USC study on skateboarding finds significant benefits ranging from mental health to social skills

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- USC researchers found multiple benefits in skateboarding, ranging from mental health to education and careers, the university announced Wednesday.

A first-of-its-kind study of skateboarding culture found that skateboarding improves mental health, fosters community and encourages diversity and resilience, according to USC. The research, conducted by USC's Pullias Center for Higher Education and Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, also showed that gender and race do matter within the skateboarding community.

"Skateboarding is embedded in youth culture today," stated skateboarding legend Tony Hawk, whose Tony Hawk Foundation funded the study, told the Pullias Center for Higher Education. "Until now, little attention has been directed towards truly understanding who skateboarders are, what they think, or why skateboarding becomes such an integral part of their identity. We at Tony Hawk Foundation are proud to have sponsored this work in order to highlight these young people."

The Garage Board Shop in East Los Angeles is a shrine to the sport of skateboarding. It's also a safe place for kids to come after school, build a community and practice their craft.

"I've seen kids come here where they're super shy, they walk with their head down. After a while coming here, they're walking with their head up high, meeting new kids, learning new things," said David Zavala, a skateboarder who volunteers at the shop.

The research project found what Zavala, a lifelong skater, has always known: Skateboarding breaks down barriers and builds lifelong relationships.

"Some of the friends I skated with, I'm still friends with now. We had the same common bond. We didn't see each other as a race, we saw each other as a skater. It was almost like a brotherhood," Zavala said.

For the study, USC surveyed 5,000 skateboarders across the country between the ages of 13 and 25 and studied five skate parks, including the one at the Garage Board Shop.
"They stick to a challenge and they'll do tricks 100 times, 200 times and they're on their skateboard till they land that trick. Out in the real world, they're using those same skills to overcome challenges they may face," said Maria Romero-Morales, who was a researcher assigned to the USC study.

Skateboarding will make its debut at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, inspiring a new generation of kids who have been helped by the sport.

"This generation growing up with the cell phone, technology, these kids need the space to be outdoors. We have women, young women, who are interested in skateboarding and they do the flips just as good as anyone else," Romero-Morales said.

City News Service contributed to this report.
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