Unknown Outlaws

no skating

As the officer twisted my wrist, the excruciating pain made me think my arm was about to snap. The way he came at me, you would assume I was caught dealing drugs, or shooting a gun, but all I was doing was skating at a high school parking lot in San Jose.

Police harassment is a normal part of skateboarding and many of my friends have been harassed one way or another by the police and society, too. It almost seems like we're animals being pushed around, restrained, and talked down to. Ironically, skaters to me, are some of the most peaceful, open minded, artistic people you could meet. No matter what city or part of the world you skate, you can always meet a new person with no problems. I wish the law and society could see this, instead of looking down on us as if we are some gang causing trouble.

As San Jose tries to live up to the image of the picture perfect city, its government is cracking down on skating, harassing skaters and even changing the architecture. But what the city does not realize is that skating will evolve with the city, regardless of the threats, abuses, and building developments. Skateboarding is not a crime, or an extreme-sport as some say, it is an art that can adapt.

As a kid growing up on the eastside, I was subjected to gangs, violence, and crime with no way to escape. At a young age, I became strongly influenced by this kind of lifestyle. It make me feel like something that I wasn't and that scared me.

I looked for something, anything, that could free me from all this negativity, and I found that freedom on a skateboard. Skateboarding did for me what a shrink would do for a confused or stressed patient. Skating was a whole new positive vibe for me that released me mentally and physically. Through the art I became more confident in myself and stopped thinking that I had to run around with a clique to be cool. I had more respect for myself and others, and was meeting open-minded people who weren't shallow or disrespectful.

There are no skate parks in San Jose, so I learned how to use the city environment to skate. Skating is very raw, and we use everyday objects all around us - curbs, stairs, rails, ledges, and benches - to do our tricks.

Police harassment is a normal part of skateboarding and many of my friends have been harassed one way or another by the police and society, too.

Recently though, as the city is going through its redevelopment, they are trying to build the city in a way that eliminates the skater. Hand rails and ledges now have metal nubs welded on them to stop skaters from grinding on them. They say we get in the way and ruin property. Both are not true. We are always very respectful to people around us. They do their thing and we do ours.

Security has increased, too. Along with more harassment from police and private security, there are signs all over the city that read: "No Skateboarding." There are areas in downtown now where you cannot even be on a board without getting fined. I got a thirty-five dollar ticket just for holding a skateboard.

But the redevelopment and crackdowns are just making skaters better. We are overcoming this ever-changing concrete jungle by adapting and adding new styles. We have learned how to skate over the metal rods they have welded to rails. We will ollie them, do kick flips over them, or pop off just before hitting the rod instead of sliding the entire rail. The ledges that they made too high to skate are also just pushing our craft to another level. We will pull up a launch ramp to one of these eight-foot high ledges, just so we can skate off them. The height gives us more airtime to do our tricks and clear more space.

We set out for any obstacle that can be skated on, over, or through. That includes everything from walls, ledges, gaps, handrails, stairs and embankments, to rooftops. Basically it's whatever the man made concrete jungles have to offer us. Skateboarding is love and fascination, because once you pick one up you'll never be able to put it down. Even though there are tons of skaters from all over the world it's really about individually expressing yourself. It is an art form. You can take an average trick such as an ollie or heelflip and do it over or off of something, such as over a street or off of a school rooftop, and it becomes something to be admired like a painting in a museum.

From skateboarding I have met people from Australia, Germany, Japan and places all over the US. From all of this I've realized we're all the same people just living the way we want and not giving a damn what anyone else says about it. Skateboarding has always given me an escape outlet allowing me to release all my feelings, emotions, and frustrations that tend to get bottled up inside. In other words it takes away all the negativity giving me a positive open mind on life and myself, just like meditation.

Skateboarding will always be in my heart and soul. It has saved me from a lot of trouble I could have gotten myself into. It showed me not be afraid of seeing myself or of being free.

An original version of this story can be found on DeBug

Randy Diaz, 21, is a writer and illustrator for Silicon Valley DeBug in San Jose, CA.

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