As an underground activity, skateboarding has always come along with stereotypes, many of them negative and misconstrued. But the rebellious, drug-taking-punk image of old is giving way to that of a skillful athlete with a daring edge. It's the skaters themselves making this change, and Richard Zuccarello is among those leading the way. His organization Skateboarders Against Drugs sends a positive message to the community while promoting the sport of skateboarding to kids.
The creation of Skateboarders Against Drugs was sparked in 2003 when an elementary school in Woodland Hills, Calif. asked professional skateboarder Zuccarello to help them with their anti-drug campaign.
"My team and I were given the opportunity to put on a skateboarding demonstration, speak to the children about drug prevention, sign autographs and hand out products," said Zuccarello. Tearing it up with some gravity-defying moves on a transported skateboard ramp, Zuccarello and his team of extreme skateboarders captured the attention of the youthful crowd and taught them about the dangers of drugs.
"I was deeply touched by the event," said Zuccarello. So, he created Skateboarders Against Drugs with the mission of using the excitement of the sport to promote community health and increase drug-prevention awareness in children and their families.
Say no to drugs, Say yes to skateboarding
"Getting a message across to a group of kids takes time and repetition," said Zuccarello. His signature layback invert and 180 staple gun fake may grab the crowd's attention, but the demos also show kids the heights they can reach if they focus their energy on positive activities like skateboarding instead of drugs. "We don't expect that this is a one shot vaccination against drug abuse, but rather a process of teaching kids how to make life choices that support their long-term goals."
According to Zuccarello, additional skaters continue to get involved, "We have a list of pros that will be invited to support the cause, and we will continue to look for skateboarders and bikers who are interested in getting involved."
One of the biggest stars in skateboarding history contributes to the project. "Christian Hosoi is on the advisory board and we hope will be participating in our scheduled events." Hosoi, the superstar who defined skateboarding alongside Tony Hawk in the 1980s, is living proof of the dangers of drugs.
After suffering from a drug addiction that ate away at his skateboarding, personal life and business, he found himself serving time in jail. With a new outlook on life, Hosoi is back to killin' it on the ramp again. This time he's using his skating to give back to the community and spread the anti-drug message from experience.
A hobby, a sport, a lifestyle
In addition to the anti-drug message, the members of Skateboarders Against Drugs work hard to promote skateboarding as a sport and get it the respect it deserves. The passion for skateboarding runs deep in these athletes.
As an avid skater for more than 20 years, Zuccarello's passion for the sport and culture continues to grow, as does his desire to increase recognition of skating. "It is definitely our goal to not only help prevent drug use, but to also promote skateboarding as a sport."