I've spent a little time pondering the week spots in my freestyle game over the past couple of weeks. One is the kickflip. For some reason I did these much better before I started frestyling. I originally learned them several decades ago on a whim and could always count on them should I decide to try one. After a turf toe injury about five years ago I lost them, and for whatever reason, they've been difficult to get back.
I have started really working on them again and look forward to having them consistently again. For me it is all about foot position and where, on my foot, I hold my weight. I haved to put the weight of my left (front) foot on the ball of my foot to make it happen and I have to have my legs spread wider than most.
One of the other tricks I'm spending a lot of time with is a 360 tailstop fingerflip. I have a tendancy to throw the board behind me on these and it is a habit that is hard to break. Unfortunately, working on these has also made my varial fingerflips more difficult. Transitioning between the 180 and the 360 is subtle and I'm not always the best at subtle.
Add in lots of footwork variations and tons of step off longboard tricks and you know all about my last couple weeks of skating. I'll be exploring longboard dance tricks on a freestyle sized set up more in the next couple of weeks.
I'm happy to say I'm back on a skateboard this week, and I have been having a blast! The break did me good.
I took the first couple sessions easy and then started stepping things back up by really working on some new footwork combinations. In truth, although I watch other freestylers skate, I have never spent enough time studying combinations of tricks. So, I've been looking at what footwork combinations other freestylers put together and trying to emulate them. So far, each thing I've tried to do turns out different when I try to do them, but I don't want to copy exactly what they do anyway. I want to see how their tricks flow together, and use that flow to do my own stuff.
For instance, these two clips are from watching other freestylers and doing things my own way:
As you can see, I'm back to riding a bigger board again for now (8.75). I'm not sure how long I'll ride it, but it is a really good size for doing footwork. I'm considering putting some freestyle wheels on it, but for now I'm good with what I have going. No rail tricks, but really (like I've said before), I don't really like doing rail tricks. I love footwork and fingerflips.
I also like that the same size board is fun for street skating. I've been doing a few slappys and other curb tricks over the week and it has been a welcomed change of pace.
As a much younger man, I did a lot of sprinting and pseudo-sprints (400 meters). I recently tried picking up sprint workouts to add to my weekly training. In addition to skating, I love to run. However, my old nemesis, the hamstring pull, reared its ugly head again and, I'm afraid, it has taken me out of running, most skating, and some weight lifting for now.
I must admit, a week off from skating is kind of nice (except for the strong desire to go skate). I've spent the week planning a backpacking trip to Devil's Den, camping in central Arkansas, visiting with my kiddo in Memphis, and catching up on much needed rest. I have done a little tinkering with boards, and my street setups are ready to go because I have been having a strong desire to do some street skating. After all, man can't live by freestyle alone, I suppose. It is good to vary things up, and I'm going to do some curb skating when I'm able to push again. I like doing footwork on my street boards as well. I think the mixture of freestyle stuff and obstacles can be fun, although I don't really get into pogos down stairs or anything like that. Then again, I am becoming a picky, persnickety old man. No matter what I say, do what you like on your skateboard, and to each his own in the trick (or no trick) department.
I also ended up skipping the last IDSA social distance challenge of the year: the marathon. I was simply too exhausted going into the weekend to try it. On one hand I regret not giving it a go, I really like the marathon distance, but on the other hand I knew I was going into it worn out physically from work. No need to push myself too far. I think I'm going to plan a solo marathon ride before the end of autumn.
"Look back to mid 70's freestyle-they would push to get speed up, feet would touch the ground on occasion. For the purist I guess feet must never touch the ground-kinda like that kids game of hot lava. "
So, last week's post initially started off with me thinking about no comply tricks in freestyle and how a lot of people (some of whom I really respect) don't think they belong. I, on the other hand, love doing no comply tricks. They are a big part of both my street skating and longboarding past and, put together with the freestyle footwork that I enjoy, I believe they round out (for better or worse) who I am as a freestyle skater. I didn't think they were that big of a part until I started doing them again and now it seems that they are. In fact, I remember telling Bob Loftin that I wouldn't put a no comply trick in a freestyle line. Now, I do it all the time.
