New Research Considers Skateboarding an Important Mode of Transportation

As I began skateboarding to work, I found that I wasn’t allowed to skateboard on the sidewalks, the streets or the newly constructed Riverwalk in the City of Tampa. Skateboarding was pretty much banned in the city except for the designated Skate Park that Tampa built solely as consolation. The first offense? A warning. But the second offense? A fine designed to teach you the error of your ways.

That didn’t stop me, nor many of the skaters whom have hopped on a board to skate the city.

However that may be changing….

Now, Fang, a transportation researcher, has made skateboarding a focus of his studies. In his latest paper, published Monday in the journal Transportation, Fang shows how non-motorized transit like skateboards, rollerblades, and ol’ fashioned scooters are already moving large numbers of people — and have the power to do a whole lot more.

When interviewing members of the skater community at UC Davis, he found that skateboards filled a big gap in transportation, smack dab between walking and biking. Basically, skateboards can go almost as fast as a bike on certain terrains. But they’re easier than a bike to store on a jam-packed commuter bus or while at work or school during the day.

That portability makes them an ideal remedy for what urban planners call the the ‘last mile problem’. Since people are unwilling to use public transportation if it means they have to walk a mile to and from the main hubs, other forms of transportation need to be there to cover that final mile more quickly. That could mean biking, hopping on a streetcar, or skateboarding.

But that doesn’t mean skateboarding is popular with police or urban planners.

Most cities in the United States ban skateboards because they don’t like recreational skaters and aren’t even aware skateboarding commuters exist, Fang says. As a result, American skateboarders carry a lot of cultural baggage.

For starters, skateboarding is typically seen as a kid’s activity. While adults see the built environment as something to preserve, teens see sidewalks, park benches, and front stoops as the raw materials for epic stunts. “In most cases, [cities] don’t come out and say why there’s skateboarding regulations,” Fang says. “[But] they talk about property damage or safety… [And] then you get some that are generalizations of skateboarders themselves.” In some cities, Fang says, policy makers have even advocated for skateboard regulations because boarders were reportedly rude to senior citizens — an unusual motivation for urban planning.

Though skateboarding certainly has its roots in recreation, statistics suggest it’s grown beyond its original purpose. Of the 300 combined billion miles people travel in California each year, Fang’s study reports, 48 million of them involved non-motorized vehicles like skateboards. That’s an extremely small piece of an overwhelming pie, but it’s still a ton of miles traveled.

And it’s not just limited to the Golden State: Portland, Oregon, is the biggest city in the United States to embrace skating as part of daily life. The city is rife with bona fide skateboarding commuters and dedicated “skate routes” weaving through downtown.

While it may sound like another Portlandia joke — the perfect anecdote from a city where “young people go to retire” — Fang says more communities should get on board with this eco-friendly mode of transit.

“Skateboarding provides a unique level of convenience that you don’t get with walking or bicycling,” he says. It allows people to go faster than walking, with none of the inconvenience of storing a bike while on the train or at work for the day.

For all its charms, convincing commuters to rely on skateboards won’t be easy. Many people continue to look down on skateboarders and cities policy banning boards get in the way. Plus, in many cities where skateboard travel isn’t well-integrated into urban design, gliding down a street dominated by cars can be dangerous.

But Fang isn’t discouraged. “It probably won’t become as popular as conventional modes of travel,” he says, “but I could see it growing a bit from where it is now.” He sees particular opportunities in places with lots of flat terrain, plenty of bike lanes, and areas with good transit service where people can use skateboards to go that last little bit of the way home. As cities continue to transform in the 21st century, they should open up lots more places like that, setting the stage for a skateboarding renaissance.

And besides, Fang says, skateboarding is just really fun — even if one’s skateboarding chops aren’t exactly up to snuff, a category Fang says he falls into. “[I skate] a little bit and poorly,” he says. “When I was still at my old school, skateboarding was prohibited, so I did it under the cover of darkness.”

If Fang is right, skateboarding might soon be ready to step out of that darkness and into the limelight.

Skateboarding & Surfing Are Close to Becoming Olympic Sports

The International Olympic Committee has announced that it is considering adding five additional sports to the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan, including skateboarding and surfing. The two extreme sports are part of a shortlist that included baseball/softball, karate and sport climbing. Skateboarding would potentially feature men’s and women’s events in both vert and street (or park) styles.

