“I consider skateboarding an art form, a lifestyle and a sport. ‘Action sport’ would be the least offensive categorization.”
There is no denying that skateboarding is a sport, as it’s constantly referenced as an “action” or “extreme” sport. There is also no doubt in anyone’s minds that it’s a lifestyle. Those who don’t skate might not understand it, but they usually acknowledge that skateboarders have a way of living that’s all their own.
But why is skateboarding an art form? Let’s get into it.
There are no rules. What other sport or physical activity can you say that about? You can do anything you want, anywhere you want, and you can do it at any time of the day. There is no coach, no instructor, no boss. You are in complete control. Even in competitions, you are usually allowed to do what you want.
You Develop Your Own Style, Your Own Brand
No two people kickflip exactly the same. No two people boardslide exactly the same. Just as in traditional forms of art, you create your own style. But skateboarding allows you to take this individuality much further than painting or drawing. Skateboarding allows you to make your own brand. You get to dress however you like, you get to skate whatever you want, trick selection is up to you, and the way you do those tricks is all your own. This is individuality at its best.
The World Is Your Canvas
You have to have a court, or at least a hoop, to play basketball. You have to have a rink to play hockey. But skateboarding is different. Skateboarding requires nothing. Some sort of sturdy surface is all you need. Concrete, asphalt, wood. Almost anything will do. The world is yours to skate, and to create. Stairs, ledges, pools, curbs. If you can name it, you can probably skate it.
When you’re sketching a picture, you can only use the tip of the pencil where the lead is. Same goes for most other mediums in traditional art. But your skateboard is different. You can use all of it. The nose, the tail, the trucks. Take a page out of Rodney Mullen’s book and flip it upside down or on it’s side. Grab Indy, grab Melon, grab it with two hands. Flip it, shove it, wrap it around your foot. And then start combining, kickflip boardslide. Kickflip boardslide big-spin out. Now multiply every trick combination by every skate-able object in the world. The number is too big for your calculator… and it’s constantly getting bigger. It doesn’t end.
Thinking of all the skateboarding videos you’ve ever watched, whether it’s Flip’s “Sorry”, Birdhouse’s “The End”, or any video from YouTube or Instagram. How often do you see the same trick repeated at the same spot? Probably not often. In skateboarding, there is a striving to be original. There is a hunger for it. Skateboarders constantly ask themselves “What can I do here that people haven’t seen before?”
In classic forms of art, this originality is sometimes hard to find. Drawing a Disney Princess that looks like a Disney Princess? That’s nice, not too original though. An art class that teaches everyone to paint the same picture? How is that even art? In skating, it’s your skateboard and your art. Skateboarding embodies originality. And it brings it out of us.
Make Your Own Way
Maybe your skatepark doesn’t have the kind of transitions you like to skate. Maybe there’s a serious lack of ledges in your town. So what can you do about it? You build your own quarter pipe. You build your own ledge. Stack some pieces of plywood and you’ve got a manual pad. If you can’t find it, you can make it. Skateboarders have proven to be some of the most resourceful people. They build ramps that amaze those who don’t even skate. They use all sorts of different materials. Parking blocks, construction cones, wooden pallets, broken refrigerators. Skaters will use anything and everything. And then they’ll take it apart and build something new. Skating preaches creativity even when you’re not standing on a board.
There is no better way to find out who you are than skateboarding. Almost everyone will discover that they can take slams better than they thought they could. More importantly, they’ll discover that they’re willing to get back up and try it again. They’ll also learn that they have a thirst for creativity. Skateboarding doesn’t just accept your style, it encourages it. You can’t say that about other sports. If you look at football or basketball, you do drills meant to keep you in line. But not in skateboarding. This is what sets it apart. This is what makes it a form of art.
A Different View of the Physical World
Many visual artists see the world in a way that others can’t. They notice colors and shapes and textures where others might not. Skateboarding is the same way. You see things that others miss. Stairs, rails, and planters all stand out. You notice architecture. You see angles. You ask yourself “What can be done here?” When you start to skateboard, you begin to recognize the true beauty of your environment.
Any Size, Any Scale
Sometimes conceptual and graphic artists work on a grander scale. Skateboarding can be done the same way. Mega Ramps, Full Pipes, 20 Stair handrails. Going big can garner attention and recognition, but significance doesn’t rely on size. Our art, like other arts, can also be done in a much smaller scheme. Compare Bob Burnquist to Rodney Mullen. Both are considered amongst the greatest and most influential skateboarders of all time, but they do their art in much different settings. Burnquist goes huge with mega ramps and helicopter drops, while Mullen is a technical wizard with mind-blowing combinations on manual pads, ledges, and flat ground. Both draw considerable awe and amazement.
Ultimate Self Expression
Skateboarding is an extension of yourself. It brings out your creative abilities and style. It emphasizes individuality. It makes you see the world in a whole new light and then gives you the freedom to practice your art on any part of it. Skateboarding is art, without confinement. Your skateboard is your brush, but you can use every part of it, not just the tip. You’ll never run out of paper, because the world is your canvas. The paint comes from within you. An ever-expanding pallete of tricks, applied using your own style.
So go grab your board and shred your canvas to pieces!