The upshot of all this writing is, I'm going to continue doing no comply tricks AND I've decided to start messing with some ollie based tricks as well. Primarily I'm doing some 1/2 cabs and some 180 ollies into endovers which I think looks kind of cool and adds a little more variety to my skating. I may mess around with some kickflips etc...but honestly they don't feel right on a tiny board (despite originally being done on a tiny board).
Now to my rants!
1. a half cab or "full cab" is ollie based. A caballerial is a fakie 360 ollie. No ollie? Then it is a fakie pivot or fakie kickturn. The whole world seems to have forgotten the ollie part of a caballerial.
2. So, I keep seeing this person pop up on my Instagram and Facebook feeds (well, I did but I blocked him for now). He is an older skater apparently sponsored by a clothing company that promotes his stuff. The company (that shall not be named) is named after a word (misspelled) that means "a fierce or destructive attack." This company talks about how creative it is to stand on a skateboard and pass a hat through your legs or to balance a skateboard on your hands. At first I let it go, but the more I think about it the more I realized that this is an absolute mockery of people that have spent hours and hours truly learning to skateboard and be creative with it.
Me? I'm not an overly creative skateboarder. In fact, I'm not an overly creative chef (my profession) or writer. I consider myself a craftsman more than an artist . I'm not making up a bunch of new tricks. I'm trying to master those that others have already done and put my own spin on them. So, there is a hint of creativity there but it isn't the primary point of what I do.
However, calling this "pass the hat around your leg" stuff creative belittles true skating creativity. In fact, it barely is skateboarding. Sometimes it isn't skateboarding at all. balancing a skateboard on your hand, letting it drop, and then standing on it could be done with anything. Anything. It is neither skateboarding nor creative. Sometimes skateboarding brings in people that are more worried about being seen than learning the art and craft of skateboarding. And when the moniker "freestyle" gets added to it, the name freestyle gets gets sullied too.
This week's post is overly long and even confusing to me. I intended to write about whether or not no comply tricks should be included in freestyle and, if so, how often they should be done. Instead, I ramble on about things and start needing a definition of freestyle. The post only got worse in the editing phase. Have fun.
So, this week I have been thinking about the blurred line between flatground street and freestyle, and trying to find my definition of freestyle skateboarding. This is so I can figure out what exactly I want to do as a freestyle skater because I've been drawn into the world of no comply tricks lately, and if you ask a lot of freestyle skaters, they will say no complies don't belong in freestyle. They say that freestyle is about not touching the ground with your feet. I'm even told, until Mullen broke the mold, it was even frowned upon to push during a freestyle run. Speed was supposed to be gained by footwork.
Well, according to Wikipedia it is freestyle is: "technical flat ground skateboarding."
But I don't even agree with that. Flat ground skating sounds like street skating terminology. I am going to call freestyle 'a series of skateboard footwork and tricks designed to be aesthetic and dance-like.' So, as long as it is aesthetic, on a flat space, and dance-like is it freestyle?
Before I get too far in, let me get this out of the way:
I have entered one, and only one, freestyle contest and even that was virtual. I am not any kind of freestyle expert. I started freestyle skating less than two years ago and, since I'm being honest about stuff, I really don't dig a lot of freestyle. It is sort of like my relationship with poetry. As a young teen I wanted to be a poet, but then I started really reading lots of different poetry and realized that a lot of it wasn't to my tastes.
So, just to get this straight. I'm not into a lot of freestyle stuff.
Pogos? No thanks.
Long, drawn out rail to rail to rail to rail stationary stuff? Pass.
50/50 to casper to rail etcetera etcetera? Naw. I'll just be over here working on g-turns and stuff.