The International Skateboarding Federation has come out in strong support of the decision and has offered its assistance with organizing and managing the competitions in 2020. ISF President Gary Ream was quoted as saying the following:

Today’s announcement by Tokyo 2020 marks an important milestone in skateboarding’s short Olympic history which started with a first Olympic experience at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing in summer 2014. This decision recognizes the growth and popularity of skateboarding, and we appreciate that the IOC has made it possible for new sports to be added to the Games. The ISF and the skateboarding community are ready, equipped and well positioned to help make the first Olympic appearance of skateboarding an amazing one for skaters and fans alike.

Legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk added:

It is exciting that skateboarding could possibly be included in the Olympics. This is not only a great opportunity for our sport and the skaters, but also for the Games. It is now more important than ever to preserve the unique culture of skateboarding which makes our sport so appealing and relevant.

The potential inclusion of these events would mark an ascendance from the underground to the mainstream for extreme sports as a whole; from the IOC’s side, these sports “offer a key focus on youth, which is at the heart of the Games vision for Tokyo” in 2020.

The official final decision will be made during the committee’s session in early August, but if the press it to be believed, it appears to be a shoo-in for both extreme sports. What effect do you think their inclusion will have — other than adding 18 events and upwards for 400 athletes to the mix?

This Photographer Set Out To Prove Skateboarding’s Global Reach

Skateboarding has gone global. Marble ledges, untouched plazas and lenient security in China and Russia beckon pros. Skatistan in Afghanistan encourages kids, girls specifically, to utilize a skateboard as a tool for empowerment. The construction of skateparks and donated boards in South America and Africa are spreading the sport like wildfire.

Photographer Jonathan Mehring knows all of this better than anyone. His new book, Skate the World, a collab with National Geographic and Levi’s, showcases the sport’s worldwide reach. He focuses on skate spots both legendary and secret and shows that skating has no boundaries (besides a little gravity).

We recently got on the phone with Jonathan to discuss his new book, how it came about, and what it’s like to search your own name at a Barnes & Noble help desk.

SKATE THE WORLD PERMITTED USE: This image(s) may be downloaded or is otherwise provided at no charge for one-time use for coverage or promotion of National Geographic SKATE THE WORLD Photographing One World of Skateboarding. Copying, distribution, archiving, sublicensing, sale, or resale of the images is prohibited. Mandatory usage requirements: (please note: you may select up to seven (7) images from this selection online use and four (4) images for print.)  1. Include photo credit and caption as it appears on this sheet with each image 2. Show the cover of SKATE THE WORLD 3. Mention that the images are from SKATE THE WORLD DEFAULT: Failure to comply with the prohibitions and requirements set forth above will obligate the individual or entity receiving this image to pay a fee determined by National Geographic.  PAGE 79 Photo by Jonathan Mehring GUY MARIANO ~ GRAN CANARIA, CANARY ISLANDS, SPAIN Trick: Switch crooked grind

How did this all come together?

I had a conversation with Nat Geo in 2009. I had a meeting there after the subject of possibly doing a book came up at a Christmas party at my parents’ house. They’re family friends with a book editor from Nat Geo — that was totally random. At the time, I had no idea she was a book editor, I thought she was just one of my parents’ friends. But at the party we started talking and she was asking a lot about what I was doing. She saw the initial promise and opportunity.

So, that Spring in 09′ I went down to Nat Geo for a meeting and it went really well — I thought it went really well. Everyone seemed excited about the work but there was no real direction at that point. There also may have been some resistance from the business side of things…

Anyway, it just wasn’t there so it got put on the back burner. Susan and I kept talking every six months or so. I was keeping her in the loop. And while I continued doing magazine assignments I had some sort of book in the back of my mind so I kind of shot differently from then on. I didn’t know exactly what I was working toward but I knew there was something there.

So you’ve been working on this thing for a while?

You could say I’ve been working on the book since then [2009]. But specifically this last year, for sure. Maybe year and a half.

When you say you were shooting differently, what changed?

I started shooting a lot more of the general scene. People hanging out, what’s going on other than just the trick. So like, I started caring about other stuff. The kids we met, how we were traveling along, people grabbing at a board to try it out. Before I would just go home and put the camera down once the trick was landed. Early on all I cared about was the tricks.

Eventually I kind of got interested in the culture and lifestyle that happened with everything else. And as it turns out that has its own appeal to the general audience.

For someone not familiar with skating, that culture and those lifestyle shots are pretty interesting.

Most people who don’t skate could care less about the tricks (laughing).

A lot of the work in the book does have a different aesthetic than your typical skateboard mag or a video.

Most of the shots in the book were taken between 2008 and now. That’s really when I kind of had that stylistic change. There are one or two shots from 03′, maybe 04′ — but 2008 was when that conscious shift kind of happened. Maybe I just found my groove at that point. It’s hard to describe exactly what the shift was but it stuck.

