Generation gaps in skateboarding

Carol Matteucci

By Brandon Bridges

Champaign’s Spalding Park bustles with activity – from young children to older adults, the community park serves as a beacon to both avid skaters and new, younger enthusiasts.

Experienced skateboarder Dustin Stuart, of Champaign, said he has witnessed a growing trend in skate parks finding their way into smaller towns.

Champaign is no different. Spalding Park, located at 900 N. Harris, has become Champaign’s latest installment of this trendy addition to urban culture. Skating aficionados in the area use the skate park as a place to practice and execute moves.

But, according to some local skaters, the growing number of younger children learning to skate on these slopes has become problematic.

“Skate parks are not a place to learn how to skate. Younger kids come here and it’s just too difficult a course to learn on,” said John Smith, who has been skateboarding for the last 10 years.

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Many older skaters at Spalding Park, like Smith, have been skateboarding since before the sport became popular among America’s younger generations.

“It’s a trend, something fashionable to do. You can go get your clothes at Hot Topic and get the music and suddenly you’re a skater,” Stuart said.

He said he views the rising popularity of skating in the area as an illustration of the fact that, whereas conformity used to gain kids popularity, being original has become in style in today’s society. Skateboarding lends itself perfectly to that trend, Stuart said.

“I used to get bullied and beat up as a kid because I was a skater, and I look at these kids today and they’re cool because they skate,” Stuart said.

Skating is a way of life, not just a hobby, Smith said. He said he sees it as a valid form of expression, no different than art or music.

“Skating starts to affect how you feel inside,” Stuart said. “The clothes and fashion reflect that, but it extends into art, music, architecture … there are many elements to the skater lifestyle.”

Smith also said skating affects how he sees the outside world.

“I look at Krannert, and I don’t see a long staircase; I see the potential for executing new moves,” he said.

Although both Stuart and Smith said they disliked skateboarding turning into just a popular trend, they remain optimistic about the direction the sport is taking.

“It’s a young art; it’s always growing and changing,” Stuart said. “Each new generation adds something dynamic to it.”

These two enthusiasts, and many others like them at Spalding Park, aspire to one day contribute something as meaningful to the sport as their older counterparts have.

On the University campus, one can see the budding popularity of skating on the Quad and Campustown streets.

Senior in business Peter Manofsky chooses to skate on campus, but he said this isn’t an artistic expression or extension of his personality. It is simply what he views as the easiest mode of transportation.

“I can’t do tricks or anything special; I just think skating is faster than walking to class, and I don’t have to deal with the bikers,” Manofsky said.