Skate of the Art

Image by John Oliveira

In a state surrounded by cerulean surf, skateboarding may not be the first sport that comes to mind. But it is one with a talented pot of athletes and a unique story that gets little glory—either because skateboarders are always getting chased off spots, or because subculture is the way they like it. This weekend, however, the Hi Sk8 Films Showcase will give a unique look into the scene with eight films between 2 and 20 minutes long. Showcased at the Honolulu Museum of Art, the films are by local and mainland directors and feature Hawai‘i skaters. Below is a Q&A with the Hi Sk8 Films curator Travis Hancock, who can often be spotted skating A‘ala Park:

Why did you decide to start the showcase?

I’ve been working at the Honolulu Museum of Art since about 2011, and right when I started, I noticed they had a big surf film festival, and so I thought I might be able to squeeze in a little screen time for some of the skate videos I knew were being made on O‘ahu that year. Ideally, this showcase of films will kind of demystify or de-stigmatize some of the connotations skateboarding has and has always had.

Why do you think it’s had these stigmas?

Skating has always been about freedom of expression, freedom of movement, and has a certain sense of anti-establishment to it that is often misperceived as malicious or as pointlessly aggressive. Not to mention that skateboarding happens, very often, in places where people would rather it didn’t happen.

Like where?

In downtown districts, in the streets. People often seem afraid of things that happen in the streets, like protests or skateboarding. Or it happens on private property, which is unavoidably enticing to skaters at times because skaters are about using architecture and urban environments in ways that they’re not intended to be used.

How has Hawai‘i’s physical landscape lent itself to skating here?

The weather caused by the landscape makes a lot of rain that erodes spots that we like to skate. There are a lot of gritty surfaces that force us to think differently about what we can skate or how we can skate it. Also, in at least one film, you’ll see a type of skating here that incorporates nature, or in particular trees, quite directly.

Trees? How are they incorporating trees?

A group of high school kids made a mockumentary about surf documentary films in which they treat trees arching over sidewalks as barrels of waves that they ride through and generate an entire new sport. It’s a nice blend of comedy and a nod to skating’s roots in surfing and a nice way to incorporate our natural and urban landscapes.

What is one other film that you think people will enjoy seeing?

I’m really excited about two films that are very short that represent the commuter aspect of skating, which I think is relatable to a lot of people in our community. One involves a happy-go-lucky cruise through the neighborhood of Makiki set to upbeat music and using high-definition cameras. In contrast, we have another tour through Chinatown shot on 35-millimeter film that is very artsy and explores the medium of film a bit more than simply skateboarding itself.

What makes Hawai‘i’s skate scene stand apart, beyond the physical terrain?

Hawai‘i’s skate scene is very unique compared to skate scenes around the world, because it’s very diverse here but it’s also very small. Not only is there a full range of styles on the board, skating together, there are also people from different ethnic backgrounds, different economic levels, different communities around the island within their own contexts, but they all found their way to the board, and they found a scene here that’s really welcoming and familial.

How did you end up skating anyway?

I grew up on the North Shore, kind of around surf culture, and that’s always been tied into skateboarding. My older brother was really into skating and gradually all of his friends peer-pressured me and my friends into doing it, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

So do you think people who don’t skate will enjoy the showcase?

I think in the past years some of our films have been a little bit more esoteric and based in skateboarding exclusively, but this year I think the everyday Hawai‘i resident or museum-goer will have a great experience whether or not they understand the nuances of skateboarding. They‘ll get an education on the nuances of the skater’s lifestyle here.

Plus all the skaters will be there.

And a lot of skaters will be there. You’ll see an interesting cross-section of the broader island community.

Hi Sk8 Films Showcase
Opening night (with games and entertainment): Friday, Sept. 19, 6 p.m.
Second chance viewings: Saturday, Sept. 20 at 1, 4, and 7:30 p.m.
Learn more and reserve tickets at

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