Article by Joaquim Méndez Guigo aka JAAAW
“Sometimes people come with this opinion: that because major brands (Nike SB, Levi’s, Adidas…) sponsor skate events, build a few skateparks here and there, they participate in the community and culture of skateboarding.
That would be true if it was, for them, about skateboarding. But for these companies, even though they try to make themselves look cool and harmless through advertising, it is not, not one second, about skateboarding. It is about money. These people wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for money.
They don’t “create” skateboarding, they don’t “support” skateboarding. They USE skateboarding. Their intentions in entering the “skate-market” are not coming from love, which is the energy, the ideal that I believe must be in everything we do in our lives. No, their intentions come from wanting to expand an already gigantic financial capital. And they achieve that by exploiting poor people, in poor countries, to manufacture their products. But then they go to another poor country and build a skatepark and make a nice video out of it? How can that make any sense?
Skater-owned companies are not better on the field of chinese sweat-shops manufacturing their shoes, boards, clothes, accessories, but at least they belong in skateboarding! Nowadays you can’t escape capitalism, but until the whole thing collapses we can still support ideals. The only sort of brand I’ve seen making shoes in Europe is “ER”, from France, and they manufacture the shoes in Portugal. But those shoes are, of course, expensive (around 100€), and not too nice to skate for they don’t have the money a big company has to put into laboratories and making them really nice to skate. And they’re also a little too fancy to me, but oh well.
So, the big fishes make millions, put a few thousands in a skatepark for a small community of skaters in Bolivia, but keep on exploiting millions of humans in the “third-world” for the sake and pleasure of a few westerners that think they have the right to blindly consume, unaware of the consequences it can have on others’ lives and on the integrity of skateboarding? Talk about hypocrisy. It is so, so sad that skater-owned skate shops now die one after the other because of those corporations and their agressive marketing and brainwashing of kids. Kids whose moms prefer, of course, to take them to a mall « skate-shop » rather than an underground kind of place for the mall is a more family-friendly environment. It is sad because skateboarders are being taken away the right to live from what they love and built for decades, in good and hard times alike.
Yes, I am angry. Angry and tired of all the people making greed “okay”. Angry of all those who say “But one has got to make a living, isn’t it?”. This is just cynical. As you may have noticed, this text is not just about skateboarding, but about love, about being a conscient human being.
I am in the making of a movie on skateboarding, I have been travelling and interviewing people about skateboarding in Argentina, France, Germany, the UK… And this for the last year and a half. I live, breathe, think skateboarding. In my research I came to learn something that all of you already know: that skateboarding comes from surfing. And then I learned that the first traces of surfing are to be found as far back as in the 14th century, 600 years ago. At that time already Hawaiians understood the very pure and amazing feeling of being in harmony with their close environment, the sea. And 600 years later skateboarders do that with concrete. They pursue this tradition of sensations and love for what surrounds them. It seems clear to me that skateboarding has a soul. The most wonderful skateboarder is to me the one that is 4, has just started learning how to stand on his board, and can’t get enough of how good it feels to roll around.
I talked about the integrity of skateboarding, but what does that mean? Even though skateboarding is a paradox between sub-culture and capitalism, it is still, in its essence, one of the very last pure things in the urban landscape. It is one of those activities that allows you to go out and not having to consume. Think about it, whenever you go out, you go to buy something, you go to a cafe, you are trapped in the role of a dumb, manipulated consumer, and that’s all you’re worth to those big companies I am so angry at. Skateboarding allows you to go out and use the city, physically, without necessarily having to consume. Skateboarding is fucking beautiful.
Lastly I want to talk about the professionals that sell themselves and therefore the culture to those brands. Yes, one has to make a living. But you know what? I care more about skateboarding than about pros. Pros don’t make skateboarding. It is the millions of skateboarders around the globe make skateboarding. And skateboarding will survive, no matter the pros, no matter the companies or the industry, it will always survive somewhere through local impulses to keep it alive. P-Rod can die in the gutter for all I care. And who the fuck needs to make a million dollars? You can only eat so much food and drink so much water in a day man! What do you need all that for? Building another lame uncreative clothing brand? Go for it!
Call me an idealist, call me a hater of progress or a hater at all. As long as money is the motivator behind the start of a project, it has no credibility to me. Skateboarding is changing, you can see it when you go to the skate-park, but nobody can change what skateboarding is in your head. Keep it pure. Be aware.
Skateboarding prevails.” – Joaquim Méndez Guigo aka JAAAW
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