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  • Writer's pictureJonny Nelson

The Culture of Action Sports

The Culture of Action Sports

At JSAW we talk about the culture of action sports quite a bit. We have defined the people that make up this culture as ‘riders’. Yet we have realized that many people don’t actually understand what that means. Is it the 1.03 million viewers who watch the Xgames? Is it the kid down the street that plays basketball with your friend and has a Tony Hawk board from Walmart? Is it those people who shop at PacSun and Tillys? What is this culture of ‘action sports’ that JSAW is working to transform?

Action sports culture began growing exponentially in the US in the late 90’s and throughout the 2000’s. Icon’s like Tony Hawk and Shaun White became household names with video games, action figures and clothing lines at Target and Kohls. The Xgames along with movies like Chasing Mavericks, Lords of Dogtown and Soul Surfer have kept the action sports movement into millions of homes around the globe. With over 22 million riders and an industry producing 12.2 billion dollars a year, action sports is definitely here to stay. Skateboarding, surfing, snowboarding, and other action sports have become trend setting definitions of youth culture worldwide. Over 83% of riders are male and are generally lower middle class, ages 6-24. It is a culture pursuing a combination of extraordinary individual achievement and unmatched personal enjoyment. These are not just risky sports; this is an entire grassroots community that partakes in this creative individualistic lifestyle. They wear the clothes, read the magazines, memorize the tricks in videos, and live to ride every day. Take a look at Transworld Magazines descriptions of these riders:

It’s about freedom and its self centered. In action sports there’s generally no coaches, at least not until riders begin getting into the elite levels. There are legends and idols, that the groms can look up to, but it is not like a parental figure, mentor or coach. Action sports culture could be described as a community of orphans. Many are outcasts who buck society, tradition and system. They are different and edgy. Yet the community is super tight and it transcends skin color, culture, language, social status, and so forth. Many riders build their identity on action sports, their style, and their ability. Problems arise when they get hurt or made fun of because their identity is completely destroyed. Insert drugs, sex and violence to this type of an environment and it runs wild! Yes, action sports culture has cleaned up its act a little more as it has come into the public eye and become more mainstream, but the rebellious, independent roots run deep.

It’s not all bad either. Action sports has produced much of the creative edginess found in pop culture today. This relentless culture has broke down barriers in many ways. The deeply established creative forms of individualistic self expression found in action sports culture’s reining influence on youth are not fulfilled in seemingly archaic traditions of Christianity and the church. They want to break the rules, push the limits, experience and discover things. That is what gives life flavor, purpose and meaning. Unfortunately its short lived because human desire can never be satisfied and they want more. They are restless! Yet human bodies are limited. The wave ends, the trail stops, gravity holds us down, and the ride must come to a stop. The result of this is an alienated, morally deteriorating, hurt group of people. It is a culture that is desperately seeking purpose, truth and a place where they can belong and be loved.

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