Spend some quality time with London skate crew WITH to look at the cultural significance of skateboarding now.
You don’t need to have much of a clue about skateboarding to know that these days it’s bigger than ever. After decades of being shunned by the mainstream the mainstream now wants in and culture rarely wins over commerce. The positives? A wider, international understanding of skating’s many benefits. You know, important stuff like community cohesion, self-expression and a better understanding of urban space. As for the negatives; we’re talking the infiltration of a lifestyle once notoriously ablaze with rebellion by opportunistic intruders looking to stuff skateboarders into lycra in the name of cash. So kicking it with London-based skate crew WITH was a slamming, bloodstained and spectacularly delinquent gulp of fresh air. After smashing down a fourth ‘rona in the corner of Wetherspoons, tales of outrageous debauchery were being spun over and over again across the sticky table.
They’re the heads behind the newly commissioned Crystal Palace Skatepark, some wasteland DIY spots splattered across the South London and this year’s ‘SO WHAT’ edit – not to mention a bunch of travel tales that are dripping with disobedience and make ‘What’s Up Rockers’ look like a giant fap. This lot are undoubtedly one of the best and most beastly things happening in skateboarding right now and it’s imperative you get to know. Conceived a few years back out of friendship and a Facebook page, the crew’s Crystal Palace campaign is a testament to skating’s tendency to bring people together. The south London spot is quite literally where it all began. They’ve been skating the area’s streets since they were kids, its greezy concrete spots being responsible for them all having ever met.
WITHSECTION (or simply WITH) are more than 24 months into a slow slog of campaigning for the park. Tedious, sure, but the concept was immensely popular from the get-go – with overwhelming scores of people smashing that like before the Facebook page was even a week old. So it’s a total hoot to report it all paid off, with permission for construction being granted this summer on a near unanimous vote.
What does this mean for WITH? They’re stoked that they managed to make this such a ting and of course totally beaming that Crystal Palace is about to be kitted out with such a boom new space to skate – the rest of London should be too, although the crew aren’t about the fact that the council didn’t let them design the space. Nevertheless, there’s a new skate park on the ground. Those in the know will be particularly pumped that C-Pal’s rich skate history is about to be revitalized – back in the 80’s the infamous Crystal Palace ramp played host to a myriad of monumental sessions with some of skating’s biggest names rolling through – not to mention the principle role it played in UK vert skating. So, yeah, if you happen to bump into any of the WITH boys, a pat on the back and a Jägerbomb should cover it. £400,000 skate spots aside, WITH spend a bunch of time building their own skate spots. Transforming pockets of wasteland into tight, skateable cotches. Turning nothing into something.
Why do it themselves? Dumb question. What’s better than you and your crew building a rad place to skate that’s all your own. When you watch a WITH edit you can’t help but notice how precisely they respond to the environment around them. It’s reckless, trippy, demented – even assaulting if you will. They smash shit up and then they shred it and it’s all churning with rage and scumbaggery but skateboarding’s never looked this fun. They fly around these crummy looking setups booting out lurkers, not giving a damn about landing tricks with precision, acting like total goofballs setting things on fire. All in all they’ve spent a boozy bunch of hours transforming battered scraps of concrete into skateable spots that play host to their general debauchery – call it an appreciation of the neglected if you will. This whole setup seems overwhelmingly in keeping with their ethos: Imperfect, low-key and furious.
Then, of course, there’s ‘SO WHAT’. The 28-minute edit that dropped at an outrageous Macbeth rager back in April with a zine to boot. Following their wayward adventures across Europe, the South London shredders did real good with this one. A manic concoction of violent skating and blazing crew antics, ‘SO WHAT’ chronicles intensely what they’re all about – getting turnt and documenting their berserk antics over being another bullshit hipster skate brand, bridging beautifully the nimble line between living in the moment and incessant, phoney archiving.
Other than Slam City blog post, the crew didn’t plug the drop at all. Something that’s incredibly admirable about this gnar gnar bunch is their invigoratingly inconspicuous approach to skating. They’re the epitome of low-key. They get hyped on the company of their own crew and don’t give a fuck about much else. Zero pretentions, no ICA-stocked lookbooks, no interest in franchise fame. They’re practically untraceable bar a particularly mischievous Instagram. Even from an outsider’s perspective their disdain of popularity is super euphoric.
The renegade’s antics in ‘SO WHAT’ are truly reminiscent of a time before skateboarding was packing a myriad of lucrative career options. No shiny production crews, no swanky hotels. A shining shrine to the culture of to-hell-with-it, WITH extol ferociously skateboarding’s raucous deviance and it’s untouchable power to give people purpose in life while never taking itself seriously. What do WITH represent? Asides from shredding they’re a nod to all the trueheads. All the misfits in skateboarding. Confrontational, creative and free.