I grew up outside, until I got my first Ninetendo 64… Up to that point I had always been on bike rides with my family. My first memories are on the bucket seat on the back of my mothers bike through the mountain valley town of Missoula Montana. As with anything that starts at an early age, my perception of being in motion and the air washing against my pale face left a long imprint on me. The urge to be outside, moving.
When I was a little older I was attempting my whole body dexterity at riding a bike. I was 6 years young. I worked tirelessly and endlessly to get those damn training wheels off of my bike with my father. Riding and riding and riding. The bumper guards of those training wheels were used frequently during those first few years on a bicycle. While I was working so terribly hard at getting myself from 2 wheels and my bumper rails, I watched my brother become proficiently comfortable riding without the use of training wheels. On cement. It was daunting to watch a 3 year old out ride me!
My first time actually riding with two wheels was on safety net of grass and mud cushioning, in case I fell off of the bike. Which I did more often than not. After my father pushed me along at a sprinting pace, I was set free. Two wheels to the earth and no idea of how to stop the vehicle in motion! I was so excited to finally be on my own means of travel that I think I experienced my first heart palpitation.
Later on I was gifted a pair of ice skates to wizz around the little lake that surrounded one of the community centers. A horse-shoe shaped swaddle of water. My ‘second family’ was where I remember learning this. After the divorce and the strange companionship I found with my new little family unit. 3 brothers, my mother, and her absolutely wonderful boyfriend. Todd. Todd helped me learn so much of what it was to be a kind, energetic, laughing person. Again we were all swathed in the cold crisp air of high elevation Missoula. I loved being outside and on my own two feet cruising along the hellish entity that is Ice. A taste of young freedom gliding across the water with people I love.
Then I was brought to a skatepark. The YMCA of all places. Huge wooden ramps and my own pair of roller-blades. My little brother, Geoffrey, and I would be left there for 1-3 hours at a time to trip, stumble, and attempt the inclinations of these structural master pieces. In my mind they were the epitome of architecture. Practical, useful, and a challenge I wanted to conquer. It helped that for once I was actually better than my little brother at something. I could roller-blade those ramps man!
One summer while visiting my paternal grandparents in Brockport New York I was brought to a summer camp style skatepark. Similar to Woodward except the ceilings leaked, the ramps were in constant repair, and everyone traded their instruments of entertainment. I was offered to trade my blades in for a skateboard. Something completely foreign to me a the time. Like everyone under the sun-I stepped on that thing and immediately fell on my ass. It moves without my control! What sort of witchcraft keeps you on top of this thing?! In that same moment I met the first love of my life. Skateboarding. Skateboarding on janky ramps in the humid summer of Upstate New York at a Christian Summer Camp. (Oh the irony of becoming an anarcho atheistic skateboarder is something I am sure they were not aiming to create!)
If I were to count the hours of my skateboard it would triple any amount of time that I have spent in front of a computer, or with a book in hand, or the hours I spent drawing skateboard logos in my notebooks at school. My mind was flooded with the dream of cruising the streets. Being connected to the surrounding architecture in ways that no architect dreamed they would affect a 12 year old, angsty, acne-riddle, red headed step son. I felt connected to the streets of any city I was in. I saw the world, and still see concrete world, in terms of potential. I see beauty in street curbs. The railing along the side of a building screams to be jumped on. Patches of grass are whispering sweet nothings to me- To be jumped over. The smell of wet tar brings me to the first time I had sex…Every time.
When I finally learned MY trick- I felt like I had succeeded in the world. The world through the eyes of my community. I learned how to inward heelflip. It was a 6 year fiasco of mis-coordination between my mind, my body, my balance, and my feet. I saw the trick play over and over in my head. Brushing my teeth I would feel the sweet embrace of the moment I landed it. I could see my friend around me dropping what they had in their hands and yelling. Clapping. High-fives. When one member of the community lands something new, we all have landed something new. We have a new member to our collective list of tricks.
The sensation of wheel, to bearing, to truck, to bolts, to wood, to grip-tape, to feet, to legs, and the rush of the ground swelling into every fiber of my body is something that can only be related to two things. Sex or the final moments of life when you have welcomed your fate into the ever-after. Heroin.
Now, if you will, imagine you and 5 of your friends experiencing this semblance of eternity. Together. Every crack of the earth trembles through you and you know that all of your friends are experiencing the same eternal bliss. Moments of stress are washed away with the weary swaths of bearings rumbling under your feet. Wind catching your face and intermittent tricks landed and fumbled. It’s that whole idea of freedom that many people never get the chance to experience. The world is yours. Right now. Right here. You are alive and you are breathing clarity while you are moving through life. Literally and metaphorically spoken. God damn right I will always skateboard. Where else will I get the chance to stop worrying like this? How will I ever get over my ex, my spotty relationship with my father, my low wage job, the stress of needing to succeed in life?! How else can I escape in the way that we do while we are rolling away from our past worries. Moving past everything that has become completely irrelevant through the lens of skateboarding.
You can spend years, DECADES, off of the board and still have an immersed connection with the following generations of shredders the proceed you. You are a part of this cog and you have no chance of ever leaving. This is a life you chose. Concurrently, this life has also chose you and has decided to never let you go. Your family would never leave you, and neither will your skateboard. It cares about you too much. You have stories to tell. Memoirs of tricks and merits to pass on. The history that you carry from the time you stepped on to, and maybe even off of, a skateboard will forever haunt you. We all love you. We want to know who the pros were when you were going at it full force. You are the endless inspiration now. You have created a capsule of youth that will outlive the gods themselves. I’m sorry buddy, you’re fucked. We need you and your history. We also want to know what your favorite tricks were. Did you ride a 7.5? How wide were your trucks? You still ride Indies from 10 years ago?! Mark Gonzalez was your inspiration? Lance Mountain gave you the chance to believe? Tony Hawks Pro Skater for Playstation 1 was your first skateboarding experience? Rodney Mullen changed your life? You were sponsored by that one company in that old town that you lived in? It had a mini ramp in the back? Is it still there?!!?!?
Skateboarding is seen as a passive hobby by onlookers. “You’ll grow out of it. You’ll grow up.” Ohhh how wrong you will forever be. This piece of wood pumps in all of our veins and it will, fortunately, be here long after you. Take it from my cold, dead, 40 oz-addled hands when I find my mini ramp in hell.
Cheers to you skateboarders. We are here for you. I am here for you. This is our concrete heaven and no barriers have a chance of ever slowing that down.