Everything I have done since I was a child has in some way, shape or form been influenced by skateboarding. I've lived through many versions of skate culture, starting around 1976. People will often ask how skating has been so influential on me and why, at the age of 51, I still think of myself as a skateboarder even though I don't skate as often as I would like and I kinda suck these days. Quite simply, skateboarding has been there through every stage of my life.
As a child in the 70's, I started skating for the simplest of reasons — it was fun. As time wore on and I reached my teenage years, the world of skateboarding offered so much more than just entertainment. It was a cultural refuge for a kid who was mostly misunderstood and didn't agree with the norms of our everyday society. Skating provided me with a community of people that spoke my language and supported my ideas. This may not sound terrribley impressive, but for a 15 year old kid growing up in the suburbs of Long Island, NY finding people who supported you no matter what was crucial. Skateboarding didn't care what you liked. My friends who skated were open to all things and all people. This progressive thought was what I needed to survive the 80s.
Once I reached adolescence, I had questions about the world around me and popular culture in general. The world of skateboarding and the people I met through skating made me feel comfortable - as if I was understood at a time when most days I was wondering if anyone felt the way I felt about things. Even at that age, I was drawn to the independent nature of skateboarding and the freedom it provided. Something about it just made sense to me. I think it's safe to say that may be the experience for most skaters who have dedicated some part of their life to skating. I should clarify that being dedicated to skating doesn't mean you're the best and you aspire to be pro. It just means that you see the world through the lens of skateboarding, even if you don't skate often or sometimes even at all anymore. It's an attitude. A way of being. It's driving down the street and still seeing benches, curbs , banks and ledges as skateable.
I believe the reason people are drawn to skate has to do with their personality. Most of us were looking for something that challenged us creativley and helped us channel extra energy we had bottled up. Most of us didn't fit in with mainstream society and the unique people in the community of skateboarding felt like a refuge for us. Many of us were outcasts and often were even different from each other, but found a connection in skating. I have learned everything from other skaters — my personal style, knowledge of music, politics, art and literature have all been at least partially informed by the world of skateboarding. The undefined character trait that drew us all to skating is the secret. That innate view of things can and should also be applied to every area of your life. The same way we can see a bench as not for sitting but for skating, we can see a company as a vehicle for pushing change and not just making money. That unique personality trait can be used all day, every day. That's the greatest gift we have received from skating.
Skating gave me the strength and confidence to always trust myself. At its very core, the culture of skateboarding challenges the world around it. It encourages independent thought, rewards new ideas and welcomes change. I have operated in a similar way throughout my life, and whatever little bit of success I have had, I attribute directly to what I've learned from skating. And we haven't even addressed that a bunch of kids invented an entire subculture with no rules. Tricks were invented and named with no previous starting point. Physically there were literally no reference points. It is creativity at its most pure.
I owe everything to skateboarding. And for all of this, I give thanks. To those people I've met who taught me tricks, introduced me to music, opened my eyes to political realities, exposed me to art - I owe you everything. To those of you I've never met, but have inspired me for 46 years, I say thank you. For everyone today who continues to challenge what we think of as acceptable behavior, keep asking.