Skateboarding LA: Inside Professional Street Skateboarding

Skateboarding LA: Inside Professional Street Skateboarding

by Gregory J. Snyder


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Inside the complex and misunderstood world of professional street skateboarding

On a sunny Sunday in Los Angeles, a crew of skaters and videographers watch as one of them attempts to land a “heel flip” over a fire hydrant on a sidewalk in front of the Biltmore Hotel. A staff member of the hotel demands they leave and picks up his phone to call the police.Not only does the skater land the trick, but he does so quickly, and spares everyone the unwanted stress of having to deal with the cops. This is not an uncommon occurrence in skateboarding, which is illegal in most American cities and this interaction is just part of the process of being a professional street skater.

This is just one of Gregory Snyder’s experiences from eight years inside the world of professional street skateboarding: a highly refined, athletic and aesthetic pursuit, from which a large number of people profit. Skateboarding LA details the history of skateboarding, describes basic and complex tricks, tours some of LA's most famous spots, and provides an enthusiastic appreciation of this dangerous and creative practice.

Particularly concerned with public spaces, Snyder shows that skateboarding offers cities much more than petty vandalism and exaggerated claims of destruction. Rather, skateboarding draws highly talented young people from around the globe to skateboarding cities, building a diverse and wide-reaching community of skateboarders, filmmakers, photographers, writers, and entrepreneurs. Snyder also argues that as stewards of public plazas and parks, skateboarders deter homeless encampments and drug dealers. In one stunning case, skateboarders transformed the West LA Courthouse, with Nike’s assistance, into a skateable public space.

Through interviews with current and former professional skateboarders, Snyder vividly expresses their passion, dedication and creativity. Especially in relation to the city's architectural features—ledges, banks, gaps, stairs and handrails—they are constantly re-imagining and repurposing these urban spaces in order to perform their ever-increasingly difficult tricks.

For anyone interested in this dynamic and daunting activity, Skateboarding LA is an amazing ride.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814737910
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 12/05/2017
Series: Alternative Criminology , #10
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Gregory J. Snyder is Associate Professor of Sociology at Baruch College, City University of New York. He is the author of Graffiti Lives: Beyond the Tag in New York’s Urban Underground.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Prologue 1

Introduction 5

Professional Street Skateboarding 9

Subculture and Self-Preservation 12

Skateboarding and Urban Space 16

Overview 22

Part I Immersion

1 Skateboarding and the City 35

A Quick History of Skateboarding 35

Ollie, Nollie, Regular, Goofy: Trick Basics 40

Public Plazas: Filling the Voids 47

The "LA School" of Urban Sociology 51

Skateboarding Subculture 55

2 Skate Spots 63

Scanning the Terrain 63

The Ethos of Progression 70

Excavating the City: Historic Skate Spots 76

Skate and Appreciate 86

3 Skateboarding Basics: The Grammar of Skateboarding Tricks 89

Name That Trick: Stoner Plaza 89

Grammar Counts 90

Learning to Skateboard: Aaron Snyder 93

Troy's Story 100

Old Man Skateboarding 103

Part II The Professional World

4 Professional Street Skateboarding 109

The Skate Plaza at Stoner Park 109

Career Stoners 113

June 9, 2015 122

Shorty's and Darkstar: Aaron Snyder 124

Behind the Scenes at Street League Skateboarding 133

Street League Revisited: October 2, 2016 140

Skateboarding and the Subculture Career 144

The Street Not Taken: Robbie McKinley 148

5 The Production of Skateboarding Tricks 152

The Skater 153

The Photographer 155

The Filmer 156

RB Umali: The Filmer's Toolkit 158

The Skateboard Team 163

6 Skateboarding as a Career 166

The City and the Subculture Career 166

Subcultural Enclaves 168

The Model of Subculture Profitability 170

The Ethnographic Imagination 173

Subculture Media and the Digital Turn 175

Pay Scales 177

The Vulnerable Careerists 178

Part III Skate Spots

7 Skateboarding and Architecture 183

Skaters' Response to Defensive Design 183

Resisting Arrest 185

DIY Urban Design 186

DIY Skate Spots: Fixer Uppers 187

DIY Skate Spots: From the Ground Up 191

8 Landmark Achievements: The Creation of Subcultural Landmarks 194

Urban Public Space 195

Spot Progression 200

The Carlsbad Gap 202

Profitable Spots 205

Defensible Space 206

Part IV Resistance

9 Skateboard Activism 215

The Courthouse: A History 215

Decriminalizing the Courthouse 220

Legalized Skateboarding: Day 1 233

Courthouse 2.0, Day 2 234

Go Skateboarding Day 2015 240

10 Matt Gottwig: Circle Complete 243

Coda 249

Appendix: Interview with Alec Beck, Transworld Magazine 253

Glossary 259

Notes 263

References 273

Index 281

About the Author 297

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