Martin Ramos and the Culture of Skateboarding
MetroJacksonville.com team members spent a day at Kona learning about the private park and skateboarding as a whole. Kona skate park owner Martin Ramos gives his perspective on the aggressive sport's culture.
Published June 16, 2012 in Weekend Edition
Kona skate parks doors are what separate the outside world from what is seemingly another realm. This is a sanctuary for skaters, of all backgrounds, to engage with each other through their shared passion.
The historical park's owner Martin Ramos let MetroJacksonville.com in on the elements of skateboarding that led the sport to become a culture of its own.
It was obvious by the way skateboarders were singing along to the music coming from the parks speakers that music is one of the major influences in skating. On any given day, Kona has anything from Johnny Cash to Led Zeppelin to local bands leading the soundtrack. Ramos said music goes with skating like fingers on your hands. The influence of music on skateboarding culture is undeniably large. Skateboarding for many years existed on the fringes of the main stream culture; consequently, the music skaters chose embodied styles that were synonymous with being an outcast, standing up to authority or, anything that was deemed "under-the-radar."
Skate parks, even a park as prestigious and masterfully built as Kona are not enough practice for skaters who thrive on new challenges. Street skating revolves around skateboarders using stair-rails and other areas of a city to feed their skate-hungry appetites for learning a new trick at a new spot. Because of this, it is not uncommon for skateboarders to run across police who bust them for trespassing. So any music that deals with being a so-called menace to society is something skateboarders intimately understand.
According to Ramos, although music has a great impact over skating, the importance of skating over music is increasingly reciprocated. In fact, Ramos said skateboarders helped bring punk music to the surface in the 1970s and 1980s by incorporating it into their lifestyle. Even now, Ramos points out how artists such as rapper Lil Wayne have taken up the sport because of the intriguing culture it exudes.
To keep the music at Kona exciting, Ramos said live bands often play at competitions, such as The Lifeforms did at the Panhandle Pow Wow event the park hosted earlier this year."The energy that feeds off of the music is interchangeable between the performers and the skaters...The band plays their crowd, say Ramos.
Another important element to skate culture Ramos noted is the art, and by the intricately designed graphics on the boards covering Konas walls, it is apparent that the artwork produced from skaters is anything but amateur. Ramos said skating is simply part of a creative outlet, and producing art is just another way of releasing creativity.
Framed art by Kona skater
What makes the art by skateboarders so individualistic is the entrepreneurial instincts behind it. Skaters taught themselves everything from finding the best natural light when filming and photographing to correctly determining good timing when editing videos. Often times, to film a skateboarder in action there are no props; there is no tripod, just skaters who learned how to balance on a board while following along with heavy equipment.
Skate stickers on Kona lockers
Martin Ramos discuss Skateboarding and Kona
Additionally, Ramos said their own innovative material made for their brands and boards drove the graphic art revolution in the 1980s. With all of the influence skateboarding has had on the rest of society, it is easy to wonder why the sport itself took so long to become recognized for what its done. Ramos said it could be because skaters are wonderful innovators and entrepreneurs but terrible businessmen. However, as decades pass skate culture has become increasingly more respected and admired and according to Ramos has woven into the fabrics of society.
Back then we were rebels, he said. But the rebellion is over.
Pink skateboard autographed by Tony Hawk
Now, not only is the aggressive sport featured in video games (Kona even appeared in Tony Hawks Pro Skater 4), sponsored skaters such as Bam Margera and Rob Dyrdek are often seen on television. Skate style has also become a multimillion-dollar business in the fashion industry.
Part of the Kona merchandise
But even with their growing popularity, perhaps skaters will always be rebels, because it still takes a certain person with the right balance of determination and originality that the sport requires (its a plus if the person also thinks falling is exciting). Because of these requirements, Ramos said skateboarding ultimately chooses you.
What allows skate culture to continue rising is its originality, and according to Ramos, it will always be that way. Whatever it is today will be different the next day, he said. Its inconsistency is what makes it so great.
To get a first hand glimpse of Kona's skateboarding culture, visit Hemming Plaza Thursday, June 21 for "Go Skate Day," sponsored in part by Metro Jacksonville.
article and photos by Melanie Pagan
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