Ocean Howell, an ex-pro skater, is currently working on his P.H.D. at U.C. Berkeley.
Let’s face it… it’s high time skateboarders worked their way into academia. Stereotypes of skateboarders as Neanderthal ruffians, criminals, miscreants, and bullies are rampant amongst the uneducated masses. Too often, a skatepark advocate is tasked with re-educating an entire community on the realities of exactly who the contemporary skateboarder is (answer: anyone and everyone) and is not (see above), before they can even begin to discuss the issues relating to the skatepark itself.
As more first, second, and third generation skateboarders achieve notoriety and respect in the professional, political, and academic realm, the more control they will have over affecting change. We’ve already seen results in Portland where skateboarder Tom Miller has become Chief of Staff for City Commissioner Sam Reed, and played a major role in helping to pass the first city-wide skatepark master plan in the country. Here in Seattle, graduate student John Carr has played a major role in working with the City Council to pass a similar plan. The public face of the typical skateboarder is changing, which will hopefully help to reverse or at least amend the stereotype to include a larger cross-section of the community at-large.
In 2001, Ocean Howell produced an impressive work that covers all the big thinkers from Olmsted to Foucault, and fully explicates the notion that public space is a grand illusion created for the benefit of consumers and not the public itself. Articles in skateboard magazines about the need for skateparks are great, but that audience is relatively on-board at this point. Works like this article elevate the dialog beyond skateboarding and prove that there’s a common thread that connects public skateparks to every other element within the urban fabric.