May 15, 2016

Skate Or Die

Skateboarding was kind of a big deal in the late 1980’s in San Rafael CA. And as a seventh grader at Davidson Middle School, it quickly became apparent that my failed attempt at assimilation by wearing tan leather Sperry top-siders, would only be rectified if I did the following: Started wearing Jimmy’z shorts, $30+ Gotcha T-shirts, and Vans. It was also clear that I need a board. Trouble was I knew nothing about boards, so my foray into the world of skaters was a blind and pathetic one.

Even after I talked my parents into shelling out more money than they wanted or could afford for the shorts and the shirts, I was able to use a birthday to get my own $150 board, which at the time for us was a massive expenditure. I don’t remember the brand, and I just spent twenty minutes trying to find it online. Even though I thought the yellow color and the jester graphics, and yes the matching plastic side rails, were super cool, I realized quickly that it was not. I had somehow in my haste bought the wrong board. It was heavy and wide and apparently the trucks were lame and the wheels too _______. On the rare chance that I was even able to show my board to anyone that mattered, it became clear that I was what in the parlance of those times was called a poser. A wanna-be.

Yup. I wanted to be cool. I wanted to be good at something that people considered cool. I wanted to be accepted. I wanted to shred.

But I never did. I never was. I only wanted to be, until I out grew the clothes and left the board to rot in some corner of my room, with the echo of my mom’s voice everytime she saw it or when I asked for another expensive object, “Remember that skateboard. You only rode that thing once.” Which of course was not true, but she was right in that I never mastered it. Not even close. I rarely took it out. Because riding a skateboard by yourself on the sidewalk is no way to become a skater. I had no access to ramps or other skaters and their culture. I wasn't hungry. I didn't read Thrasher. For me it was about a false identity not for the love of a sport. I was a poser and didn’t know how to be anything else.

These were my thoughts this morning as I sat at the skatepark near our house watching Kaia at her first lesson. It never occurred to seventh grade me or my parents apparently, that just having the stuff did not make me skater. I needed access. I needed ramps. I needed a teacher or at least a chance to watch and practice and learn. This morning I was watching people of all ages doing ali’s and rail slides and dipping in and out of ramps. I felt the camaraderie that I yearned for. People of all ages, sweating in the sun, some helmeted and geared up, while other risked their bones going shirtless. Pockets of small posses chatted each other up, while others skated in silence- the only sound- the wheels like ocean waves carving up the cement inclines.

This space. This culture is what seventh grade me needed. I am sure there were parks and ramps in San Rafael, but I had no idea where they were and I wasn’t connected enough to sniff them out. I didn’t really want to be a skater. I just wanted to be. And that is why I never found the ramps to soak up the culture. I know that now, and part of me feels like it might be too late, but the other wiser part thinks screw it- it is not to late. I am not too old. I don’t need all the stuff. I am not looking to fit into any group, but as a forty-two year old, I want to learn the basics.

I don’t need to shred or doing anything dangerous, but I could gently skate the mellow ramps. I could learn some basic starter moves. I could be out there every weekend with Kaia chatting up the other old dudes who seem so calm and gentle and mellow and zen. Me, the scrawny, tanned, white-bearded old dude might finally be a skater. I wonder if we are finally able to become our true teen-age selves at forty two.

So I am on the hunt for a board. Doesn’t need to be cool, but it has to be the right board for me. I was chatting Chris up today at the park (He is a regular and although he doesn't know it my future mentor and skating teacher) and it is clear I need something between a ramp and a long board, a hybrid- with loose trucks and big soft wheels. I want to be able to cruise East Coast park and ride the ramps on the weekend with Kaia. If anyone out there has any suggestions please let me know. Also if you know the skate board I mentioned earlier- Yellow with a blue jester please let me know. Skate or die dude. Skate or die.

I have to be at school tomorrow at five-thirty. I am off to Tioman island off the coast of Malaysia for a week. As the head of grade six in waiting, it was decided that it might be a good idea for me to go on this trip and scope things out, so I have first hand experience when I need to organise the trip and comfort worried parents next year. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it; I am just glad that person is me. I am looking forward to a few runs on the beach. Some time in the ocean and getting familiar with hanging out with six graders again, It has been a while and I am excited to reacquaint myself with that age group, before I do it full time next year.

Apparently there is wifi in my cabin, so I look forward to continuing to write every night while I am away.

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