Skateboarding has developed and diversified in recent years. As a primarily individual, alternative, lifestyle sport it has seen increased interest due to social media influencers (Dupont 2020), pandemic practice (Peterson et al 2021) and Olympic recognition (Wheaton and Thorpe 2018). In speaking to this emergent audience skate organisations are developing beginners’ programmes, offering specific beginners’/women and girls’/queer skate sessions and seeking to encourage longer-term engagement with skateboarding by supporting new skateboarders to learn key skills and skatepark etiquette.
Skateboarding is often imagined as an inclusive activity which challenges the dominant masculinities present in many ‘mainstream’ sports. However, research, including our own at NTU, suggests that skate culture’s focus on image, skill and expected embodiment results in a difficult to enter and navigate culture (Dupont 2014), particularly for those who do not conform to the dominant image of the young, white, male.
Those new to skateboarding learn to participate in multiple ways, including learning from friends and from others in the park, and learning from watching online content such as skateboarding videos and tutorials. Our research suggests, however, that, for example, those participants who are not boys or young men do not have the same access to informal learning from local skateboarders as those who are. This leaves them more dependent on provider sessions and skateboarding online content. Some of the messages inherent in this content, however, are not fully inclusive, and may be off-putting to some of their target audiences.
This project seeks to explore the content and impact of beginner focused communication and action by local and national skate communities, to explore how such potential exclusionary messages are reproduced, challenged and reimagined. We envisage a project in which these messages are considered in relation to one or more groups underrepresented in dominant skateboard cultures.
Applications for this project should propose a defended approach to exploring the content and impact of beginner focused communication and action in UK skateboarding. We are open to seeing candidates’ creativity in terms of focus – e.g social media content, the structure and operation of beginner courses, the actions and views of key figures within skate communities, or a combination of these. However all applications must propose a methodology which centres qualitative enquiry (including visual method) and critically explores structural inequalities, inclusive practice and inclusive representation.
Applicants must illustrate an understanding of alternative sporting cultures, informal education and qualitative analysis.