I've been soul searching about skateboarding lately. Skateboarding has been a very important part of my life. It has been a primary factor on where I've lived. Moving to Portland, Oregon at one point was very much influenced by the skateboard scene and culture of that city. I've chosen houses to live in according to proximity to skate spots. Skateboarding has been the sole activity that I've done since the age of six or seven that has never wavered from my life.
But that dedication has a downside. I've passed on a lot of experiences so that I could remain in my skateboard bubble. A lot of things I was interested in doing, I've passed on because they'd take time away from skating. That isn't to say I have never had any other activities outside of skating, of course. I've dabbled in running, cycling, weight lifting, and Brazilian Jujitsu (among other activities). But all of those other things have always come with a little sense of guilt. After all, while I'm doing those other things, I could be skateboarding. It is almost as if I'm cheating on skateboarding by enjoying other physical activities (when I could be skateboarding).
I know that probably sounds lame. It is lame, but I have centered so much of my life around skateboarding I literally feel guilt moving away from it. Or maybe I feel like I'm moving away from what I have defined myself as for so long.
The unfortunate thing is that I always wanted to get into hiking, backpacking, and camping. I never did because a weekend without a skateboard seemed like sacrilege. I've never wanted to be a racer, but I've always wanted to get more into cycling, cruising on a bicycle from point a to point b. Instead of that (and after the two bikes I bought got stolen in a house robbery), I got into distance skating instead (gotta stay on a board, man). I want to learn to fish, but those hours in a boat could have been spent in a ditch.
I'm admitting it because it ends today. 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.
I've recently started running again. It has been a fun challenge that I want to continue. I also recently bought a used bicycle that I'm fixing up to ride. I'm skipping my Friday skate to go camping. And between all these activities I'm going to keep skating. Freestyle a few days a week peppered in with swerving some cones and carving some ditches.
Life is good with variety.
So, I didn't make it 20 miles. I rode just over 15 miles at a very slow pace, and quite honestly, I'm cool with that. If I stilled lived in Memphis, and could ride the Memphis Greenline, I would be pretty upset with my time and distance. However, having to traverse up and down the quick hills of Northwest Arkansas (technically in the Ozark Mountains) meant a lot of walking my skateboard. I'm not a downhill skater, and some of the hills are simply too much to try and navigate. Add in some wet and muddy patches and there was a lot of walking going on.
I should point out that I didn't end my journey because of fatigue. I actually decided to turn around because I didn't like where I was. I love distance skating on trails for two reasons. The first is that it is riding a skateboard which, of course, I love. The second reason is that riding a trial is an extra excuse to get out in nature. Skateboarding is an "urban" sport. Skateboarding loves urban sprawl because it gives us new terrain from handrails to concrete ditches. Paved paths help take the concrete out of the concrete jungle. Even along the Greenline in Memphis you can forget you're skating through the middle of a city.
I took off at my usual starting point at Lake Bella Vista at the Bella Vista/Bentonville border. I skated (and walked an extreme hill) past Crystal Bridges (an amazing art museum in Bentonville) and rode through the city of Bentonville.
Most of the trek through Bentonville is great. It has greenery that keeps it shaded and blocks out most of the town. However, when you get to 14th street (where 14th ducks under I-49 and Bentonville becomes Rogers), the trail basically becomes a pebble covered sidewalk.
I was disappointed about the trail at the point. Here I was, over 7 miles into my ride, and I all I could see ahead of me was traffic, an interstate on ramp, and an overpass. My plan of riding all morning on the trail and in the trees of NWA (Northwest Arkansas) was becoming unsure. I didn't want to spend miles 7 - 10 in traffic. So, I opted to grab a couple donuts, rest for a few minutes, and start riding back.
For my next long ride I am going to find out where the trail becomes a trail again and do some skating through Rogers
My skatelife has been nearly 100 percent dedicated to freestyle for about nine months now. I've gone from being a terrible freestyle skater to being not quite as terrible of a freestyler, and it has taken a lot of time and dedication to get to that point. And I do mean a lot of time and dedication.
