Why I love skateboarding in London

By Teen Blogger: Paul Gurcel Escudero (15)
Social Media Link: @paul_ge_

In the past few years skateboarding has experienced a great rise in popularity. London is now freckled with skaters; and people of all ages, character, gender, and social background have begun to take up the sport.

It is exciting to see such diversity being brought to the skateboarding community and the cultural impact it has brought with it, such as the recent revival of the 90s fashion style that is prevalent amongst most teens, or the ‘Long Live Southbank’ campaign, which prevented the Southbank Skatepark from being shut and preserves skating as part of London’s street culture.

Skateboarding is a great way to meet and befriend new people. For example, I recently found myself alone with my board in central London and decided to check out a spot I had heard about at Trafalgar Square. I began warming up with one of my favourite tricks and soon one of the people skating there came up to me to ask me for some tips on how to do the trick. We then played what is called a Game of Skate which is where one must mimic the other’s trick and if he/she fails to do so, they gain a letter until the loser spells SKATE. At the end of the session, we interchanged Instagram accounts and we are now good friends.

This story is one of many and is how all friendships are made in skating. Soon enough you find yourself racing through the City of London in groups of 10-20 skaters. What is exciting about these friendships, is the great diversity of backgrounds and the large range of ages. We all skate in big groups where ages can go from 12 to 25.

One of the reasons so many people are drawn to skateboarding is because of how simple and accessible it is. As long as you have a board, you can skate pretty much anywhere. This past year has been very difficult for young people with schools and sports activities being closed during the two lockdowns. Skating saved me and it allowed me to stay connected and healthy. I was able to exercise, and it also helped my mental health. I skated in my garden, where I attempted new tricks on the grass, and after online school, I would go out and relieve myself of any frustrations and stress by skating in the roads around my house.

A great aspect of skating amongst teenagers in London has to do with Instagram. We like to film new tricks and feats we achieve and make edits of them, with music, to post on Instagram. Not only do these edits let us express ourselves through the music and fashion sense, but they also motivate us to keep going. There is a real satisfaction when you land a new trick to share and document such achievements. Getting recognition for them is a great encouragement to keep trying. It is also great fun to analyse, compare and admire edits with your friends.

It doesn’t take long to transition from a beginner to a skater, as long as you keep practicing consistently. The beginning is the toughest part of skating because you have yet to develop the basic skills that motivates you to keep going. But usually after two months you should become very invested in the sport.

As for recommendations on where to skate, if you are just starting out, I recommend going to your local skatepark and asking for help and tips from others. This way you will quickly make friends and you will be able to learn from them. Some parks like Bay SixtySix offer skateboarding lessons that can help you kickstart your progression. Hop King is a nice little indoor park which is beginner friendly. Once you become a bit more advanced, I recommend exploring the multiple spots in the City of London. One of the best ones for beginners are the small 3 stairs under the Leadenhall Building, commonly known as the Cheese Grater, but most people refer to this spot as “Gherkin 3 Stairs”. As you progress, I recommend going to St Paul's where you are bound to find plenty of skaters and obstacles. Trafalgar Square is also a common ground for all skill levels.

When skating there are a set of unspoken rules that you need to abide by, so as to not annoy other skaters. You need to be very aware of other skaters and make sure you are not in anyone's way. When skating an obstacle with other skaters, a natural order will begin to form, and you will be expected to wait your turn. In a bowl or a half pipe, never set up your board to Drop In (dropping in is the act of going down a ramp with a metal coping at the top) when there is somebody skating inside as it can be very distracting and dangerous. It is important to not be embarrassed or ashamed when skating amongst others who are more skilled than you.

I greatly recommend skating as a hobby and despite what you may believe anyone can do it. It provides for great character building. But most importantly, you will make great friendships and keep fun memories.

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