In the early 60s skateboarding wasn’t considered an alternative to baseball or football. It wasn’t an alternative to anything, and it certainly didn’t represent a change to anything. Skateboarding was just something some of us did: Torger Johnson, Danny Bearer, John Freis, George Trafton, and Joey Saenz. We skated around Woody Woodward’s tennis court, driving his mom and dad nuts. Barefooted and clay-wheeled, we weren’t trying to prove anything; if we were skating, it just meant the surf was blown out or flat.

When those of us on the Makaha skateboard team skated in a demo at Santa Monica High School in 1964, it was more as a novelty act than anything of true merit. We did some coffins, walked the nose, turned several spinners, improvised a high-jump thing, and after about five minutes of prime-time performance before 2,800 students, we gave way to a folk-singing group.

So, with that perspective in mind, and from within my role as a schoolteacher, I can’t help but pass along a surprising new association I’ve made. It’s a personal revelation, a thought emerging with a truly alternative point of view¿that skateboarding is older than the universe.

Our acceptance of the universe¿this universe that we’re floating through, the way we see our world, and our place in the cosmos¿well, skateboarding is older than that. Skateboarding has been around longer than our universe!

Stephen Hawking, in his book, A Brief History of Time, says the discovery that the universe is expanding was one of the great intellectual revolutions of the twentieth century.

This discovery, that our universe is not static¿that it is expanding, that the galaxies making up our universe are, in fact, dynamic and in movement at incredible speeds, was made possible by the observations of Edwin Hubble.

This fundamental shift in the way humans think, that the galaxies were moving away from each other, was announced in 1929. Of course, Hubble has been honored by the scientific community with his name being attached to the Earth-orbiting observatory that just last week provided information confirming his earlier observations, allowing today’s astrophysicists to calculate that the universe is in fact bigger than previously thought. The most distant galaxy now recorded by the Hubble observatory is more than fifteen-billion light years away.

A few years ago Thrasher magazine ran a reproduction of an advertisement for a steel-wheeled skate scooter that had been placed in a Popular Mechanics-style magazine in 1925. Thus, skateboarding, in the form of steel-wheeled skate scooters, and certainly in its connection with roller skates, predates the notion of the universe that is today generally accepted. In practical terms, it means kids were rolling around the streets of North America while their parents looked up in the sky thinking galaxies were nothing more than distant stars.

People had to radically change their thinking. The entire human population had to adjust its thinking cap, and skateboarding was there. It was a whole new world, and kids were riding down the street much like we do today.

Which means we have to change our thinking, just as those since the 20s have had to change and accept the idea that the universe is made up of galaxies, not stars, and that the millions of galaxies, containing millions of stars, do in fact have planetary systems about them, and that, yes, it is possible that life might exist outside our own star’s system …

Well, you can see this idea is not only an alternative to past thinking, it’s downright controversial.

It took nearly 40 years for Hubble’s and Einstein’s work to influence the work of Hawking himself. In the 70s it became clear to Hawking that the universe must have had a beginning in time: if the galaxies¿and everything else in the universe¿are moving away from each other, Einstein’s theory of relativity demonstrates there must have been a time when everhing was closer together, when everything was, in fact, together.

Being together, for me, has much to do with community. We today, those of us involved with skateboarding, represent a community¿which by definition is a group joined by a common purpose.

Two years ago I had the opportunity to spend time with Dr. Thomas Berry, a retired professor of history of religions at Fordham University. In a presentation, Dr. Berry referred to the Native Americans of this continent to give an impression of what his sense of community and connection is all about.

He said that if there is such a thing as human intelligence, then it has emerged out of the universe, and in its functioning, it must in some manner be ordered toward the universe. Only through understanding the universe can we understand ourselves or our role in the community of existing things.

Earlier peoples seemed to have understood this. They lived within a covenant of the universe, whereby each component of the universe experienced itself in intimate rapport with the other components of the universe.

The sense of belonging, of being part of the universe, of being part of community is further explained by Veronica Williams, in her book, Caring Beliefs¿Valued People: Beliefs and Values Concerning Relationships. In this book Williams outlines seven values for effective community: commitment, caring and sharing, loyalty, fairness or a sense of justice, responsibility, opportunity, and balance and harmony.

Certainly much of this has a great deal to do with the skateboarding community, and as I write this I realize the evident conflict: within skateboarding’s community, although there is an abundance of commitment, there remains the question of what are we committed to.

Are we of the skateboard community committed to the sport, to the businesses, to the individual, or to our own particular wants and desires? Where is our commitment? Is it based upon Thomas Berry’s universal understanding? Or, is the commitment based upon a narrow self-serving purpose isolated from the greater community? The concept of community in and of itself seems to be almost counter-productive to the typical business plan: Why would competitive businesses¿rivals, if you will¿want to work toward a common goal?

