Stoked on skateboarding and stoked on the Gold Coast

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It’s getting dark and it’s really cold. And I’ve just witnessed three guys huddled around another doing tricks on his skateboard right at the entrance of The Arts Centre Gold Coast. There’s long hair and tattoos and beanies and beards. They’re so out of place that they draw the attention of Arts Centre General Manager, Destry Puia. He cruises around letting the Centre’s early evening visitors know it’s a photo shoot and it’s all cool.

It’s an interesting segue into my conversation with the four gents, who collectively are Stoke Skate: Jim Dandy, Steve Murphy, Glenn Walker and Andrew Currie. They’ve just held their first event on the Gold Coast – Mudgeerabarby, which saw 350 people travel from as far away as the Sunshine Coast to celebrate all things skate-related. They had 140 people register as skaters and say the high attendance can be attributed to the caliber of guys they had skating.

“We had some of the best guys in Australia skating,” Andrew said. “Like Jake Duncan, Jesse Noonan, Pat Dandy, who is Jim’s brother – they’re some of the highest profile guys in Australia. Jake Duncan lives here on GC but he’s world-famous. He’s of one of the top guys in the world.”

Before they tell me more about Stoke Skate and what they’re all about we chat about the stigma that sorrounds skateboarding in some places, and the GC is no exception. Andrew says, though, that that stigma is less significant now than ever before.

“It’s crumbled quite a bit,” he assures me. “And that’s really a generational shift in the same way that kids are surfing with their parents now.”

Andrew says that many young skaters’ mums or dads skated and that many of the clinics they run see just as many parents show up to learn to skate as their kids.

“I think a lot of that stigma is falling away from it. I think that – it’s more of a general societal thing as opposed to just skateboarding. Perspectives are becoming more wide,” he said.

It’s blatantly obvious that these four guys live and breathe skateboarding. So I ask about Stoke Skate and what it is exactly. Glenn responds quite succinctly. “I guess our vision is to make the Gold Coast the best place in the world to be a skateboarder,” he said.

“It’s just a private business that the four of us have set up. We have a life time involvement in skating, we’re all pretty passionate about our work and it’s an opportunity for us to see what we can do,” he continued.

As well as running events, Glenn says their goal is to work with brands to manage specific projects and to make opportunities for skateboarding along the way… “whether it’s contributing to new kids on a skateboard for the first time or assisting with the development of skate parks – anything to do with skateboarding, we want to help,” he said.

Andrew has the longest running connection to skateboarding and the Gold Coast, growing up skating around Nobby’s Beach in the 80s. “I watched Pizzey Park get built,” he tells me. And does he still skate?

“Yes,” in fact they all say yes. “We’re still ratbags, just a bit older,” Andrew said. We talk about skate parks on the Gold Coast, me being one of those ratbags that hung around bowls as a kid – the Ashmore bowl in particular. It’s one of those facilities that has been filled in. Andrew says he used to skate there from Nobbys. And then we go back to talking about the skate park at Mudgeeraba which was the focus of their recent event.

The Mudgeeraba skate park was recently extended. And then Cr Glenn Tozer approached Stoke Skate about running an event there.

“He’s a really good advocate for youth on the coast, music, skateboarding,” Glenn said. “So he contributed some of his community budget to extending the park. And then a big part of his strategy as well is activation, bringing the community together with events. So he approached us and he’s obviously forward-thinking in his approach in terms of delivery for outcomes for youth in particular. It was the first project that we did as Stoke Skateboarding, so it was a good launch event for us as well.”

A good launch is probably an understatement. Getting 140 registered skateboarders to a suburban skate boarding event is nothing to sneeze at. And Andrew agrees. “The thought that some of those kids may have been seeing skateboarding for the first time on the day at Mudgeeraba… that they could experience anything like what we’ve had, is a bonus,” he said.

And the team have their sights set further than the Gold Coast too.

“We’re lucky enough to work on projects right round Australia and overseas,” Glenn said. “At the moment we’re working with the City of Christchurch to create a new skate space for the youth as a contribution back towards their community on the back of the earthquakes they had a few years ago.” He says the project is one being run in conjunction with Levis and focuses on the creation of skateable terrain. They’re also working with Converse on a project here on the Gold Coast.

“It’s kind of all systems go,” Glenn said. “The more we can do on the GC, the better, but people are looking to take us elsewhere to do some work.”

As with other creative businesses here and elsewhere, the four all have jobs outside of Stoke Skate, but they’re all related. Jim and Steve work in a skate shop, Glenn does a bunch of freelance work for brands mostly around what he calls ‘mainstream sports’ and Andrew runs his own skate brand called Hoon Skateboards. We laugh that he’s named his brand Hoon when we’d just talked about busting skateboarding stereotypes. “We do branded clothing,” he explains. “Pat Dandy is pro for the company – one of the highest profile skaters to come out of the Gold Coast.”

Glenn said the dream is to grow the company but things like Mudgeerabarby rely on their own time being volunteered as well as generous contributions from others. “Getting the bands to come along? Those guys turned up for free – that’s the kind of good will that we’ve received,” he said.

