It has been about two weeks since I've posted on this blog. If I'm honest (and there is no reason not to be), I can tell you that, while my WRU run is coming together, it hasn't gone particularly well. At least it hadn't until yesterday. It has been incredibly rainy for the last two weeks and very hard to get good sessions in. While I am still able to skate on rainy days, I am forced to move under a park gazebo or into my garage where there isn't enough room to put many things together unless I just do tricks from tailstop.
Yesterday I gave up trying to add tricks to the run. Instead, I went out to skate and just did what felt right.
What I ended up with was footwork heavy minute of skating. This is exactly how I skate. Doing footwork is about 80 percent of my freestyle so it only makes sense that my run will be me skating like I always skate. It is a very simple run with very few flips so I don't know how it will go over with the judges, but it is how I truly skate and, despite it being in a contest, I skate for me. Skateboarding has always been about rolling on four wheels. I understand the concept of freestyle using every part of the board, but standing in rail has never been very interesting to me so I just don't do it (other than casper disasters and an occasional rail to casper).
As I've written about before, I am influenced by Daniel Gesmer's freestyle. He deliberately eschewed all flip tricks and made his skating about "gliding" on four wheels. He went in an very balletic/ice skating style to his skating. So, I have turned to doing some dance training while off the skateboard. It isn't that I want to skate like Gesmer. For my tastes he took it too far and all surf-style influence was taken out of his skating. However, it does make sense that to move more smoothly, like a dance, one should learn how to dance. Those movements while influence style even if I'm not actively trying to emulate the movement while skating.
My run for the World Round Up Online Showdown has been filmed and uploaded. I have paid my entry fee. It is all over but the judging in July. Strangely enough, tons of people are sharing their runs on Facebook. I'm really surprised. I didn't want to share mine until it was being judged or being run on the Braille channel's live feed in July. The kind of cool thing is that I'm getting to see the "competition" as they do their runs. I feel like, despite riding a longboard and doing a very simple run, I fit in nicely with the videos I've seen so far. That is a relief. When I heard Braille was doing a live feed of the Round-Up I was a little surprised. I thought I was skating for a couple hundred other people that were entering the contest. Instead, it is going to be broadcast on a channel with over 4 million subscribers! It is like thinking you're playing a gig in a club but finding out you are really doing a stadium show.
As far as preparing for the round up, I was so ready for it to be over, and ready to not do the same few tricks over and over. Now (of course), I miss working on the run. Insert a big sigh right here.
So, what am I to do next?! That's the real dilemma. Do I do the cyber slalom challenge this weekend? Do I finish my 100 miles for the month? Do I start working on new freestyle and dance tricks?
I took the week to work on dance stuff, like true dance stuff, riding a board with no kicks so I wasn't tempted to move into classic freestyle or ollie based tricks. My Peter Pans and cross-stepping needed work so I worked on those, and added walking the plank to my slowly growing dance list. On Friday I took my freestyle set up back out and integrated walk the dogs with a backwards cross-step. Two walk the dogs followed by what looks to be a turn in, but while the board is rolling backwards I do a cross-step into more walk the dogs. It is simple, but walking one direction while the board rolls another direction is more difficult than it sounds. I have to distribute my weight slightly backward and that feels odd.
Really, I just want to do more freestyle so I'm looking at what's next freestyle trick wise, and seeing what longboard dance stuff I can add to my skating.
Well, I guess it has now officially been two months since I decided to skate in a freestyle contest, and I have to say I'm ready to be done with it. I'm over doing the same pieces of footwork over and over again, and I've found that I've been ignoring a lot of other things in my repertoire. Honestly, it makes the three pieces (I've broken the routine into three 30 second sections for practice purposes) I've been doing feel stale and old hat.
So, I've been learning some new things for the last couple weeks. I've learned tiger claw, aero grab, ghost ride fakie big spins, tailstop underflips, and some kind of Peter Pan-ish move where you cross-step and carve/pump from that position. All but the tailstop underflip are longboard dance moves, and the only dance move I would give strong consideration for a freestyle run would be the cross-step pump thing. The rest require stepping off the board which is just not freestyle in a pure sense. You know the old freestyle saying, "Foot down and it doesn't count." It doesn't necessarily apply as law, but unless you can do no comply tricks into your run like Conner Burke, stepping off probably isn't a great look much less two feet down to ghost ride (although I've really learned to enjoy ghost ride tricks).
The one thing I did finally accomplish this week is decide on my music for my run. This is my third and final song choice. I had started off with The Church's song Under the Milky Way, but switched over to Pentagram's Be Forewarned. After seeing myself skate to Be Forewarned I decided that wasn't the right song. It just didn't fit my skating. Finally, after trying multiple songs, I have decided to skate to Maps by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It seems to fit my skating perfectly, and it is an underappreciated song.
tAccording to the weather forecast, this week was going to be a total bust, but just the opposite happened. It turned out to be a pretty great week to skate, and the sun was plentiful. So plentiful that I got the worst sunburn I've had in years mid-week. I've never had a sunburn take down my activity level like it did this week. My energy felt off and I can't think of anything besides the sunburn that could be the cause. It is stupid really. I carry sunscreen in the side pocket of my bag every single day. For once it just slipped my mind.
