[Ed.'s Note: The Action Sports Report is a weekly blog that covers sports from skateboarding to snowboarding to FMX.]
If you're a skateboarder every now and then it's good to get a reality check. Not a slap in the face or anything, but something that reminds you of what's going on out there in the streets where the next generation of skateboarders is busy grinding and kickflipping their way to the future. We got a hold of skating pioneer Salman Agah to talk about the state of the industry and how the world is still trying to keep skaters down. After authoring a slew of groundbreaking tricks in the pre-X Games early 90s, Agah spends his days working for The Berrics skatepark and website. So yeah, he's still got his ear to the street. Read on.
MAG.COM: How do young skaters get discovered?
AGAH: Word of mouth is huge when somebody is coming up. People see you at local skate spots and if you're good they talk about you. What happens also is a lot of the young guys start riding for shops. When the shops have good relationships with the brands that they carry often times they are the ones who make the first introduction. The brands may be doing a demo at a shop and if a kid is there it's a good way to meet potential sponsors. That's just one way, though. There's no set formula for getting sponsored.
When you look at the crop of young kids coming up today do you see them as being the future stars of the X Games?
It's hard to tell. The are a lot of new kids out there with a ton of talent but a lot goes into it. Skateboarding contests still aren't as important as people think they are. To the non- skating public it makes it more palatable but if you're not a skater and you watch the X Games I don't even know how entertaining it would be because you don't know what's going on. It takes time to learn what the kids are doing and why something is difficult. With Mega ramp it's different. But as far as street skating goes outside of winning a hundred grand at a contest I don't know how important contests will be for street skaters.
Do kids aspire to be big time skate superstars on TV?
I think that's the goal for a lot of kids because TV is their initial exposure to skating in a lot of cases. When I meet young skaters, regardless of how they were introduced to it, they open eventually open their eyes and realize there is this whole world, beyond contests, that's not on TV. A world where they can possibly make a living.
How has the Internet changed skateboarding?
You can self-publish these days. Kids don't have to rely on the mainstream for coverage or to get seen. They can do it themselves. As soon as more people embrace it you'll see it playing an even bigger role.
You were Thrasher's Skater of the Year in 1993. That's like skating's MVP. What was it like back then?
It was incredible. I was 21 years old and the Thrasher SOTY award was like the pinnacle. It's still considered that today. It's our Grammy or Oscar. But then I thought, what do I do now? Am I at the top of my game? Where do I go from here? At the time I didn't think I was that good at skating. That just made it a weird experience for me. I almost think that I would have appreciated it more had I won it when I was older.
Today someone who is at the top of their game is a national name and in some cases global. Is that too much too young?
If they are poised to handle it and they have a support group around them and manage that, then more power to them. But it's not easy. It can either go one of two ways. It can lead to more success or it can end up tragic. When you receive that type of notoriety at such a young age it's hard to maintain what that intensity feels like over a career.
Do kids get desensitized from so much attention?
Look at someone like Ryan Sheckler. With all the attention he's gotten I think personally he's handled it pretty well. But everyone at his age wouldn't be able to handle it. He was just brought up a different way and has the kind of mentality to deal with it.
Street skaters have long faced obstacles when it comes to finding natural environments to skate but they nevertheless persist. What are the biggest challenges facing street skaters today?
It's becoming increasingly harder to skate street because everything is knobbed up. Over the years some of these architectural firms have become very savvy and go to great lengths to prevent skaters from skating what they build. They purposely design things so that people can't skate. When new buildings are designed the handrails are knobbed. The benches have one obstruction or another. The urban environment is tough navigate now. But you know what? Skaters will find a way.