As we enter the long Fourth of July weekend and begin to consume the ungodly amounts of alcohol we use to honor everything that makes this country great, I ask you, what is more American than the classic rags to riches success story? In skateboarding few tales of overcoming adversity rival that of Philadelphia's own, Stevie Williams. Stevie was never meant to survive his rough childhood, or ever make it over the Ben Franklin Bridge out of Philly. He grew up fast and did whatever was necessary to survive. In the 90s he and his friends ruled one of the most infamous natural skate plazas in the world, Philadelphia's Love Park, with an iron fist. It was not uncommon for visiting skateboarders to get beaten up or have their skateboards stolen for not abiding by the unspoken laws of the park.
That was 20 years ago. Today skateboarding has been outlawed at Love, and the skaters have relocated to the new, state of the art Franklin Paine Skate Plaza just below the Philadelphia Art Museum. Stevie has over 15 years as a professional skateboarder under his belt. He's turned DGK into a household name, is part owner of the newly-launched Asphalt Yacht Club clothing line, and just two days ago his latest Estaban shoe from Supra hit stores—he has become successful beyond anyone's wildest dreams.
I was lucky enough to catch up with Stevie at the plaza he made famous decades ago to talk about some of the more colorful stories from his younger days, like people getting their ears bitten off, dumping piss on strangers, tricking people into drinking piss, as well as the story behind DGK's name. As awful as these stories might seem from that bygone era to others, I can't help but miss that time of lawlessness. Now parents see dollar signs in skateboarding, and think their kids will become a superstar if he picks up a board. Dropping the kids off at a skatepark for the day is no different than leaving them at summer camp. There are no enforcers, no bum fights, no sex in the bushes, no robberies, no hard lessons learned; there is only training and winning.
I often think about the current state of skateboarding and wonder how we got here. Sure, all the parks and money bolster the growth and progression of skating, but much of the romance of it has been lost. As I sat listening to Stevie recount his plaza tales I thought about how truly boring in comparison the stories of today's new, vanilla skaters will be 20 years from now.
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