Neftalie Williams shook his head when he read Hamilton City Councillors' negative attitudes about skateboarding.

Hamilton Mayor Andrew King said skate parks had a "gangster image" and Councillor Mark Bunting declared he wouldn't take his kid to the Fairfield skate park.

Williams taught a paper about skateboarding, called Skateboarding and Action Sports in Business, Media and Culture at the University of Southern California.

He is now based at the University of Waikato and is conducting research for his PhD on skate diplomacy on how to empower youth communities via skate culture.

READ MORE: Hamilton council luke warm on skate park

"I wish I was at that [city council] meeting because I would have told them what we were doing around skateboarding. And they would have said, oh, I didn't know you were teaching it at university, I didn't know you were working on your PhD, I didn't know you were using skateboarding as an advocacy tool."

His course in California is broken down into advocacy and non-profit sports diplomacy, and includes such subjects as gender issues and business and media representation.

What he doesn't teach is how to ride a skateboard.

"No, we actually just use skateboarding culture as a lens to look at issues that are going on - race, class, gender - and figuring out media representation, identity politics and more.

"It's a space for people to be able to see new ways, other than just being a professional skater, and how they can effect social change in their area, and how they can get a job within the industry."

He said he invited guests such as Steve Van Dore from Vans shoes, and professional skateboarder Amelia Brodka to address his classes.

Brodk was at Waikato University on Monday to show her documentary Underexposed, which is about women and gender issues in skateboarding culture. 

The film was made in 2012, a time when she believed women in the skateboarding world were not being supported.

She said the documentary was made to engender a discussion.

"I made it at a time when I was skating professionally, or trying to, because there weren't many opportunities for girls to pursue a career on a professional level or even on a competitive amateur level.

"In 2010/2011, everything, all the opportunities disappeared. All of the major events dropped their women's division. There were not a lot of sponsors supporting women, maybe giving them some free gear here and there, but not enough to live on."

She said gender issues have improved between the time she released the film to now. Lots of competitions now include women and a lot more sponsorship deals are available.

Williams hopes to create new projects which engage Maori and South-Asia and Pacific boys and girls.  

He said he's had great support from the sports faculty at Waikato.

"They recruited me and said they'd love to start developing things with me and train under them. I get to work on my PhD and also work in the Oceania region.

"This is a scene that doesn't get much coverage and there're so many kids that should be a little more connected."

 - Stuff