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