Local Legends: Tales from the Skate park
Skating has been a popular subculture for decades now, but what was then considered an alternative and fringe pastime is more relevant than ever in 2018. Skateboarders were once just the relaxed bros who were into the mechanics of the sport. Now, the idea of the skater has evolved into a cultural symbol. It is the preferred activity among the artisitc youth. They use it as a physical manifestation of or break from the art that they pursue on a regular basis. Skateboarding is art, cinema, fashion, and music. Skateboarding is an important symbol that is binding this generation of creatives together. It is easy to think that kids like these are just in the artistic epicenters of the country, like New York or Los Angeles. In Detroit, we do skate here, and we do it our way. It has tied seamlessly into the fabric of the vibrant cultural scene burgeoning around here, and is only increasing in relevance. I hung out with and talked to 4 of our friends who are heavily involved in the Detroit skate scene, and are part of the group that is making skateboarding pertinent in the city. This is what they had to say:
Describe what the skate culture/scene is like around Detroit/Metro Detroit
Max: Around Detroit there’s a lot of people who skate at Hart Plaza, I know Hartlines host the Red Bull competitions & there’s just always stuff going on. I know there was the Tony Hawk park in downtown but they removed it recently, so the lack of places really pushes people to skate in the streets.
Xay: There’s a lot of local spots that people go to like ‘The Wig’ which is more of a DIY spot by the art park. A lot of people skate around Wayne too.
Alex: Skating is pretty popular around here, a lot of the skaters you see around are also ‘art kids.’
Nate: The skate scene is really hard to describe when you’re immersed in it yourself. People in the area will find a spot and build it themselves, move pieces of concrete and stuff in it, like ‘The Wig.’
How does it compare with other skaters in different parts of the country like: New York or California?
M: The warmer cultures definitely have more places to skate and better weather year round. In Michigan, we get limited to indoor parks a lot.
X: It’s more seasonal here. When it gets cold it gets harder to skate in winter coats. When I lived in Texas I was able to skate all year round.
A: Its just more popular in places like that versus here.
The beginnings - What led you to pick up skateboarding?
M: Video games like Tony Hawk Pro Skater and like watching the x-games when I was younger. I started in 4th or 5th grade, I had some friends who skated too.
X: I got my first board in 4th grade, it was one of the shitty plastic Walmart boards. I was inspired through skateboarding in video games like Tony Hawk Underground.
A: It just looked fun, the skaters were always the cool kids.
N: A friend of mine in middle school skated & it’s not competitive. It’s more self-rewarding than like football or something.
Skating goes beyond just riding around on a board - What are some common things that you see other skates indulge in that bind them together?
A: (laughs), Things like weed, beer, music, art & like graffiti. Skaters are usually pretty crafty people, though.
N: A lot of them are into photography too, but they’re often pretty quiet people.
X: I’m not very trick oriented but I really enjoy the feel of riding, almost like you’re flying and I feel that’s something we all have in common. We all relate to that feeling of trying a trick over and over again and the feeling when you finally get it, so that really brings people together.
When you talk about skating, do you see it as primarily a hobby or do you look for something more out of it?
M: It’s just a hobby for me. And a mode of transportation.
X: A hobby, I did have aspirations when I was younger watching people. Later I wanted to be more of a skate photographer, but I always knew I wanted it to be a part of my life.
A: It’s like a craft you really wanna get good at.
N: I see it as a lifestyle, not really a sport.
What continues to make you want to skate - Do you ever see yourself putting the board down for good?
M: My ankles did start to get pretty beat up, so that led to a decline in my skating. I plan on skating until I’m about 40 or 50 and having ramps in my house and a backyard park.
X: Maybe one day I’ll stop, when I physically can’t continue anymore. When I get older I want to cruise around and still have fun. You still sometimes see older people around at the skate parks.
A: I’ll probably still cruise around if I can’t do tricks anymore
N: I don’t think I’d ever stop, maybe if I can’t walk anymore, I will. But with skating, it’s a lot of consistency and getting better. There’s a lot of just muscle memory you never lose.
A: And when you hang out with people who skate, there’s never any pressure to be good at anything. You could be really good or terrible and like no one really cares.
Where are some of your favorite spots in Detroit/Metro Detroit to skate around?
M: Downtown was recently re-paved so the roads are really smooth out there. There’s some cool places by Hart Plaza, but downtown is my favorite.
X: I like the parking garage at Oakland University you can just take the elevator all the way up and bomb down it. I like Wayne State’s campus, too.
N: The Eastern Market ledges, Hart Plaza, The Wig and just the streets.
I know it’s common for skaters to pick up other hobbies that are kind of similar to skating, have you tried any other sports?
N: They all kind of go hand-and-hand with skating, I rode BMX before I started skating.
M: I ride BMX, I’ve tried surfing and I’ve even scootered a little. I’d say skating is way harder than all of those though.
X: I always wanted to try snowboarding, we had a snow club in middle school but it was too expensive for me. I tried BMXing, it’s just as difficult. I wanted to try some others, but I just never got the chance.”
A: I started snowboarding around the same time I started skating, or even a little before.
In-terms of location, do you prefer street or park skating?
M: Street skating, you can get more creative.
X: The coolest stuff is in the streets, turning nothing into something.
N: Street skating allows you to look at different architecture as a new skate spot, you start to think of the tricks that you can do there. Some people may just see like a hand rail and you could see a spot to try some new tricks.
A: It’s also free.
Interview and Photos by: Rachel Pitts