Now Boarding: Subculture Careers
Skateboarding has long been the hobby/sport of choice for disillusioned urban and suburban youth—spawning a fast-paced and thrill-seeking subculture that has become nearly universally loathed by parents. But it now appears that much of the ire that skateboarding and skateboarders have received over the years may be unwarranted. As Gregory J. Snyder (Ethnography, August 2012) writes, skateboarding’s growing prominence has aided in the creation of countless career paths, both direct (as boarders) and indirect (as photographers, artists, publicists, managers, etc.). Given the context in which these economic opportunities have arisen, Snyder calls them “subculture careers”—unique positions largely owed to skateboarding’s status as a subculture, not viable careers in spite of it. While the subculture undoubtedly revolves around the skills and creativity of its most gifted boarders, these other positions are integral to the widespread dissemination of the craft.
Snyder also goes on to credit much of skateboarding’s remarkable expansion, from its origins as a niche hobby to its position as a global industry, to its communities’ close ties with and novel uses of urban spaces. Not only are skateboarders frequently depicted performing gravity-defying tricks over urban obstacles, much of the skateboarding industry is situated in major American cities (in the case of this article, Los Angeles). Snyder argues that this connection to large urban environments helps draw in talented boarders and artists from throughout the world. In turn, this cosmopolitan group helps continually diversify and develop skateboarding from within.