An ode to skateboarding

An introduction to great music, counterculture and urban design.

I was a pretty normal middle class kid who got into skateboarding despite his parents protestations around 10. My dad is a penny pincher and absolutely wouldn’t pay for a sick design like the ones in the catalogues I poured over after bed time. So a blue deck and Independent trucks, some decent bearings and middle of the road wheels. Even at 10 we knew it was important to have feelings about your gear. (To his credit we bought the parts individually and put it together and that really helped me understand tool maintenance and feeling.)

Reflecting back on how exciting it was when they built he skatepark in town... just awesome. Now parents couldn’t yell at us and we could skate. I realize now this was a ploy, and a NIMBY capitalist distraction from what they deemed “proper” use of space. To this day I still look for cool skate spots when I’m in an unfamiliar area. The creativity that skaters have is unmatched when it comes to utilization of public (and private 😈) space.

It was something that almost anyone could do. And you could trade tricks and tips. You could heckle from the sidelines and you could appreciate Beauty. It is probably the closest thing to a true meritocracy that I’ve seen in practice (although as a principle hierarchy is rejected).

It’s something that I don’t know if adults could pick up since it requires failing and literally putting your body on the line in a way that we’ve learned and been socialized against. The mental, physical and physic fortitude that picking up a new bit requires... We knew our parents were wrong about us since we were working so hard. And yes mom, we should’ve been wearing more pads that we were 😉.

You could be anything you wanted in those moments. I always had a penchant for anachronisms so when I discovered a whole crop of tricks called “old school”, you know that I was in. These kind of tricks are off your board. I wasn’t ever particularly good at flip tricks and this opened a whole new way to interact with my environment.

Seeing the older kids and getting help and teaching new people; I’ve been involved in very few spaces where people traded knowledge as willingly and openly. And before the internet we had to trade and borrow the tapes.

The tapes. I’ll never forget holding onto my friends older brother’s copy of a copy of a VHS. It was the most precious cargo I’d ever held. A most forbidden item that was sure to expand my mind as it had the previous wielders. Buried beneath my vocab book and Pokémon deck holders, nestled cozily until I’d unwrap it without adult supervision.

Talk about an introduction to art. It recontextualized the thing we were doing everyday after school to a sick soundtrack, amazing cinematography and skits we could steal as our own to reperform.

We stayed up late at sleep overs, way closer than the recommended 6’, bathed in the light from the staticky cathode ray tubes that we loved to degauss. The physicality of tapes and the warmth of the TV a wholly different experience than now. We were right there with them.

Geoff Rowley’s part in “Sorry” 2002 changed my life. Sure I’d heard The Beatles. But had I ever heard The Beatles covered by a punk band? Could they do that? Wasn’t it sacred? The world broke open to me in an instant and I would never see it again the same.

Also in that same video is Mark Appleyard’s part set to Placebo’s “Every You and Every Me”. I don’t remember how I felt the first time I heard that song, definitely in that video, but I do know that I did not anticipate it making me Feel Things nearly 20 years later.

How blessed were we, young spirits exploring with appetites for the stars.

I don’t really know what this is about or who it is for (jk it’s just for me), but I do know that I’m going to find a charity so I can hopefully give some kids the same revolution that I was lucky enough to have glimpsed in my youth.