In fact, I've cut out almost all other types of skating out of my life. After all, if I'm skating a curb or a ditch or going for a long distance ride, I'm not improving specifically as a freestyle skater and there are so many things that I want to learn or improve in my freestyle game. By missing a day of casper disasters I'm assured that my casper disasters aren't improving.
If I weren't so driven to improve, I wouldn't care if I lost a day of freestyle practice, but I'm enjoying the improvements so much that I don't want to miss a day. And that is the key, I really am enjoying myself so much that I don't want to miss a day. I absolutely love the challenge of freestyle skating.
Well, I have decided to take a one day break from freestyle next week. I have my long distance pusher ready to go. I have my backpack retrofitted for a hydration bladder. I have my hammock ready to go. I've decided to head out along the 36 mile Razorback Greenway, skate until I need a break, set up my hammock, get a little respite, and head back. It is exciting to have a change of pace skate lined up.
Looking back at last year, it looks like I did one marathon length ride, so I've decided to make sure that each year I do one minimum 20 mile ride. And now I have something new to look forward to doing.
The Freestyle Attitude
When I first started attempting to freestyle, I was trying to learn as many tricks as I could as quickly as I could. I was watching several trick tip videos everyday, and I was trying multiple new things each session. It was frustrating, but I started landing some things and felt like I was progressing very quickly. If I landed a heelside railflip or a rolling fingerflip at some point during the session, I felt like I could do the trick. That is a very street skater/filming for a clip type of attitude. In those instance, getting the trick on film becomes the thing not mastery over the trick on every attempt.
The freestyle attitude on what constitutes being able to do something is very different.
The freestyle mentality on tricks seems to be: If you don't have it locked down, you don't really have it.
In the freestyle world, landing one or two out of ten doesn't constitute having them. It means you have an idea on how to do the trick, and you get lucky ten to twenty percent of the time. If you land less than you make, they aren't yours yet. When a trick can be done consistently and could be considered for a video run or a contest run (which I will probably never enter), well, then I can consider them one of my tricks.
This has greatly slowed down my learning of new tricks, but I don't feel like it has slowed down my progression. It means that my progress is consistency, and consistency is more valued than sheer numbers when looking at freestyle skating. I've gone from landing a couple rolling fingerflips per session to landing nearly every rolling fingerflip per session. I no longer touch my tail to the ground when doing spacewalks. My walk the dogs are faster and smoother. I can put a line together instead of just practicing tricks, and it feels like I'm skating more because I'm spending more time on the board compared to falling off.
And now, as I progressively get better at tricks that I could already land, I'm able to add on from those and get new tricks down.
I have been skating a lot of curbs lately. I found a skate park not far from home that has a blue parking block as part of the obstacles and a new (not skate) park opened close to my house that has two parking blocks in front of fresh, smooth concrete that I've been skating a lot lately.
This has, of course, interrupted my freestyle progress. I've been so busy slapping curbs that I haven't had much time for walking the dog except as my warm up. I run through my little bag of freestyle tricks quickly most days to get my legs under me for a curb session.
However, there is nothing like watching some of the top freestylers getting together to skate that can inspire me more to spin some one footed 360's. The World Round Up, a freestyle contest held in conjunction with a rodeo (of all things) happened this week, and there was some fantastic skating.
Skaters came from Japan, Europe, Canada, and the U.S. to take part in the event. If you haven't seen any of the footage, I suggest you search it out on Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram (I don't embed or link to other people's footage because it can be deleted leaving me with dead links on old posts). It is inspiring to see what skaters can do using only a flat surface. It is a very pure form of skateboarding that takes away all obstacles, and I am thrilled to finally be trying some of these things.
My notes from the round up:
It was odd not to see Tony Gale in the mix, and it was disappointing to see that my personal favorite freestyler to watch, Denham Hill, didn't do as well in the judges eyes as I believe he should. The young guns from Japan are really impressive, and I wouldn't think of criticizing their placement at the top of the heap. It is good to see younger skaters making waves.
