The Legalization Of Skateboarding (The Sequel)
Accomplishments have much to do with success. In some cases the impact is immediate, whereas others can be likened to the difference between live theater and motion-picture production. I grew up working on films and television shows, and I was always fascinated by the time warp of weeks or months that elapsed between what was happening in front of the camera and when it would actually appear before an audience. Live theater gives you the audience’s reaction–now. Without delay. You know what you’ve accomplished. Or not.
Skateboarding accomplished a great success three years ago when we contributed our strength-in-numbers to the lobbying efforts of California legislators, intent on changing liability laws in order to give California cities the opportunity to build safe public skate facilities. The success, when measured within Hollywood’s timeline, has been much like a television production. There was immediate interest, and the audience is growing with each episode. Every week the show gets more popular. That is, more and more cities are developing and constructing skateparks for the youth in their communities. In fact, the program is so successful that the powers-that-be are thinking of putting the show in prime time, and there’s a new group of advertisers waiting for the new season to begin!
As successful as our show has been, there have been, and continue to be, concerns regarding skatepark design and construction, but the most worrisome area is the concept of “trade-off.” In the early days of our lobbying efforts, many worried that any liability shift would provide cities with incentives to further restrict skateboarding in areas outside designated skateparks. This type of trade-off (“Hey kids, we built you a park, go skate there!”) was definitely not something we wanted to see develop.
In the midst of the politicos, sitting in the state capitol chambers, I maintained a gut-check through proceedings lasting more than two years. “Hey, howyadoin’? Goodtameetya. So one of the concerns we have is that this law will allow cities to be more restrictive … ” was more or less my opening line to consultants, legislators, and especially to any legal advisors. Was there a way to prevent the “trade-off”?
In response, the experts often suggested that the legislation was a “first step,” and more often than not their message was even more base–the law would never get passed, so no need to worry. These experts, of course, were the same guys shaking their heads in the hallway after the bill (AB1296) made it through the California State Senate Judiciary Committee. The expert dudes muttered, “Son of a … , I can’t believe it made it through.”
And I’m asking them, “Well, this is amazing, but what about that ‘trade-off’ concern of mine? Whaddaya think?”
Two years ago, as I shared the potential impact of what California’s laws might mean to California cities and cities across the country, Tony Hawk and Sean Mortimer were laughing while referring to me as the “Larry Flynt of skateboarding.” I didn’t grasp the meaning of the moniker, and Tony explained that, like Flynt, I seemed to have a tenacious conviction about what I was doing. That, like Flynt, I was willing to go into the courtroom or legislative chamber and fight for what was right. That, like Flynt, I was spending a lot of time dealing with lawyers, lawmakers, and lawbreakers.
Fortunately for skateboarding, the “trade-off” effect has not been too dramatic. However, there are individual cities where local law enforcement has gone way beyond their rights in their particular approach to enforcing any new or preexisting laws regarding skateboarding. Carlsbad, California is probably the best example of a worst-case scenario: Carlsbad’s law-enforcement officers use the new skatepark much like a game hunter might use a game reserve or a watering hole–sit outside the perimeter and bag your prey as they enter or depart. In Carlsbad, skaters are more likely to be fined for skating the skatepark without elbow pads than they are for skating some of the city’s more famous street spots.
IASC’s member-company representatives gathered in Tampa, Florida in March specifically to discuss skateboarding’s next step in our attempts at legal resolve. Through a process including days filled with a pro street contest, a pro vert contest, two video premieres, a St. Patrick’s Day parade, a few topless women, a few women with absolutely no clothes, one misplaced automobile, and two delayed flights, a few basic decisions were reached.
Among those attending the morning and afternoon meetings were Lance Mountain, Jim Thiebaud, Rodney Mullen, Kevin Marks, Frank Messman, Sasha Steinhorst, Yana Farrally-Plourde, Brian Schaefer, Paul Schmitt, Miki Vuckovich, and Bryan Ridgeway. The basic decision emerging from those talks is that IASC will immediately begin a nationwide campaign to elevate skateboarding to an equal status with other sports activities. By example, skateboarders should have at least the same access and rights as bicyclists. At least. IASC will set out to develop the process to assure the nationwide legalization of skateboarding. Skateboarding should not be a crime.
Public skateparks are benefiting skateboarding and skateboarders, and certainly IASC shares in the accomplishment of changing the liability laws, especially those in California. However, public skateparks are not the end-all, as they continue to present problems for skateboarders and their communities. The legalization of skateboarding is an ambitious project. How can we begin to pretend that we might succeed, that our sequel will be as successful as our first show?
We need a coordinated industry-wide effort. It’s that simple. Every skate company, every employee, every pro skater, everyone working in and for skateboarding’s businesses begins today the effort of creating change. No one person is going to come along and make it happen for us. It will take our effort. IASC-member companies will need to make the effort, including enlisting previous member companies to join us. Make the effort to convince other suppliers and providers that they can be part of this campaign (show/production), too.
IASC-member companies will share co-op advertising and participate in promotional efforts to circulate information, providing skateboarders, community leaders, and legislators with what they need to initiate the legalization of skateboarding. One basic first step that has already begun is the development of a national database of state legislators, state by state, who will begin to receive lobbying information from skateboarders and the skateboard industry, expressing our determination to legalize skateboarding.
IASC, for the first time, will have a viable office “staff” assembled from the intern department of University of California at Santa Barbara. Over the summer, interns from departments including communications (press relations, etc.), multi-media (Internet, PSA television commercials), pre-law (legislative, political science), and business administration (staff), will begin working specifically on the legalization of skateboarding.
Today, IASC provides information (design, suppliers, process, insurance, safety, liability) to skateboarders and communities throughout the United States to assist in the development of public skatepark facilities in their towns and cities. In the immediate future, IASC will also provide state legislators–nationwide–with the information necessary to draft new laws providing skateboarders the same rights and access available to other wheel-sport participants.
Now, and for the tomorrows to come, IASC is developing the information and coordinating the nationwide effort to legalize skateboarding.
This effort will include press releases, advertisements, information booths at key skateboard events (contests, trade shows, etc.), video trailers, and especially the development of a Web site to coordinate letter-wr
iting campaigns to political leaders. This effective technological lobbying effort will depend upon Internet links between member companies’ and IASC’s Web site (www.skateboardiasc.org and www.skateboardingiasc.org).
The legalization of skateboarding means that you should be able to ride your skateboard on public property where it’s not specifically restricted. Thus, roadways, streets, sidewalks, and other public areas would be available to skateboarders as they are available to bicyclists and other wheeled recreationalists. Individual cities can and do restrict access to wheel-sports participants in some areas, and that will continue to be a reality. But skateboarders should be able to ride their skateboards down the sidewalk or street to a skatepark. Right? You’re part of this, right? Support the legalization of skateboarding.
Jim Fitzpatrick is executive director of the International Association Of Skateboard Companies, skateboarding’s nonprofit trade group. IASC can be reached at (805) 683-5676, www.skateboardiasc.org,