Anyway, about the skateboarding. I completed my 1 mile sprints for the IDSA, logged a new PR for a mile, and got that sunburn in the process on Thursday, but the rest of the week was spent doing freedance and getting ready for the Online Showdown in a few weeks (more about my 1 mile ride in another post).
So, I completely redid the opening 20 seconds of my run. I've been starting the run with longboard dancing, but decided to make the run freestyle-centric with some spin shove-its, walk the dogs, and a tailstop fingerflip before going into some dance moves.
I've also been working on a carving 360 wheelie. It is more difficult than it sounds. The first 200 or so degrees is pretty easy but getting to exactly 360 is a little tougher. You have to try and find the centrifugal force to keep the turn going, but it can be hard to find the balance. That said, I've upped my workouts to include ankle mobility issues.
I came to the realization last week that I've had issues with 360s and spacewalks because of my right (rear) ankle. I broke it about 17 years ago, and while the break healed well, one of the ligaments in my ankle was ripped in two. I elected not to have it surgically reattached. The doctor had told me it would be very painful and that the other ligaments in my ankle would most likely strengthen so much that I wouldn't notice a difference. He was correct except that I am a skateboarder and my ankles are very important for the act of skating.
So, here I am 17 years later, starting some PT to strengthen the other ligaments in my ankle to help my freestyle and dance skateboarding.
I'm afraid I spent most of this week either wishing the rain would stop or wishing the kids playing basketball would finish their game so I could have the court. Neither happened much this week. One day I was able to complete the latest IDSA skate challenge (more on that in the next post), and one day I was able to do a long dance session around the same track I used on the skate challenge, but the rest of the week was spent practicing 360s and spacewalks under the pavilion at the park.
By the end of the week I had a short combo that used both the 360s and spacewalks (start off with some stationary 360s, go the other direction with a quick spin shove-it, and finish with some spacewalks). I haven't, however, gotten it good enough to video.
I din't call this a training week for the Showdown because neither 360s nor spacewalks are in my run so it doesn't feel like I've really trained for the showdown at all. Luckily, things change next week. After Sunday there is no rain in the forcast for the next seven days. I'm glad as next week is the end of the sign up period, and I'll probably need to get my run on video by the end of the week (or the next). It will be sad to see that end. Wanting to do well has forced me to improve my skating. In fact, it has given me incentive to continue improving in the ways that I want to improve. I'm becoming a better skater/longboader and I really feel like the sky is the limit to my skating. It all comes down to skating the way we want to skate and working on the things we want to do rather than letting our skating being dictated by others.
It is hard to believe that this completes my sixth week of training for the World Round-Up Online Showdown (my first freestyle contest). it really feels like it has just been a couple weeks (maybe a few) since I started this journey. I can tell, however, that my skating is much improved over this month and a half. I can now, very easily, get through a full 1 1/2 minute run, and I've added some new dance tricks (or should I call them moves) that won't become part of a freestyle run.
I'm sticking to my guns of making this as freestyle oriented as possible while showcasing dance, skogging, and pumping. Luckily, tricks like toe spins (called pirouettes in longboarding), g-turns, pivots, 360s etcetera were freestyle tricks long before longboard dance.
I've also been searching for and watching as much 70s freestyle as possible. For instance, I have watched Stacy Peralta and Russ Howell in the documentary Skateboard Kings from the late 70s several times. The thing that is noticeable about their skating, in that particular documentary, is that their boards turn. In fact, their boards turn a lot. Modern freestyler's boards tend to turn when they pivot on them. I'm not saying all freestyler skaters have boards that don't turn at all. I'm saying they don't accentuate the turn. They damper it. Carving is not part of the beauty of modern freestyle.
I've decided that I want my board to turn more freely and, more importantly, to rebound better. I've ordered new bushings for my setup. I'm going with a barrel setup both board and roadside for better rebound.
I'm also removing some grip tape from the board to make toe spins and walking trick easier. Hopefully this will improve both cross-stepping moves and walk the dogs.
Interestingly enough, I feel as if I'm finally, after nearly 40 years of skating, fully developing my own unique way of riding a skateboard. For so many years I borrowed those things from my favorite skaters that I wanted to do. I did tricks as a kid based on pictures of Bill Danforth and Duane Peters. I imitated Natas video parts. I started learning the obligatory freestyle tricks. Hmmm...
....let me go back in time to the mid 80s when I knew nothing of pro skateboarding, but only that I loved rolling around on a skateboard. Ah, the memories of putting my "ghetto blaster" on and skating in the quiet rural neighborhood streets to whatever music was on the cassette player. No real "tricks" just turning, tictacking, spinning. That was all I needed. I feel like I've gone back to that place with a wealth of knowledge. A flat patch of concrete and a skateboard. It really is all I need.
