By Valentina Diaz
V. Diaz, a journalist and passionate skateboarder is a full-time writer for SHIT®️ Magazine.
Since skateboarding was created by Californian surfers, the skaters of that time were always looking for places that could let them simulate a wave and so they found them, but our shared history comes from a huge variety of spots.
Our sport has been characterized by its own style, the freedom to go out and find a spot everywhere, as Tony Hawk says, look for places that are skateable. The documentary starts with the Baldy Pipe in the San Gabriel Mountains and it expresses how skateboarding created deep meaning from a mysterious place.
The urban places are important to us because of the films, photos, and the media that have been showing them since the beginning until now. All of this because when a great skater lands a trick in a difficult place and it is published for all to see, more skaters will do their best to get a film or photo there too.
The Baldy Pipe in San Gabriel Mountains, an iconic place to the entire history of skateboarding, is where VOX starts its documentary, definitely, you will enjoy seeing how they highlight the meaning of the skateboarding architecture and how special these places are for the entire community.
It’s a mission you gotta hike around, you’ve got to try to dodge anyone you see that might try to kick you out because there’s plenty of patrols there. And then there’s this legendary gap that sort of rite of passage, you have to jump over it if you’re going to be a true Baldy participant, I jumped the gap for the record”, said Tony Hawk about the Baldy Pipe in the VOX interview.
VOX continues to talk about lots of spots that gave the city to skateboarding, places that weren’t created for skateboarding, but thanks to these ones, skateboarding grew and so did its difficulty.
The street converts on an important skateboarding characteristic and it is a commitment for each skateboarder to meet any of these places and lands their best tricks there.
Looking For a Skateable Spot
Photo: Jeremy Thomas (Unsplash)
In 13 minutes, VOX showed the skateboarding history summarized in architecture like Viper Bowl, Hollywood High in California; Wallows in Hawaii, Paul Revere Junior, Kenter Canyon Elementary, Full Pipes from the Central Arizona Project, Love Bowl in Arizona desert; Nude Bowl in California desert.
Other special spots too like Big O in Montreal; MACBA, Barcelona; Southbank, London; Warschauer Benches, Berlin; Pier 7, Embarcadero and Wallenberg in San Francisco; El Toro, Orange County and Black Hubba in New York City.
Let's start from the beginning to Iain Borden, an architectural historian who expressed how skateboarding was changing through the years, the skaters didn't just enjoy an asphalt wave or pool, they started to look for things more difficult to do.
"Skaters started to do things that you couldn’t do on a surfboard, they do no-handed airs, they do inverted airs, they do rock-n-rolls, so there’s a cultural shift there as well”, said Borden analyzing the beginnings of skateboarding.
When there wasn’t anything to skate, because the skateboarding architecture like skateparks didn’t exist yet, the skateboarders took it on themselves to find the perfects spots that could be skateable, like the reservoir in the Hollywood Hills that they called the Viper Bowl, or Wallows in Hawaii, as Estelle Caswell said “a ditch that cuts through a neighborhood of O’ahu”.
In the 80s the idea to have their own spots close to their homes started to take form, that's why so many skaters saw a chance to build the simulation of a pipe but just a half. “With walls, that ambulated pools, but with flat sections, that became the half-pipe” added Tony Hawk.
Thanks to film production, they could enjoy a real half-pipe and were inspired to build more and more. Skateparks had started to being built too, with the goal of promoting skateboarding, however, the skaters continued exploring new places, even if those weren't built to skate.
Our history was signed by a lot of iconic moments that left us a special terminology, it might be, because of falls, hard tricks or how hard the spot is. Like the Natas Spin in the iconic Fire Hydrant in Venice, the Gonz Gap or an easy example; the Ollie trick.
It’s important to mention how magazine covers evolved through skateboarding tendencies. “If you look at skateboard magazine covers, from the 60s through to the 90s, one thing will quickly become clear, Skateboarding biggest spots, went from pools and pipes to street spots. Namely, giant stair sets and ledges”.
Giving Meaning to Public Spaces
Something special for the entire street skateboarding history was the high schools’ architecture where there was built a bunch of obstacles to skate on. Like Wallenberg, Hollywood High with its 16 stair set, El Toro with its 20 stair set and more.
In conclusion, the documentary shares thought-provoking ideas because of the meaning to land a trick after a bunch of tries. That is involved with that moment when you finally achieve the trick, only you and the filmer will know how hard it was and it's something that will make your heart thrill with joy.
Like the example of Chris Cole and his 360 flip at Wallenberg, not only the trick is incredible, but also his falls compilation. "So when somebody is in a video part and you see them falling so many times and then finally getting it, what matters as much is all the failed attempts as the final thing”, told Borden in the VOX's interview.
The film also remembers a place in southern California that became a parking zone but that before that was a special place to skate, it was called The Leap of Faith because of the legendary fall of Jamie Thomas doing a flight trick, he didn't land the trick but the place will always be remembered because of him.
“This place is where people have invested blood, sweat and tears, literally. People can get extremely impassioned about them, and feel a sense of loss when they go", added Borden, the historian who believes in the idea of perceiving a public space from a skateboarder point of view as something that makes a city special to us.
“Skateboarders, I think, are a constant reminder that our cities can be creative and rich places" with this phrase of Iain, the documentary close a beautiful analysis of what is important to us as a community and why we really love the street as the real skateboarding essence.
Read also: SHIT Podcast #4: Sergio Santoro