For me, skating is on the wheels of the board and, if you aren't on the wheels, you should be just about to be back on the wheels. In fact, I think doing too much stationary stuff is what turns people, including street skaters, off to freestyle. I know it is one of the things that turned me off to freestyle 30+ years ago. I could watch Natas ride walls or Primo stand on the side of the board. It wasn't even a contest. Natas ruled the day.
And since Natas ruled the day, street skating (particularly late 80s street skating) is a huge influence on me.
So, then, how much off the wheels is too much off the wheels? If a rail walk to rail to casper to casper is too much time off the wheels, what about no comply fingerflips or, one that I'm doing a lot these days, 360 no complies? Isn't the whole point of freestyle to not take your foot off the board. Or is it something else and the foot thing is an outdated unwritten rule that needs to pass away? Isn't there a difference between stepping off on purpose and stepping off because you can't land the trick? Some say no comply tricks are an easy way out of doing a two foot on trick that might be more difficult. And I see the point. No comply fingerflips are very easy in comparison to rolling fingerflips. Same for the varial version of the trick.
But does freestyle have to be the more difficult trick? A no comply fingerflip doesn't really look like a rolling fingerflip. They are two different tricks. One is started crouched low on the board while you grab the nose. In the other you are standing upright and pop the board into your hand. It is really about which trick fits into the aesthetics of the run at that point, right?
It is all too much for me this week, and I really thought this would be an easy thing to write. At this point my thoughts (and this post) are so jumbled up. that I'll stop where I am. See you all next week.
In truth, I am such a fickle skater. As soon as I convinced myself that a freestyle board was the right board for me, I changed my mind and got the longboard back out. Here is the confession. After the WRU Online Showdown, I switched to a traditional freestyle board because I was feeling very determined and competitive. I was going to switch over to a true freestyle setup and I was going to do all those things that would win the contest next year. Now, a month or so later, I'm feeling much less competitive and I'm ready to explore my skating as I want it to be not how it might win a contest.
As far as freestyle board vs longboard? Both boards are good for certain, specific tricks. Rolling fingerflips and endovers are, of course, out on the longboard, but things like tail spin to 360s are so much better on the longboard. And I like footwork on both of them. The freestyle board is, of course, much faster, but the longboard feels (and looks) so smooth in comparison. Not to mention the ease of toe spins on a bigger board! Toe spins are a scary trick, but on the longboard they're much less scary.
So, for a few days I was back on the longboard again, and I was thinking more about gliding footwork than flipping the board onto rail and walking on the side of the board. I am glad I can do that easily now (and with a different wheel set up it should be possible on the longboard), but it really isn't how I like to skate. Also, I have to admit, I have fallen in love with no comply flip tricks (no comply varial flip/no comply fingerflip) and they are fun on the longboard, but not so great on the freestyle board. Plus, thinking about competition again, I think they'd be accepted in a contest on the longboard but frowned upon on the freestyle sized board.
By the end of this week I had swapped back to an 8.75" popsicle stick. With the bigger than a freestyle board and smaller than a longboard board I can do all of my favorite longboard tricks and freestyle tricks so I think I"m going to play around on this size for a bit.
One of the things I have realized in thirty years of skating:
If I am worried about getting hurt, I will get hurt.
Now, I don't mean skating cautiously, bailing should things go the wrong way. If something doesn't feel right, I step off the board and try again. That is simple enough. In fact, I'm sure tons of non-skaters that see me working on something new think that I am a terrible skateboarder that never lands anything. Even if I understand the mechanics of something mentally, that doesn't mean my body and mind are on the exact same page yet. So, if it isn't right, I step off the board, re-examine what I just did, and go again.
No, what I'm talking about is a constant fear of injury during a session that acts like a self-fulfilling prophecy. That nagging doubt about 360 fingerflips that they're going to lead to a faceplant or the twisting of an ankle. If I am worried about getting hurt it takes my concentration away from landing something and I end up getting injured because I'm not focused.
