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Shin Okada: The Reason You Can’t Live Off Skateboarding Isn’t Because of the Times (English)

Words from a Japanese skate pioneer on the state of the Japanese industry
Original Article:

Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot of grief from pros and skaters aiming to go pro that you can’t make a living off of skateboarding (in Japan). They’re all seriously doing their best to try and make it happen, but among their complaints, the one I hear most is probably something along the lines of “It’s tough in this age (of Japanese skating)…” or “It’s different from when you were coming up, Shin-kun…”

It’s a lot of blaming the circumstances of the era (of Japanese skating) we’re in for the fact that it’s tough to live off it.

There’s some cute kids out there, and some kids with real talent that are trying to make it, thinking it’s too tough with the times being what they are. But I’ve made my life from skateboarding. And it might be a harsh way to say it, but I can’t help but think there’s really no excuse any time I hear that kind of thing.

That’s why I’ve been thinking recently about the (Japanese) scene back in the early 90’s when I was dreaming of going pro myself, and if it’s really alright to use the state of skateboarding itself as an excuse.

First of all, back then in the early 90’s when I first dreamed of making a living off skating, it was the genesis of a new generation of skate culture that still reeked of the underground. “Pro” skaters in Japan were basically only given product, much less money, so the idea that skateboarding could put food on the table was non-existent. Moreover, skating wasn’t even in magazines or any sort of media, so if anything, the most we got was maybe a contest report on black and white pages in the back of an issue of FINE (a men’s fashion magazine).

Back then when I declared in my rough, little nasally voice that I was going to pursue skateboarding as a career, all the skaters around me thought I was crazy and laughed at the idea of an age like the one we’re in now. An age where kids get together and go to skate schools, skaters are featured in the media to a certain extent, and you can decide to try and make a living off skating. What I’m trying to say is that compared to where we came from, when living off of skating wasn’t even an option, we’re no doubt in a much better position now. That much I can say for sure.

So then why is it that even though the situation has progressed so far since those days, there are still so many kids who can’t live off it? Because it’s still just a minor thing? Nah. It was even less of a thing when I began aiming for a pro career. Is it because there’s no money in the industry? Nah, there was even less money and less experience when I was coming up. I want all those talented skaters who are looking to go pro to realize something now. You’ve got to stop blaming your surroundings. Skaters have the power to influence the situation of their industry and their era of skateboarding as much as they like. In fact, changing it is exactly what you’re supposed to do as a skater looking to go pro! I’ve said it before when I talked about pro skaters and their sponsors, but it’s not a question of what your situation will do for you in order for you to go pro. It’s a matter of what can you yourself do to make yourself a pro. Keep that in mind when you’re making moves.

But if you’ll humor me again, I want to compare what I’ve done to make a living off of skateboarding and what all the skaters now who are working hard to go pro are doing. I began filming myself skating with my friends when I was in 8th grade, and then in 9th, I began selling independent videos with the all the older dudes I was skating with. After that, I had over ten full parts in videos that were sold all over the country, and more than five full parts in videos that were released worldwide by American companies. If I were a musician, I guess you could consider those full parts to each be an individual album if that helps you understand it. And if you include all the singles, being short edits and guest spots, then I’ve been in even more. So if you’re thinking of blaming the circumstances of the industry or the times we’re in, ask yourself how many full parts you’ve released until now? If you’re complaining that one or two full parts hasn’t made you a career in skateboarding, then it’s not the circumstance, it’s simply that you’re not putting in enough work.

Put out as much quality footage as possible and direct your attention at as many circles as you can. Keep working to get your stuff into the hands of people in high places who can show your stuff to the world, and put out more than ten full parts that deserve to be seen by them. And after you’ve done all that, if it’s still not paying the bills, then you’re right. It might in fact be “because of the times.”

But I haven’t yet met a skater outside of my own generation who’s put out that much footage and is making those kinds of moves. And all the riders in my same generation who’ve put out the same amount of footage both domestically and internationally have, in no small amount, put food on the table by skateboarding.

In other words, the times don’t matter. You can live off of skateboarding.

A great musician said, “Whatever the age, the people who can do it, do it.”

And he’s exactly right. This probably sounds harsh to the kids who are trying to go pro and having a hard time of it, but I want everyone with talent that’s aiming to go pro and have a future in skateboarding to realize it.

Not being able to make a living off of skateboarding isn’t because of the circumstances of the industry or because of the era of skateboarding we’re in. It’s because you’re not yet a skater that can meet the challenge of those circumstances or the era. So you’ve got to do everything you can to become one. And you probably can.

Now go out and get some footy for that sick part you’ve got cookin’.

With love to all the future pros working to get it,

Shin Okada

Words: Shin Okada

Translation: Nino Moscardi

Thanks to Okashin and Push Connection.


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