The most difficult aspect of skateboarding today is not doing technical tricks or jumping down huge sets of stairs, the most difficult aspect is trying to find a decent place to actually ride a skateboard without getting harassed or chased away. Sure we all skate parks at times but they tend to be few and far between and most often they require an entrance fee, are packed with little kids and are just generally not enjoyable. Skateboarding should be free! It is not something designed for designated areas, where children can be placed and forgotten about until they grow up and move onto a new trend. It is something that is here to stay and it can take place anywhere and at any time. It’s what takes you away from all the other rubbish in life and allows you to create your own experiences, no matter what your age, gender, race or economic background. Skateboarding unites individuals in a society that all too often divides.
Before and after.
South Africa poses great difficulties to skateboarding due to general security paranoia surrounding the high crime rate and the fact that public space is at an absolute minimum due to private ownership and the economic divide which brings ‘Mall culture’ to the fore. All of the money is poured into secure mall complexes which don’t allow skateboarding but any other neglected empty space you can find will also undoubtedly be filled with an army of cheap security guards, just in case something happens. A fact is that any security guard who sees a skateboarder in their jurisdiction will certainly have issues because unfortunately in the few public spaces we do have, anything that sticks out or attracts attention will be correspondingly cut down in a timely fashion. The issue of space is seriously hampering the growth of South African skateboarding. Often people look at skateboarding as a game and the typical ‘you can’t play here’ speech comes out, well in actual fact nobody else is using that space so why the hell can’t we use it? In Cape Town there is now even a city by-law which prevents skateboarding in public spaces and this is enforced by Police who can issue fines to unsuspecting individuals that are merely trying to ride a skateboard. The absurdity of the situation is completely frustrating.
To kick things off we gathered around to see who had the worst looking board, those in the worst condition were replaced with new Familia decks.
I’ve spent most of my free time skateboarding in downtown Johannesburg for about ten years now and I’ve had to endure my fair share of struggles on a regular basis. I’ve witnessed everything from skateboarders being threatened with arrest, to incidents involving attack dogs and even guns being pulled out and aimed at a skateboarder’s head! With such a high crime rate it’s a real shame to see that the individuals tasked with tackling crime are involved in what can only be described as criminal behaviour themselves. You cannot reason with people either because even though you are an educated adult, you are still regarded as just a kid who is causing trouble. However, the great difficulties experienced don’t stop skateboarding but instead just make motivated individuals more determined. You can still find stacks of skateboarders from across the city’s suburbs and townships exploring the streets of the downtown area every weekend. The space you can find is not free public space because while the homeless are left to sleep in these areas and spontaneous football matches are allowed to break out, the skateboarders still get chased away and all too often end up skateboarding amongst the traffic in the roadways. Try as they might, the authorities cannot stop skateboarding, we’re not going away and we’ll use whatever we can find.
Julian Redpath hits the pavement bump, while JJ is being JJ!
The idea behind Reprobait’s ‘Free Public Space’ non-event was just to get skateboarders from across the city together in the Johannesburg CBD to enjoy the city and to promote skateboarding in public spaces. We also wanted to try and reward the skateboarders who make the effort to venture into the CBD every weekend and we gave out free products and even some money. Instead of supplying obstacles and running a conventional competition, we encouraged all who attended to skate what we could find in the streets. We also allowed the skateboarders to gauge who was worthy of prizes amongst themselves instead of having judges, it wasn’t a competition but instead it was about active participation with a little incentive. We organised activities in Newtown like a massive game of S.K.A.T.E, a best trick challenge over a pavement bump, a longest powerslide challenge and even a sprint race. Next, we rolled across town to Library Gardens where we had a best manual challenge and finally we ended up in Fox street for a bank spot challenge.
‘Free Public Space’ protest placards, these redesigned second-hand boards were given to those in need of something to ride.
Thanks to Nike SB and Familia Skateboards for sponsoring free products and thanks to SSS (Skate Society Soweto) for promoting the event and getting people involved. There was a great turnout and a lot of good skateboarding took place, so thanks to everybody who made the effort to be there. We are using what we have in downtown Johannesburg and trying to build the skate scene, if you or anybody you know wants to be a part of it then just show up because everyone is welcome. The SSS crew have been rolling with us for years while trying to piece together decent boards and shoes so that they are actually able to skateboard and nowadays they are taking home most of the prizes. It doesn’t matter how good you are now, it’s about having the motivation to keep on trying to get better. It can all be done while cruising the streets and by learning from interactions with like-minded individuals. Persistence pays off so don’t just give up or settle for mall parks, use your city and ‘Free Public Space!’
Our massive game of S.K.A.T.E comes down to the finals. Ofentse Ramakanye claimed it in the end.
The winners of each challenge were decided amongst the group and could choose their own prizes out of the box (thanks again to Nike SB and Familia).
The powerslide challenge, we had some flatspots and some bruises! The person with the longest powerslide got free wheels.
Everyone was down for powerslides, Bergen Neilson slides.
We thought it would be funny to have a little sprint race, dudes were hyped on it.
Free product toss, every man for himself!
The crew rolls into LBGs (Library Gardens) for some manuals.
We used whatever we could find (backside 180 during the manual challenge at LBGs).
Maanda looks on as Dada Marumo is about to grab the manual prize at LBGs.