As a teen skateboarder in the late 90s I never really considered anywhere ‘off limits’. We would travel into Wellington on occasion and pretty much skate anything that looked skate-able. The city can be a great place to skate on a weekend and the CBD is generally very quiet and a lot of spots that are inaccessible during the week become a skaters’ paradise (on my knees in the dark saying prayers in the street light..?)
When skating we’d usually have one of us take-up the role of ‘spotter’. For example, if we were skating a stair set that led to the footpath, the spotter would make sure the path was clear so we didn’t take out an unsuspecting passer-by.
If we were in a town park and there were people sitting around (even on a weekend various park ledges were inaccessible due to lunch eaters, children, etc.) we would find a suitable empty space where we wouldn’t disturb them.
If there was security present, we would move onto the next spot. It just wasn’t worth the hassle.
I guess in retrospect we were fairly respectful skaters. We wanted to have a good time and try new stuff but not at the expense of upsetting or injuring anyone.
One spot we never skated was the Cenotaph. For those who don’t know, the Cenotaph is an Anzac War Memorial honouring the New Zealand and Australian soldiers who lost their lives in the first and second world wars. It’s located at the foot of the parliament buildings near the famous Beehive.
We didn’t not skate the memorial out of respect, just favourable luck. Unfortunately, like a lot of skaters in our youth we didn’t comprehend the gravity of the monument and what it stood for. Had we been down that end of town I’m sure we would have found the allure of the various stair sets and smooth surfaces irresistible.
It seems we wouldn’t have been the only ones, as skaters have attracted bad press over the years for skating there. I hope that they were like us, it that it would have just been wilful ignorance. I can’t imagine any skaters would intentionally go out of their way to disrespect our fallen.
Something to bear in mind is that as you get older and dedicate more of your subconscious mind to considering your own mortality, you really begin to appreciate the sacrifices others made for our country. The memorial becomes a symbol, not just of those who gave their lives, but of national pride and respect. It defines us as a nation.
The backlash for tarnishing such a symbol comes swiftly. People consider damage or disrespect a personal insult.
It’s not just NZ either. I’ve noticed some dissent on a couple of YouTube videos lately. In particular one posted by John Hill drew criticism in the comments from fellow skaters. If I recall it wasn’t even a memorial by the strictest definition - but at any rate it seems there may have been a world-wide shift in thinking amongst the skater community about what is acceptable.
My advice, if you’re planning a trip into any city, is to avoid such places. Skate hard, have a good time, but also be conscious and respectful. I know the vast majority of skaters already are.
“These laid the world away; poured out the red sweet wine of youth...” - Rupert Brooke's