Books for skateboarders - or their parents, who wonder, "What is skateboarding?"
Before embarking on a recent cross-country road trip - visiting skateboard parks across the US with my sons and three of their skater friends - I pulled together a few books about skateboarding, with ambitious visions of immersing myself in the history of my teen sons' adopted sport.
I didn't read a single word on the road, but now that our wacky adventure has ended (read more at our Sk8theSt8s.com blog), I'm back into my late-summer project: to attempt to understand the sport that's become such a big part of my family's lifestyle and has transformed my parental role into 'skate dad.'
Surprisingly little has been written about the history and culture of this fast-growing and heavily-sponsored sport, it turns out The stellar documentary 'Dogtown and Z-boys' (and a companion book of articles and photos, DogTown: The Legend of the Z-Boys) seems to have kept others from exploring similar turf. Still, there are a few worthy efforts, the best of which I found to be journalist/skater Jocko Weyland's lively The Answer Is Never: A Skateboarder's History of the World. Weyland retells the story of skateboarding's 1960s Southern California origins and it's 1980s rebirth. He also describes the "inexpressible freedom in the act of skating," the lack of coaches and rules, and how skating "lies at a unique junction of sport and art."
Other books about the renegade culture of skating include The Impossible: Rodney Mullen, Ryan Sheckler, and the Fantastic History of Skateboarding, by Cole Louison, The Mutt: How to Skateboard and Not Kill Yourself, by Rodney Mullen, and Stalefish: skateboard culture from the rejects who made it, by Sean Mortimer. My research also took me through pages about skateboard artwork (The Disposable Skateboard Bible and Disposable: A History of Skateboard Art); skate shoes (Made for Skate: The Illustrated History of Skateboard Footwear); and skate photography (Full Bleed: New York City Skateboard Photography). I also skimmed two books by the most famous skateboarder of all, Tony Hawk's How Did I Get Here: The Ascent of an Unlikely CEO and Hawk: Occupation: Skateboarder.
Then there's Said Sayrafiezadeh's When Skateboards Will Be Free: A Memoir of a Political Childhood, which was an Amazon Best of the Month pick in 2009. Though I knew the story had nothing to do with skateboarding, this book had been on my to-read list for awhile, and I was curious to learn the source of its title. Sayrafiezadeh, whose nutty socialist parents believed there was "virtue in misery, nobility in hardship," describes the day he asked his mother to buy him a green skateboard for $10.99. Her reply: "When the revolution comes, everyone will have a skateboard, because all skateboards will be free." That promise prompted Sayrafiezadeh's dreams of an endless summer of constant skateboarding - the same "inexpressible freedom" Weyland describes - but the revolution never came.