The good news is that it doesn't really happen very often. When it does happen, it is guaranteed to be the internet's fault. What?!
Yep, sometime there has is so much injury talk on Facebook that it gets into my head. I ended my Sunday session about thirty minutes shy of when I normally would because I was in my own head about injury. And I came to the realization that the only times I get in my head about injury are after I've been on Facebook that morning and people have been talking (sometimes bragging) about injuries.
Here's a tidbit of information for returning skaters or older people (40 and over) that are trying out skating: If you are not used to falling on concrete you are going to get hurt when you fall on concrete. No, those of us that have been doing it for a long time aren't immune to injury, but we've developed ways of falling to minimize injury, and we know when to step off and try again. If you've done some martial arts training (aikido, jujitsu, wrestling, judo) you'll have a leg up but it will probably still take some getting used to.
Update: In the end, I decided to leave the Very Old Skateboarders Group on Facebook. It was nice to get 100 likes on a piece of footwork in that group, but I opened it this morning and was greeted by yet another injury post. I decided to leave, but of course, hold no ill will toward the group. It is a group of fine people, but geared more toward beginner skaters and it wasn't for me.
It seems I'm in a phase of revisiting old posts. This week I'm thinking about an old post I wrote called, "The Freestyle Attitude." It is one of my most popular posts, and the message is one that I've had to remind myself about this week.
Although you should go read the post, to sum it up in a sentence: If you don't have a trick locked in, you don't have the trick.
For instance, I've been able to do caspers for over a year. It was one of the first things I "learned." The thing is, I never actually got them. I could land them enough to get one on camera for an Instagram clip, but I didn't have them consistent enough to put them in my World Round Up run. By my own admission, they weren't truly mine. See, I didn't really understand the movements of my body necessary to get them consistent. In fact, they'd been frustrating me for over a year, and I'd often wondered what was wrong with me that I had to relearn them over and over.
This week they clicked. I watched Tony Gale's trick tip again, and it struck me. It wasn't what Tony said, it was watching him do them.
I have been skating for over thirty years. I was a kid in the early 80s that cruised around on a department store board. Later I learned to ollie and street skating became everything to me. After that it was pretending to be a vert skater on a mini ramp. Then it was longboards, park skating, ditch skating, and slalom before settling into distance and freestyle. In all of that skating, I've always kept my feet either firmly planted on the bolts, or I've landed firmly on the bolts. Landing with one leg straight (and in the air) while the other leg bent (and I stood on it) was not a thing. It is not in my muscle memory.
It struck me that because it was unnatural for me to land that way, I needed to get the muscle memory established. I needed to remind myself before every casper, "Stretch the left leg. Stand on the right with knee bent," because I was going back to land bolts mentality each time I tried to add a casper into a line of tricks. You'll even see in the casper clip, I tap my leg as I'm reminding myself of how to land. After a week of reminding myself, I am able to add caspers into lines because I stopped, slowed down, thought about things, and really got the movement down.
Because of that success, I decided to spend a couple weeks slowed down, making sure that all of my tricks really are mine.
I hope you all had a great week, and remember with caspers: Foot down doesn't count!!!
I wrote a blog post almost exactly one year ago about having a life outside of skateboarding, and I almost deleted as quick as it posted. It was an honest post, but made me slightly uncomfortable. It wasn't about not wanting to skate, but was about how I haven't pursued other interests because of skateboarding. It was very much an admission that I have forgone other activities to stay true to my self definition as a skater. I wrote, "No longer am I going to define myself so forwardly as a skateboarder. No longer am I going to feel guilt for not skating and for doing some other activity."
Something that I can admit now is that I have been guilty of judging people for wanting to do something other than skating in the past. Hunting? You could be skating. Running a marathon? You could skate a marathon! Mountain climbing? You could be skating, man!!!
