Over the past fifteen weeks, skateboarding has taken off from city parks and streets and into lounges around the world, the Olympics leaving viewers mesmerized by the skill, athleticism and youth of the competitors.
It is above all a sport for young people. Kokona Hiraki of Japan, 12, and Sky Brown of Great Britain, 13, won silver and bronze medals in Wednesday’s park skateboard competition. The gold was won by a 19-year-old.
Meanwhile, in the women’s street skateboarding competition, held in Ariake Urban Sports Park, Momiji Nishiya won gold, at just 13 years old. Silver and bronze were won by 13 and 16 year old skaters.
Viewers got acquainted with the slang of skateboarding – backside ollie, noseslide, 50:50 grind, but most of all with the incredible spectacle of skateboards that seem to defy the laws of gravity.
Yet Tokyo competitors have always had to put up with “no-skating” signs next to the skate park where they compete, illustrating the intolerance many skateboarders feel towards them by city officials around the world.
Meanwhile in Dublin there is Temple Bar, where twice in the past 10 days hundreds of skateboarders have demonstrated outside the Temple Bar pub, following an altercation between pub security staff and two teenage skateboarders.
The protests were notable for a few points: the youthfulness of those present, some of whom were only 12 years old; their multinational profile; and their outfits – hoodies, back-to-back caps, baggy jeans and skateboards that they rocked the cobblestones of Temple Bar to make their point.
Their demands were modest. “Come out and say sorry,” they chanted in unison. It was, as some people have observed on social media, the most polite protest you can see. So far there has been no apology or explanation from the pub.
For many who gathered, it was not the details of the incident itself that mattered, but rather a widespread grievance that they are misunderstood: “All we do is take care of ourselves. of ours. Neither of us would hurt anyone. All we want to do is get this round and move on, ”said one of them.
Many complain that skateboarders are viewed with suspicion by the wider community based on the age-old observation that teens hanging out in city parks shouldn’t be doing anything right.
Evan Fogarty (24), who organized the protests, says they showed the best of the skateboarding community. Skateboarders can seem intimidating, he says: “[But] if they ever stopped children and talked to them, you would find that they are all young people who talk well.
Skateboarding has been around Ireland since the 1970s. “Skateboarding is not a childish craze or whim, although thousands of Irish children will be playing it after Christmas,” Nell McCafferty wrote in The Irish Times in 1977.
Nevertheless, it was not until 2006 before Ireland got its first skate park at Bushy Park in Terenure. Today, there are around 85, according to Clive Rowan, who has run a skateboard shop in Dublin for 43 years.
He created Clive’s on Hill Street in Dublin in 1978. A 2014 documentary, Hill Street, chronicling the beginnings of skateboarding in 1980s Ireland, starred Tony Hawk, the world’s most famous skateboarder.
Rowan recalls that many thought Dublin City Council was wasting money in Bushy Park on a “passing fad that will be gone in a month”. Yet it is still there, still in use.
Every Irish town should have a skate park, he says. Cities should have indoor parks to deal with inclement weather. It’s a relatively small investment for a big return, he says.
“For a lot of skaters, it’s a way out of the mundane,” he says. “Life can be a bit boring. It gives them something to do, improves their body and mind, and has saved many young people from other things.
The Tokyo Olympics demonstrated that skateboards are not “a child’s toy. It gave us respectability and credibility with the general public, ”Rowan said.
What has changed over the years since? Half of his clients are now girls, he says. The young women shone with their presence at the Temple Bar demonstration.
One of them, Aoife Kehoe (17), says she started skateboarding six months ago during the pandemic because it is, she says, a relatively safe and fun thing to do. do for her.
“Little by little, you see more girls coming to the parks. This is when you see people who are like you and who are like you doing what you want to do. There is an influx of even more women now, ”she said.
“I hope that due to the exposure of women’s skateboarding at the Olympics, it will lead to an even greater influx of women,” Kehoe said.
It’s not even a joke like I’m probably the only skateboarder in this whole fucking county, more or less
Social media and YouTube have helped give Irish skateboarders a profile far beyond Ireland. The quintessential Irish skateboarder Jamie Griffin, originally from Donegal but based in London, has 350,000 followers on Instagram.
In a recent interview, he lamented the lack of skating facilities in rural Ireland and said of Donegal: “It’s not even a joke like I’m probably the only skater in all this fucking county, more or less. “
Another well-known Irish skateboarder is Davey Murphy from Cork, who first came to the public eye when a video showing him skating on Patrick’s Hill, one of the city’s steepest hills, has gone viral.
Now 20, he became a professional skateboarder in the United States until an Achilles tendon injury reduced his prospects. Champion of all Ireland at 15, he hopes to participate in the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024: “I hope physically and mentally to be ready to compete for Ireland,” he said.
He secured sponsorship deals in the United States through video footage he posted online. “I wouldn’t have been discovered otherwise,” he admits.
Competitive skaters are distinguished by their consistency, he explains, repeating the same action until they are successful and can post it on Instagram.
Too many skate parks, he says, are used by drug addicts or mothers with young children, none of which has its place. All skaters have the same complaints, while all equally agree on the need for indoor venues.
Skateboarders who agreed to meet The Irish Times in Dublin’s Cork Street skate park were able to do a few tricks before the rain fell and sent them scurrying for cover.
The result illustrated one of their most consistent demands with the state and local communities. Skaters need dry weather or indoor venues. Skateboarding was invented in California for a reason.
In Cork Street, Charlie Carroll (26) started skateboarding 2.5 years ago relatively late in life, as he was looking for something to do that didn’t involve going to the pub. Now he believes that this is a common denominator that can unite everyone.
During the lockdown, it was one of the few safe things to do. “It’s great for your physical and mental well-being. It is something to look forward to. There is a feeling of progress with it. It really is like the best video game, except it’s in life.