In the last five or six years skating has been legitimized. Your book showcases how skateboarding is a global thing now and not just an America thing…

or California thing

Exactly, your book is a big part of that. Skating isn’t necessarily the counter-culture sport that it used to be. It’s becoming globally acceptable.

I guess the book was written in a way I think that skaters will enjoy. But people who don’t know about skating or might think one way about it — I hope that after they read it they’ll come away with a different perspective. If it’s their first introduction, if people think they know about skating, I hope this book shows them there’s more to it.

How did Levi’s get involved?

I was really pushing and Nat Geo was already on board except they needed me to find a sponsor. No one on the photo side was staff for them, so no retainers were involved. That being the case, they asked that I find someone to supplement the cost… that came up a few years ago.

Were you freaking out at that point? Nat Geo was on board, which is huge but you need to front the bill if you couldn’t find a sponsor.

I reached out to a few companies and didn’t really get any response at all. I was kind of playing the waiting game. Then Levi’s came up and I thought, “they don’t have a team, they’re building their skate program, this could be perfect.”

They wanted to promote skating but with no team they were just out to promote skating in general, it was a great fit.

I thought that was an interesting pairing.

Yeah, they’re kind of taking this philanthropic angle and guys don’t really know what to make of it (laughing). Guys that have been in the industry forever and are used to doing things their way are like, “Huh?” but people are accepting them now.

Anyway, I had a chance run in with them [Levi’s]. They hired me to do a shoot in Le Paz, Bolivia, that was in the Spring of 2014 for a skatepark project they were doing. I brought up the book and they hopped on board as my sponsor.

This being a photo book with your name on it, you welcomed whoever to join in. That’s rad.

Well it wasn’t whoever. There was a method to the madness. We decided early on that this wasn’t going to be my story per se. It was more about the culture of skating overall and so I soon realized we’re going to need to pull in other people [photographers]. I’ve never been to Skatistan, I’ve barely been to Africa, and certain skaters needed to be in there — like Danny Way and Andrew Reynolds, for example — who I’ve never shot really. I had 70% of the content and as long as I had over 60% I get my name on the cover.

How did you get Tony Hawk on board for the foreword? 

I haven’t met Tony but we have a bunch of mutual friends and I emailed one of them asking about him doing the foreword and they pushed it along… he said “yes.”

I don’t want to say this all fell into place…but it seems like it all fell into place.

It just happened man, it’s crazy. It was a long road, for sure. But right place, right time happened more than once. What is it? The law of attraction, right? They say, “If you keep a goal in the back of your mind long enough eventually it’ll come to fruition.”

When’d you start shooting photos?

Pretty much when I picked up a camera in high school. I did the whole college art school thing after that, but I was always shooting skating for fun. Probably halfway through college I kind of had it down and I thought I might be good enough to get into a magazine so I started sending some of them prints. For six months I didn’t get a response or any feedback at all, really. I was going for it man, sending at least a photo a week. I was sending originals man, fuck it. It was like no holds barred. Then after six months one of them hit me up and was like, “Hey man, your stuff’s looking better” and I was like “Holy shit, they actually called me!” Shortly thereafter one of the magazines did run a couple photos.

They say it’s who you know and whatever but I didn’t know anyone, dude.

For the photo industry at large that’s unheard of, right?

Seriously, no affiliation or connections. Nothing. I was lucky in that regard. At the time I thought that’s how it was done. I now know that’s not always the case (laughing). Not that that never happens but…

What’s in store next for you?

I’m not ready to drop another book or anything but I’m definitely gonna keep shooting skating and moving forward.

How’s it feel seeing your name on the shelves in Barnes & Noble

Dude…I can’t tell you how weird it is. So, to me it’s a photo book. I went in there and cruised the photo book section and couldn’t find it. So I was like, “ahh fuck, maybe they don’t have it.” But I had heard from Nat Geo that Barnes & Noble would have it, so I went up to the information desk and was like, “Hey, do you have a book by Jonathan Mehring.” That was the weirdest shit I’ve ever said, I think.

They’re like “Oh yeah, it’s in sports,” Of course it’s in sports. I was kind of bummed on that but whatever. Skating is called a sport now but I don’t really consider it one. Anyway, I went to the sports section and found it. It was in sports but the sub-section was “Outdoor Sports and Survival.” which is where I think it should be if it has to be in sports.

The Official Launch Trailer for ‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5′ Has Arrived

The latest Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater installment is hitting shelves today, and as such, the game’s official launch trailer has been unveiled. The power to choose your favorite skater, bust out insane lines and impossible combos will now be in the palm of your hand. Updated features for the latest THPS video game include a revised skater customization mode, signature Pro Skater levels, as well as the option to build and share your very own skate park.

