Remember that Simpsons episode where the suits are trying to think up a new summer holiday to sell greeting cards, presents and “assorted gougables”? I had a nice cynical chuckle over it at the time, until a couple years later when I heard about Sweetest Day, basically Valentine’s Day 2 in October invented by some candy company fat-cat types who insist they didn’t make it up. Hallmark still pushes it with cards and shit, but somehow it has yet to catch on, with the bizarre exception of Detroit I guess.
To the IASC’s credit they have not, as far as I can tell, tried to pretend that Go Skateboarding Day isn’t their creation. Although maybe I’m just not looking hard enough. It’s hard to imagine that designating the first day of summer for skating moves a significant number of boards/shoes/skate-related gougables, but then again, I’m out here in the peanut gallery. Somebody at Active or CCS hit me up if the Nike 6.0s start flying out of the warehouse.
No, as far as I can tell it’s more to raise skateboarding’s profile, ostensibly to build support for building parks and to let the squares know “we’re out here.” Which makes sense, I guess. Skateboarding is still beating the pants off other sports in terms of growth, and despite the damnedest efforts of ESPN and the Dew, there’s still no world series of skateboarding for all those Sheckler-foam-hand-wearing fans to tune in every year.
But skating isn’t baseball, parks get boring, and most other places skateboarding remains illegal. Having come of age in the days when Tony Hawk was sleeping in his Lexus, generally I’m a fan of keeping it that way, and gatherings of thousands of people, who commence to cheer, wave their illicit instruments and then put them to use isn’t how you keep a low profile. (Unless you’re in Palestine on New Year’s Eve.) It kind of reminds me of those weed legalization rallies, where all the hippies come out to the park, blaze while the cops sort of look the other way, then march to the capitol for a couple fiery speeches. Then everybody goes home and watches their back for the next 364 days. Keep the faith, Willie.
So in a way I’m with the people who poo-poo “Wild in the Streets” and the related shindigs that went down around the world today. Mobs of skaters barging spots and stopping traffic gets us noticed, but probably not in any way that’s positive from the squares’ viewpoint, and may well serve the agenda of the “build a park and write tickets everywhere else” approach to regulating skateboards.
However. I’ve been in on one of these Emerica events, and it was a pretty amazing experience. The rah-rah fist-pumping stuff beforehand was pretty whatever, but once the crowd broke for the street it was crazy to hear hundreds of wheels hitting the ground at once, charging down a major road, people sitting in their cars or standing on the sidewalk just staring. Trying tricks with people skating four feet in front of you and four feet behind inevitably leads to pile-ups and it turns into everyone bombing down the street at full speed, and slowing to a cruise when people start getting tired. It’s a pretty unique situation to have your usual posse on one side and have a dude you’ve seen in magazines pushing on the other side, and thousands of skateboarders hitting a spot, chilling, skating, and moving on, all together… all that isn’t something you’d ever see with, say, baseball. That day took me back to the first big demo I ever went to, how wide-eyed and awe-struck I was to see so many skateboarders in one place, and the reckless camaraderie when it turned into a big free-for-all session afterwards.
Over the next few days I’m sure we’ll hear all about overzealous cops, poor choices of venue and various renditions of “don’t taze me bro,” but hopefully Go Skateboarding Day will amount to something more than soft news features on local TV stations, speechifying and funding for a few pre-fab parks. Maybe it’ll bump up sales for some real skate shops, some kids will get to skate with their favorite pros and maybe–just maybe–it will warm the hearts of bitter old skaters such as myself. Nah, never happen.
By the way the photo above is from Alex Cave.