“Hopefully over time we can grow that and start to pay those guys as well. We have a pretty bold vision for things which obviously needs to be matched with people who think like us and have the same kind of ambitions for what skateboarding can contribute,” he said.

So what can skateboarding contribute? I ask the question of the four and Steve, who’s been quite up until now pipes up. He immediately refers to a youtube clip posted by the Library of Congress where Ian Mackaye speaks about the impact that skateboarding has had on him. It’s taken from a longer clip where Ian talks about personal digital archiving and ways to steward our digital cultural heritage. Steve perfectly summarises the clip.

“He said that it opens up the possibilities to everyone to see the world in a different light,” Steve said. “Being a skateboarder you see everything around you in different eyes and I think that’s what can be on offer to everybody if you take up skateboarding or you have a general interest in it. The world’s your oyster, whether it’s filming, photography, doing events, whether it’s art, creating board graphics, whatever it may be, whatever it is, it’s endless.”

Watch Ian Mackaye talk skateboarding to the Library of Congress:

 

In this sense skateboarding allows people to express their creativity, which means the spaces open to people to do that are critical. I ask Andrew how important this physical infrastructure is to the Gold coast.

“You travel to a place like Barcelona or Copenhagan – there are places for skateboarders to gather. People are a lot more open minded. No-ones getting kicked out,” he said. “Unfortunately we don’t have anything like that on the Coast. Obviously there’s existing, dedicated terrain, but there’s nothing like what happens in Europe or somewhere like Portland (USA). Hopefully we can continue to build a relationship with Council and create what’s required to fill the current gaps that are there.”

“The attitude is to make this city skate friendly as opposed to putting skate stoppers on everything,” Glenn adds. “You can make the city designed to be skateable – that’s the ultimate goal.”

“One of the things about the Gold Coast is that we have a lot of skate parks but they’re all very transition orientated,” Glenn explains. “So we’ve got this abundance of bowls, but where skateboarding is actually at is that it’s very street orientated, so all the guys that the kids are looking up to are doing these amazing things in the streets, and there’s no real dedicated spaces to do that.”

“And even the way that we look at skateboard park design – we have all these skateboard parks but they’re all bowls and ramps. It’s not necessarily what the new kids want to skate. Those things are great and we want to encourage kids to skate everything but you also have to accommodate where skate boarding is at and skateboarding is in the streets,” Glenn said.

Steve believes it’s important to have spaces dedicated to skateboarding. “You have those dedicated spaces for graffiti art and they are allocated to that. To have something similar for skateboarding would be amazing. Not only a space that you can sit down and relax and enjoy with your friends, but also a skateable face, where people can deliver their art form.”

“There’s an amazing example of it in Adelaide, they’ve built this massive square right in the middle of the city and I watched a documentary piece about it and there’s all these guys skating and everyone’s doing their thing and in the middle you have this older generation doing tai chi, but they’re watching the skate boarding and they’re not intimidated by it,” Andrew adds.

“Skateboarding is a part of that network of people, instead of being frowned upon.”

“The amount of times a kid has probably said to a security guard, “I’m not here to damage anything, I’m just skating man,” and the way they’re approached and that attitude they receive, just instant shut-down, accusations that you’re here to damage public property. I know that at times there’s some marks on the wall or scratches on a kerb, but a kid didn’t particularly go there because they’re trying to fuck shit up. They went there because they’re trying to skate and be creative and that’s what we want to promote,” Andrew said.

“Skateboarding is creativity, it’s individuality, it’s freedom.”

Glenn says Stoke Skate just wants to see the Gold Coast grow creatively and he’s excited about how things have changed recently. “Things like Blank, new cafes, new kind of businesses opening up that are really independent. They’ve got their own take on things. So the Gold Coast is transitioning to a new direction, which is pleasing. We want to be a part of that, we want to work with people that are like minded to increase that momentum.”

And they say one of their key strategies for doing that is by talking to the people they aim to represent. “So when we come up with an idea or skateboarding event we’re actually talking to the people who are going to be skateboarding in the event and saying you know, how would it work for you, how would it be most enjoyable instead of someone coming along and telling you the way it’s going to be.”

“It’s the same with musicians, you know, it’s like all the best venues are almost always run by musicians. Someone that’s played, someone that knows what it’s like to stand on the stage.”

“The best galleries are run by people who’ve presented their own artwork. They understand what the space should feel like.”

“So I guess our thing is we actually want the skateboarders of the Gold Coast to be as much of our voice as we are. Because we’re them. We are them. I’m the same kid – I’m the same as the kid that’s getting kicked out of the carpark. That’s still me. Thirty years later,” Andrew said.

Steve wraps things up neatly by saying he thinks what Stoke Skate does best is wrapped up in their tagline ‘skateboarding possibilities’. “And that’s what I’m in it for,” he said. “There’s a million and one possibilities that you can get out of it. We’re four people who’ve dedicated a good part of our careers and lives to doing it.”

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Awesome feature image, and our cover shot for July 2015 is by Leisen Standen | LAMP Photography

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