Blog

Issue Four. Saturday, 23rd of November.

This week is the first of our ‘How TO Series’ to be filmed at skateparks around Australia. Jack talks us through how to do a bar spin at Bathurst Skatepark. If you have any tricks you want some help with, whether it’s for scooter, skateboard or BMX let us know and we’ll drop an edit for you.

 

Issue Three. Wednesday, September 12th 2013

How to run a scooter, skate or BMX competition at your local skate park. Check out this link.

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Issue Two. Tuesday, September 3rd 2013

The gender divide with skate parks and sponsorship

Freelance journalist, Tom Watson chats with myself and a few athletes to get a better understanding of youth perception of action sports sponsorship. 

Action sports such as BMX and scooter are bucking the trend of traditional sports, where females often struggle for recognition. With a growing number of girls taking up action sports, they are finding increased opportunities for sponsorship, as companies target the growing segment.

But while the guys support girls getting involved with action sports, it’s when the subject of sponsorship is raised, that there’s some tension in the skate park.

It seems that while the boys are happy to share the sandpit, they still haven’t learnt to share the toys.

Growing up in a beachside suburb, Gabby Campbell, 14, learnt to surf and skate with her family and neighbourhood kids.Gabby Campbell

Then her friends got into scooters so she decided to give it a go and took to it naturally.

Gabby is now a popular scooter competitor sponsored by ECS and Big Air School, and has represented Australia in BMX.

“The guys at skateparks have always been really supportive of my riding” she says, but admits when it comes to sponsorship

“Sometimes it makes me really sad when they boys discredit me for being a sponsored rider”

“We aren’t asking to travel the world, we ride because we love it. I may not be the best rider, but if I’m getting more girls into the sport, then I’m SO happy that I can do that!”

Daniel, 15, a scooter rider says “I think girls riding scooters is a good thing. It creates a better scene if its boys and girls enjoying the sport together”.

While Brendan, 20, a keen BMX rider, is even more encouraging saying
“I have huge amounts of respect for girls who throw down. It’s great that they aren’t scared of getting bruised in the process of learning new skills.”
But one only has to raise the subject of sponsorship to see their true attitudes on display.

“I see girls fully sponsored… and all they do is ride around the course like idiots! I’m not being nasty, but no guy would ever be sponsored at that level” complains Brendan.

Jess Boland
Jess Boland, 19, is a high profile scooter rider. After coming from a skating background she earned a solid  reputation competing on the scooter circuit,claiming several titles, often in mixed gender comps, and became the first female in the world to back flip a scooter. Jess is currently sponsored by Apex Scooters and Madd Gear.

Dan Pankraz, a youth marketing strategist, has looked into the gender motivations of the teen market segment and observed that “young males are excited by symbols of achievement, as they compete with their friends in everything. While their female counterparts are more driven by their social context, image and storytelling”

So it makes sense that the approach to marketing and rider sponsorship differs between the genders, to appeal to different motivating factors.

Yet it seems the gender debate is taking a new twist, and the same old tired male arguments against equal prize-money in traditional sports, is now being used to address a perceived imbalance in sponsorship benefits in modern sports.

Jemima Key, founder of Big Air School says “Sponsorship is the Holy Grail for riders in these industries and the competition to get sponsored is fierce.”

In her experience, Key has found that while “most guys support and encourage the girls to get involved, they see sponsorship as a status symbol” and often resent the girls who are chosen. “Males strongly encourage females to participate in the scooter and BMX scene, but become less supportive, even critical when girls are recognized for their industry contribution.”

Another keen scooter rider Henry, 15, says “I think that the sport is a bit sexist! If you’re a girl and can land basic tricks, then companies will sponsor you, but a guy needs to be an amazing rider to even be considered.”

But sponsorship is not prize-money. Nor is it necessarily a reflection of skill level.

“Sponsorship is an investment in a sport, for marketing and promotion purposes” says Key “and as such, needs to provide a return on that investment, either financially, or through such marketing tangibles as promotion, brand awareness and goodwill. Not trophies!”

BMX rider Scott Harvey, 26, believes ‘Girls get sponsorships handed to them undeservedly for helping to sell a product, not for the skills that guys have.’

“That’s just a typical of the poorly informed opinions most males have toward rider sponsorship” says Key, “Helping to sell a product is precisely what makes someone an ideal candidate for sponsorship.”

Rhi WoodRhiannon Wood, 20 is Team Manager for Engadine Cycles. Sponsored by Grit Scooters, Rhiannon teaches scooter clinics, and works on the Big Air School events team and she has over 5000 followers on her fan page where she shares information about industry developments, new products and upcoming events and her page acts as an industry hub making her an excellent candidate to help promote her sponsor despite the fact that she does not compete.

But as she explains “Sometimes I get targeted by internet trolls saying I don’t deserve to be sponsored, simply because I don’t compete in events or release riding footage?”

Ms Key believes that the prevailing ‘male’ attitude toward recognition, and the youth market’s limited understanding of sponsorship, has created a warped perception that sponsorship should be solely based on performance.

“While the scooter, skate and BMX industries are male dominated there’s still a massive female market, and it’s apparent that the girls become involved with their sports because of the ‘fun, so it makes sense that happy, enthusiastic female riders are engaged to help make the sports more inviting to girls. If companies weren’t marketing to the female sector, that doesn’t automatically mean those dollars would go to the boys… It just means there would be less sponsorship investment in the sport as a whole.”

