Abandoned buildings, vacant lots and large-scale slums are an unfortunate characteristic of the urban environment. DIY skateboarding is often associated both with these large and small-scale examples of derelict architecture. There are many reasons why skaters might be attracted to these locations. Lack of security, neighbours and government intervention are a few variables that make these locations prime for skating. While these factors provide the conditions for skating, I believe what really attracts skaters is the ability to express their creativity through the creation of DIY skate spots.
A derelict location is like a blank canvas that skaters can utilise however they see fit. Skaters approach these locations with only skateboarding in mind. Having free reign over these spots means that skater’s can build anything they want. Comparatively this dialogue between skaters and the creation of the spot often goes unheard during the constriction of government funded skate parks3. Skaters know exactly what they need to make a good location, and DIY skate spots are driven by this knowledge. Greater flexibility of layout and utilisation of these spots is relevant as ramps, rails and other obstacles can be moved to alter how the space is used. While creating DIY skate spot may be a lot of work, they can be cheap and built relatively fast.
Easy access, existing materials and quick set up are all attractive characteristics of derelict locations. Lack of security and nosy neighbours means skaters can get into the site fairly easy. Abandoned buildings, lots or slums are usually in disarray, with dumped rubbish and other usable building materials. Almost anything can be used in a DIY skate spot; whether is rubble for concrete mix, old plywood for ramps or metal posts that can be used for skate rails. Building these DIY spots is also relatively quick depending on how complex the desired spot is. This is important because the longevity of these spots can vary depending on location. For example a vacant building or site that contains a DIY spot might be torn down for development if the surrounding urban area is economically well or expanding5. On the other had if the DIY spot is located in a large slum or ghetto, it is unlikely that developers will require that land anytime soon3.
With any DIY location there is a communal aspect involved. Skaters have a much more personal connection with the location because they put in the time and effort to make it possible. Mutual respect for other skaters and the spot itself is driven by the personal investment of its users. This is much more relevant in large spread areas of urban poverty such as the Detroit ghetto. Often skaters in these locations won’t have anywhere else to skate, so for the sake of the sport a communal effort must be made; “It’s a huge amount of work but it’s the only way we can do it.”3
Glossary of terms
DIY “do it yourself”, in this context this refers to skaters building their own skate spots.
Skating abbreviation of skateboarding. Not to be confused with ice-skating, inline skating or rollerblading
Spots used to refer to location other than skate parks that are used by skateboarders.
- Evan Hutchings, Why the DIY Skateboard Culture of Detroit is so Legit, Vice Sports, accessed September 7, 2017, https://sports.vice.com/en_us/article/xyjbx7/why-the-diy-skateboard-culture-of-detroit-is-so-legit.
- Brian Caissie, Nate Lacoste gördeszkás, 444, accessed September 7, 2017, https://kepek.444.hu/2014/12/31/sosem-latott-tajon.
- “Skateboarding in Detroit – Levis Skateboarding,” Vimeo Video, 04:45, posted by “Tobin Yelland,” February 2017, https://vimeo.com/200753436.
- Jake Vivori, DIY Spots: If you Build it, they Will Come, Slug Magazine, September 4, 2013, accessed September 7, 2017, https://www.slugmag.com/skate/diy-spots-if-you-build-it-they-will-come/.
- Nat Kassel, “Inside Sydney’s Abandoned Building Skate Scene,” Vice, April 11, 2017, accessed September 7, 2017, https://www.vice.com/en_au/article/nzg8xq/inside-sydneys-abandoned-building-skate-scene.
- “The Wig” Skatepark, Patronicity, accessed September 7, 2017, https://www.patronicity.com/project/the_wig_skatepark#!/.