How “Big Brother” and security fears killed my skateboarding

When I was a teenager, having a spot to skate in the winter was easy. Pick any underground or enclosed carpark on a Sunday and you were set up for the day. So where do skaters go now when the rain comes and the nights draw earlier?It wasn’t always easy. As the rain started becoming a feature, we struggled to keep ourselves interested in outdoor activities. As a teenager, when I wasn’t playing guitar I was out skating. I was into aggressive inline skating, while my brother was the one who picked up the skateboard, but both of us suffered the same problem, when your favourite ledge and staircase is soaked, how do you keep yourself in-shape and progressing?

As with many others, our havens became shopping arcades and carp parks that were covered. Back in the early 90s, Sunday trading was still non-existing bar markets and a few shops that would be open until 3, 4pm at most. A strange concept I imagine for many of those born in the same decade. Various spots around Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells became havens for skaters of all types wanting to stay outsides, and continue improving their sets. We weren’t always alone. There were a few spots that became problematic, with security being increased but this came in classical forms; grind spots got capped, and security guards employed. We’d get moved along and, yes a few times arrested, but that was when things got unnecessarily out of hand, an overzealous guard who didn’t know how to deal with teenagers.

But, the last 20 years, things have changed. Every car park, once a haven for the homeless, and skaters alike, have become 24hr monitored by closed circuit televisions, the tubby security guard replaced with heavy handed rent-a-cop’s or, if you’re a large high-street supermarket, the support of your local law enforcement. So where do people go today? A question I ask myself as I return from a week in Valencia where I managed to get out to the skatepark in 21 degrees, dry, smooth concrete. I’m now faced with the same problem I had last year, with no indoor park in Brighton (and the Skatehouse in Lewes terrifies me) and carp park spots giving you maybe 20 minutes if you’re lucky before you’re being moved along by security, how do I keep my enthusiasm and interest in skateboarding going so that I am not into year 3 of trying to still crack the subtle art of a comfortable Ollie?