Journal of Housing and the Built Environment

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 327–340 | Cite as

Skateboarders exploring urban public space: Ollies, obstacles and conflicts

  • Lia KarstenEmail author
  • Eva Pel


This paper reports on an explorative study about skateboarding practices in Amsterdam. One indoor spot and nine street locations for skateboarding were observed and over thirty skaters were interviewed. The research questions concern the identity of the people involved, the group interactions, and the use of urban space and routes. The majority of the observed skateboarders are male middle-class youngsters. In this respect, the skateboarding scene is not very different from other forms of urban public play where men predominate. At the same time, however, skateboarding can be seen as a way of experimenting with new forms of masculinity. Since hanging about by adolescents is mainly a lower-class phenomenon, the middle-class status of the skateboarding youth is surprising. Notwithstanding their individual skateboarding acts, youngsters involved in skateboarding negotiate their claim on specific spaces in groups. The colonizing of public spaces for skateboarding does not remain free of conflict. Groups of skaters are continuously putting public spaces into and out of use. In a sense, skateboarders can be considered the nomads of the city. Their `traveling in packs' results in a map of skate locations which is constantly changing. To understand the phenomenon of skateboarding, further research is needed, not only in Amsterdam but also in other cities and the suburbs.

Amsterdam gender relations public space skateboarding 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Amsterdam Study Centre for the Metropolitan Environment (AME)University of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Amsterdam Study Centre for the Metropolitan Environment (AME)University of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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