From Wheels to Weezy: How Miami’s Skate Culture Led to an Ultra Music Scene
When most people think of the legendary rapper Lil’ Wayne, they think of a few things: the “Free Weezy” campaign, his trademark styrofoam cup onstage, or maybe his presidential pardon. However, fewer people are aware that he is an integral part of a different scene in Miami, owning a private skatepark, TRUKSTOP, as well as a mansion he recently sold for around $10 million with a hidden skatepark on the roof.
Indeed, Lil’ Wayne encapsulates quite well two things Miami is known for: the Ultra Miami music festival, bringing some of the biggest names in EDM together and a booming skateboarding scene that shares deep bonds with the local community. Both scenes have many things in common like a love for the streets, an ability to bring people together over a shared bond, and a unique, Miami-based cultural vibe that can’t be found anywhere else.
Making the Miami Skate Scene
Skateboarding first became popular in the 50s and 60s on the West Coast, especially in California, when the ubiquitous surfers wanted a way to “ride” even when the waves weren’t there. Thus, the “sidewalk surfing” skateboard was constructed, and quickly claimed an iconic status among rebellious youth, exploding in the 70s and spawning uncountable numbers of subcultures over the years.
The trend spread quickly across the world, and by the 80s and 90s, skateboarders could be found in nearly every country, pushed to prominence by legends like Tony Hawk. Miami saw an especially strong surge in skateboarding, with its unique oceanfront setting, vibrant Afro-Caribbean culture mixtures, and plenty of popular spots to skate at creating a melting pot of just the right conditions for a skateboarding explosion.
Remnants of this can be seen today in home-grown brands like Andrew, a Miami-based skate and fashion brand that has risen to worldwide prominence. The brand owners all grew up locally, and hung out at the same spots, leading to the formation of their shop and a nearby skate park called Grand Central Skate Spot, one of the epicenters of Miami’s skating scene.
The brand name comes from Hurricane Andrew, which had devastating effects on the city in 1992. Like many other tragedies, however, a silver lining could be found in the way the community came together afterward, leading partially to the vibrant youth culture found in the city today.
Miami’s Homegrown Ultra Music Festival
By now, most people have heard of Ultra Music Festival, one of the biggest names in the business. Their ability to draw huge crowds and the most popular performers in the business is renowned, and no other festival has the same type of street cred and legendary status in the scene.
However, fewer people know that Ultra Festival grew out of the same vibrant Miami street scene as its skateboarding culture, with the first festival being a one-day event in Collins Park in Miami Beach that brought in about 10,000 people. Founders Alex Omes and Russell Faibisch, both Miami natives, had a similar vision to the founders of Andrew: a place for disaffected and privileged youth alike to come together in the same space, an area to facilitate understanding between different sectors of society, and overall a communal space to share a greater sense of peace, love, unity, and respect.
The South Florida Media Network says that “Miami’s skate culture is a growing community where free expression is encouraged, and judgment is disdained”, and it’s easy to see how that same ethos is shared between the liberated, exuberant, and non-judgemental music festivals and those on the streets riding their boards.
Ultra has grown into one of the largest and most popular festivals worldwide, drawing in a crowd of over 300,000 at its peak before self-limiting to a crowd of 165,000. It features numerous events worldwide in countries like Japan, Brazil, and many others, and regularly hits legendary music spots like Ibiza.
Ultra Miami 2023: What You Need to Know
This year’s event in Miami will take place from March 24-26 at Bayfront Park. Tickets for the three-day event start at around $399, which is an excellent deal considering how many world-class artists will be performing. Some of the hottest stars to look forward to this year are:
- Swedish House Mafia
- David Guetta
- Armin van Buuren
- Martin Garrix
It’s easy to see, from this preview of the lineup, why Ultra bills itself as the “World’s premiere music festival.” There’s nothing else like Ultra, with a crowd of gorgeous people, light shows and DJ setups that will blow your mind, and about 40 more incredible artists besides these performing.
Many of the above artists, like Tiësto and David Guetta, have been hailed as the world’s top DJ at various points in their careers, and showstoppers like Marshmello and Afrojack will have the crowd dropping it like it’s Ultra Hot. Tickets will go fast, so get yours today!