For the past 10 years skateboarding has become a multi-billion dollar industry that has gained a lot of attention due to skate legends like Tony Hawk, actor Jason Lee, Paul Rodriguez, and Rob Dyrdek. The skateboarding culture sprang up in the late 40′s and early 50′s when surfers were trying to find something to do when the waves were down. Skateboarding has even caught the attention of rap artist Lil Wayne who has been spotted in Brooklyn skateboarding and hanging out at local skate shops. Skateboarding has continued to grow to make southern California the hot spot for enthusiasts from all over the world.
One person who has dedicated her life to skateboarding is Traci Johnson, founder of Culture Skateboards based in Brooklyn, New York. Traci Johnson, along with her husband Jay, started the company in 2007 based on their passion for making a difference in the lives of young people. Johnson, who is a former science teacher, spent many years in southern California in the late 80′s and in the early 90′s when the sport was at its peak. She is an avid skater who first saw the need to do more for young people after seeing how much they wanted a skate park. Johnson has been recognized as the first African-American woman to bring awareness to the sport. ILLHOLIDAY Dot Com caught up with Johnson to speak about Culture Skateboards and the importance of building a skate park in Brower Park in Brooklyn.
Culture Skateboard Interview/Traci Johnson:
IH: Can you discuss why the culture of skateboarding is relevant today to so many young people?
TJ: I think what’s interesting about skateboarding is that it has evolved a great deal over the years. If you dressed like a skater back in the day, people didn’t really embrace the sport and what skaters were doing. Today, you have so many rap artists and well-known people who dress like skaters. I remember having over 100 skaters show up to a meeting I had with Senator Eric Adams who I was trying to get to assist me with building a skate park in Brower Park. He was expecting the huge turnout of kids for the meeting. I think this shows why it’s so relevant to kids today.
IH: I know that you’re a New York native, but lived in California for many years. How did your background influence you and your husband’s decision to start Culture Skateboards in New York?
TJ: It was a great experience living out in California. I attended classes on some of those same College campuses where some of those early classic skateboarding videos were filmed. It was very different in California vs. New York in terms of skateboarding. In California there was a great connection among the skaters; in New York-not as much. This influenced me a great deal when we moved back to New York and started our company.
IH: After reaching out to Senator Eric Seats for assistance , what was the response like from the community when you were trying to pull all of this together?
TJ: We received a good response from the community. I actually reached out to professional skater Rob Dyrdek for advice on how to start. One of the main things he stressed in a letter he sent to me was gaining the support of the community. I took that advice and gained support from different business owners around the Brower Park, I gained the trust of some of the basketball players who played at the park, and I also reached out to the senator who was very supportive in what we were trying to do. At the time I was carrying my first child, so it was a very meaningful place in my life when all of that was going on. It took over 2 years to get everything worked out. The skate park was built in 2011.
IH: I understand that you were a teacher for 15 years. What do you tell young people today who want to make skateboarding a career?
TJ: I always tell the kids on our team that injuries happen. You have to make sure that you’re doing what you need to do in the classroom in case skateboarding doesn’t become a career. I remember one of our best skaters got injured. A lot of our kids saw him struggling and realized injuries are real. The kids on our team have to maintain a certain G.P.A. if they want to continue riding for Culture Skateboards.
IH: What are your future plans for Culture Skateboards?
TJ: I would like to expand the company internationally. I would also like to build another skate park and expand on things that we learned from building the first one. Lastly, I think I would like to continue build diversity within my company . I think diversity is important when it comes to the sport of skateboarding.
To find out more about Culture Skateboards visit www.cultureskateboards.com .