Secretly I wanted to hike, trail run, camp. . .there were tons of personal time activities that I was giving up to not cheat on skateboarding. As I write that I know it was ridiculous, but it was also very true. Over thirty years of my life had been dedicated to skateboarding in so many different forms. I started as a kid who like to roll on a skateboard. I became a street skater. I tried my best to be a transition skater. I was known as "longboard guy" for awhile. I distance skated in the morning then hit up the diy park in the afternoon. A little less than two years ago it became all about freestyle. Anyway, everything was about skateboarding. 100% skateboarder, right?!
I'm writing this blog because I have done exactly what I set out to do in August of 2019 (read the post here). I have hiked, camped, ran trails, and biked. In fact, I have hiked, camped, ran, and biked myself into being a much better skateboarder.
How does one do other activities and become a better skater?
Let me clarify. I am now a much better freestyle skateboarder because of my outside activities. That's the key. I have pinpointed my skate interests to freestyle and distance and, by doing that, I have freed up a large amount of time. Sure, I still feel the call of a ditch, and curbs look really fun to slap, but I've held off on those things to concentrate my skate time in two specific directions: freestyle and distance.
I freestyle nearly every single day for at least an hour at a time, and I have greatly improved because of it. Now, instead of traveling to a spot for thirty minutes, skating it for twenty minutes then driving thirty minutes to the next spot and on and on, I hit one freestyle spot, practice, and the rest of my day is free to pursue whatever I might want to pursue. Additionally, running, hiking, and biking all improve my cardio and leg endurance which benefit distance skating. It is cross-training for distance skating! Perfect!!!
I truly believe concentration on one aspect (which for me is freestyle) is important in seeing a great level of improvement. By concentrating my skating in a specific direction I've improved greatly in that aspect, and I've freed up my time for pursuits outside of skateboarding. Always a skater, but so much more now too.
Skating since the World Round-Up Online Showdown has taken me back to my early days of freestyle oh so long ago (about a year ago). I had learned to stop treated my freestyle sessions like street skating free-for-alls and took to writing lists of tricks. At that time I could only do a handful of things so I'd go through my list at the beginning of every session making sure I landed three of each trick. It would take about a half hour and get me warmed up for the next part of my session, working on new tricks. I'd have one in mind and drill it for a little bit with hopefully a make or two. Finally, I'd finish my session by trying to link footwork together into combos.
At some point I stopped looking at my list and started working on things in a much less organized manner. Then the WRU came along and I spent the majority of my session getting smooth and clean with the tricks it was going to involve. Finally, I filmed my run and the rest is history.
Nowadays I start each session with a simple footwork line or two. I move through the combinations of tricks as effeciently as possible as my muscles get warmed up and ready to try new things. After that, I've gone back to my handy trick list. I'm happy to say that I now have too many tricks to knock them all out in one go (my session would be over before I would work on anything new), but I have combined the tricks I need/choose to work on with tricks that I want to learn into 10 or so items to be worked on each session. I land each trick a minimum of three times before moving to the next trick.
Over the last week I've been working on caspers, walk the cows, hang ten shuvits, rail walking, varial fingerflips, and backwards walk the dogs (among others).
Now, once I get these consistent (landing three in a row each session) they get taken from the list and incorporated into the third part of each session: new combos! For instance, I've been doing endovers for speed into hang ten shuvits into a walk the cow. Two new tricks combined with an old one done one after another so my transitions between each trick will become more fluid. One of the cool things about doing this is that I can see which tricks don't flow together well for me so I can add footwork in between to make them flow better.
Putting together a contest run has changed my skating quite a bit. And watching skaters that I appreciate has changed my skating quite a bit. For instance, watching Tony Gale transition from trick to trick inspires me a lot. Now, I can also say that there are some very popular, high ranking freestylers that simply don't inspire me. Very often they are those that have a lot of big tricks but very little style or grace in between those big tricks.
Any old way, keep on skating. I'm headed to the freestyle park.