Building Community Through The Winter of Discontent
For the past few months I have been having a ton of fun on Tuesday Nights here in Vancouver, BC at a regular weekly Techslide Session. Let’s keep in mind, I am 36, had a kid this past year and don’t have a ton of spare time. Making time to skate on Tuesdays regularly has been extremely hard, but has been a priority for mental health. And fortunately there is a great group of regulars that make sure it happens every week.
There’s a lot of talk about some softening of participation (less skaters skating) out there, but my personal belief is this is not actually true. If you host a reliable session, skaters will come. It’s the same story the world over really. People want to skate. It’s easier to complain about not having anyone or anywhere to skate. Haters will talk about when skating was great in their minds eye and then typically… that’s it. They don’t actually do anything to create that idealized image of when skating was great. The number of people I know who used to skate, or still skate and used to go to Techslide, is a lot. I could name names (should), but we all have a friend who used to skate regularly and now, they don’t. Sometimes, it’s just because there isn’t a session.
The first thing to ask yourself about what made those great skating memories possible is the people in them (behind them). The basic make up of any group involves only a few kinds of people and to be honest, not many of them are going to put any kind of effort into bring a group together. I like this author Malcolm Gladwell. In his book “The Tipping Point”, Malcolm Gladwell describes “The Law of the Few”, as he states: “The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts”. So according to Gladwell, also known as the Pareto Principle or the “80/20 Principle, which is the idea that in any situation roughly 80 percent of the ‘work’ will be done by 20 percent of the participants”. That’s right… for every 10 skaters, only 2 of them are going to put in any real effort to bring a session together for everyone.
And interestingly enough, this isn’t so much as to say the other 8 are lazy (though some are), but rather they don’t have the right skills to bring people together. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say a lot of skaters are antisocial. So how do you bring an antisocial group together, even just around skateboarding?! It takes a few dedicated individuals for sure. The less social people are, and less connected they might be, the more niche and private that group becomes. Until sometimes it’s just you and a homie, or worse, just you. To have a ‘community’ you basically need some well-connected-loud-mouths that actually want to (see value in) bring a community together and having reliable sessions for all. Or you need to be willing to step out of your comfort zone and help make it happen yourself.
Keeping with some cliche understanding of life, while the 80/20 Principle feels very true to me, so does the Field of Dreams Principle, if you build it, they will come. And so, with the vision of Mark Short on an extended stay to Canada many months ago, Vancouver’s #TechslideTuesday sessions took life. Even with all the skaters in Vancouver, there was no Techslide session until Mark came to town. Mark had the vision, the dedication and the voice to say, “Hey, I’m skating hard wheels and doing some skids Tuesday Night, come join me.” And who says no to Mark Short? Especially when he’s a guest just visiting your community.
It shouldn’t take a Mark Short (and there is only one of him) coming to your town to light a fire under some ass to create a weekly session. But that’s ultimately what it took, even in Vancouver with all our skate-abundance. And we’re thankful for him doing it. Mark has gone home now, but the sessions have continued. They’ve continued each week, all the way through Winter. It doesn’t happen on it’s own though and so recognition and thanks must definitely be paid to Cullen Arbuckle and Karson Leigh. They picked up from Mark’s stoke and each week these two bump the session posts, message skaters and even setup carpools for rides and bring muffins (thanks Celina for the muffins, really!).
That’s what community is – bringing people together, to have some fun, skate, laugh and enjoy life. If you’re not finding it where you live, maybe ask yourself if you A. are part of the 20 making it happen or B. haven’t looked hard enough as part of the 80. There are a lot sessions happening all over and if there isn’t, then maybe you should start one!
Techslide Tuesday is every week at 7pm in Vancouver. I really encourage you to be the 20, not the 80, and help start a regular tech slide session in your community. You won’t regret it!
Photos thanks to Flatspot Longboards.