Skate park stories.
Briana King is perfectly at home on asphalt. It’s where the action is. And where skateboarding is a statement, not just a sport. We joined the icon of the skate scene out and about in Los Angeles.
Briana King pushes off, rolls up the ramp and prepares for a backside flip – but her skateboard shoots away to the side. “Damn it!” she swears. She tries the trick again. It consists of a 180-degree turn with the board spinning around its own axis. This time, King is a little off kilter and lands on the concrete with her left leg first. Time for a brief breather – it’s not that she doesn’t know how how it goes. She’s in Garvanza Skate Park, Los Angeles, with her crew standing by the fence, watching and cheering her on. Myles, Sienna and Sahid know the feeling, the motivation, the high level of energy. “Go, bitch!“ Myles calls across to her. They laugh.King makes another attempt, jumps, flips her board, spins in the air and lands safely on both feet. Finally, a perfect backside flip! King lets out a deep yoooaaarr!” Not that she’s aiming for perfection. She wants to explore her limits, find new moves – anything but stand still. Briana King isn’t just any skater. The 29-year-old has hundreds of thousands of followers on the social media platforms Instagram and TikTok, all of them eager to catch any video snippet she uploads, no matter how short. When she tours the world, hundreds of kids come to her skate shows, and she has famous brands vying to sign her up. King has become an icon of her sport, and not because she’s the best. It’s more that in her refreshing, laid-back way, she has made skateboarding more accessible – to girls and women, black and queerpeople – to people like herself. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, King has been regularly posting clips in which she explains tricks and gives advice.
We meet King at her house in Highland Park, a district in north east Los Angeles, just a few hours before her successful backside flip. In a corner of the living room, there’s a stack of skateboard decks, that’s boards without wheels, and in another, a pile of boxes. In the space between, a handful of large pot plants look a little forlorn as they wait to be given a suitable spot. “Sorry about the chaos,” says King, as she flits up the stairs to the first floor, passing 20-odd pairs of sneakers distributed across them on her way. She moved in here six months ago, she calls from the bedroom, but the house is “still a work in progress.” As she comes back, a song by R&B singer The Weeknd is thrumming from the tiny loudspeaker in her hand. Then she grabs the keys to her pepper white MINI Cooper S that’s gleaming in the morning sun just outside her door. “All right, let’s go!”
Skateboard icon, trainer, guiding star of the skater community, model and actor: Briana King is all of these and moves easily between worlds. She is also constantly on the move in Los Angeles, too, of course. “The city is famous for its size and the many hills around here. You don’t get far with a skateboard,” says King with a broad grin that reveals her silver brace. It’s because her life plays out between so many skateable places and parks that she cannot do without her MINI Cooper S – especially as there’s plenty of room in the 5-door Hatch for her pals Myles, Sienna and Sahid. “The MINI is stylish, agile and reliable, and it’s perfect for my lifestyle,” says King.
A few clouds dot the sky over Garvanza Skate Park, and it’s warm, a pleasant 20 °C. “Perfect skating weather,” King pronounces, “not too hot, not too cool.” She practises a few jumps to loosen up. Then she watches her friend Myles venture into the skate pool – a deep, kidney-shaped halfpipe, sprayed over and over with graffiti – the biggest challenge in the entire park. “I want us all to grow together,” King says later. She’s not just referring to her friends, but also to her fans. Her aim is to encourage more people to give skateboarding a try. That’s one of the main reasons she also posts videos of her mistakes, mishaps and wipe-outs online. It’s not as scary as it looks – that’s her message to everyone who wants to try but is still hesitant.
At 1.80 metres, Briana King towers over most other skaters, which makes her smooth moves even more impressive. In that she is a little like basketball superstar LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers, who moves so light-footedly and elegantly towards the basket that you almost forget what you’re seeing is 206 centimetres of hypermuscular body mass in motion. Unlike the basketball player, however, the rangy King hasn’t been practising her sport since she was small and without interruption. On the contrary, King found her way onto the board through trial and error, experimentation, mistakes and ultimately, good fortune. King grew up in Boyle Heights, a Latino neighbourhood in east Los Angeles, where, being a black girl, she immediately stood out. Her overprotective mother made sure that her daughter spent most of her time at home. Little Briana used to stand at the kitchen window, watching the boys skating outside. She was twelve when she first got to stand on a board herself. Exuberant, she tried to jump down some steps a few weeks later – and broke her right ankle in the process. For her mother, that just proved that being out of doors on a skateboard was far too dangerous a pastime. And it would be another twelve years before King got back onto a board.
