The train wreck that was 2020 is finally over, and a new year has finally begun. Unfortunately, up here in Northwest Arkansas, the new year has been ushered in with snow and freezing temps which has put me in the garage for any skating for the first couple days of the year. The sun is out this morning so hopefully I'll get a little time in at my normal spot today. But, before I go skating, I wanted to touch on the past year and the year to come.
Last year, purely from a skateboarding perspective, was pretty great for me. I got fifth in the World Round-Up Online Showdown, and I improved my trick skating and my footwork quite a bit.
I also, admittedly, got a little bored with freestyle and the lack of turning involved. As most of you know, freestyle skaters are known for riding tight trucks, and I have been guilty of the same. I've spent time trying to figure out how to get my trucks tighter without cranking down on the kingpin nut. I've bought tons of different bushings looking for the tightest possible combination.
But the lack of turning got boring. Skating is, essentially (for me anyway),rolling and turning on a skateboard, and I was missing the leaning, turning, pumping I had enjoyed for so long. So, I decided to change my freestyle into something much less. . .well, much less freestyle. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've left traditional freestyle behind. I've loosed my trucks and opted for soft wheels. I'm turning and gliding more than tictacking. I'm even moving to different non-skate exercises to try and improve my turning, gliding balance. The last ten minutes of every off the board workout has been dedicated to ballet/barre exercises, and I've incorporated a ton of yoga into my daily routine.
Where will all this lead? I'm not really sure. I know I'm moving in a very "87 Dreams of a Lifetime" direction. I'm practicing backwards pumping. I'm doing dancer pose (the yoga pose) while carving a turn. I've realized that a flamingo is just a back scale from gymnastics on a skateboard. I'm tying things together. However, I don't think losing surf and skate style is the way to do it. Gesmer, in "87 Dreams of a Lifetime" left behind traditional skateboard style and surf style and moved so far into figure skating and ballet that it wasn't relatable to the people that were watching it...
...I'm rambling. There is a method to my madness these days, but no clear defined ending point. I know what I don't want to do, but I'm not sure what I'm looking to accomplish. We shall see where 2021 leads.
Two thing I'm doing this year are everyday challenges. I'm skating (and posting a clip/picture) every single day in 2021. I'm also posting something similar from a workout perspective. I will do some form of exercise everyday for the year and post a clip or pic of it everyday.
I teased on my Instagram feed a new post about what skateboard I own is the most fun skateboard. As it is now 31 degrees (F) raining (with a guarantee the rain will soon turn into snow), this seems the perfect time to sit down and write that post.
I have been guilty of trying to make one skateboard a do-it-all too many times. I want a board that I can freestyle on, dance with, curb skate, park skate, ditch skate...and that perfect board has seems to not be a real thing. Freestyle footwork and flip tricks are easiest on a freestyle sized board. Curb skating on a bigger board, but not as big as a ditch pumper and on and on.
This never really works out perfectly. My curb board can be used for freestyle or ditch skating but it isn't super efficient at either. In fact, take it to a ditch, decide to do a long speed run and I'll end up disappointed and wishing I'd brought a more speed run specific board. The wheelbase doesn't allow for really deep, fun pumping.
Of course, there are boards that go in-between disciplines well. For instance, my cruiser, slalom, ditch pumping favorite has a 17.5" wheelbase, 85mm Gunmetal trucks, and some big, fat slalom wheels. It pumps on flat, moves through a ditch like butter, swerves cones, turns on a dime, and (if ridden backwards) is excellent for long arcing g-turns. That is a lot for one board so it ranks very high on the most fun list.
But what if I had to give up all other boards and have one skateboard?
My 8" and 8.75" popsicles don't really even rank more than a mention and maybe a sentence or two on a most fun list. Honestly, neither does my freestyle setup. But am I not a freestyler?!
Freestyle is very enjoyable (notice I didn't use the word fun). Street skating and curb bashing are fun, but those things aren't really what my skateboarding is about anymore. I rarely grind my trucks against a curb these days. That is heresy to most of the people I know, but it is true. Grinding curbs gets boring. There. I said it.
