Freedom, speed, jumps, and the wind in your face are the elements that make up the sport of skateboarding. For many people, memories of their youth include scraped knees and sprained ankles from skateboarding. In Berlin, this sport has a much deeper meaning.
The origins of the skateboard are not completely clear. In the 1940s and 1950s, surfing became fashionable in California. But conditions were not always good for going out on the water and surfers had to find a way to bring their obsession onto land. This led to the development of “sidewalk surfing.” At first, roller skate wheels were attached to a square board. Over time, the board became narrower, and with other improvements, the modern skateboard was born.
At the age of 13, Marco Sladek took off the wheels of his roller skates and attached them to a piece of plywood he found at home. Most East German youth had to make their own skateboards at that time, for those who were lucky had a relative in the West may get one from West. Four years later, in 1988, Marco became the East German skateboarding champion. His signature move was to keep one hand on the skateboard while doing a handstand, with the skateboard rotating like a top. He was only one of three people in the world who were able to do this at that time.
“It is an awareness of life,” says Marco, “It’s something that you can only feel when on a skateboard.” That was a unique era. East and West Germany were divided. In East Germany, people experienced the restrictions of Communism and monitoring by secret police. Skateboarding was a form of soft resistance and escape for the youth. They were not able to have control over their lives. But they could enjoy the thrill of going at their own rhythm, jumping and developing special techniques. In East Berlin, the television tower in Alexanderplatz and the nearby City Hall were once the hottest spots for young people to skateboard.
In 1989, after the Berlin Wall came down, the skateboarders that once gathered in these popular spots, attracting crowds and being chased away by the police, disappeared. There were dramatic changes in society and as the youth grew up, they focused on their life plans. Thirty years later, skateboarding is still the most popular sport among youth in Berlin and even in all of Germany. Moreover, skateboarding has been included in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Currently, 11-year-old Lilly Stoephasius is the German national female champion, proof that the sense of freedom that skateboarding brings continues to be cherished.
本文刊登於華航機上雜誌《Dynasty》6月號 CULTURAL TOURISM- A SENSE OF FREEDOM
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