Through My Lens: An Alternative Culture
Ritche Perez reflects on finding belonging in skateboard culture as a young person of colour in NL.
When I heard the whirling of skateboard wheels I turned to see what it was and there, I caught a glimpse of him blazing down Water Street. The split second that I needed to capture a photo took me way back to my own youth, when I got into skateboarding here in St. John's during the mid 80s through the 90s.
Skateboarding was an alternative culture. If you weren't a banger, a prep, or a jock, you were a punk skater. When I first saw Back to the Future and one of Josh Brolin's first movies, Thrashin', I asked my parents for a skateboard.
There weren't many people that were into skateboarding here, just a handful. One of the only places to purchase a Pro Skateboard was Pike's Cycle Shop on Springdale Street. They would maybe have five decks displayed at the back. Seeing skateboarders downtown skating in front of Atlantic Place and Harbourside Park was a thrill. I wanted to make friends. There were no phones and no social media platforms. You just had to be brave and go up to other skateboarders and start asking questions about tricks. Then you had to try to carry on a conversation to become friends and call each other on the landline, planning skateboard hangs.
I would have to save up five dollars a month to buy skateboard magazines such as Thrasher and Transworld Skateboarding. I would cut out the pictures, stick them up on my walls and glue them into my school agendas. The photos and VHS tapes that we watched daily showed the diversity in skateboarding. Yet, locally, it didn't seem that way, because St. John's wasn't as multicultural back then. All the same, I didn't feel like I stood out because the community was welcoming. We did nothing but talk about skateboarding. This is what attracted me to this 'alternative culture'. People were accepted because of our common interests and not judged by the colour of our skin.
In this instant, downtown this past summer, I made eye contact with this skater. He gave me a thumbs up, while pushing down on his wheels, toward the Prescott intersection. Here I was, a person of colour, taking a picture of a person of colour. I saw myself in that skateboarder and that's why I had to take his photo.
I smiled and reflected back at my own youth, at how much freedom I felt when I was skating, learning tricks, and the accomplishments of figuring it all out; spending all day with friends and having no plan but to skate.