve also been scared of vert, but a ramp part looks repetitious. I keep reading that these big budget skate videos are less lucrative for the companies because they don’t sell as many copies because the internet makes it so easy for people to share without paying. I hope there will always be skate videos, and street skating well dominant the content of these.
Today I went to Chelsea Pier 62 park in Manhattan, and ended up mostly watching. This is a transition park, and it downright scares me. I realized my ability is limited, and I’m definitely not an all around skater. At age 34, at an intermediate level (I hope), I simply enjoy being able to skate. I’m mostly able to skate on weekends, and that’s not nearly enough to progress greatly, so I shouldn’t even worry about meeting the standards or what people perceive as the correct way to skate.
Let me tell you about yesterday, which to my mind was about perfect. A friend that lives nearby started back skating. He has a wife and young baby, so prefers to skate in the early morning, and he has a car. I learned about a new park in Far Rockaway I wanted to check out. Transit would take a long time, but by car we got there in a half hour. We skated from about 9:15 to 12:30 with only one break to get a bite to eat. By 12:30 it was packed with a lot of skaters, and people were amped for the park. It is a nice park with small transition elements and some serious ledge action. I’ve seen several of these parks open in New York City open, and all the skaters take these openings with pride and enthusiasm. Skaters are finally getting respect by the city building places to do it without the hassle of knowing where or where not to skate. At a skate park you can skate, and it’s great to have a sanctioned place for it. I landed and worked out a few things I was working on, and had a great session. My friend who just restarted has improved greatly, he did a roll in which means he could drop in no problem. The Far Rockaway skate park is a great addition to that area, and I think several young skaters will progress dramatically there.
Around two I was still itching to skate, so I texted another good skate friend, and we decided to meet at Flushing Meadows. On the 7 train, I saw a small army of teen skaters, and in another subway car saw two skaters about college age. When I got off the stop for the park the two college age skaters asked me how to get to the skate park. We started talking and they were from California. Over the next few hours my friend and I showed them the unisphere and the little bank to ledge spot within the larger Flushing Meadows Park. After awhile we walked them to the skate park, but that was too crowded so we went to skate at another area. The two California skaters that were good stayed at the skate park. It was cool to see skaters from California stoked on Flushing Meadows in Queens. My friend and I had a good session, and even though we did not skate the actual skate park, it was still in the safety of a park where general play in allowed, and in this point in time that includes skating. So even though the unisphere is a famous skate spot I don’t really think it’s street skating, because it’s in a park. Skating is allowed there, so to me this is such a great thing, to have to skate park and the larger park. I said it before but I think Flushing Meadows is some type of skate paradise. Towards the end of the day I sat and watched my friend skate, and listened to the Hispanic music from a soccer game. I just really like going there.
With skating an average of only on weekends, it is still important to have variety in what I skate. Smaller cities that only have one skate park, you might not get variety at the one local skate park. But in New York City, which is nearing 20 parks, going to different parks does the tricks. In Queens we have three of the best in New York City: Flushing Meadows, Astoria, and now Far Rockaway. The city is doing an amazing job with building these, and I’ll support it by utilizing them.
Lastly, even though I know my limitations, I do want to progress and get better. At parks you know you can practice whatever you want, as long as you want. With street skating you need to know where the spots are, or spend precious time looking for them, and worry about being kicked out. I used to skate at the bandshell spot in central park. A lot of people skate there, and they allow it, but there is so much foot traffic that it’s an accident waiting to happen. I saw one friend fall on a trick, and his board almost flew into a baby carriage. At skateparks everyone there is taking the mutual risk of a collision or injury, but someone walking in a park, sidewalk, or street should not be injured from a skateboard or skateboarder. On that note, I respect people’s property now, and skating a ledge late at night that is right by an apartment complex is a jerk move.
So if I need to be defined I am a park skater as opposed to a street skater. More importantly I am a skater.