For a real challenge, get outside and away from the concrete jungle
Skateboarding is an urban sport.
I mean, just look at any city’s downtown scene. Even if there’s nothing built specifically for skateboarders, you’ll see them flocking to stairs, handrails, curbs, and concrete art installations. Anything bolted down or built up, really. The DIY concrete skatepark movement is so ingrained in skate culture, that visiting historic parks has become a rite of passage.
But what if skateboarding didn’t have to have such hard lines?
What if you could take your board into the wilderness for a realer experience?
If you thought cracked concrete was crusty, you’re going to have to get real creative, real fast when you try to boardslide a fallen log. Skating in nature demands innovation.
It’s imperfect, will definitely mess up your bearings, and requires a level of knowing one’s limits that not every city skater can achieve. Creativity unleashed.
And yeah, not everyone is up for the challenge, just as not everyone has access to choice skateparks and skater-friendly downtown areas.
So some skaters who don’t live in big cities, don’t have access to skate-mecca plazas like Kulturforum, or have done Burnside so many times it’s lost its appeal (heresy, I know!) – they’re forced to head out to the sticks. Literally.
Others just want to feel that connection between their board and the forest it came from.
The idea of skating in the great outdoors isn’t a new concept. Element’s “Nature Calls” is only the latest installment in the years-long trend of raw nature skating. It’s just that this one’s gained a lot of traction.
In just one month, this video’s had over a quarter million views on YouTube alone. Even more impressively, almost nobody in the comment section can think of anything negative to say about it.
In “Nature Calls,” Jaako Ojanen, Madars Apse, Phil Zwijsen, and other Element Europe skaters brought their boards to the Pyrenees to dig up a whole year’s worth of unconventionally – but undeniably – skateable spots.
They found bike trails. Aqueducts. Mountains. Desolate roads. Fallen logs. I-beam bridges. Breakwaters. Even a cactus patch looked like a good enough spot for these guys.
The creativity in this film is next-level. Not every trick was one for the record books, but how are you going to skate down a mountain or across a frozen lake and not be considered a badass?
Even if you’re not a skater, “Nature Calls” (and the subsequent extended version) is highly jealousy-inducing. Between shreds, the crew took breaks to go canoeing, swimming, throw rocks, and bother a cow. Like any outdoors adventurer, they couldn’t help but stop in awe and take photos that would never do the real thing justice.
One viewer said they felt like they were watching Planet Earth, but with skateboarding.
Like practically all skate brands, most of Element’s vids are city-centric. This time, they’ve released one that embraces their.. ahem.. true nature. And if the rumbles from the skate community mean anything, “Nature Calls” has put them firmly on the cool list.
Element is not a new company, and it’s had its share of critics. Some snobs who insist on a minimum level of gnar (and a minimum pricetag) will turn up their noses at this affordable, tree-huggingly wholesome brand.
But for those of us who are interested in breathing fresh air while we enjoy outdoor sports, Element is a go-to. They know what’s up.
This brand is doing its best to be ethical, environmentally aware, and nature-promoting. Their sustainability commitments, recycled collections, and partnership with National Geographic have earned them some crunchy brownie points.
As much as Element’s trying to pioneer ethical skateboarding, Cariuma beat them to the B Corp punch.
It’s the very first certified B Corp skate company, and for good reason. Cariuma has made sustainability and negative carbon impact their priority, been transparent about their impact, and are actually participating in reforestation.
This is a big shift in messaging from the major skate brands.
Most brands have no comment about sustainability. There’s very little supply chain transparency and they have nothing to say about environmental impact.
And yes, skateboarding does have a significant environmental impact.
Deforestation is a serious global problem, and this particular industry is a contributor in a way we can’t ignore. Maple logging for skate decks, specifically, needs to be confronted. That, and fast fashion. Nike SB, the hottest skate shoe brand du jour, is working on lessening their environmental impact, so that’s good. But considering the immense demand for constant wardrobe updates, high rate of consumerism, and the broader community’s “edgy” low opinion of eco-conscious brands, this is more than an uphill battle. It’s a vert ramp.
Find your natural skatepark
Skating in nature isn’t exactly an anomaly, but it’s not easy to find groups willing to get off the streets. The most common idea of a skatepark is decidedly free of vegetation.
Most of the info you can find about off-road, mountain, wilderness, outdoor, nature, or forest skating is almost exclusively geared toward longboarders. Sometimes electric skateboarders. Probably scooterers, too, but by then we’re way off track.
If you want to skate outside, just find a spot and do it.
Urban exploration is wonderful, but there’s something extra special about rural skating. If rural means farmland to you, skate it. If it means deep forests, beaches, deserts, or snow ramps, by all means. Skate it.
Bottom line? You don’t have to be a concrete surfer.
But there is a catch.
If you do decide to skate off road, be kind. Ride safely on bike and hike trails, and be respectful of the plants, animals, and geology around you. Don’t trespass, don’t damage fragile ecosystems, and if you’re in a park, don’t stray from the trails. And don’t crash into any pedestrians, either.
And nature skating has the same rules as hiking. Go with a buddy, tell someone where you’ll be and when you expect to be back, keep track of your location, and bring a first aid kit. You’ll also want a first aid kit for your board because your bearings are going to be toast.
But there’s a lot to be said for nature skating.
The silence, for one.
The challenge of making the most of the unknown.
The immeasurable, incomparable beauty of an untouched landscape.
Also, no cops.