In this two-part series, Jacques Fourie explores the revolution in skateboarding across South Africa, as local companies shift away from the centralised, commercial, mainstream American West Coast ethos towards a more novel East Coast mentality.
The skate industry in South Africa has been undergoing a seismic shift of late. Across the country, its members have been appropriating the ethos of East Coast American skateboard companies, as well as ‘underground’ European companies such as Polar Skate Co., to the point where similar companies in South Africa are now establishing themselves as the antithesis of West Coast skating. It is a consequence of centralisation in California, where companies have unwittingly established a strong normative dimension to skateboarding that suppresses different approaches to the art.
Indeed, skating on the American West Coast has become predictable and unimaginative. It’s a mentality that has spread across the world – but a new generation of South African skateboarders is slowly abandoning the mainstream American West Coast approach, and starting to identify with skateboarders and companies from Europe and America’s East Coast. Companies in these regions promote creativity, individuality, style, and a sense of fun, in stark contrast to the bland mainstream offerings of California.
But whilst South African skateboarders are starting to identify with the East Coast approach and appropriating the ethos in their own context, the shift from West Coast to East Coast is more than just cultural transformation. It is in fact the by-product of infrastructure, where the infrastructure of urban spaces across South Africa reflects that of America’s East Coast more than it does the mainstream West Coast. In that environment, a street skater in South Africa will naturally be more inclined to identify with East Coast skateboarding.
The attitudes of ‘underground’ companies are also being promoted across the media. This has enabled local skateboarders to reassess their crusty, third-world urban spaces and take a novel approach towards using that infrastructure – so much so that, not only are skaters adopting certain tricks like ‘Wallies’, ‘Wallrides’, the ‘Slappy’, and the ‘No-Comply’, but they are also adopting the new ethics that come with such a cultural transformation. The trend is particularly evident in the work of companies such as Cape Town’s Stock Skate Co., who have replicated the aesthetics of US East Coast and European skateboarding in their new production ‘Copy and Paste‘.
Although the edit is humorous and largely tongue-in-cheek, there is an underlying seriousness in the way which it mocks the politics that govern skateboarding and the industry. The owner of Stock Skate Co., Rousseau Loubser, appropriated images from other sources to create a post-modern and witty take on boarding. promotes the ideals shared by companies such as Stock, Bronze, and Polar Skate Co., whilst openly mocking the ‘serious’ position often adopted by other mainstream organisations.
Ultimately, the message about skateboarding is simple – at the end of the day, you are just a kid or a grown adult playing in the street with a board, trying to get your kicks – and it’s a theme I was able to explore further when I conducted a one-on-one interview with Loubser following the shoot for Copy and Paste in mid-February.
[Editor’s Note: Jacques Fourie was one of fifteen people to participate in the Copy and Paste video shoot in early 2015]
To read the full interview with Rousseau Loubser, keep an eye out on our homepage (or our Apple & Android apps) tomorrow as we publish the second part of Jacques’ take on the skateboarding revolution in South Africa.