Skatepark pitfalls create 'guerilla tenants'

06/11/04

Throughout North America a current debate is raging over the ineffectiveness of skateboard parks--created to curb the loitering of skaters in the streets. Some people argue it is because of location and accessibility of the parks. However, a University of Alberta researcher says the spontaneous nature of skateboarding makes permanent structures increasingly boring for skaters.

Sean Brayton, a graduate student in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, suggests that part of the thrill of skateboarding is finding new spots in the city that are not intentionally designed for skating. It is estimated that as much as 80 per cent of skateboarding takes place outside of skateparks, "yet this very spontaneity has made skateboarding illegal in the streets," says Brayton.

Despite a notoriously frigid Canadian climate, there are more than 64 skateparks scattered from Quadra Island, B.C., to Windsor, Nova Scotia and the skate culture is now a staple of electronic media.

According to broadcaster ESPN and regional bylaws, skateboarding is best suited to a purpose-designed space yet niche magazines overwhelming favour street skating, says Brayton. "This is problematic for skaters since their sport is now outlawed on the streets of North America," he says. Brayton argues that this 'constructive loitering' of skaters challenges the spatial and economic logic of the city, making it a criminal activity.

"We may think of skaters as 'guerrilla tenants,' always on the move, constantly scouting out new spots to grind, slide or jump," said Brayton. "While skaters are by no means owners of urban plazas, they occupy its space. This speaks to the grounded aesthetics of manipulating one's environment in a challenging and enjoyable manner. It also contributes to the vilification of skateboarding."

Brayton will be presenting his research at the "Contemporary Governance and Question of the Social," conference held at the University of Alberta this weekend.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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