Skateboarding and Globalization

I remember sometime back in the early 2000′s when I noticed the first Nike advertisements in skate magazines. I was affronted because in my mind, mainstream sports had no place in skateboarding. Skating was something I latched onto to escape the world of jocks and competitiveness in general, so seeing Nike’s swooping check mark take up ad space in a Transworld shook me initially. Skating wasn’t supposed to be like that… But capitalism. You’ve seen the scenarios unfurl before your eyes: The corporate logo is strategically placed in a prominent location, much like a flag claiming territory. It’s a loaded, imperialistic kind of statement, and in the back of your mind you know the battle’s already over.

What I didn’t think about at the time, being so young, was that money was being invested into the industry, thus changing the general perception of skateboarding; it was no longer seen as a ragtag, adolescent pastime, but a lucrative business endeavor. To the corporate entities, I imagine this was similar to something like the California Gold Rush of 1849. All of a sudden, brands like Adidas and New Balance made forays into the skate industry, hopefully to mine a fortune out of it all. What I was noticing, though, was that a lot of the big pros at the time, like Paul Rodriquez, were getting on these teams. I thought these companies would repulse the skateboarding world, but the pros were quickly ditching their sponsors to join these bigger brands. I began to realize that this wasn’t ruining skateboarding, but actually empowering it.

The Adidas clip above is a perfect example of how corporations have propelled skating. I’m not one to effuse capitalistic dogma and I’m not trying to say skating has to have big business, but what’s happening here is globalization. Kids who learn to skate in small rural towns will see things like Adidas’s Away Days and be inspired to travel, to film, to design, maybe even to learn a language. I was like that. I remember being twelve and sitting in my bedroom looking at the photos of skaters doing what they do in foreign countries. Headlines like, “Toy Machine in Tokyo,” or “Concrete parks in Germany” thrilled me. Part of the fascination was the idea of traveling, that there are seemingly infinite places on the planet that I’ll never be acquainted with.

Here’s the thing: Skating is an art form in and of itself, but it also functions like a springboard into other art forms, and those can lead to other opportunities that extend beyond your social circle, your town, your state, or even your country. For me personally, skateboarding aroused a desire in me to see the world, and here I am now typing from Taiwan. Skateboarding essentially made me a world traveler, although I didn’t go to Asia and Europe for the purpose of skating. Still, it has a growing international flair that is uniting communities across the globe one push at a time, and that’s something bigger than all of us.