Another scene critique from Tommy Hook
Like many of you, at one point longboarding was my life, or at least a large part of it. Weekends were defined by the trips I took to skate roads that the majority of the population wouldn’t think twice about. Annual holidays were spent camping on flooded campsites with the stench of tired skaters, booze and campfires in the air. Searching for new media was as essential to my day as the 2 mile mostly downhill commute. Longboarding in a sense was the vibe I’d started to miss from skateboarding, as a sport in its adolescence it was exciting to just be around to see boundaries being pushed almost constantly. What the f*** happened?
I’d always skated. Ever since I first stepped foot on a board at 5, and subsequently gained my first set of stitches seconds later, I’ve known it was something that I wanted to do, something that I loved. As with many things over the years, the passion has died down occasionally, but has never ceased to spark again. It was during one of these lulls that I first saw downhill on the internet, and as luck would have it the university I was headed to had a longboard club. I bombed hills the best I could with my street set up and super hard spitfires and bought a “proper” board for an extortionate price as soon as my student loan came in.
From here on I was hooked. I skated alone until I met guys who were into racing. I still remember learning my first coleman, my first >30mph run, and the first trip abroad with these guys. It was all sketchy and DIY and low profile for the first couple of years, just like I’d remembered skateboarding before the influx of shit like Nike SB. It was perfect. It was my ride home from university. It became my reason to travel and meet new people. It was my coping mechanism when I lost a child.
I started to get decent (I’d never use the word good to describe my own skating). Competitions were entered, dawn raids started happening, and sponsorships were talked about on occasion, although never sought out. I started to become involved with The Industry™. The community surrounding longboarding grew and grew, and I started to realise the inordinate amount of bitching and backstabbing taking place. All of a sudden it wasn’t about being in it for yourself but chasing sponsorship deals from even the smallest of start-ups, simultaneously shitting on anything that didn’t conform to the current popular view of what longboarding is.
“Surely this could be offset,” I thought. I became involved with events, desperately clinging to the idea that if we could put in enough work at a grassroots level, the positivity could outweigh the negativity. Instead I saw a lot of these events become vehicles for the egos driving the decline: Charity events being overshadowed by drama en route, the insane behaviour of sponsors, or tantrums thrown by experienced riders – the kind of stuff that stokes the fire, but never really gets spoken about except in private messages or hushed conversations in the pub.
It legitimised behaviour from kids demanding that they be sponsored, or have a certain type of event, or just plain wanted something new, yet never contributing through attendance or custom. At the same time you had riders deciding they’d paid their dues because they’d been around that bit longer, being just as unhelpful. Innovation and small enterprise was lauded but never supported by the people shouting about it. The whole thing – the scene, the sport, the “community” smacked of hypocrisy and self righteousness.
A ray of hope came as I began to think about leaving it all behind. Crews like UK Sketch openly taking the piss out of the seriousness portrayed by other longboarders, revelling in the fact that they were shit (yet also brilliant at the same time), slamming Polish beers and then stacking it themselves. It began to feel like skateboarding again, and not some prissy, chino wearing imposter.
In the end, crews like this didn’t change things spectacularly, but they did offer a break from the never ending phoney hype machine. They quietly disbanded, or broke up (or did they) when they realised that it wasn’t even worth taking the mick out of those that decided to take things too seriously. They quietly rode off into the sunset and decided to not give a shit elsewhere.
And that’s the conclusion I’ve come to as well. I can no longer be bothered keeping track of the videos, or the team news, or which wheel now comes in which duro. I don’t want any of your gossip or drama, and no, I won’t be attending your events. This is my official notice, effective immediately. I quit.
I’ll still be bombing hills, mucking in with fun projects on the lowdown and generally doing my own thing on a plank of wood with four wheels, but for now this scene can go f*** itself. Toodles.