One of my favorite skaters happens to be one of my friends. He’s rabid on his board and at work he is extremely serious and professional. He enters the race at 100% every time. That always makes me think he’s got a split personality, or to keep it simpler, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The more I think about it, the more I realize that skateboarding itself has more than one appearance and that matters because people tend to see what they want to see.
Last weekend I went to a session at this guy’s house. He’s a good person, takes good care of his kids, works a lot, skates a lot, helps the community, and let’s total strangers like me into his backyard from time to time. When I first got there his son, maybe the kid is 8 or 9, was rolling in the pool and trying out his new trucks. The little guy can drop in, even in the deep end, but these were new trucks and he wanted to get the feel of it first. As he rolled down the waterfall from shallow to deep I saw that his face was full of that unabashed childhood enthusiasm. He was told to put on his elbow pads, and he didn’t, and he slammed… on his elbows. I saw it. I didn’t say anything because he was OK. The kid kept quiet because he’s a skater and didn’t want to lose the chance to ride again.
That session featured a diverse range of people. There were kids milling about, drawing with chalk on the pavement, some guys in their 20’s, some sponsored skaters, and several elder skatesmen. There was even a woman skating. I’ve got little kids, another guy has kids that are finished with college, a couple guys brought their kids, and some guys skating were kids. We all skated for about 3 hours.
We talked about upcoming skateboard plans including Colorado and “science fair’s spruce goose”. We talked about the kid’s first deep end drop in, we talked about gear, about cameras, about parks we like, and about work. I saw an eggplant, bonelesses, a frontside invert, and people cheered for one guy’s first pass over the light in the deep end. I got cheered for little grinds and for clearing the steps a couple times.
Throughout the session the owner’s kids would hit him up for this or that, a popsicle or more chalk, and he’d step back and handle it. It was a beautiful afternoon.
Then I read the news and see drugs, hate, violence, and strife of every manner. I see Thrasher’s website and video clips and see the same things being leveraged to sell skateboards. I hear about refugees dying at sea and then I also hear about guys building a new skatepark in Addis Ababa. I hear about “skaters next door” and then I hear about people being “86’d” from a DIY spot for some imagined infraction of the code of conduct (which is published online, to a facebook group). I’ve skated a private spot in New Jersey where the owner thanked me for skating and gave me a commemorative deck to mark the occasion. I’ve also skated a private spot in Ohio where the owner, according to legend and my own eyes, has been known to punch his friends, hit on your girlfriend, and tell you (force you) to “empty my pockets” when you leave.
I also just saw on Instagram, an incredibly rad photo of Jeff Jones along with a comment lamenting that, because he rode for the wrong company, there are so few photos of his skating today.
There is a good thick amount of pure hell happening all across the world right now. Skateboarders have the power to extend value and goodness far beyond our own lives and scenes. Don’t let negative interpretations of skateboarding style, culture, and utility, often propagated by skaters ourselves, limit your potential to add value to your life and to your neck of the woods. Don’t cut people out because of their age, gender, skill level, gear, or views. Start with the common thread of the wooden toy and seek to find more connections.