Thoughts on the Skateboarding Hall of Fame
It took less than a second for Google to offer me several links to the Skateboarding Hall of Fame website. I clicked a link and was welcomed by an interesting splash page filled with pictures of classic skate equipment. I love seeing old skate equipment so I was pretty stoked on what I found. Really, I'm not positive of what I was expecting, but I can admit, I wanted to hate the website. I wanted to hate it because the entire idea of skateboarding having a hall of fame seems like the antithesis of what skateboarding has meant to me over this lifetime of riding.
As a twelve year old, skateboarding was my escape from the rules and forced teamwork of little league. As a teenager, skating partnered with punk rock as a search for self away from the judgmental eyes of parents and teachers. It was rebellion. As an adult, for me, skateboarding is a very solitary experience. It continues to be my escape. When I am skating I am nobody. I am reduced to concentration on the act of skating. Whether I skate well or poorly is immaterial. I am lost of the act of being on my board (and often falling off of it).
Teenage me would probably not see the seeming oxymoron of a SHoF. A love for the history of skating has been deeply ingrained in me since I first saw the movie Skateboard Madness. I've always been drawn to the history of this activity, and the history of the activity (it seems to me) doesn't get nearly enough recognition.
However, history and heroes are two different things, and the entire process of skateboarding insiders nominating other skateboarding insiders does seem a bit. . .masturbatory. But that isn't to say that the accomplishments of Tony Alva, Rodney Mullen, Tony Hawk, Steve Olson etc. shouldn't be celebrated. I keep thinking about it in punk rock terms. A punk rock hall of fame would truly indicate that punk was dead. However, bands like The Ramones, Dead Kennedy's, and Black Flag should be celebrated for their music. Does celebrating the rebellion mean that the rebellion is now simple nostalgia?
Probably. I skate a public skate park in a town of less than 4,000 people in Arkansas. It sits next to baseball fields. We can't fool ourselves into thinking skateboarding, now an Olympic "sport," is in any way still rebellious. Sure, we still have the opportunity to break rules, skate where we're not wanted, and have issues with security guards and police. But the amount of totally legal spots paid for by city governments certainly balances out that equation.
It all becomes too confusing for me. I'm going to throw some Circle Jerks onto the car stereo, hit a couple skate spots, and not think about it anymore.
The Freestyle Winter
In my book, Nobody: Essays From a Lifer Skater, I mention that freestyle wasn't something that captured my interest as a newbie skater. My initial fascination had been captured by images of vert and pool skating in 80s Thrasher Magazines, and even though we had no pools or vert ramps to ride, I was eager to harness that aggression on curbs and banks. The precision and sheer amount practice time necessary for freestyle wasn't something, as a teenager, that I was willing to invest into for my skateboarding.
It seems that my attention span and interest in details has improved over the last 30 years (as one would hope). I first attempted freestyle in late October of 2018, and I have been in love with freestyle skating since then. It requires such precise movement and such dedication just to learn one basic maneuver. For instance, I thought learning to spacewalk would be a cinch. I mean, looking at freestyle skaters like Kevin Harris or Tony Gale who spacewalk with such ease. It must be simple, look how easy it looks!
There was nothing easy in my experience of learning to spacewalk. It took session after session of trial and error before it clicked and I was able to propel myself by turning on the back two wheels of my board. Doing a decent walk the dog was much the same. Backwards walk the dogs? Forget about it. And doing a flamingo (one-footed turn to fakie followed by a one-footed carve)? So much more difficult than it looks when Terry Synott is doing them on instagram.
Freestyle brought me a new way of progressing on my skateboard just as I was wondering what I could do to keep myself moving forward for the winter. And it was a very wet winter. Thank goodness for a clean garage to work on tricks while it rained outside. I added nosehook impossibles, rail flips, rolling fingerflips. . .tons of new tricks to my bag.