Indeed, why not? If the issue is skateboarding, then don’t we all benefit from the growth and development of skateboarding? Doesn’t that, in and of itself, then benefit individual companies?

The difficulty of creating change, of what we will do, is what the nonparticipants in this community anticipate. They say you can’t discuss common goals with your competitors in the skateboard industry and come up with anything definite. Perhaps not, but we may be able come up with agreement to purpose, and that would be a change. The process of change has much to do with our businesses.

Changes¿I’ve used this anecdote before, but it continues to ring so true. It was a few years ago, Tommy Guerrero and I were hanging out at the trade show and some guy was rambling on about how to make it in skateboarding. He had all these plans and all these facts and figures and endless questions, and finally Tommy just said, “You wanna know how to succeed in this business? That’s easy, just remember one thing: If it’s in, it’s out.” Tommy recognized long ago that if something is popular, something else will take its place.

As an additional anecdote, in February, during the most recent ASR show, Tommy and I were again spending some time together. Ray Barbee had joined us, and we were talking about success formulas for today’s market. It was Ray who said, “It’s simple, here’s the secret to today’s market: All the kids are faced with two choices, Muska or Howard? Howard or Muska?”

I believe our first step to creating change is for our community to recognize its own power and strength, to recognize ourselves as an essential ingredient and a viable part of the greater community.

Communities are more than an aggregate of an association of people. As the etymology implies, communities serve in common, and they are obliged in common. Communities are made up of people who come together for a variety of reasons, and I believe we can come together for skateboarding, to begin the process of redefining and reinitiating the skateboard community because we recognize that this community is changing.

Can skateboard manufacturers agree to strive toward more stability with their support of skaters, sponsorship of teams, and continued development of products that will regain the confidence of distributors and retailers?

The importance of considering our community’s commitment to the sport is oftentimes in direct contrast with business development. Or is it? Is it possible for companies to survive in today’s market without producing blank products? Is it possible for today’s contemporary companies to agree to only promote boards and products with graphics, to supply team skaters only with

products that promote skateboarding through identifiable graphics and products associated with skate companies?

Today’s skate culture just may offer the rest of society a glimpse of itself¿a hyper-speed version. Last year I attended an educators’ workshop where the featured speaker, Victor Davis Hanson, a fourth-generation grape farmer from Selma, California, and head of the classics department of Cal State Fresno, suggested that today’s culture mirrors the collapse of Classical Greece.

Professor Hanson pointed out that democracy has its origins in the fields of ancient Greece where yeoman farmers developed multi-tiered farming that was so successful its resulting self-sufficiency actually created spare time.

For perhaps the first time in the history of our species, people¿other than royalty¿had some time off, and what emerged were words and concepts like individual, philosophy, and democracy. These farmers were so successful they had the opportunity to hang out, to relax, and finally, they had the chance to think. Their initial thoughts stayed with their farms, which continued to improve. Their harvests increased, and they created markets, which created wealth.

Within three generations of farming, in less than 100 years, these farmers created an entirely new culture. Entirely new ideas had emerged, ideas that ultimately established Western civilization. The way we live today, with the lofty ideals of our governments and Western civilization, actually began on those farms 3,000 years ago.

What happened, of course, was that the success of the yeoman farmer’s labor created the opportunity for their descendent generations to either move away from the farm, or simply to hire others to work their farms for them. The farms were so efficient they didn’t have to spend as much time farming¿their free time began to fill up with debauchery, slaves were brought in to do the dirty work, and within 200 years, Classical Greece had eroded into the Hellenic Period of abuses and overuses.

Their farms had been “in,” and then they were “out.”

As Professor Hanson points out, there is little wrong with the ideals and goals the United States and Canada were founded upon. The freedoms guaranteed by the two neighboring countries’ constitutions, and the subsequent 250 years of hard work to develop the infrastructure to assure those freedoms, has been a tough road. But the past 25 years of media frenzy have so tainted those ideals that it has created a separate reality of instant material success that is so tweaked, is so removed from reality, that our very existence as a species is genuinely questioned.

The success of the United States (I’m not sure about Canada) is threatening its very existence.

Much like skateboarding, perhaps.

Are the successes of our businesses threatening their very existence? President and Owner of Santa Cruz skateboards Richard Novak said at our first munity.

Communities are more than an aggregate of an association of people. As the etymology implies, communities serve in common, and they are obliged in common. Communities are made up of people who come together for a variety of reasons, and I believe we can come together for skateboarding, to begin the process of redefining and reinitiating the skateboard community because we recognize that this community is changing.

Can skateboard manufacturers agree to strive toward more stability with their support of skaters, sponsorship of teams, and continued development of products that will regain the confidence of distributors and retailers?

