049: Neftalie Williams/Bridging The Gaps

Neftalie – Nollie backside tailslide shove-it. Picture by Rachele Honcharik

“Skateboarders should be everywhere. Because we’re a reflection of the culture. So we should make sure we’re part of every institution there is”.

I’ve had some pretty progressive guests on this show. But I think this week’s guest, Neftalie Williams, might just be the most visionary of all. Just check the list of accomplishments that make up one of the most impressive CVs in skateboarding.

Neftalie and his class visiting Element HQ

He is the first lecturer of skateboarding business, media and culture at USC;a PhD candidate at the University of Waikato in New Zealand; a pioneer of the concept of skateboard diplomacy, which he worked on with the US State Department; team manager at Citystars skateboarding: the list goes on.
What’s the common thread between each of these diverse interests? For Neftalie, the key is bridging gaps, understanding ecosystems, defying gatekeepers, connecting communities, and owning the conversation about skateboarding. And it’s when viewed in this way that the full depth and sheer generosity of Neftalie’s vision becomes apparent.

Neftalie with Cambodian high school students at the American Centre in Cambodia

We caught up at the recent Pushing Boarders event in London at the end of May 2018 and had one of the most enjoyable conversations I’ve had yet on the podcast. Some big, weighty themes in this one, from a man with a passionate and generous vision of the transformative power of skateboarding.

Neftalie at the opening of his Nation Skate photo exhibition at the Kennedy Centre. Photo: Ryan Kellman

Skateboarding has always handled this level of discourse, but as skate culture becomes ever more incorporated into popular culture, viewpoints like Neftalie are going to become more important than ever. Hope you enjoy this one. I sure did. 

If you only have five minutes…

Listen to this section - Neftalie's vision for how his course can prepare student's for life.

Connect With Neftalie

Show Notes

  • Pushing Boarders. 
  • Neftalie’s PHD study and how he got involved. 
  • Subverting the traditional skate narrative.
  • Neftalie’s varied work and the common themes. 
  • “I work and teach in three ways.”
  • Reframing how skateboarding is perceived. 
  • Positively bridging the gap between skateboarding and the mainstream. 
  • The inclusiveness and simultaneous inwardness of skate culture.
  • The course Neftalie teaches at USC.
  • Progressive support from USC. 
  • “Skateboarders adopt their construct identify as a skateboarder”
  • The positive reaction from the industry. 
  • Legendary guest speakers on Neftalie’s course. 
  • Linking syllabus topics to address issues of national concern.
  • How Neftalie uses skateboarding as a metaphor for life on his course. 
  • The concept of ‘skate diplomacy’ and how it works in practise.
  • Why is skateboarding so transformative?
  • “I’m not trying to make skateboarding suit and tie”
  • Does this bridge-building come at a cost? 
  • Skateboarding in the Olympics – Neftalie’s view.
  • “Skateboarders do not always need to take what people give us”.
  • Neftalie’s east coast skate upbringing, and how it taught the importance of community. 
  • Heading to the west coast and finding a path. 
  • Working on the PhD in New Zealand.
  • Why is it important that skateboarding has a presence in academia?
  • “I want everybody to know – they talk about us”.

People Mentioned

Places Mentioned

  • New Zealand
  • Syria
  • Netherlands
  • Belgium
  • Massachusetts
  • Boston
  • Tampa
  • Waikato

Companies/Brands/Organisations Mentioned

  • Pushing Boarders
  • USC
  • Cuba Skate
  • College Skateboarding Education Foundation 
  • Dwindle
  • Globe
  • Kennedy Centre
  • Stereo 
  • State Department 
  • House of Vans
  • Skatepark of Tampa
  • Giant
  • University of Waikato
  • Citystar Skateboards 
  • Def Mfg Co