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21 November 2008

Canberra Skateboarding

JIM FOWLIE: My name is Jim Fowlie. I'm 24 years old and I'm a skateboarder from Canberra. Basically I've been skating for about 12 years now. The thing I like about skateboarding the most is probably the freedom in it, where it's not really classified... Well, it sort of is classified as a sport, but there's no coaches involved in it and there's no real rules or guidelines where you can just kind of... If you feel like skating, you can just go out and skate and you don't have to be anywhere at a certain time.

JOHN FOWLIE: My name is John Fowlie. I'm a swimming coach at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. Both my brother and I grew up swimming and playing ice hockey in Canada. And then when we moved out here in '92, he kind of started skateboarding and I continued swimming and continued down that path. I think skateboarding has a lot to offer that people don't realise. You know, I think it keeps people active, it keeps them out and doing stuff.

JIM FOWLIE: What got me into skateboarding over here was... One of my best friends, I remember, he showed me one skateboard video. Just amazing, what these guys were doing. And from that day, I just kind of got a board and haven't really put it down since.

JOHN FOWLIE: I think people don't necessarily see them as being athletic because they don't take the time to watch them. Some of the stuff you'll see these guys do... There's no way that somebody off the street could just jump down a flight of 20 steps and land on their feet. And these athletes, really - they manage to do it on a skateboard and then land, with balance, on wheels.

CARRIE FOWLIE: My name is Carrie Fowlie, and I'm Jim and John's sister. I have an interest in skating, I guess, in a professional capacity, working for the peak body for youth affairs. There's (sic) two types of skateboarding. There's park skateboarding and then there's also street skateboarding. And he helped me understand how the built environment and new developments very much defined how they skate and what new challenges are.

JIM FOWLIE: There's lots of skate parks popping around, more than ever, all around Australia. Little country towns are getting, like, skate parks now where there's only 50,000 people in the town, but then they'll have, like, one of the biggest skate parks in Australia. So it's good that it's recognised on that level, but then, if you want to just skate through the street, people start yelling at you and tell you to get off your board. Lots of people portray skateboarders as just troublemakers and hooligans, sort of thing, that don't really have anything to offer to society, I guess.

CARRIE FOWLIE: I think it actually comes back to how young people are viewed more broadly in society. Often when other people don't understand something, they get a little bit frightened of it, and then they deem it wrong and bad. And skateboarding is something that's quite overt and something quite in your face. So it's very easy for people to write it off as opposed to try and understand it for the big kind of cultural movement that it is. It's quite interesting when you look at the urban landscape, I guess, and see how overt some sections are trying to be in terms of keeping skateboarding out of their area. And I guess I'm not standing here advocating for a free-for-all for skateboarding, but I think that we just need to have a bit more of a conversation. As you can see just here on this ledge down here... They're doing things like putting stoppers. They're changing what type of benches that we have in cities. So the materials and the design of our cities are changing so as to keep one group of society out. I would like to see more people involved in talking about urban development. For example, if you were to take something like a car park that is full during the day, full of cars, but empty at night, why can't, say for example, skaters use that space to skate at night? So I guess just being a bit more creative and a bit more inclusive about how we use our public space and how we decide how it will be used.

JIM FOWLIE: I'd rather just get by and have fun than be a millionaire and be miserable, I guess. That's the whole good thing about skateboarding is you still kind of feel like an outsider. If I could see anything change, I'd just want to see more skate parks get put up and just be allowed to skate around the streets more and not having to get yelled at by grandmas or anybody like that. But, no, I like how it is, pretty much.