I met this group of kids in São Paulo, Brazil. Surrounded by a residential neighborhood, this public park’s salmon colored pathways stretched up and down a mild, lush valley. Little spots littered the pathways. Some areas were weathered and covered in dried mud, but most were freshly skated. Platforms and ledges were weaved around the perimeter of the paths, along with perfect benches and stair sets. If the concrete here was as smooth as République or MACBA, I wouldn’t be describing this place, you’d already know it.
Despite the endless potential of this place, it was deserted. I didn’t see any skateboarders for an hour or more before this group of kids rolled up. Instantly welcoming, they greeted me as if I was at their doorstep. The oldest kid was maybe fourteen, and the youngest was around six or seven years old. I didn’t speak any Portuguese so we did our best to communicate with a handful of English and Spanish. The skating sorted out the rest.
Eager to share their wealth, the kids showed me every spot in the vibrant, sprawling park. The really young ones were so excited, they started hucking off gaps, precariously landing on their incredibly shredded boards. It reminded me of when I was a kid, I would always push myself beyond my comfort level whenever I had the opportunity to skate with someone I looked up to, whether or not I knew them personally.
The kids showed me around to the rest of their nearby spots, and we skated for the next few hours.
While governments and groups of scared people around the world stoke fear and threaten walls, it feels like the world is becoming increasingly closed off. Yet simple examples like these kids show how skateboarding can defy xenophobia. Hospitality between skateboarders definitely isn’t consistent… just about anyone has been vibed out of a spot. But when you have an experience like these kids provided, it’s an amazing reminder of skateboarding’s power to entwine and blend cultures together — even if it’s just for an afternoon.