Photos

There Are No Strangers at the Skate Park

Kiwi-American photographer Todd Henry says travelling with a skateboard is a ticket to friendship. He shares his photo album with us.

by Todd Henry Photography
28 November 2018, 8:52pm

All photos by Todd Henry

This article originally appeared on VICE NZ.

Making friends is enviably easy for the travelling skateboarder. Simply turn up to a skate spot, be friendly to the locals, do some tricks, and compliment others on theirs. It doesn’t matter if you don’t speak the local language either—the act of skateboarding is a form of communication in and of itself.

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Antananarivo, Madagascar crew.

Exploring non-English speaking destinations has given me some of my favourite skateboarding memories—and photographs: following a crew of Malagasy skaters around the city of Antananarivo, skating the streets of Wuhan, China on a steamy summer evening, meeting local skaters in Mendoza, Argentina, exploring the concrete jungle of Seoul by skateboard, getting lost in Tokyo after dark with a large crew of local skaters, and getting to know my adopted homeland of Aotearoa from a skateboarder’s perspective over the last 15 years.

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Busan, South Korea, 2008.

Growing up in small-town Pennsylvania, I took up skateboarding 23 years ago as an outlet for expression, and a reason to get out. Back then skateboarding had some mainstream appeal, but it was largely subversive and misunderstood by most non-skaters. Skateboarders have an innate ability to identify fellow skateboarders with pinpoint accuracy. Tip, look at the shoes! Once I cracked this code, I gained confidence in talking to strangers.

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Melbourne, Australia, 2014.

In 2003, I purchased a one-way ticket to New Zealand, sure that I could make friends through skateboarding. Travelling for no reason isn’t really an accepted custom in small-town America, and some of my non-skating friends and family worried that I didn’t know anyone where I was heading.

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Morph at Valonia Park, Auckland, 2017.

I knew better. The friendships you make skating don't end when the skate session does. Because of skateboarding I have ended up at house parties, been taken to the best bars in town, and been offered places to stay. A skateboarder can achieve local status in a matter of days. The day after I got to Auckland I had made several friends for life.

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Tim Schutsky in Wanaka, 2016.
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South Auckland, 2008.
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A perfect spot in Busan Korea, 2008.
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Charles Roux at Owairaka Park in Auckland, 2016.
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Black rainbows mark skateboarders territory.
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Hunua Dam skate mission, Auckland, New Zealand.
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Daniel Lucas, Melbourne, Australia.
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Tokyo skate crew at night.
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Miniramp in Tonga.
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Wuhan, China.
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Sam and Charles, skate mates for life.
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