Rolling the streets: Skateboarding culture in Cardiff

Skateboarding is to make his debut as an Olympic sport in Tokyo 2020. How is Cardiff preserving its connection to the skateboarding society?

Local Swansea skateboarder Mathew Ryall, riding a bowl. Photo taken by Hamish Lawson.

You will see but mostly, you will hear them rolling the streets and up the pavements. By the time you turn your head, they have already hopped the ramp that blocks your way. Skateboarding is a sport that combines the art of movement, street entertainment and it is the symbol of a restless youth.

‘Surfing on the dry side’ and up to a pair of double wheels has always been a part of the underground culture of Cardiff. ‘’The city has always had a strong skateboarding scene, indoor skate parks on/off for over 15 years, the street skateboarding scene stretches back over 30 years,’’ says Christian Hart.

Christian is the company director of ‘Spit and Sawdust’, who, along with his partner, Nia, gave birth to a project of a new skatepark in the capital of Wales as a way of combining their two big passions, arts and skateboarding. For five years now, ‘Spit and Sawdust’ is a place that maintains and promotes the culture of the four small wheels on the bottom of a wooden board that slides and does breathing tricks.

‘’The skateboarding scene in Britain is very open and friendly in general, as it’s less of a generic sport and more of a social activity. Cardiff skaters are like skaters in most places, open and welcoming,’’ says Christian. It is the word ‘freedom’ which accompanies the word ‘skateboarding’ that makes the sport different from all the kinds of traditional sports and their performance and training.

‘’Skateboarding is a nice combination of skills and overcoming fear; it is a hobby that requires lots of persistence.’’ (Photo by Guillermo Suarez on Unsplash)

A form of socialisation, making friends and even enjoying the sunny days, makes the raising culture of the boards attractive to beginners and professionals too.  ‘’By heading to a skatepark or skate-spot within Cardiff, you are sure to meet skateboarders who are willing to help and give you advise on how to skate. It is a common rule that skaters usually look after each other,’’ says Nick Currie, a 22 year-old student who skates regularly with his friends, doing a hobby that he adores.

‘’Cardiff has many street skating spots, so for a street skater it is a great place to find new areas within the city to skate that aren’t designated parks. On occasions people do complain, but this is usually resolved by moving away from the spot and returning later on. Cardiff is pretty accepting of its skater community,’’ says Nick.

Skateparks in Cardiff include; CSP (Cardiff Skate Plaza), Ramp World, Spit and Sawdust and Radyr skatepark. Skateparks close to Cardiff are Dinis Powys, The knap, Aberdare skate park and Bridgend indoor skate park.

Cardiff Bay, Cardiff Library, Central Square and Admiral building are some of the skateboarders’ landmarks that during sunny days get full of colourful boards, Vans sneakers and wide jumpers.

Skateboarders love the streets and the city has strong links among the skateboarding culture, the graffiti and the street art but as Christian says, ‘’Cardiff Council needs to listen the skate scene when creating outdoor parks, this is crucial for a good design and effective spending. Skater run indoor parks will support the scene, the cities architecture will always support street skateboarding indirectly.’’

‘’Cardiff Council needs to listen the skate scene when creating outdoor parks, this is crucial for a good design and effective spending. (Photo by Zakaria Zayane on Unsplash)

The skateboarding industry nowadays is usually combined with the short-movies industry and the art of photography. As Christian explains, ‘’There are not many street spots undercover so when it does rain mid street/filming mission then it’s a wash out. Security guards have a job to do but it’s a pain when footage is needed for a video and its cut short getting booted from a spot.’’

That, along with the rainy Welsh weather, quite often blocks the filmmaking process of the South Wales’ skate scene, which automatically means the reduction of the footage taken. For professional or aspiring skateboarders, films are a way of promoting themselves, and for the filmmaking industry to flourish.

Along with surfing, skateboarding is to make its debut appearance at the Summer Olympics in 2020 in Tokyo. “As a sport, it gains more interest and it’s inevitable that people will see money can be made from it. Skateboarding has such competitions as Street League now, so the Olympics won’t be too dissimilar in that sense…but skateboarding will always have its gritty and underground side,’’ says Christian.

Skaters are going to fall but they will get up. They are going to fail a hundred times but they are going to keep on trying until they hear the cheering of success of their friends.  They will never complain about a failure or an even worse fall.

‘’Skateboarding is a nice combination of skills and overcoming fear; it is a hobby that requires lots of persistence,’’ says Nick. This is when he will grab his board and he will go back to the starting point for one more kick flip before rolling back home.