What looked to be a week of rain turned into a beautiful spring week full of sunshine. I've added some new tricks to my bag, but most of them aren't appropriate for a freestyle run. While I don't hold the "foot down doesn't count" statement as freestyle gospel, I wouldn't do a ghost ride trick in a freestyle contest. I've been doing ghost ride kickflips and ghost ride shove-its quite a bit lately. They're fun, very easy, and I think they look good on a longboard. The one "foot down" trick that I will do in a run is a 360 push. Basically, it is a skog to rolling backwards then a second push back to forward. Barely a trick, I think it fits in fine for a freestyle run.
I've been trying to get a little more analytical about the run. While I new that I wanted it to convey a certain feeling, I wasn't sure how I should attack the run. It struck me that the run is all about circles. Whether I'm carving in a circle, turning my board 360 degrees, or turning a circle on my board, the run is about 360 degree turns.
I've started thinking about the turns I'm making in the run. In truth, I haven't figured it all out yet. And constantly turning does make things more difficult. It is easier to do footwork in a straight line. However, the arcs made carving make the slower motions of the longboard more interesting. So much of current freestyle and longboard dance is about doing tricks as fast as possible. You watch videos of people moving so quickly you can't exactly tell what is going on. For this run, I want to move slowly, deliberately. I want each step to count.
Another week of skating is in the books. Rain and vehicle issues threw off my normal skating so I moved to the garage at the begining of the week. My garage, which is great for stationary work on a traditional (small) freestyle setup is terrible for any type of work on a longboard. First, the sheer size of the longboard makes tricks difficult in a small space. Even working on 360s becomes difficult in a confined space. Add in that the longboard really wants to roll and sessions lose a lot of productivity.
Luckily, I fixed my truck on Tuesday afternoon and the rain was gone by Wednesday. I was able to move back to the local park. While most parks in the area are closed due to Covid-19, the park closest to my house is still open. I live in a very rural area outside of a larger town. So few people come to the park near me that it has been allowed to remain open. Generally, I stop here and skate on an afternoon, and if other people show up to the park, I just go home.
I have the first 40 seconds of my run mapped out. I've added walk the dogs, a spin shove it, and what I call pivot walk the dogs to my run as I begin to add more freestyle moves to it. Things are coming together. I am also working on the other tricks I want to do later in the run quite a bit. G-turns, 360 variations, turn-ins, backwards walk the dogs, and toe spins will all be included in the run.
Here is a g-turn:
First, let me say that it is official. I have finally registered for the World Round-Up Online Showdown! I'm very excited to have entered my first contest in over twenty years.
Wow. I feel uglier than ever! That pic of me is rough! Ha! When you submit your application you also send them a picture of yourself standing in front of a white wall. They take the background out and insert your country's flag behind you. I realized the only white wall in our house is a very small bathroom, so I'm actually standing in front of the toilet for the picture and my wife snapped the shot.
Anyway, I am very happy with the progress this week. I've been focusing on the first 15 seconds of my run which is all longboard dance footwork into skogging. As I told Bob on our Frontside 360 podcast, I want this run to be everything I love about flat ground skating. At first I wanted it to be freestyle done on a longboard, then I was going to do some dance and freestyle, but I love skogging, pumping, dancing, and traditional freestyle footwork. So, I am doing a little bit of everything in my run and trying to make it seamless like it all always fit together.
Last weekend was very wet so I spent my days practicing dance footwork on an upside down board in my living room. Doing this seems to have helped my Peter Pans, and toe spins (called pirouettes in longboarding) are my newest trick because of this inside skating. Thanks to Tony Gale's trick tips website (and YouTube videos) I've been able to get them dialed in pretty well. I'm not sure where in my run I'll do any, but I'm sure I will. The weather cleared up during the week and I started rolling again.
The music on this clip is currently my choice for the Round Up. I want to skate fairly slowly and smoothly, and I feel like this song will compliment the feel of the skating well.
Most of you don't know that I have secretly loved Daniel Gesmer's take on freestyle since I first saw him skate on Public Domain. Was he included as a joke? I know my friends got a good laugh at his expense, but I was secretly admiring both his skill and his desire to carve his own path in skateboarding. His ballet-like style (more like ice skating, really) was, in some respects, beautiful.
Additionally, there is a guy on Instagram under the handle @stefan_albert_swc that does some amazing turns on his skateboard. His movements aren't really similar to Gesmer except in the circular motion of his skating, but they're equally as flowing and amazing as Gesmer's.
I have decided to integrate basic freestyle footwork with longboard dance for my run. So, I've started working on various combinations. Peter Pans into pivots and carving backwards are two of my favorite things to work on right now. Carving backwards has taken some work to get used to. Sure, I've ridden fakie to do fakie rocks or fakie ollies or whatever for years, but just to carve fluid figure 8 turns while going backwards is a whole new ball of wax.
So, this week has started this strange process of figuring out my place in freestyle skateboarding.