It’s fair to say that we still have a long way to go before we fully embrace equality in sports, but the disdain for female sponsorship is unwarranted.

When asked how to best address the problem,  Gabby Campbell sums it up perfectly:

“Guys shouldn’t be hating on the progression and expansion of their own sport!”

and Key seconds that by reminding the industry participants

“Don’t hate the player… hate the game”

The marketing game that is!

 

Issue One. Thursday, Feb 7th 2013

Skatepark etiquette and the unwritten rules Oftentimes skatepark language and culture can be dumbfounding and sometimes intimidating and, unfortunately, most of us have don’t have the time or resources to dedicate ourselves to properly understanding the dynamics at these concrete playgrounds. In this brief article Jemima Key from Big Air School shares her social findings on scooter, skate and BMX culture and skatepark etiquette from her experience at skateparks around Australia. After travelling extensively throughout the eastern states of Australia conducting scooter, skate and BMX workshops and competitions, I’ve become intrigued with local skatepark culture and how it evolves in these largely unsupervised environments. For me, it’s encouraging that there is so much passion abounding in young people for these artistic and unregulated action sports and I’m sharing this information in the hope of fostering a greater understanding of it, so we can provide better opportunities for young people to express themselves through action sports and recreation. It’s amazing how much the culture can vary from one skatepark to another and I’ve outlined my understanding of some basic (and somewhat generalised) etiquette standards and unwritten rules of skateparks below:

  • Younger riders/skaters use the skateparks earlier on the weekends, with older riders coming down later. During the week many older riders use the skateparks during the day and younger riders use it after school.
  • Most skaters have respect and take pride in their skateparks. Many have unofficial maintenance routines (generally delegated to the 12- to 14-year-old users), which involve sweeping the skatepark to ensure a good riding surface. Those delegated to sweep the skateparks bring their own brushes for the job.
  • Graffiti is accepted (even encouraged) but only certain types, as too much coverage can affect the riding surface. Obscene language and depictions of genitals are pretty commonplace. In saying that, I haven’t seen racist graffiti in any skateparks.
  • Alcohol consumption often occurs often with users aged 16+; however, it is generally agreed that all bottles, cans etc. must be removed from the site. Although people who consume alcohol are not considered to be role models – as there is an assumption that they drink because they can’t ride or skate.
  • In relation to entering a new skating enclave, for example at a new skatepark, it’s generally expected that the newcomers hang back and stay out of the way until being invited to participate by ‘the locals’.
  • As far as sexism and respect for both genders, females hanging at the skateparks to spectate are often ignored or ridiculed with monikers such as  ‘ramp tramps’, ‘skate sluts’ etc. However, females who participate in skating, scooting or riding – and also photography and videography – are accepted and encouraged.
  • In relation to injuries, ambulances are rarely called, as it’s seen as potentially restrictive to their skating liberties. Many older users have cars and drive the injured people home. Serious injuries are surprisingly infrequent. Grazes, sprains, bruising etc. are pretty common – a good article on this by Sally Jeavons can be found here: http://www.kidsafensw.org/imagesDB/wysiwyg/Issue36March2011V2110704.pdf
  • In relation to respecting physical boundaries, riders should be two metres from the coping to allow tricks to be executed (the coping is the edging of the skatepark). If users fail to do this or ‘snake’ other riders (interfere with their ‘line’) they will be shouted at, heckled or somehow put in their place.
  • There is rarely physical violence between skatepark users. Mostly it is verbal abuse if there is an altercation.

The average age of riders is 12 (we usually have a pretty even split in our under-12 and 12 and over divisions). There are occasional outliers with some starting as young as 2.5 years old and some riders continue into their early 40s (generally this older group is made up of skaters rather than BMX riders – and the scooter industry is too new to have riders that old!) However, riders/skaters tend to drift from their sports from the age of 16–17. Each skatepark has its own unwritten rules as far as older skaters taking precedence over the younger ones. Some are notably more supportive than others and will share the skatepark, with older riders encouraging and teaching younger riders. Unfortunately some are much less accommodating and older riders can intimidate younger riders. At some regional skateparks there is an acknowledgement that younger riders and older riders use the skateparks at different times of the day to avoid congestion and conflict.

The language of the skatepark As far as linguistic translations go, I’ve included a few common terms, but unless you can hold your own on a skateboard and rock a flat brim cap, I strongly advise against using this language as it can sound oh-so-wrong (I should know, I tried, persisted and eventually let it go!).

Shred: A term for riding or skating at a high level: ‘Who wants to come for a shred?’ or ‘That guy is insane – he totally shreds’

Yolo: Abbreviation for ‘You only live once’. The word was briefly floating around in the ‘cool’ vernacular circles – but is now used primarily as a sarcastic insult. I’m currently developing several more articles from my research including ‘Relationship dynamics and how they differ from school and traditional peer groups’, ‘Bullying and bystanding at skateparks’ and ‘Observed differences between regional and metropolitan skatepark users’ – if you are interested in any of these topics or have any questions feel free to email Jemima at admin@bigairschool.com.au and I’ll be happy to share information with you.

Big Air School is a privately owned action sports youth engagement program that offers scooter, skate, BMX and parkour events around Australia. For further information see: www.bigairschool.com.au