My drop through longboard also doesn't get much consideration. It does one thing. Moves in the direction you want to go with efficiency. It is great exercise and is fun, but you sure don't want to carve a ditch with it.
If I needed to go down to one skateboard for the rest of my life (the horror!!!) I'd have to let the curb bashers and ollie popping boards go.
Getting rid of a good slalom/ditch/pumper would hurt me much worse (as it lists as second most fun) and go with a hybrid longboard.
As I mentioned to Eric Sanders the other day, wheelies are more fun on longboards. That comment made me think, ditches are generally more fun on a longer board. Cruising, for me, is more fun on a longer board. Freestyle? A hybrid form of dance and freestyle is very enjoyable on a longboard. So here it is folks. My most enjoyable board has a kick nose, a kicktail, traditional kingpin trucks (that turn), soft wheels, built-in bearings, and a long wheelbase. It can go to a ditch and pump. It could skate a curb if I wanted. It can do walk the dogs and then cross-step and Peter Pan. It is amazing for wheelies. It is the hybrid longboard. The crazy thing about that? It is literally one of the most difficult board shapes to find!
My feet have been bruised. My ankle has been sore. My legs, last Friday afternoon, were aching. Because of a new, more physically taxing schedule at work combined with my inability to make myself rest, I have worn myself out. I needed a break, but I just can't seem to allow myself to rest. Since The World Round Up Online Showdown, I have become driven to improve in any way that I can. I can't justify a week off. I keep thinking how much work my tricks need.
However, add in that it has been raining this entire week, and I knew it would have been the perfect opportunity to rest. But I didn't want to rest completely.
I know that sounds ridiculous. I mean, I'm in my late 40's, but I keep thinking that I don't want to be a mediocre freestyler. I feel like I finally figured out the type of skateboarding that I could excel at and I want to reach a point of excellence before I'm too old to recognize the dream. No, I don't think I'll become a 50 year old Rodney. I just know I can be much better than I am and I want to know my true potential whether I'm nearly 50, over 50, or 100 years old.
So, I invested in a new tool (toy) to help me improve.
Yes, I bought those rubber truck/wheel replacements and I've been using them all week. I am aware of all the flak given to these things online. You aren't rolling. You aren't really skateboarding. I actually agree! I don't think using softrucks is skateboarding. It isn't. It is practicing skateboard tricks on a skateboard like training device. I get it.
However, I have also greatly improved my kickflips this week. While it is pouring down rain, I'm in my garage doing (old school) kickflip after kickflip. And when I get on a board that actually rolls, my kickflips are very much improved.
And I got my break. Running to the garage for an hour a day to practice kickflips (and fingerflips) isn't like going for an hour to two hour long skate session. I'm giving my body some rest and I'm improving my skating at the same time. I think this new tool (toy) is going to be very helpful over this winter when the sun is down early and the conditions are cold and wet.
So, here comes the actual rant. This is a post from a "friend" on Instagram about my foray into softrucks:
I know that I can be (usually silently) judgmental. Sometimes I will speak my mind, especially here on my blog, about things in skateboarding that get on my nerves. I ranted not too long ago about someone that posts non-skating skate clips almost exclusively. I have actually had mixed emotions about that post because, quite honestly, if you're having fun on our favorite wooden toy, then good for you. My opinion, at the end of the day, shouldn't interfere with your enjoyment of a skateboard.
However, I am going to rant about this comment, "I gave you a long leash..."
The "long leash" comment set me off.
I'm not your dog. You don't have me on a leash.
Let me repeat. I'm not your dog. You don't have me on a leash.
You are not the master of all things skateboarding with the ability to come to my feed and denigrate me. I responded exactly how I felt to someone "giving me a long leash." My reply has gotten me, apparently, blocked across Facebook and Instagram. No conversation back and forth, just a block (although, I admit I unfollowed this person).
I am not sad not to be a Facebook acquaintance with this person anymore. I am not upset to have one less Instagram follower. I'm glad he's gone.
"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.