The importance of considering our community’s commitment to the sport is oftentimes in direct contrast with business development. Or is it? Is it possible for companies to survive in today’s market without producing blank products? Is it possible for today’s contemporary companies to agree to only promote boards and products with graphics, to supply team skaters only with

products that promote skateboarding through identifiable graphics and products associated with skate companies?

Today’s skate culture just may offer the rest of society a glimpse of itself¿a hyper-speed version. Last year I attended an educators’ workshop where the featured speaker, Victor Davis Hanson, a fourth-generation grape farmer from Selma, California, and head of the classics department of Cal State Fresno, suggested that today’s culture mirrors the collapse of Classical Greece.

Professor Hanson pointed out that democracy has its origins in the fields of ancient Greece where yeoman farmers developed multi-tiered farming that was so successful its resulting self-sufficiency actually created spare time.

For perhaps the first time in the history of our species, people¿other than royalty¿had some time off, and what emerged were words and concepts like individual, philosophy, and democracy. These farmers were so successful they had the opportunity to hang out, to relax, and finally, they had the chance to think. Their initial thoughts stayed with their farms, which continued to improve. Their harvests increased, and they created markets, which created wealth.

Within three generations of farming, in less than 100 years, these farmers created an entirely new culture. Entirely new ideas had emerged, ideas that ultimately established Western civilization. The way we live today, with the lofty ideals of our governments and Western civilization, actually began on those farms 3,000 years ago.

What happened, of course, was that the success of the yeoman farmer’s labor created the opportunity for their descendent generations to either move away from the farm, or simply to hire others to work their farms for them. The farms were so efficient they didn’t have to spend as much time farming¿their free time began to fill up with debauchery, slaves were brought in to do the dirty work, and within 200 years, Classical Greece had eroded into the Hellenic Period of abuses and overuses.

Their farms had been “in,” and then they were “out.”

As Professor Hanson points out, there is little wrong with the ideals and goals the United States and Canada were founded upon. The freedoms guaranteed by the two neighboring countries’ constitutions, and the subsequent 250 years of hard work to develop the infrastructure to assure those freedoms, has been a tough road. But the past 25 years of media frenzy have so tainted those ideals that it has created a separate reality of instant material success that is so tweaked, is so removed from reality, that our very existence as a species is genuinely questioned.

The success of the United States (I’m not sure about Canada) is threatening its very existence.

Much like skateboarding, perhaps.

Are the successes of our businesses threatening their very existence? President and Owner of Santa Cruz skateboards Richard Novak said at our first industry conference that he remembered in the 70s when ABC put skateboarding on the television program Wide World of Sports, and its announcer, Jim McKay, said, “Wow, skateboarding will never be the same!”

He was right, because according to Richard, his sales started declining the very next day.

Richard also remembered when, in the 80s, more and more contests ended up with some sort of television coverage, and the people at MTV were saying, “This is gonna be great for skateboarding!” Richard realized it would have the same effect as it had in the 70s, and he began laying people off at his company.

So five years ago when ESPN became so excited and enamored with skateboarding as an essential ingredient in its Extreme Games, Richard was heard to say, “Oh crap, here we go again!” Despite the obvious exposure and opportunity for competition that the X-Games have provided, it’s still difficult to determine the overall effect upon skateboarding’s market.

What happens when corporate America invests in skateboarding to sell its cause¿when Levi’s, Coca Cola, Kool Aid, and Fudgesicles all use skateboarding to further their cause, when television networks use skateboarding to increase their ratings? Does this alleged core of skateboarding go looking for something else to use as its particular form of expression or rebellion? And, by extension, does our industry go into another slump?

Does our success, then¿our popularity¿bring on that same Hellenic result¿a collapse of what has produced the success? Drops in sales, fewer skaters¿is the cycle of success leading us to our collapse? Have we been in, and are we on our way out?

I say no. And there are a variety of factors that are tending to interrupt the cycles of the past, those collapses of the 70s and 80s. One important factor is that we’re better than we used to be. Our products are better, they’re better packaged, better prepared, safer, stronger, and if you need an example then it means you haven’t been in a good skate shop recently.

Then there are the new parks. Paul Schmitt said last week that it will take three to four more years for everyone to realize what we¿what skateboarders¿accomplished with the passage of the new law in California that classifies skateboarding as a hazardous recreational activity. In helping to pass AB1296 in California, the skateboard industry demonstrated a commitment to purpose that we hadn’t seen before.

Now, in California, and in more and more states throughout the United States, for the first time ever, cities have not been able to answer the question “Why can’t we have a public skatepark in our town?” with their decades-old standard reply: “We can’t afford the liability.” When AB 1296 became law in California last year it essentially removed liability for injuries in public skateparks in California cities.

