A Skater’s Story: Introduction

I’m a skateboarder.  I say that like other people say they are a musician, a basketball player, or a hiker.  All one really has to do is participate in an activity to say that they are that.  So, what is skateboarding?  The simplest answer is riding on a piece of wood with wheels attached to it, and while this is true in its purest form, the answer is not so clear cut.

Just as music varies from the sweet child hitting a toy xylophone to the complex brilliance of a classical composer, the skateboard is a simple toy, yet also contains immense depth and difficulty.  There are also great differences in how and why people skate, like how kids playing basketball as a team differ from the loner who goes out and shoots hoops for themselves.  Even further, there is the pro baller getting paid thousands to millions of dollars for wearing a clothing brand.  Yet through all these differences they all still say “I play basketball” in the end, and skateboarding is like that.  To some, skateboarding is just a fun hobby that is good for the body and they enjoy it in the same way a hiker enjoys walking trails.  To others though, skating becomes a way of life that holds limitless potential, and that potential must be realized.  This is analogous to a hiker walking off trail and climbing the most difficult terrain that they can.  Sometimes these kinds of people don’t just enjoy their surrounding passively, but rather immerse themselves and thrive off of the new and often dangerous potential.

My passion for skateboarding has been a light of inspiration since the beginning.  After ten years of obsession and contemplation I still want to investigate further.  Skateboarding is a wildly individualistic thing, yet it brings opposites together, so I knew I couldn’t answer the question alone. 

In preparation for So What is Skateboarding, I came up with twenty-nine questions about the personal experience of skateboarding.  Over fifty skaters filled out the questionnaire.  While it would have been better for statistics sake to make it multiple choice, that kind of format is like a school test, and no skateboarder likes tests.   What I was looking for was the wide-eyed never-defined collective opinion that all different skaters had for the board.

So our story takes place in the little mountain town of Prescott Arizona, nestled in between Phoenix and Flagstaff.  It’s big enough to have a well made skatepark, a scene of progressive skateboarders, a skate shop that has sponsored skaters and kept the community active, and good quality skater-made videos.  Even more importantly, Prescott is small enough that the scene is fairly friendly and tight knit.  It isn’t a huge scene like California where there are pros and opportunities with spots and sponsors all over the place.  The spots are rough and sponsorship is barely existent, so the skaters that progress do it for the right reasons.  With these qualifications, I was sure Prescott was a good slice of skateboarders to talk about, ranging from the beginners to the skaters that have gotten sponsored by big name companies.

What I intend to accomplish with So What is Skateboarding (SWIS) is an insightful exploration into all the aspects of skateboarding in this new millennium.  I choose this decade because I began really skating in 2001 and have lived with skateboarding intimately ever since.  There are a ton of terrible books and web pages about skating out there that all give the same historical and technical information with no heart or real truth.  I realized there needed to be more resources about real skateboarders today written by a real skater of these times.  I believe the deep nature of skateboarding can be of value to anyone, skater or non-skater.  I want to go beyond the skin deep impressions.  I want to look at all the diverse aspects of skateboarding that make it so vastly unique.  Most importantly though, I want to find the divine qualities of skating that are universal.  I say skateboarding is the most powerful creative activity to develop in the last fifty years, yet somehow it lacks the respect it deserves.  I aim to change that.

Continued in Part 1: Pure Beginnings


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4 responses to “A Skater’s Story: Introduction

  1. That last picture is sick,
    I’ve never seen that grab anywhere else –
    the “yoga-grab.”

  2. Dixon

    This article is a great start at expressing some things that I think all of us who have been skating for a long time want to express. I’m 38 years old, started skating on a skinny little 70’s plank when I was 6, and stopped skating for years after high school simply because I had forgotten the joy of skating. Wow, what a loss! But recently I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and, in addition to surfing, my other passion, I started skating again. (I started with a re-issue of an old Powell Peralta board, the same design I had in 1984, and most recently “upgraded” to a newer, more modern style board that’s lighter, thinner, and lower to the ground.) It’s been about 6 months since I took that step and bought a board again, and since then I’ve found some great pools near my house to ride and discovered the parking garage where I work is a hidden gem. I’ve also gotten one of my good friends into skating, and together with another friend that we work with we started a skate club for the kids at the inner city high school where we work. So far we’re having fun, watching skate videos in our office every Tuesday and Thursday at lunch (the club is growing, now we have about 10 stoked skaters every lunch), and skating on the school yard as much as possible. And in true skating fashion we’re already in trouble, me having been yelled at by the Assistant Principal for supporting the skaters (I was accused of siding with them; well if I wasn’t before, I sure am now!!!!), and all of them having been told to stop skating until they get their liability forms signed. Fortunately we’re getting the liability thing covered (by the YMCA after school program) and well on our way to hitting some parks and other school yards where they have ramps and rails. Also, just up the street is arguably San Francisco’s finest park, the Potrero skate park, where pros abound and contests are held frequently. Can’t wait to go check it out with the crew! But aside from all that, the basic drive is that it’s just so much fun, just feels so good, to be on a board on some smooth surface, carving a turn or smacking an ollie, or even just doing 360’s on a little patch of sidewalk (or on the linoleum of someone’s kitchen!). Skating is just fun, and a skateboard is a tool for self expression, just like a paintbrush or potter’s wheel is a tool for the artist. Thanks Bud for writing this and starting this written expression which we hope will be able to capture even just a little of the stoke we feel when we skate.

  3. Pingback: A Skater’s Story | So What is Skateboarding?

  4. I am a 47 year old mom of 2, and just back into skating this month because my sweet five year old daughter wanted so much to learn. The joy of skating I felt as a kid has returned as if it never left. Just as the writer above, I started off in the 70’s, very young, eight or so, on a skinny plank of plastic on wheels that would barely roll over cement without stopping short on every grain of sand in my path. My daughter, in her pink helmet and padding, has helped me rediscovery something primal, and yet soothing, for my soul. I have enjoyed reading your posts this morning. Your prose is beautiful.

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