It’s surreal that we’ve transformed a plank of wood with wheels into so much more than just a means for transportation. We can pop it up, flip it around, control it (or at least try to), like it’s an extension of our bodies. Aside from the constant injuries (usually shin bruises), skateboarding can harvest some of the most fulfilling feelings in your life. Adventure Skateground was conceived as a site to question pre-existing structures, practice illogical thinking, skill sharing, self-expression and creativity
The site harnesses the excitement that skateboarding brings to inspire cultural change. The Skateground began as a sculpture garden of both skate-able and non-skate-able objects in a vacant theatre from the former Expo 67 Canadian pavilion. The non-skate-able sculptures functioned as a disguise for the forbidden skateboarding going on in the vacant building. Thus, the project works with skateboarding as a political intervention and an artistic gesture.
Since the vacant theatre, Adventure Skateground has evolved into new iterations, with locations now at Batiment 7 in Montreal, Quebec and on Fogo Island in Newfoundland. Adventure Skateground was begun by non-male skaters who dreamt of having a big fun place to play music, fuck around and learn to skate without feeling like they were getting in the way of the dominant skaters. Because honestly, learning to skate in your 20’s is really intimidating and it’s hard to get better at skating if you don’t feel comfortable in a space. We overcame this by building our own skateparks from repurposed materials to fit our needs and abilities.
We held weekly beginner nights, queer skate nights, and free skate events in an effort to cultivate the diverse perspectives that feed into what skate culture means on a global scale. Below is a collection of small stories that tell of the ways in which this space has impacted its core members. Together, they demonstrate how creating a supportive skateboarding community can foster growth in many different directions, both on and off the board.
I’d always wanted to be a skater; I had asked previous boyfriends to teach me to skate, borrowed my mom’s mid-life crisis skateboard on occasion, but never felt confident or comfortable to be a learner. I couldn’t believe my luck when on my first day at a kitchen job, my new coworkers invited me to skate with them. So, I started skating in December 2018, at the first iteration of Adventure Skateground in an unused Expo 67 pavilion. Skating takes place in such public spaces that it is terrifying to take baby steps as an adult while young prodigies skate circles around me.
The way that Adventure Skateground has been a community that not only makes spaces for beginners but helps them find their footing on a board has allowed me to take the risks I couldn’t on my own. As a non-binary person, skating has also felt like the missing piece of a puzzle in my pursuit of gender affirmation; something that this space allowed me and that male dominated parks haven’t. Skateground has helped me learn to take up space not only in skating, but in other male dominated spaces in my life as well. Adventure Skateground reminds me of the way that the Girls Rock Camp movement across the globe has directly influenced the involvement of girls and queer youth in music scenes.
If countless young femme/queer bands are being formed and taken seriously because of those spaces, the effect parks like Skateground could have on the skate world could be the dismantling of white cis patriarchal structures that have kept skating a pleasure for the privileged, and encourage the growth of diverse and kind skate communities.
Growing up, aside from a handful of non-male skaters like some of my favourites Elissa Steamer and Vanessa Torres, skate culture cherished (and still does) magazine publications, contests, and video parts filmed by, edited by and featuring male skaters. For people like me, a white skater boy with years of practice, getting into skateboarding was natural, and almost expected of me. I could dress like who I saw in skate videos (white skater dudes), show up to the skatepark, and inherently feel part of the skate community. Where I am in Canada, skaters like me usually make up the majority of skateparks now, where skating has become a lasting part of our identity. Despite how skateboarding has impacted my life in a positive way, I’ve always felt strange for receiving the benefits of something that is so accessible to me, but so inaccessible to so many others. Yes, skateparks are public and technically available to anyone, but it’s us – the skaters -the culture within the park that make it so hostile and uninviting.
The Skateground project has been so educational to me about being aware of stigma surrounding skateboarding that I’m perpetuating as a male skater, and the exclusion that skate culture creates for non-male skaters. It’s reaffirmed my belief that diversity is fundamental in the foundation of any community, and given me knowledge of ways in which I can be more aware of the space I’m taking up, and interacting with skating in an inclusive way. I feel inspired to continue spreading this energy to not only within skateboarding, but into the world and communities around me.
One of the best (and sometimes hardest) part about skateboarding is that it forces you to take up space. There’s nothing about skateboarding that is small or quiet. The act itself forces you to assert your body and board in ways that are bold, confident, and loud. For non-male people, this goes against much of how we’ve been taught to exist in society. By being on a board, the act itself becomes a practice in (re)claiming space. It teaches you that you don’t have to be perfect to take up the space you deserve; it is a practice of being big and not being sorry. In this way, skateboarding becomes a means of unlearning and relearning the ways in which we occupy our bodies and navigate space. And of course you’re always forced to stay humble, because gravity has a painful way of reminding you that you can always do better.
