From a simple way to pass the time to the $4 billion industry it has grown into today, skateboarding has become a staple of culture and expression. As the world becomes more and more accepting, skateboarders are finding themselves less criminalized and more respected as athletes who are performing high-risk maneuvers and technical feats of discipline.

This shift in perspective was something I discovered through my interviews with young, up-and-coming skater Tyson Zane, who rides for Aqua East Surf Shop, and long-time skater George Evans, who operates Instaramps here in Jacksonville. In asking these talented athletes about what their worlds of skating are like, I learned something very important and reassuring — skateboarding is growing.

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George started in 1991, back when there were what seemed like only 15 guys who were successful skaters. When asked how the sport has changed, George said that it’s become much easier for companies to get involved. With the influx of skating’s popularity, it’s not as difficult to get into the sport as it was when George did.

Tyson, who hasn’t been involved nearly as long, said that skating has become more accessible even in his own experience. Tyson said that he’s noticed “more kids getting into it.” As the sport continues to grow, the next generation of skaters has more and more opportunities to make a living within the sport, and Tyson said he intends to one day be a pro street skater. After watching this kid’s videos, I don’t doubt him.

Skating is not without its dangers, though. Like any sport, eating s**t is always a possibility. Myself and my three broken bones are a humble testament to that. George and Tyson, too, have had some bad falls, which made me feel a little better about my hospital trip after eating it on a 3-foot mini ramp. While Tyson’s fortunate enough to have only had a minor concussion that wore off quickly, George had a much worse story to tell. While he was tail dropping off a 13-foot roof into a 5-foot Instaramp at an event, he landed too far from the ramp, nearly flat. He tore his ACL, meniscus and MCL, as well as fractured a bone or two. This fall resulted in 11 months of recovery, a process that included “physical therapy, good stretching and yoga” that George is still undergoing to this day.

Just after I asked him about this injury, I mentioned Tyson’s goals involving the sport and his wanting to go pro someday. I expected him to discourage it, tell Tyson that it isn’t worth it when you’ll sometimes need to take as long as a year off. But George surprised me. He told me Tyson’s goal was actually “realistic,” and that skating is much “different these days.” With the rise of social media that has affected nearly everyone’s lives, skateboarding has been changed, too. George said that the act of “self-promoting” wasn’t even a thought back when he started out, not to mention that it was immensely kooky. Today, it’s accepted, and getting your abilities out there has never been easier. For example, when I was asked to interview Tyson, I looked him up on Instagram and saw instantly how talented he was. There was no sponsor or competition required for me to see that, anyone with a smartphone could have done it.

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Like anything though, skating requires hard work and practice. In Tyson’s words, you just gotta be “willing to keep going.” For anyone interested in skating and is worried it won’t have the career opportunities like business school or something, I think that both of these guys would say to go for it. Even if you don’t succeed or make it on the cover of “Thrasher,” you’ll have fun, make friends and have an effective “outlet” as George puts it. Above all, and I’ll use his words again, skateboarding is an “art,” and the best thing about any art is that no one knows what its future could be.