Archive for September, 2010

The Trouble With Skateboarding

September 27, 2010

As a travel writer it’s important to have flexible principles. For example, just a few months after I mocked the intellect of Barcelona’s skate community, I found myself pitching an article about the little cabrones for Ryanair magazine… There was a buck to be made after all.

If I thought that maybe confronting these misfits I would grow to love their ill-judged body ink and respect their determined pursuit to knock their own teeth out, then I was sorely mistaken. As it happened they were, for the most part bigger ****s than I was expecting. Starting with the bare-chested moron who took himself too seriously to help with the piece (although started trying to get in the back of photos the minute we found someone else), through to the pseudo-punk who thought he was much too cool as he abjectly failed to land any of kick flips outside the MACBA. I wasn’t too impressed with the skate shop attendant either who did his damned hardest to avoid help market his shop for free to millions of readers… they’re really not the brightest specimens (pl.?) in the species. Lucky I did meet one or two friendly and helpful folk who did something to redeem their sub culture and you can read about them here… (apologies for the dodgy online editing, not much I can do about that).

Anyway having just about cajoled enough ‘street riders’ into deigning to speak with me and have a photo done, I wrote and submitted the piece and started the several month waiting process to get paid. A couple of weeks before it was due to be published however the Editor emailled me up and said there was a big problem with the piece and I should contact him immediately. I foolishly mentioned in the article that skateboarding is in fact illegal in Barcelona and now the client – ie. Ryanair – were throwing a hissy fit in case they were seen to be encouraging illegal behaviour. I was shocked. It was skateboarding for f@ck’s sake, not drug taking. Then again, I could see their point too. Naturally the Editor was having babies because if he makes a bad call, as per the whole Easyjet debacle (where they ran a fashion shoot without permission at a holocaust memorial in Berlin) he could lose his job. In the end the fact that they had spent ages preparing a huge spread with photos illustrations and all meant the Editor went to special lengths to get the green light from the city… he phoned the tourist board and they confirmed, what we all knew, that well-behaved skateboarding is tolerated.

A bit of a scare because if they had pulled the article then they would have only paid me a so-called ‘kill fee’, or half the original commission. It’s probably against European law, but until some travel writer with enough money to pay a lawyer challenges this arrangement I’m sure it will long continue… as such travel writers don’t exist the magazines hold all the power.

It did get me thinking though, how many travel articles are in fact about illegal activities? From ruin bars in Hungary, to squat venues in Barcelona, or even guerilla gardening in London, some of the coolest trends often stray the wrong side of the law, even if they are largely tolerated by a society that probably has better things to do with its time than give a sh!t. Anyway it will make me think twice about what I pitch to who in future…