[youtube id=”05x2gGngJac” width=”600″ height=”350″]

Baseball, Karate, Surfing and Skateboarding Set for Tokyo Olympics

Japanese organizers have proposed adding five sports to the program of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics: baseball-softball, karate, skateboarding, sports climbing and surfing.

The organizing committee approved the recommendations from a list of eight finalists. Bowling, squash and wushu failed to make the cut.

The recommendation will be submitted to the International Olympic Committee, which will make a final decision in Rio de Janeiro in August 2016.

Under the “Olympic Agenda 2020” program adopted by the IOC last December, host cities are allowed to propose one or more additional events for their games.

The proposed new events would add 18 events and 474 athletes to the Tokyo Games.

“This package of events represents both traditional and emerging, youth-focused events, all of which are popular both in Japan and internationally,” the organising committee said in a statement. “This will serve as a driving force to further promote the Olympic movement and its values.”

Twenty-six sports had originally applied for consideration. The eight sports made a short list that was announced in June.

Baseball and softball have been out of the Olympics since the 2008 Beijing Games, and their proposed inclusion had been considered a virtual certainty because of the high popularity of those sports in Japan.

Under the recommendations, the men’s baseball tournament would consist of six teams and 144 total players, while the women’s softball competition would have six teams and 90 players.

Karate would have eight men’s and women’s events and a total of 80 athletes; skateboarding proposes two street and two park events for 80 athletes; sports climbing has two events in bouldering, lead and speed combined for 40 athletes; and surfing would have two shortboard events for 40 competitors.

The head of the World Squash Federation (WSF) said he was devastated for the sport’s millions of followers.

“I don’t believe we could have done more to get our message across to both the Tokyo 2020 Games hosts and the IOC how Squash could bring something special as an addition to the Programme,” WSF President Narayana Ramachandran said in a statement.

“I know I speak on behalf of the millions of squash players around the world for whom the opportunity of seeing their sport participate in the Olympics has been an absolute priority – and, like me, they will be heartbroken.”

Squash, played in more than 185 countries, was one of three sports shortlisted for full inclusion at the Tokyo Olympics when the IOC voted on the programme at its 125th Session in Buenos Aires two years ago.

Wrestling won that vote for inclusion ahead of baseball/softball and squash but the losers were thrown a lifeline when the IOC later decided that future Olympic host cities could select extra sports they wanted to see contested at the Games.

“However, this is not the end for squash,” added Ramachandran.

“Our sport, played by vast numbers week in and week out, flourishes at every level from recreational to events around the world. We will go from strength to strength while we continue to target participation at a future date in the Games.”

New Extreme Sports Resort Planned for Central Florida

A new way to get your favorite extreme sport on may be coming to the Orlando area if the guys over at Xero Gravity Action Sports LLC have their way with a new $309 million extreme sports resort announced for Central Florida.

The new resort will feature many extreme sports activites including  a “14-story ski and snowboard mountain with nine snow tubing lanes; 5 acres of real surfing with up to 10-foot waves and a boogie boarding area; a 25,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor skateboard park; a USA-BMX sanctioned race track; two skydiving pods; a 20,000-square-foot indoor dodge-ball trampoline arena; a rapid river; rock climbing up to 140 feet; zip-lining throughout the park; two 14-story competition waterslides by WhiteWater; 20-foot to 120-foot free fall jump zones; an interactive four-story climbing/zipline/ropes challenge course; and snowball fight arena.”  This is all according to the press release published by the company.

If built, the new resort is projected to draw in more than 1 million annual visitors which in return will generate millions of dollars for the local economy.  The resort will also create an estimated 1,000 new jobs for the area as well.

The area will also reportedly feature a 250-room Hyatt-flag hotel featuring a rooftop pool and many other amenities.

The resort has some hurdles to go through before it can be built, such as approval from Osceola County officials and securing the land which will be located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 192 and State Road 535.

Let’s hope that the folks over at  Xero Gravity Action Sports LLC can make this thing a reality!

Tony Hawk Takes the World’s First Hoverboard for a Ride

In a new video by The RIDE Channel, skateboarding legend Tony Hawk takes the Hendo Hover (previously) for a spin, riding the real-life hoverboard on a small copper half-pipe specially designed for the technology. Hawk doesn’t exactly master the board right away, but he does put on a good show of it, almost pulling off an infamously difficult skating trick in the process.

That was my first 1080.

[youtube id=”HSheVhmcYLA” width=”600″ height=”350″]