Thus, the answer now to that oft-asked question is, “You can! You can have a public skatepark in your town!” Which, of course, leads immediately to another question, which is the focus of IASC’s work for perhaps the next several years, “How? How do I get a public skatepark in our town?”

The skateboard industry has recognized that well-designed public skate facilities present the industry with the opportunity to neutralize sales slumps. Public facilities, just like basketball courts and football fields, will offer a new generation of skaters the safe opportunity for continued interest and development of their sport of choice.

Our attempt at avoiding the pitfalls of success may be as simple as ‘staying on the farm.’ Unlike those yeoman farmers of the past, will today’s skateboard-business successes stay with skateboarding? Unlike those yeoman Greek farmers, will today’s skate businesses take their success and reinvest in the sport, helping to create better products, better opportunities, and in the process perhaps defy Tommy’s axiom, “If it’s in, it’s out?”

What happens if we were to say, “Okay, it’s in. Let’s do everything we can to keep it that way!”

It’s our time, it’s our opportunity, and I propose that we agree to a new commmitment, a new purpose, to work together toward a better skateboarding community that helps to assure all of us that we’re in, and we’re staying in!ustry conference that he remembered in the 70s when ABC put skateboarding on the television program Wide World of Sports, and its announcer, Jim McKay, said, “Wow, skateboarding will never be the same!”

He was right, because according to Richard, his sales started declining the very next day.

Richard also remembered when, in the 80s, more and more contests ended up with some sort of television coverage, and the people at MTV were saying, “This is gonna be great for skateboarding!” Richard realized it would have the same effect as it had in the 70s, and he began laying people off at his company.

So five years ago when ESPN became so excited and enamored with skateboarding as an essential ingredient in its Extreme Games, Richard was heard to say, “Oh crap, here we go again!” Despite the obvious exposure and opportunity for competition that the X-Games have provided, it’s still difficult to determine the overall effect upon skateboarding’s market.

What happens when corporate America invests in skateboarding to sell its cause¿when Levi’s, Coca Cola, Kool Aid, and Fudgesicles all use skateboarding to further their cause, when television networks use skateboarding to increase their ratings? Does this alleged core of skateboarding go looking for something else to use as its particular form of expression or rebellion? And, by extension, does our industry go into another slump?

Does our success, then¿our popularity¿bring on that same Hellenic result¿a collapse of what has produced the success? Drops in sales, fewer skaters¿is the cycle of success leading us to our collapse? Have we been in, and are we on our way out?

I say no. And there are a variety of factors that are tending to interrupt the cycles of the past, those collapses of the 70s and 80s. One important factor is that we’re better than we used to be. Our products are better, they’re better packaged, better prepared, safer, stronger, and if you need an example then it means you haven’t been in a good skate shop recently.

Then there are the new parks. Paul Schmitt said last week that it will take three to four more years for everyone to realize what we¿what skateboarders¿accomplished with the passage of the new law in California that classifies skateboarding as a hazardous recreational activity. In helping to pass AB1296 in California, the skateboard industry demonstrated a commitment to purpose that we hadn’t seen before.

Now, in California, and in more and more states throughout the United States, for the first time ever, cities have not been able to answer the question “Why can’t we have a public skatepark in our town?” with their decades-old standard reply: “We can’t afford the liability.” When AB 1296 became law in California last year it essentially removed liability for injuries in public skateparks in California cities.

Thus, the answer now to that oft-asked question is, “You can! You can have a public skatepark in your town!” Which, of course, leads immediately to another question, which is the focus of IASC’s work for perhaps the next several years, “How? How do I get a public skatepark in our town?”

The skateboard industry has recognized that well-designed public skate facilities present the industry with the opportunity to neutralize sales slumps. Public facilities, just like basketball courts and football fields, will offer a new generation of skaters the safe opportunity for continued interest and development of their sport of choice.

Our attempt at avoiding the pitfalls of success may be as simple as ‘staying on the farm.’ Unlike those yeoman farmers of the past, will today’s skateboard-business successes stay with skateboarding? Unlike those yeoman Greek farmers, will today’s skate businesses take their success and reinvest in the sport, helping to create better products, better opportunities, and in the process perhaps defy Tommy’s axiom, “If it’s in, it’s out?”

What happens if we were to say, “Okay, it’s in. Let’s do everything we can to keep it that way!”

It’s our time, it’s our opportunity, and I propose that we agree to a new commitment, a new purpose, to work together toward a better skateboarding community that helps to assure all of us that we’re in, and we’re staying in! if we were to say, “Okay, it’s in. Let’s do everything we can to keep it that way!”

It’s our time, it’s our opportunity, and I propose that we agree to a new commitment, a new purpose, to work together toward a better skateboarding community that helps to assure all of us that we’re in, and we’re staying in!