As a collaborative project and community space, Adventure Skateground was founded on reoccupying spaces in positive, radical ways, and encouraging people to do the same. The project functions on a culture that prioritizes space for skaters who can’t show up to a standard skatepark and feel comfortable. More than that, it has become an experiment in how skateboarding has the ability to transform spaces for community empowerment instead of selective exclusion. Adventure Skateground has taught me so much over the course of this year, but more than anything it’s showed me that in being conscious of how you take up space you also have the ability to transform it; in this act we can bring femmes to (skate to) the front.
A friend brought me to the first iteration of the Skateground during a time in my life that I did not feel comfortable at home. It became for me an escape from a bleak Montreal winter where I could focus on a specific (often frightening) task that had never felt available to me. It also allowed me to become friends with people I probably wouldn’t have met outside a space designed for those who were incidentally all looking for the same thing. I learned how to situate myself on a rolling piece of wood, and very slowly found the courage that’s required from actually trying to get better.
I don’t think that would have probably ever happened had there not been a group of people, and a decent sized theatre space, that were willing and encouraging me to put my anxiety aside and think of skateboarding in a new light. This new light included people of all levels, across the gender spectrum, that derived their pleasure of skateboarding from collective progression and inclusive mindsets. I began meeting more and more people who shared a similar history of skateboarding to mine: they would not step foot into male-dominated skateparks that felt like the patriarchy talent show. It didn’t always reach its goal 100%, but Adventure worked in making evident a need for more spaces, in all communities, that open their doors and welcome everyone inside. I spent my summer building a skatepark that became an emblem for openness and collaboration. Ultimately, it reaffirmed my belief that empowering non-men to fight for change makes literally anything better, and is my driving force as I roll around this earth.
Adventure Skateground is more than just an inclusive DIY skatepark, it is also an art installation. It is an artist-run space that not only uses art and design to facilitate a welcoming skateboarding environment but employs skateboarding as an artistic medium itself. The name Adventure Skateground alludes to adventure playgrounds, a specific type of playground defined by an ethos of unrestricted play and DIY building. Adventure playgrounds are liberated from adult enforced structures and empower kids by allowing them to create and build with “risky” materials. Instead of giving children a pre-designed environment to interact with, kids are given the tools like hammers and nails to build their own playground.
Through figuring out how to operate potentially dangerous materials, and be in potentially dangerous situations, children become more self-aware, creative and empowered. Both literally and metaphorically, Adventure Skateground aims to give its users the tools to build their own playgrounds too. Skateboarding, and DIY skateboarding in particular, helps you build the confidence and self-awareness to navigate intimidating situations. Playing with constant failure, painful slams, and eventually progress translates into social situations.
It’s made me nimbler when moving through a precarious situation, braver when taking on challenging roles in my professional development, but even just less scared when trying to get home safely at night. Now that I’m comfortable riding a skateboard, if there is a creepy man following me I’m like “UHHH FUCK OFF M8 YOU CAN’T CATCH ME!!!” Amongst so many things, skateboarding has been a tool for my mental health, self-love and self-defence.
Amanda De Angelis:
When I was around the age of eight or nine, I became curious about skateboarding. My older brother had one at the time and I would secretly take it and just practice pushing. When he found out, he got very mad at me and told me I wasn’t allowed to use it anymore. So that was that. He decided that there was no space for me. When I met everyone last year at the first Skateground, they were all so welcoming. It didn’t matter that I was just a beginner, because that’s not what it was about. I was encouraged to be open and to try new things, which can be a scary thing sometimes.
Throughout the year working on this project, I was finally given that space to participate, something not a lot of non-binary/trans people can say about the skate community. We worked together to build the park from the ground up to create a place for people to come and learn together. To give space to the people that are too scared to go to the local skatepark for fear of being judged. Adventure Skateground was built on the premise of empowering those that needed the extra push to make room for themselves. I definitely did. I feel grateful to have been a part of this project and to have had a place to fall on my butt again and again.
Although skate culture is just now starting to shed more light on non-male skaters in the industry, the exclusionary nature of skate culture and stigma surrounding womxn skaters remains. There still exists a widespread belief of unwritten requirements that serve as criteria to be accepted as a skater, and there are still many male skaters who choose to bolster those archaic norms and patriarchal views within the skate community. This attitude perpetuates the pattern of male fragility and need to claim ownership, and it’s all of our responsibility to actively work on abolishing these belief systems for the bettering of skate culture.
Through Adventure Skateground, we wanted to explore what skateboarding could be when making a conscious effort to accommodate and encourage different skaters of all levels. We strived to provide a supportive environment where beginners could feel more comfortable, everyone was in your skate crew, and more experienced skaters were required to be aware of the space they took up. It’s our attempt at reflecting these values within skateboarding, and is a microcosm example of how womxn can transform skate communities from feeling inaccessible into places of growth, support, and of course, gnarly shredding.
By: Amanda de Angelis, Charlotte Dempsey, Mikaela Kautzky, Jane Lakes, Ross Le Blanc, Isobel Walker
All images belong to Adventure Skateground.
For more information on Adventure, visit their instagram.