Skateboarding’s popularity continues to climb, and what was once derided as a waste of time is moving ever closer to becoming a respected sport, earning its spot on sports channels.
Allow me to explain.
An impromptu road trip landed me and a group of friends at an incredibly self-important club in the middle of high-class Edmonton. After being checked for sneakers (god forbid), we were promptly patted down for weapons.
We didn’t have any weapons. The closest we had come to weaponry was frequently playing Mortal Kombat until 3 a.m.
To us, the inside of the club might as well have been the Moon. Yet, inside this ritzy establishment, I was surprised to see that every TV was showing Street League Skateboarding on ESPN. Of all the incongruous circumstances that night, I found this to be the oddest. Truly something was awry in the space-time continuum, I thought, but apparently not.
There is a concerted effort to make skateboarding truly mainstream, spearheaded by Rob Dyrdek, a skateboarder himself. Dyrdek is also an entrepreneur and reality TV star.
At its most basic, SLS is a televised street skateboarding competition between pro skaters, operating not unlike Olympic gymnastic events. It involves skateboarders taking turns doing tricks over one obstacle. Points accumulate over many obstacles, and the skater with the highest points wins. It may sound boring on paper, but the sheer scale of the tricks incite many exclamations of “How is that possible?”
In an interview with King Shit magazine, Dyrdek talks about his brainchild and shares his ambitions for the sport, including a skateboarding fantasy league that incorporates all aspects of being a pro skateboarder.
“After this year I’m going to the gaming commission in Vegas, and trying to get approved so you can bet on this, you know what I’m saying? Just the idea of being able to bet on this shit is amazing,” Dyrdek said.
There is inherent backlash when something “underground” goes mainstream, so it will be interesting to see how much of Dyrdek’s vision comes to fruition.
In my opinion, there isn’t anything to fear. Skateboarding has always been about a robust community, and I don’t see that being jeopardized by Dyrdek’s efforts. Mixed martial arts — another formerly lesser-known community-oriented sport — went through a similar transition and today the MMA community seems to be stronger than ever.
And it’s not like this is happening out of the blue; from the wildly popular Tony Hawk series of video games starting in 1999, to Nike making a splash with its Nike SB division in 2002, increased interest has led to more exposure of some pretty great skating.
So I say full steam ahead, Rob. If anybody is going to try to push skateboarding into new territory, it might as well be someone who loves the sport. For better or for worse, from Vegas to your local bar, street skateboarding is making its move.
Make sure to go to your favourite establishment and demand to watch Street League, because televised darts is boring, and watching kids hurl themselves off heights might lighten the mood in your local ultra-serious, weapon-free suburban dive bar.