It’s midday, time for a break. The four stow their boards and rucksacks in the boot of the MINI and King puts her foot down. She’s heading for Pocha, her new favourite restaurant. It’s just a few blocks southwest of the skate park and serves modern Mexican food in an idyllic courtyard. Outside, King manoeuvres her Cooper S effortlessly into a tight parking space with the aid of the Park assist function. Minutes later, she’s inside with two vegan tacos and a hibiscus ice tea in front of her. During the meal, the four talk about their favourite Spike Lee films and the best skate parks in town. Now and again, King checks her Instagram account, where hobby skaters tag her in photos and videos almost every minute.
ON A SKATEBOARD, I ONLY THINK ABOUT WHAT I’M DOING AT THAT MOMENT, NOTHING ELSE,” SHE SAYS. SKATING IS A KIND OF THERAPY
When her visa for Australia expired in 2017, King returned to the US. With hindsight, she acknowledges that it was a stroke of good luck. King went to New York and a few weeks later met the famous female skateboarder Yasmeen Wilkerson, who immediately took a liking to the young woman. They often spent time together in the legendary Coleman Skate Park under Manhattan Bridge. King found a community there that gave her a sense of security. “There were women among the skaters, mostly black women. And many beginners who spurred each other on,” she recalls. “They encouraged me to start skating again. And that changed my life.” King is now back in LA again, reacquainting herself with her home town as an adult. She still discovers new spots for skating almost every week – a secluded old cycle path near Hermon Park, for example, whose gentle incline and long edges make it ideal. But now, as the day draws to a close, Briana King has another idea: Elysian Park is only a 15-minute drive away. There’s nothing there for skaters – no ramps to climb, steps to jump down, or handrails to slide down. There’s only a hill with a great view of the Los Angeles skyline. So no more tricks for today, no more trying out new moves and jumps. Instead, the four friends will just enjoy the panorama. King gets into the car and her crew follow. With the music turned up and their minds cleared, they head down the freeway and into the dusk, as the evening sun glitters on the MINI’s shimmering blue-black multitone roof.
Hinweis (English disclaimers below):
Die offiziellen Angaben zu Kraftstoffverbrauch, CO2-Emissionen und Stromverbrauch wurden nach dem vorgeschriebenen Messverfahren VO (EU) 715/2007 in der jeweils geltenden Fassung ermittelt. Die Angaben berücksichtigen bei Spannbreiten Unterschiede in der gewählten Rad- und Reifengröße. Die Werte der Fahrzeuge basieren bereits auf der neuen WLTP-Verordnung und werden in NEFZ-Äquivalenzwerte zurückgerechnet, um den Vergleich zwischen den Fahrzeugen zu gewährleisten. Bei diesen Fahrzeugen können die CO2-Werte für fahrzeugbezogene Steuern oder andere Abgaben, die (zumindest unter anderem) auf CO2-Emissionen basieren, von den hier angegebenen Werten abweichen. Die CO2-Effizienz-Spezifikationen werden gemäß der Richtlinie 1999/94/EG und der Europäischen Verordnung in der jeweils gültigen Fassung festgelegt. Die angegebenen Werte basieren auf dem Kraftstoffverbrauch, den CO2-Werten und dem Energieverbrauch nach dem NEFZ-Zyklus für die Klassifizierung. Weitere Informationen über den offiziellen Kraftstoffverbrauch und die spezifischen CO2-Emissionen neuer Personenkraftwagen können dem "Handbuch über den Kraftstoffverbrauch, die CO2-Emissionen und den Stromverbrauch neuer Personenkraftwagen" entnommen werden, das an allen Verkaufsstellen und unter https://www.dat.de/angebote/verlagsprodukte/leitfaden-kraftstoffverbrauch.html erhältlich ist.
The values of fuel consumptions, CO2 emissions and energy consumptions shown were determined according to the European Regulation (EC) 715/2007 in the version applicable at the time of type approval. The figures refer to a vehicle with basic configuration in Germany and the range shown considers optional equipment and the different size of wheels and tires available on the selected model. The values of the vehicles are already based on the new WLTP regulation and are translated back into NEDC-equivalent values in order to ensure the comparison between the vehicles. [With respect to these vehicles, for vehicle related taxes or other duties based (at least inter alia) on CO2-emissions the CO2 values may differ to the values stated here.] The CO2 efficiency specifications are determined according to Directive 1999/94/EC and the European Regulation in its current version applicable. The values shown are based on the fuel consumption, CO2 values and energy consumptions according to the NEDC cycle for the classification. For further information about the official fuel consumption and the specific CO2 emission of new passenger cars can be taken out of the „handbook of fuel consumption, the CO2 emission and power consumption of new passenger cars“, which is available at all selling points and at https://www.dat.de/angebote/verlagsprodukte/leitfaden-kraftstoffverbrauch.html