City planners love skateboarders and skateboarding—in Malmo, at least, "A Swedish skate paradise," according to a 2016 Huck article.
The Malmo skate community and local educators founded the skateboarding high school, which not only has a skate-focused physical curriculum but includes "architecture and media editing classes, alongside the courses you would expect at a regular high school." The city boasts a "skate ambassador in city hall", Gustav Edén, a paid employee whose job is to advocate and develop people friendly skate spots, organize events and represent all things skating in city government.
Finally, there's the Kroksbäck Skatepark, built in collaboration with the high school, Vans shoes and the award-winning Dreamland Skateparks. An annual competition (CHP) accompanied by a daily loose itinerary of skate spots, cultural events and even an academic conference, Pushing Boarders, draws fans, skaters, and the curious from all over Europe and the globe. It is so popular that the date of the event is kept secret except for the most dialed-in insiders.
Where, then, is the Malmo of the US? Skaters participating in the city government? A skate ambassador? A high school that teaches architecture, poetry and skateboarding? Tax money willingly allocated to build skateparks and city DIY (is that an oxymoron) skate spots: how did this come to be?
In the 1990s, skaters in Malmo – as is the case in the cold the world over – were forced into an underground shopping mall car parking lot to escape the elements. Necessity and love conditioned innovation. After forming an association, the skaters were now recognized as an official organization that could request support from council government. Direct democracy, perhaps? The city responded, first providing access to an abandoned school and old brewery. The skate community, under the auspices of Skate Malmo and building on the long tradition of DIY, followed suit by working with the skate ambassador, to fund and create this magnet of a city for skaters around the galaxy. Full disclosure: I have skated since the age of 13, and I really like writing the words "skate ambassador".
Is Malmo an anomaly or a model?
Ryan Lay, professional skateboarder from the Phoenix, Arizona valley area, has made a bold proposal: maybe Tempe will be the next Malmo. In a recent tweet, Lay sketched: "Ok, think toned down CPH in Tempe. If we actually set up an itinerary of 2/3 parks/spots a day + a night event (bar/art show/premiere/talk) over the course of 4 days on a holiday weekend in Jan or Feb. You'd have to find housing in the neighborhood and potentially transportation." The twitter vote of 130 people in response to the tweet: · Down/can afford = 92.3%. · Too much/not possible 7.7%. Those are great numbers (no contesting the vote here!).
Lay is not new to ideas that shift, switch-up and transition skate culture. As an ambassador for Skate Pal, a co-founder of the Phoenix based Skate After School, and a co-host of Vent City Podcast, Lay has established a line of thinking into skateboarding that incorporates politics, mental health, social justice and fun. Skating saves lives, a statement heard more and more in the skate community. As Gustav Edén explains: "What people refer to as 'at-risk youth' are often kids who shy away from traditional organised activities, so skateboarding is perfect," he explains. "The park is always open and you can skate with a group or on your own, at any time, so you can engage with it on your own terms."
Perhaps Tempe and Malmo could be sibling cities? Can this be a way to shift resources away from security to play, from police to skateboarding and public health? Skaters of the world unite – and engage your local government!