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.