Posted by: bluesyemre | December 6, 2020

‘It’s Like I’m Floating’: Skating New York Under Lockdown by Antonio de Luca Videos by Sam Youkilis

As the coronavirus has brought New York to a standstill, vehicle and pedestrian traffic in Manhattan has all but vanished. Unfettered access to normally crowded spaces was unimaginable just a few months ago, but now places like Times Square, Soho and the Financial District are virtually empty. For many skateboarders, this time of vacancy is also a moment of opportunity, even of liberation — what skating has always been about. We asked a dozen professionals and amateurs to tell us what it is like to skate Manhattan now.

STEPHANIE TONNOIR, 28, is Belgian and has been skating in New York since 2012.

“In New York you will find angry people, you will find happy people. But right now there are no people — it’s pretty good, it’s ideal.” “This is what everybody dreams about: empty New York City. To go skate and nobody can tell you anything.” “When you take an avenue, in the center of it, and there are no cars, and you can even see the end of the avenue, and it is so long and big — and you just feel like, Wow, I am floating.”

YAJE POPSON, 29, was born in Brazil and moved to New York when he was 4. He is sponsored by Alien Workshop.

“It’s a ghostly feeling.” “A lot of us are lost in a big city already.” “Slipping through the cracks of society a little bit. Skaters have almost been preparing for this moment their entire lives.”

JONAH ROLLINS, 24, grew up in Texas and was recently laid off from his job in the fashion industry.

“On a day in normal New York, there would be like, you know, hundreds of people with suits running all around.” “There’s definitely a kind of like spooky energy. I feel like that’s here. Like ghosts of New York past.” “It’s all these weird twisty, turny, windy areas and you’re kind of just navigating them, and it feels like there’s like a synergy — or some sort of like relationship between you and the spaces that you’re moving through.”

STEPHANIE TONNOIR, 28, is Belgian and has been skating in New York since 2012.

“In New York you will find angry people, you will find happy people. But right now there are no people — it’s pretty good, it’s ideal.”

“This is what everybody dreams about: empty New York City. To go skate and nobody can tell you anything.”

“When you take an avenue, in the center of it, and there are no cars, and you can even see the end of the avenue, and it is so long and big — and you just feel like, Wow, I am floating.”

YAJE POPSON, 29, was born in Brazil and moved to New York when he was 4. He is sponsored by Alien Workshop. “It’s a ghostly feeling.” “A lot of us are lost in a big city already.” “Slipping through the cracks of society a little bit. Skaters have almost been preparing for this moment their entire lives.”

JONAH ROLLINS, 24, grew up in Texas and was recently laid off from his job in the fashion industry.

“On a day in normal New York, there would be like, you know, hundreds of people with suits running all around.” “There’s definitely a kind of like spooky energy. I feel like that’s here. Like ghosts of New York past.” “It’s all these weird twisty, turny, windy areas and you’re kind of just navigating them, and it feels like there’s like a synergy — or some sort of like relationship between you and the spaces that you’re moving through.” “It’s this weird intimate moment that I’m having with the physicality of New York.”

ADAM ZHU, 23, grew up in the East Village and works at the Supreme store in Brooklyn.

“Any skater will tell you that skating changes the way you look at things.” “As street skaters, we interpret the architecture around us and our surroundings differently than a regular person.” “We’re looking at it from a perspective of what’s possible to be done.”

YASMEEN “YAZ” WILKERSON, 22, grew up in Brooklyn. She has been taking care of her mother, who just recovered from Covid-19.

“When we skate, we claim spaces.”

“If you’re someone like me that lives in the projects or NYCHA housing, where once you step out the door, there are people smoking in your staircase — or like, you know, you’re already into contact with so many people who are less than six feet.”

“Then I’m like, let me get my board. I’m not trying to deal with anything. I’m just trying to go and come back.”

SHAWN POWERS, 28, grew up in Queens and has been street skating for 18 years.

“I know a lot of people are struggling. I have no ways to make money right now.”

“If you got nothing to do, maybe this is a good time to like find a little something that you enjoy.”

“The other day, a couple cops were clapping and cheering us on while my homie was trying a trick.”

“It’s just like a skateboard palace, honestly.”

KYOTA UMEKI, 17, grew up in the East Village and is sponsored by Vans.

“As soon as the sun sets, as soon as the sky gets orange, there is no one anymore.”

“Security guards, or the cops, came up to us, and instead of kicking us out, they gave us masks.”

“I am going to miss this for sure when it’s done.”

ISRAEL ADONIS, 33, was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to the city when he was 11.

“If you fall down, you don’t have to be embarrassed. Like, Oh my God, it’s 20,000 people looking at me.”

“But then it also takes the hype away.”

“Corona took what’s unique of New York and took it away. Now it’s like a regular city now.”

COLE EVELEV, 28, grew up in Soho.

“It feels like an older New York.”

“Skateboarding leaves behind a mark. Like when you grind a ledge, or you put wax on it, you leave behind a trail. And even if you are alone at the spot, or you are seeing something for the first time, you can tell if someone was there before you.”

“Some of the best moments in skate history — when you land a trick right in front of someone and they just freak out. I do miss that a little bit.”

SAVIO ZIGBI-JOHNSON, 21, grew up in Harlem.

“It feels like, like freedom.”

“You’re always in motion, you’re always kind of gone in a way. And everybody else is moving 10 times slower than you.”

ALEXIS SABLONE, 33, had been training to skate in the Olympics this July.

“It’s just kind of like, like you pressed pause, and then I’m there moving through it still. You drop a quarter in the street, like three blocks down — you could probably hear it.”

“Looking up at buildings and thinking, wow, like every single person is like in, in their little window, like in their boxes right now.”

“But I would never want it to stay this way. I can’t wait for New York to feel like New York again.”

Surfacing is a biweekly column that explores the intersection of art and life, produced by Alicia DeSantis, Gabriel Gianordoli, Jolie Ruben and Josephine Sedgwick.


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