The concept of neutrality has always fascinated me. As a younger boy I always found it difficult to grasp how neutrality worked. It didn’t seem to make sense that the Swiss could just say, “No, sorry, we’re not included in the war, we’re neutral,” and the war machines so active in other parts of Europe would conveniently avoid Swiss soil, airspace, and anything with a red or white cross on it. Of course, current revelations indicate the Swiss were, in fact, playing the game of war on their own terms by allowing the Nazis to hide money, gold, and documents within the Swiss banking system. Not surprisingly the German Luftwafte and ground troops avoided making the Swiss countryside look like its fabled cheese, and accordingly, because the Germans never overtly occupied Swiss locations, the Allied Forces were left to wonder why the Swiss were granted the exemption. It wasn’t clear at that time.
The recent ASR Trade Expo reminded me not of Switzerland (although I certainly have fond memories of Caballero, Guerrero, Saiz, Saito, and I availing ourselves of Swiss neutrality), but of the importance of restating IASC’s neutrality. Founded and developed as a neutral entity to specifically develop and promote skateboarding, and by extension, skateboard companies and manufacturers, IASC is, if nothing else, an island of neutrality within the sport of sidewalk kings.
In fact, this center of neutrality, this IASC “thing,” could be viewed as a refuge, as a retreat–a vehicle of refreshment (the Good Humor neighborhood ice-cream truck?) from the hotbed of political innuendo and marketplace maneuvers. A rest stop on the freeway of life, IASC offers the world a unique view of the sport responsible for its very creation, which the world continues to utilize and take advantage of on a daily basis. The Boston Globe; The New York Times; The Register; the Consumer Products Safety Commission; the city of Independence, Missouri; the YMCA of Central Ohio; and the list goes on and on. Twenty to 40 phone calls a day, day after day. Dozens upon dozens of e-mails every day, and each and every day the P.O. box holds requests, too: ” … I’m writing for information, as our city is considering building a skatepark in the near future … “
IASC’s information is intended to allow cities the opportunity to determine whether or not a skatepark is, in fact, a reasonable project for consideration–which, of course, is not always the criteria leading toward actual construction of skate facilities. Nonetheless, IASC is well positioned to provide guidelines and information to city officials–information that can than be bantered about, passed from committee to focus group, on to commissioners, their subcommittees, the parks department, the recreation people, and the youth-services coordinators, before ending up back at the first committee. The civic process is probably best described as a municipal game of “hot potato.” Thus, although IASC’s information lives up to its name–IASC’s skatepark package is accurate and informative–it does take something more than paperwork to get a skatepark built.
This past spring, CCS’ catalog mailing included a solicitation from IASC. In it we suggested that if skaters were interested in pursuing the development of a skatepark in their community, IASC might be able to help if they could provide the mailing addresses of local public officials: mayors, parks-and-recreation-department directors, civic personnel responsible for youth programs, etc. The response has been astounding and has led to information being forwarded directly to city officials in more than 350 U.S. cities. The initiative shown again and again by skateboarders reminds us of the success of IASC’s letter-writing campaign–largely responsible for the passage of AB1296, the legislation that added “skateboarding” to California’s Hazardous Recreational Activity list. More than 75,000 letters from around the world were delivered to California legislators. Skateboarders and their supporters effectively changed California’s approach to skateboarding.
Surprisingly (astoundingly, amazingly, frustratingly, confusingly), there are many within the skateboard-company and manufacturing community–those people exhibiting at the ASR show–who seemingly don’t understand what, why, or who IASC is or what it does. Time and again at the show the question is asked, “What’s up with IASC?”
Here is the simple premise, the basic (neutral) philosophical message affecting everything that IASC does, and you may recognize its similarity to skateboarding. It’s about “self,” as in “Help me to do it by myself.” IASC is helping skateboarders help skateboarding.
Skateboarding can be taught and demonstrated–you can watch as many videos as you want, study every picture you like–but when it comes right down to it, you have to do it yourself. You pull it, or you don’t. You succeed, or you keep trying until you try no longer. Which, ultimately, is a neutral position having little to do with right or wrong–it has to do with effort. Like Switzerland, poised along its Alpine ridge creating watershed amidst a continent, there is no judgment, only accomplishment and effort in trying.
Neutral in its position, IASC is helping skateboarders help themselves. That’s it. Despite the resources of the industry and the support of member companies, IASC can’t march around the country and facilitate local government process–that’s up to skateboarders themselves. Nor can IASC actually design a facility or build a ramp–that’s for the local community to determine and accomplish. What IASC does is provide information and guidance to those who are dedicated to the process of change. Change is accomplished by doing things differently (insanity is often defined as doing the same thing over and over again while expecting things to change).
Thus, if nothing else, for those of you who attend the ASR show, and even those who don’t, if there is one thing to understand about IASC, it’s this: IASC is helping skateboarders to help themselves change skateboarding in their communities. IASC helps create change by providing neutral information utilized by the media, and or public officials, to begin the process leading to the creation and construction of public skateparks. IASC, then, is skateboarders helping skateboarders help skateboarding. Unlike Switzerland in the 40s, there is no hidden agenda, no private deposit, no clandestine maneuvers. Nor is there any specific alliance with any particular IASC member company, although it’s necessary to point out that some IASC members have certainly been more active and more supportive than other companies and manufacturers. Even then, despite their assistance, despite their increased support and activity, there is no preferential treatment, no one company’s flag flies higher than any other, white cross or not.
Thus, your support of IASC, whether you choose to support skateboarding’s nonprofit trade association or not, is based upon your support of skateboarding. Whatever your involvement, however you define your role–whether it’s a sport or a lifestyle, a passion or a product line–skateboarding is what it is, and IASC helps it to be just that.