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    Skateboarding : the invisible war

    On September 9, cult surf-, snow- and skate-wear label Quiksilver filed for bankruptcy. Its brands included legendary skate-shoe manufacturer DC Shoes. Does Quiksilver's bankruptcy tell us something about the current state of skate culture?

    Since it first appeared in the late 1950s, the skateboard has influenced music and fashion and become a fixture in our streets and our culture from east to west and across the generations. Today, the global skateboarding industry lies in the hands of multinationals such as Nike and Red Bull. All of it? No! In New York and Europe, collectives of hardcore skaters are still resisting the invader from the West Coast.

    tony hawk jeu vidéo skate californie

    Tony Hawk skateboarding video game CaliforniaScreenshot from the “Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5” video game.

    In California, Tony Hawk, crowned world skateboarding champion on nine occasions at the X Games, has left his mark. Long-haired, copper-skinned skaters are synonymous with the region. Nike SB, the American giant’s skatewear range, has proved a runaway success with its expensive Street League competition, leaving the scene somewhat sanitized. The rebellious and anti-establishment spirit that originally characterized skate culture has been betrayed. Performance is all that counts. Under the Cali sun, skateboarding has undergone a lobotomy.

         RedBull Hart Lines skateboarding competition

    So there is nothing new coming from the West. The big skatewear brands that once dominated the schoolyard are now outmoded and going bust. DC Shoes, Quiksilver’s skate shoes subsidiary, has filed for bankruptcy. Only Nike, Adidas, Converse and Van’s have managed to keep a foot in each camp, through simple footwear with universal appeal. The renewal is happening in the East. The breakthrough brands on today’s skatewear market are up-and-coming operators from New York and Europe. Skate crews there are appropriating the gloomy city landscapes. They choose their tricks meticulously: meaningless performance is not their style. These youngsters are shaven-headed, with dark rings under their eyes and a rather sickly look about them. Bye bye, West Coast tan: here, everything is grey. With both feet on their boards, they are writing a manifesto for rebellion against the mainstream and its rules: a return to the very essence of skateboarding.

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    Paramount video of the London skate crew “Palace”

    What is being sought in the East is a return to skateboarding in its rawest form, going further even than the normcore offered by brands such as Palace, Öctagon and Bronze. The videos are free. Filmed in black and white or even on VHS, they exude Tumblr culture. The era of skateshop DVDs and Tony Hawk on the PlayStation is over. What is being sold in Europe and New York is not so much a product as a visual identity.


    Surveyör video of the French crew Öctagon

    With the arrival of these new market players, skate culture, which ran out of steam somewhat in the 2000s, has found a second wind. Blink 182, Avril Lavrigne and others may have supplanted the East- and West-Coast rappers of the nineties for a period, but now, rap has once again found a place in the skating world. And vice-versa, as Lil Wayne’s exploits show.

    lil wayne rap skate street Lil Wayne rap skate streetLil Wayne, via “Huh Magazine”

    Skateboarding has become sexy and trendy again, spurring crossovers into a number of fields. It has provided inspiration for high-end streetwear, giving rise to some unlikely collaborations. American giant Van’s has joined forces with young Russian designer Gosah Rubchinskiy, while Nike is sponsoring promising young skaters. But are we witnessing the death of the California-style skate scene? No. One bloc could not exist without the other. The more the West focuses on pure performance, the more the East will channel its creativity into the polar opposite, a dynamic that is indisputably crucial if skateboarding is to keep reinventing itself and its culture is to live on.

    Society Skateboard Sport