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Is Skateboarding A Crime Essay

Tony Hawk got his first skateboard when he was 9 years old. Five years later, he turned pro. Hawk's autobiography and video games have been best sellers, while his foundation has funded skate-park construction in low-income communities across America. hide caption

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I believe that people should take pride in what they do, even if it is scorned or misunderstood by the public at large.

I have been a professional skateboarder for 24 years. For much of that time, the activity that paid my rent and gave me my greatest joy was tagged with many labels, most of which were ugly. It was a kids' fad, a waste of time, a dangerous pursuit, a crime.

When I was about 17, three years after I turned pro, my high school "careers" teacher scolded me in front of the entire class about jumping ahead in my workbook. He told me that I would never make it in the workplace if I didn't follow directions explicitly. He said I'd never make a living as a skateboarder, so it seemed to him that my future was bleak.

Even during those dark years, I never stopped riding my skateboard and never stopped progressing as a skater. There have been many, many times when I've been frustrated because I can't land a maneuver. I've come to realize that the only way to master something is to keep it at — despite the bloody knees, despite the twisted ankles, despite the mocking crowds.

Skateboarding has gained mainstream recognition in recent years, but it still has negative stereotypes. The pro skaters I know are responsible members of society. Many of them are fathers, homeowners, world travelers and successful entrepreneurs. Their hairdos and tattoos are simply part of our culture, even when they raise eyebrows during PTA meetings.

So here I am, 38 years old, a husband and father of three, with a lengthy list of responsibilities and obligations. And although I have many job titles — CEO, Executive Producer, Senior Consultant, Foundation Chairman, Bad Actor — the one I am most proud of is "Professional Skateboarder." It's the one I write on surveys and customs forms, even though I often end up in a secondary security checkpoint.

My youngest son's pre-school class was recently asked what their dads do for work. The responses were things like, "My dad sells money" and "My dad figures stuff out." My son said, "I've never seen my dad do work."

It's true. Skateboarding doesn't seem like real work, but I'm proud of what I do. My parents never once questioned the practicality behind my passion, even when I had to scrape together gas money and regarded dinner at Taco Bell as a big night out.

I hope to pass on the same lesson to my children someday. Find the thing you love. My oldest son is an avid skater and he's really gifted for a 13-year-old, but there's a lot of pressure on him. He used to skate for endorsements, but now he brushes all that stuff aside. He just skates for fun and that's good enough for me.

You might not make it to the top, but if you are doing what you love, there is much more happiness there than being rich or famous.

September 12, 2013 / GO Brooklyn / Fort Greene / Cinema

Is skateboarding a crime?

By Nathan Tempey

The Brooklyn Paper

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BAM’s film series about skateboarding culture get its name from a laptop sticker slogan, “Skateboard­ing is Not a Crime.”

But is it true?

Skateboarders certainly spend enough time dealing with cops, as most people know. And while skateboarding down a New York sidewalk is not a crime — “skating recklessly” is, thanks to a law passed by Mayor Guiliani in 1996 that defines recklessness as “threatening the health or possessions of another person” and makes it punishable by tickets of $50 or $100. The law has not been widely enforced since it first went on the books, according Manhattan’s Uptown Skate School. The code also requires skaters under 14 to wear safety gear.

Most thrashing happens elsewhere, though. Skate aficionados gravitate to designated skateparks and, for so-called street skating, to “skate spots,” or architectural features that lend themselves to tricks. The most mundane piece of urban infrastructure can become a skate spot: a planter in a city park, a cellar door outside of a bodega, a brownstone’s front stoop, and even the inside of an abandoned warehouse are all fair game.

Street skating is where skaters most often run afoul of authority figures, if not the law. When young people gather outside of any business or residence, making a racket and not spending money, someone is bound to take offense. Security guards usually shoo skaters along in instances like these, but if the four-wheelers are still behind a schoolyard fence or in a business parking lot when the cops come, the result can be a trespassing charge. Then again, if skaters are shralping in a city park where “No Skateboard­ing” signs are posted, they could find themselves on the receiving end of a $50 ticket.

Skater haters often complain that skateboarders are destroying precious surfaces with their grinds and slides (one Windsor Terrace thrasher basher goes so far as pouring syrup on ledges that skaters like). But the effect of skateboard grinding on hard edges is incremental and, absent a young hothead throwing her board through a window in anger over not landing a trick, property damage arrests for skateboarding are rare.

And as for wood and concrete skate spots built in out-of-the-way corners of the city, such as the do-it-yourself skate complex under the Brooklyn Queens Expressway at Graham Avenue in Williamsburg, the Department of Transportation occasionally tears out the hand-sculpted ramps, but night builders have so far always bounced back and cops seem to look the other way.

There are also sanctioned skateparks in the borough, like the elaborate set of concrete bowls at Owl’s Head Park in Bay Ridge. But with the city’s approval comes the city’s rules. Helmets, pads, and a signed waiver are technically required for entry to all city skateparks, but visits will show that enforcement ranges from lax to nonexistent. The possibility remains that a cop could roll up on a park full of un-protected skate rats and issue each of them $50 tickets which, needless to say, would be a big bummer.

For a full list of public skateparks in Brooklyn, visit

Reach Nathan Tempey at or by calling (718) 260-4504. Follow him at

©2013 Community News Group

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