Story and photos by Azania Briggs
It’s normal to see a few skateboarders here and there in downtown New Orleans, but nearly 100 skateboarders gathered for Go Skating Day, an annual worldwide event celebrated on June 21.
Started by the International Association of Skateboard Companies, Go Skating Day gives skateboarders the freedom to forget about their obligations and hop on their boards for a cruise around the city or skate park.
In honor of the event, Just One Board, the Tony Hawk Foundation, the Make It Right Foundation, Humidity Skate Shop and Urban 9 Skateshop donated 1,000 skateboards to New Orleans youth.
“When I was 13, all it took was just one board to show me what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Josh Friedberg, IASC executive director, said at the board giveaway in New Orleans. “The opportunity to give used equipment a second life and thousands of kids a chance to experience the world through skateboarding at the same time is a beautiful thing.”
The event started at Humidity Skate Shop ,515 Dumaine St. and continued into City Hall, a diner on Claiborne Avenue and the Lower Ninth Ward Village. The first eco-skate park in New Orleans broke ground at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School, which will open Aug. 29, on the 7th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. At each location the best skaters competed for prizes. The event ended at Canal Street where skateboarders and spectators gathered in acknowledgement of the international celebration.
“Go skateboarding day started as a way to get more kids and more people involved with skateboarding,” Patrick Melon a local videographer and representative of Humidity Skate Shop, said. “It is held on the 21st of June each year. The reason being is because that falls upon the summer equinox, the longest day of the year. There are exactly 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night, giving optimum amount of time for skateboarding.”
He added that in recent years the skate scene in New Orleans has grown with hundreds of kids in the city attempting the sport.
Bri Miller, who has been skating for as long as she can remember, loves being a part of the skateboarding community, despite the challenges she experiences as a female skateboarder.
“I have to face falling and getting injured because all of the skaters that’s around,” Miller said. But she said the pros outweigh the cons of her favorite hobby.
“I get to come out dressed just colorful and be with every skater that’s around, the best of the best of the skaters,” she said. “It’s just a great experience to be out.”
A noticeable police presence made sure to keep the skateboarders moving. After the large group descended onto the Riverwalk, they were chased out by a police officer armed with a can of mace and a pair of handcuffs. Subsequently, they spilled onto Canal Street and began skateboarding along the street and sidewalks, only to be dispersed by loud sirens from a New Orleans Police Department vehicle.
Although some pedestrians flinched and scurried away from the skateboarders zipping along the sidewalk, others felt that constructing a designated area for events like Go Skating Day would be futile.
“To be honest with you, I don’t even think they’d use skate parks if there were skate parks,” Mario Boone, a journalist in Asheville, N.C., said, who came to New Orleans to attend the 37 annual NABJ Convention. “They’re teenagers so that’s to be expected, but if they’re just having fun what’s the big deal? It’s annoying to me as a person trying to walk down the sidewalk and almost get run over. But I was a teenager too, one time, so I’m not upset about it.”
Tryfe Kennedy of Aquaforce, a local New Orleans hip hop group felt they were being harassed for doing something they love.
“Skateboarding helped save my life because I was going down the wrong path, but I started skateboarding to chill out,” he said. “I could have been in the judicial system or trapping [selling drugs] in the streets.”