January 5th 2009
While many regret the intrusion of suburbia on Magnetic Island, for one particular youth sub-culture the hard and hot fabric of the built environment is a canvas for a fast, beautiful and dangerous form of self expression. It's been around for decades, is constantly evolving and, for at least one sixteen year old local, Nahir Vasconcelos, the dedication, and commitment to skateboarding is starting to pay off.
Nahir won the under 16 street division prize earlier this month at the opening of Townsville City Council's Bushland Beach Skate Park. For his efforts he was presented with a skateboard, trucks (skateboard axle), a shirt and a DVD from Creative Skate in Townsville. A couple of days later he picked up an important sponsorship from Skin Ski and Surf in Flinders Mall so he can now get all the equipment he needs - a skater's dream if ever there was. And, not bad in a city with surprisingly few skateboard competitions (about two per year).
But the skateboarding dream is powerful and comes with an extreme edge that can cost a skater dearly. Nahir wants to become a professional and practices 20 to 25 hours a week but, since starting to skate just two years ago, he is already wearing special ankle supports since he has broken his left ankle five times, his right ankle once and a couple of fingers and toes along the way.
Nahir "ollies" eight steps (photograph: Kristen Goddard)
He recalls an attempt to "ollie" (jump) 16 stairs. "I hit the ground like a rag doll and my feet swelled right up".
Nahir may be looking forward to some serious arthritis in a few decades. But the physical danger of his sport can be seen to be balanced by other factors. Island teenagers are notoriously at loose ends for outdoor recreation during the long summer school holidays and, while some long for a licence to squander fossil fuels by speeding with friends over the Island's narrow roads, trail bike riding or the aggressive but unimaginative and futile burn-out, skate boarders can be dynamic, exciting and beautiful to watch. The hardest and ugliest urban spaces are transformed by their skill and spontaneity. For a good example watch Nahir in action on this YouTube video (click here).
When asked what attracts him to skateboarding the answer is understandable. "It's the feeling you get when you land a really deep trick and the adrenalin of thinking you may be about to hurt yourself"
Mixing physical danger with hard-practiced skill and gymnastic artistry, skateboarding has maintained its teenage, rite-of-passage, street-cred for decades and, since the arrival of the Internet, has added to itself, not just a musical subculture but a video subculture as well. With a part-time job at Butler's Kitchen in Arcadia, Nahir has been able to buy a Sony handyman digital video camera. "Everyone is getting cameras" say Nahir, who is becoming more and more aware of how to make better videos of his and others' skateboarding to post onto YouTube.
As well as the many kids who go skate boarding for fun there are about six or seven serious skaters on Magnetic and the Townsville City Council built skate park at Horseshoe bay, is to Nahir and his skating mates, a "second home".
"It's very good that council got this going. I'd spend all day everyday here if I could but it gets too hot," says Nahir who has suffered sunstroke from too much skate park practice. "I get really big headaches and have to sit down" he says. "It's great here but there's one thing that would make it perfect. That's shade - so we can skate in the heat of the day." For this reporter, after brief spell, down low in the sizzling cement bowl, trying to photograph Nahir in action, this observation is a huge understatement. There seems little doubt that the investment of shade sails would see a pay-off in increased use of the skatepark by its dedicated enthusiasts and, of course, further demonstrate our community's committment to sun safety.
Story & photos: George Hirst
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