Tag Archives: pushing mongo

Skateboarding Taboo – Mall Grabbing and Pushing Mongo

Background: The informant is a twenty year old photography student in New York City. He learned of the taboo while growing up in both Los Angeles, CA and Burlington, VT. He has skated regularly since he was 12 years old. 

Context: The informant was teaching me how to skateboard in his San Diego neighborhood and informed me of the taboos. This piece was collected in its natural performance setting. The piece itself is a summary of the conversation because the performance was not planned and was recorded after the performance and not as it was being performed in real time. 


I was “mall grabbing” the skateboard and the informant quickly began to make fun of me and told me not to hold the skateboard in this manner. Mall grabbing is holding the skateboard vertically by the top truck, with the grip tape of the skateboard facing the holder’s legs. This is considered a “rookie move” and would have almost certainly invited insults and jeers from other skateboarders if we were at an actual skate park. When asked why it was bad to “mall grab,” the informant said that having the grip tape face one’s pants or shorts usually leaves scuffing or pilling on them. 

After being informed about this taboo I remembered that I had once heard of skaters being made fun of for “pushing mongo” so I asked the informant to explain what this meant and why it was taboo. He told me that “pushing mongo” refers to the practice of riding a skateboard using the front, rather than the back foot, to push the ground and generate momentum. He noted that this is taboo because it is an inefficient and awkward way to ride the board and makes it difficult to transition from pushing to doing tricks. The assumption is that if an individual pushes mongo, he/she/they can’t skate stably or perform tricks smoothly.

Analysis: Skateboarding is an incredibly exclusive subculture in my experience. When you go to a skatepark, people usually gather in groups, observe each other skating, and often make fun of other skaters in the park who aren’t “good.” The taboo on “mall grabbing” and “pushing mongo” quickly becomes a way to distinguish the beginners from the experts. It creates explicit ingroups and outgroups. It shows that skater culture places a high premium on the ability to perform tricks in a particular, socially sanctioned way. When an individual pushes mongo, it is more difficult to perform tricks in the smooth and seamless manner that is preferred. Although there are many different skating styles, these taboos highlight that there is an ideal style and when skaters perform outside of this ideal, they are not accepted into the wider community. 

Pushing Mongo: A Skateboarding Stereotype

Context:  I visited the informant’s dorm room at USC at about three o’clock, having already asked him if he was willing to participate in the collection project. He was willing, so we sat down to chat in his bedroom, alone. We began chatting, and I recorded three pieces from him. For the final piece, I knew I wanted to talk about skateboarding, a passion both of us enjoy. I remembered that, at the beginning of the semester, I had accused the informant of “pushing mongo,” which has a certain stigma in the skateboarding community. I asked him if he could explain the concept to me, as well as the attitudes surrounding the practice. Somewhat reluctantly, as if it were a shameful secret, the informant began explaining, and I began recording.


JB: Mongo is just when, like while you skate, you push with your front foot instead of your back foot.

WD: And you push mongo, right?

JB: Yeah, but there’s a whole fuckin stigma around it.

WD: What do you mean?

JB: Well, its because… uh…  well I guess it just looks really goofy, and you have to, pretty much, move your feet around literally every time you want to push or pump or do something… So, I guess it’s just sort of impractical, but if you learn how to skate that way, you can’t really do it any other way. So you’re just stuck with it.

WD: But people will call you out for it, right?

JB: Yeah, I mean, you did when we first started skateboarding together. People will call you out for it because, like, no really good skateboarders push mongo.

WD: Yeah, even when, like, pro skaters push mongo while riding switch stance, they’ll still get roasted on Instagram for it. That never really made sense to me, since it’s so difficult to skate switch.

JB: Yeah, I guess it’s just the rules among skaters. Like, you shouldn’t push mongo, but I can’t help it, since it’s how I learned to skate.

Informant: The informant is an 18 year old, German-American student at the University of Southern California. He was born in Aptos, California, a small beach town located to the west of Santa Cruz. The informant attended public school in Aptos and has been skateboarding for six years. He is one of the few skateboarders I know that “pushes mongo,” and he has been doing it since he learned how to skateboard. The informant has mixed emotions about the practice, since, on the one hand, it’s comfortable for him, but on the other, he’s looked down upon by most skateboarders.

Analysis: Skateboarding can be extremely exclusive. Skateboarding has a rich diversity of styles and techniques, but some are valued more than others. But, the first thing a skateboarder will notice about another skater is how they push. Pushing is an immediate indication of a skateboarder’s skill, as it relies solely on the skateboarder’s comfortability on the board. Posture and foot position are clear indicators of the way an individual learned how to skateboard, and their proficiency in the activity. Pushing “mongo” is distinct from any other pushing style, since it is immediately recognizable based on the back foot’s placement. Skateboarders have a heavy emphasis on the “style” of skateboarding, or how effortless the maneuvers look when performed. Since pushing “mongo” is inherently more difficult, as well as takes longer to set up for than pushing regularly, those who push with their front foot rather than their back foot are typically ostracized by other skateboarders. Even among professional skateboarders, pushing “mongo” is a heated topic of discussion. While some professionals are able to push with their back foot, regardless of which foot is oriented in the front, others are forced to keep the same foot planted on the board while pushing “switch stance” (or facing the opposite way on the board than what feels comfortable). Those professional skateboarders who cannot push regularly while riding “switch stance” are typically made fun of, in particular by other professionals. While, the phrase “pushing mongo” can be grounds for exclusion among some skaters, it can also be a source of humor among professionals, simply because the practice looks slightly strange. For more information about “pushing mongo,” watch this YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gfcepLX-qw