WORDS Rachel “Bagels” Bruskoff ILLUSTRATION Kris Haro
We are a part of a growing generation living in an ever-shrinking world. Thanks to the massive advancements in technology and communication going to new places is within the grasp of many—traveling with a skateboard opens up even further possibilities for exploration. With this in mind, it is imperative to remember that when we travel we are guests in the local communities, spots, and terrain we visit.
Born directly from my personal experiences, the many wise words of fellow travelers, as well as personally living in one of the most sought after mountains ranges for downhill skateboarding, I’d like to share 10 ideas I follow in an ongoing effort to respect the spots and communities I visit as a skateboarding globetrotter:
Contact the Local Community:
When I go anywhere with my board it is important to familiarize myself with the local scene. There are many ways I do this. Friends or friends of friends or mutual acquaintances are a great resource to open up doors to wherever I may want to travel. Facebook is quite the dandy tool for communication as well. I contact friends through their pages, find groups, events etc. to get connected to local scenes. Wherever I end up, the community is usually always stoked to meet a fellow shredder to skate with. I first connect with the locals, learn from them, and heed their advice in regards to their local spots. Whatever kind of spots it may be: bowls, parks, mountains, ditches, restaurants, etc.; the locals will better know where the best places to go are, and when to visit them.
Respect & Rapport:
I am dedicated to respecting the local community wherever I travel—what the locals have to say, and the places where they take me. I treat every spot as I would want my home spots treated. The mentality of “It isn’t my spot so I don’t care” is total bull! Other people will want to skate the spot after I do and it may be something they’ll want to skate all the time. If I were to ruin something for the locals, I’d be ruining my own relationship with the scene as well as my chances of being welcomed back. I try and show respect so that I will be treated with the same respect.
Visiting a local spot in a new place is extremely exciting and being shown a local ‘gem’ from one of the locals is even more so. Such excitement does not however warrant the posting up of a photo and tagging it’s location. In most cases, spots are under the radar and kept secret for a reason. To show my respect, I will do the same. The last thing I want to do is blow a spot by posting about it to the social media world. Downhill skateboarding is risky business and many of the places we skate are open roads; the last thing we need are some random and uninitiated skaters showing up and jeopardizing the spot. That being said, sometimes I’ll post a nondescript image of a new spot; a sign, a smile, my board; anything to show off the stoke, but to keep the location under the radar. I also make sure to converse with the locals to discover what and where is acceptable to show off to the world.
Leave No Trace:
One of the easiest things I do to respect a new spot and scene is being clean. The simple task of picking up trash, cigarette butts, beer cans, food wrappers, the plastic from wheel packaging, and the tags from tees, etc. goes a long way. I make sure to leave the places I visit cleaner than I found it. None of us enjoy seeing trash at the spots we love to shred so I try not to be the one to leave something behind. Leaving no trash means leaving no trace.
Wherever I am skating, if I encounter a random passersby, I try and be friendly—I smile, wave, and throw out positive vibes. Much of the time people just smile back and move on with their lives. If I ever stumble upon the wrong person or someone having a bad day and they decide it’s their duty to take it out on me, I do my best to be patient and kind. I try and use logic if they bring forward arguments; I stay calm, relaxed, and as happy as I can be. There are vast personalities out there and the best thing to do when encountering negativity is to just remain calm and collected. Sometimes this is hard to do, sometimes the wrong person says the wrong thing, but in most situations a skater can maintain a positive image by simply being kind, happy skaters.
I’m always careful when I’m skating in unfamiliar territory. If I’m not accustomed with where I am or how hard I can push myself, I take it easy. I always make sure to learn the spot before I go all-out, or I ask the locals what the best way to go about things are. Blowing a spot or session trying to show off is never worth it. It’s important to note that videos from a spot you’ve never been to and featuring the locals and pros make a spot look much easier than they actually are. Therefore, I never assume to be able to skate like them on my first times around, especially if it’s their home spots.
I always make sure to be on my toes. It is important to take into account that anything can happen at any time, to anyone; especially when in a new and unfamiliar circumstance. In most instances, the roads we skate are open, meaning that traffic flows both directions. It is imperative to be ready in the chance of anything going wrong. I familiarize myself with the local hand signals, the local road signs, and anything along the road. I have made it a personal rule to never put others or myself in unnecessary risks in foreign areas, or in general. It does not pay to cause a scene and therefore bring unneeded attention to our downhill community.
Be A Ninja:
As a rule, I try to keep everything I do on the road under the radar. The less attention I attract, the less likely trouble will stir up. It is important to understand the longevity of a certain skate spot. Sometimes I can skate somewhere all day, sometimes the spot is on a ‘hit it and quit it’ scenario, and sometimes you need to let a spot cool down before skating it again. I make it my business to get a feel for a particular location to understand how and for how long it can be skated. This is something the locals can help you out with, big time.
The Devil’s in the Details (Some little things you may overlook):
A major thing to remember is to stay in your lane. Whether it is behind the wheel, or on a skateboard, I make it a top priority to stay in my lane in any circumstance. Another idea I practice, to limit problems and stay safe, is not parking my car somewhere questionable. I move my car off the road entirely when I am shuttling, I find safe places for U-turns, and park my car in a proper, inconspicuous place. It also helps to scout decent spots for bathroom breaks; simply turning around and aiming is not always the best idea (you never know who could be around). As you can imagine, casually driving around with a giant camera rig on your car will probably attract unwanted attention. Removing the camera in between runs can keep the attention minimal. It is also very important to keep up with speed limit postings. Skating a road 10mph under the limit can cause traffic to build up and unhappy drivers are not fun to encounter. I personally also make sure to scope out a location before I skate it. Sometimes that must-hit spot is dirty, wet, undergoing construction, or just has some random car parked in the middle of the road. A skater can never predict everything, so scouting ahead of skating can really help.
Cheers to traveling somewhere new to skate! Let’s enjoy every minute of the adventure, embracing absolutely everything we can about where we are exploring and the local communities we meet in the process—the mountains, the parks, the neighborhoods, the nature, the local cuisine, the skaters, the sights—everything!
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There are endless locations out there to skate and explore, so go out there and have at it! Please, keep the above insight in mind while you travel, as I believe it can help you have the best time shredding new territory while maintaining respect with the locals and keeping their spots alive to skate another day.