Freestyle has also ignited the fire to street skate. Much of my flat ground street tricks aren't considered "good" freestyle. I like to take my foot off my board with boneless tricks, ollie fastplants, and no complies. I've been able to rediscover all these old flat ground tricks, added them to my freestyle, and even incorporated curbs and parking blocks to the mix. My skateboarding feels fresh again. Personal Progression as I move past my mid-forties.
What constitutes progress?
I showed up at one of my local skateparks this afternoon with two tricks in mind. I wanted to do a half cab into a blunt with a 180 out on a parking block, and I wanted to attempt a no comply, half fingerflip, land in casper, and flip out of casper. For those that know me, neither of these tricks sound like something I would work on, at least not for the last couple years.
For the last couple years (until October 2018) I've not done many tricks at all. Sure, I still did a few berts when skating banks, but I had taken my progression away from tricks and focused it on speed and smoothness. I was trying to do the same carve line faster than the last time I did it. I was trying to make my berts smoother. I was trying to dodge cones and push for miles a little faster than I had previously.
Skaters want to continue to progress. That is part of the thrill of skateboarding, getting better each time we roll. Too often, I think, the idea of progression is based solely on doing something more difficult or more dangerous. The kickflip leads to the tre flip. A grind on a ledge leads to grinding a rail. Kickflipping down a four stair leads to a five or more.
For those of us whose bodies have physically peaked in relation to recovery and resistance to injury, we often aren't able to take things bigger, higher, or more dangerous the way we may have in previous years. In fact, handrails and stair sets over four stairs aren't something I even consider skating anymore. I know, should things go wrong, I might be out of action (and out of work) for far longer than I could possibly afford.
What does progression mean to you?
What do you feel constitutes progress?
Has your idea of progress changed over the years?
When I published the Nobody book, I announced that Luchaskate was ending. Shortly after that I deleted the website, retired the t-shirts, and vowed to never publish the magazine again. And, honestly, I didn't miss it. Sure, I'd see someone with a Luchaskate sticker on their helmet or on their board and it would make me feel a twinge of nostalgia, but I didn't have a nagging regret, and I didn't long to publish the magazine. It was a clean break. I didn't spend my nights wishing I was laying out articles on a computer, and I certainly didn't miss searching for the best deal on printing.
That isn't to say I didn't miss certain aspects of Luchaskate. I missed blogging and designing/printing t-shirts. I tried to fill the Luchaskate void with a blog called Skate BDCD, but I never felt the same passion for BDCD that I had for Luchaskate. I think I narrowed my scope too far with BDCD (banks, ditches, cones, distance), and I never felt it was a true reflection of my skate life. I missed the early days of Luchaskate, when it was Meat and Two or The Four-Eyed Luchador, and it was just me blogging my skate life with no boundaries.
That was a primary factor in killing Luchaskate. I felt the magazine no longer reflected me as a skateboarder. Luchaskate, the blog, was very longboard focused when it was first conceived, and I wrote a lot about distance skating. For the most part, the people reading the 'zine were not those that would be interested in marathon rides, and I started to feel forced to supply content that would interest the 'zine readers more than it interested me at that particular moment. What had started with passion had become a chore. It felt like a low paying job to which I had to go. I guess I'm not meant to be a skate magazine publisher. I'm just meant to write my own material.
Since deciding BDCD wasn't where I wanted to be in this skatelife, I had been searching for a new way to share. I had been spitballing different names, and searching for a name that would reflect who I was as a skateboarder. I had always been jealous of Kyle Duvall's blog, The Parking Block Diaries, because it is such a great title for what he wrote about.
But why not Luchaskate? Why not bring it back without the magazine? Why not take it back to the roots and write a simple blog about an over forty skateboarder that knows he's not relevant and doesn't care?
A couple clicks and the .com was mine again. A lot less fanfare. No Facebook group to manage. No ads to sell. It feels like I'm back where I belong in my empty corner of the internet, and it feels like I was supposed to be here all along.