Alex DeCunha: 'I never thought skateboarding would even be in the Olympics'
Alex DeCunha is a professional skateboarder from Milton Keynes, the city considered by the skateboarding community as a skate capital of the UK.
Alex grew up around plenty of urban architecture to perfect the art of skateboarding. Now he’s hoping to qualify for the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo. Here’s his skateboarding journey in his own words.
My skateboarding journey
I’m the first skateboarder in my family - as far as I’m aware!
In Milton Keynes shopping centre, there’s a big square area where they hold exhibitions and events. One time when I was younger, there was a half-pipe set up and some skateboarders doing a demo. There were loads of kids like me watching and I said, “I’d like to try that!”. So, my parents got me a skateboard and I stuck to it ever since.
While I do it professionally, it’s not the easiest to make a living out of skateboarding. I do a lot of things like adverts for different companies, and a lot for Instagram which is my main source of promotion, and sponsors come from that. I do a lot of competitions around the world as well - it’s a business that’s tough, but very worth it.
'People worldwide want to travel just to skate here'
There are two skateboarding disciplines: street and park.
I do street, which is literally what it says in the name: skateboarding in the streets. Milton Keynes is great for street skateboarding because there are so many opportunities for it. It’s a city that has many different underpasses and every single one has a marble ledge in, which is ideal for skateboarding. Places like London, Bristol and Manchester are also really popular, all for the same reason of the potential for street skateboarding.
In Milton Keynes, there’s so many different stair sets, rails and architecture all through the city, which has made people worldwide want to travel just to skate there. That’s how it has made a name for itself as one of the street skateboarding capitals in the UK.
People like to go and film their tricks in different spots, and there’s a kind of urban culture that comes hand-in-hand with skateboarding. For example, my local skate park has some ledges that are made for skateboarding, but also a wall at the back which a lot of local artists use to paint murals and different graffiti pieces. There’s always something new - I would say the wall has 10 inches’ worth of layers of paint on from over the years!
Deck: The flat wooden board that you stand on.
Truck: The T-shaped metal fittings which keep the wheels securely attached to the deck.
Slide: A trick where the rider slides sideways on the deck, usually ledges or rails. There are many different slides depending on the position of the wheels, the position of the board, whether the rider grabs the deck, where they grab it, etc.
Grind: Similar to sliding, but when the truck is in contact it’s known as ‘grinding’.
Kickflip: A trick where the rider kicks the board up to rotate 360 under their feet.
Ollie: A jump where the front wheels of the skateboard leave the ground first. A nollie is when the back wheels leave the ground first.
'People are always going to have different views'
Sometimes when you’re skateboarding, people will stop you and say: “Hey, what are you ruining this ledge for?” or they think you’re messing about in the street or trying to get in people's way. You’re not really, but obviously accidents can happen. They might think you’re just these hoodlums wasting your days - but people are always going to have different views and opinions on skateboarding, or anything ‘urban’ like that.
On the other hand, there’ll always be plenty of people who, when you’re skateboarding somewhere, will stop and look and will love to watch it. There’s always kids who’ll be excited and you’ll hear them shout: "Ah, look at the skateboard!" I suppose I was one of them as well.
Some people think that because there is that urban culture, skateboarding won’t fit in at the Olympics, or that competition is not what skateboarding’s about. But there’s loads of professional skateboarding championships and competitions that exist already. It’s a first-time experience for everyone involved, and we can’t really find out what’ll happen until we get there.
The Olympics are my goal right now - making sure I’m getting all my tricks down to qualify and make it to 2020.
For street, you usually get five or so judges and you get two 45-second runs. You have to plan out a run and then you’re let onto the course, and the judges will judge you based on how many tricks you do and how difficult they are, how much of the park you use and how you use it. Then, your points are added up and you get your score at the end. Hopefully your score is enough to move into the semi-finals and so on.
When I started skateboarding, the Olympics were never a goal or a dream of mine, because I never thought it would even be in the Olympics. I think to make the most of this opportunity and really get skateboarding (and myself) out there is amazing. It would be a life-changing experience to not only to take part in the Olympics, but to take part in the first year that skateboarding is an Olympic sport.