Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Who's the True First?

The making of authenticity requires mysticism.

Roots cannot be authentic without legends, heroes and Gods, figures who newcomers can look up to.

As early as the 1940s, kids were riding boards on each side of the Atlantic.

This is a fact. 

There are photographs and written reports - US army auxiliary Betty Magnuson, for instance, reported in her letters having seen children in 1944 Parisian Montmartre riding boards with roller skate wheels (info sourced on Wikipedia).

That's what kids used to do. They'd screw the wheels of roller skates to a wood board, like this:

Actually, four-wheeled roller skates were patented in 1863, so it is likely that kids started to build skateboards even at the time of the rinkomania.

But such activity is not perceived as ‘proper’ skateboarding by today's skateboarding community because, authenticists argue, these kids were children'. 

They were not skateboarding for the sake of it. They were ‘messing
. They were ‘just’ playing. 

Authenticists claim that skateboarding ‘as we know it
’ or as an end in itself, was born when adult Californian surfers decided to invade the urban realm while sea waves were flat. 

In the authenticist discourse, the people who give the legitimate birth to the practice are often called ‘pioneers’. They’re usually described as the ‘first’ to have done something.

Here are the actual words of an authenticist, John Severson, publisher of The Quarterly Skateboarder, in his first editorial in 1964:

Today's skateboarders are founders in this sport—they're pioneers—they are the first. There is no history in Skateboarding—it's being made now—by you.

The authenticity of skateboarding had been forged i
n a couple of sentences. The coronation of 1964’s skateboarders as ‘founders of the sport’ forged the myth and initiated a cult. 

Even more striking is the denial of any pre-existing skateboarding facts – 
there is no history in Skateboarding - which means that any previous recorded skateboarding activity, such as that of kids having fun in the streets 20 years earlier, is considered as pre-historic and therefore illegitimate. 

By writing up history, the authenticist forges history, n
ever mind the facts.

To conclude, here's an inspiring video archive from the 1930s (maybe?), featured on Gizmo!, a documentary by Howard Smith, released in 1977. Among the daredevils could be John Ciampa, the ‘Human fly’ from Brooklyn, and the German stuntman Arnim Dahl.

Does this qualify as authentic buildering? Or as parkour, perhaps? Gosh, no, wait... They're not doing it as an end in itself, right? 

Well, never mind, let's call it ‘fun’.

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