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.
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.
Before I even start this post, I am not a doctor, and I'm not a personal trainer. You should always speak to a doctor about any new physical regimen. I'm only giving you my take on physical fitness and the aging skateboarder because I feel like my fitness regimen is necessary to keep me going at the level i skate. That isn't to say that other people can't skate better on less exercise, but to feel my best and feel like I skate my best this post will give a rundown of what I do. I'm one of those people that really likes to work out, and I feel that my workouts help to keep me on a skateboard as I approach the big 5-0.
Each morning, Monday through Friday, I lift weights and do some core work before I head out to the day job. If I didn't skate I'd still lift weights before work. It kickstarts my day, and makes me feel like I have already accomplished something long before my workday has begun. Of course, it has added benefits. Weight training helps bone density, helps me maintain a healthy weight, and helps me maintain good body mechanics.
Secondly, is cardio training. Skateboarding, of course, can count as cardio, and I don't spend a lot more time doing cardio outside of skating. However, I do try to get on a bike and go for a run at least once a week. Being a distance skater I feel like changing things up helps me keep my cardiovascular fitness up while using my muscles in a different way. The idea is that, by cross-training in running and cycling, I'm improving cardio and developing strength in areas not used skating keeping from having any imbalances in my fitness.
Last, but not least, stretching and mobility. I used to do a series of static stretches everyday but I've moved away from doing as much static stretching over the last year. I incorporated yoga poses into my basic stretches and added some very simple mobility exercises that I now do. Some of them are very simple from ankle and knee circles to standing on one leg (and doing some calf raises). I feel like the mobility exercises help keep my range of motion and help in body awareness. I even have a series of toe exercises I do daily. Toe exercises?! Yep. Unfortunately I suffered from something called "turf toe" at one point. It is a sprain to the bottom joint of the big toe, and it is very painful. I felt like I never fully recovered from it, and massage/toe mobility exercises have helped incredibly. One exercise, for instance, is to pick up a towel, over and over, with my toes. At one point this was very difficult for me. Now it is easy.
So, how much exercise do you need to do as an older skater?
That's up to you. Only you know your body. I just wanted to give an insight on what I do to keep myself rolling healthy into my late forties.
This is an unusual blog post for me. I'm a writer, and I like to sit down and write my own updates, but this morning Bob and Tony have just about written the whole thing for me. I quote Bob first because, man, yeah, exactly.
Then there's this from Tony Gale:
I've spent the last year (and more) working on footwork, and I've never really been able to put into words how much that footwork flows. It has become very second nature. Tony Gale is right when he talks about learn, perfect, forget. I'm a little embarrassed that I've never connected wu wei with skateboarding. Doing footwork that you've mastered really is effortless action.
My biggest issue these days is that I go to the well too often on certain footwork and longboard dance steps. I have to remind myself to do tricks other than the handful that come to mind first. I've started forcing myself to do new combos because I've don't want to do the same few over and over again.
The fact that there was a skate company called Fickle skateboards always made me smile. No, this isn't a post about Lew and his company, this is a post about how fickle I am when it comes to skateboarding and what I want to do on a skateboard.
I always felt like if I could stick to one discipline within skating that I could have been really good at that discipline. If I would have stuck at the 90s street flippidity dip stuff I could have been good at it. If I would have stuck to mini ramp skating I would have gotten good at it. Freestyle? Yeah, I think I could get good at it. No, I'd never be another Mullen, but let's forget Mullen. There will never be another Mullen, and that is a good thing. We don't need more Mullens.
Anyway, I dedicated most of last year to freestyle which, of course, got stale. I improved by leaps and bounds and even made a video part for the NeverWas video that was primarily freestyle with a couple curb tricks thrown in. But, of course, I missed distance skating and slalom skating and longboard cruising. So, where do I go from here?
Well, I started riding longboards again, but I want to be able to do my freestyle footwork on the longboard which brought me back around to my Landyachtz Loco 37. It is big enough to cruise and carve but small enough to walk the dog. What a great board! Until my fickle-ness comes back around you're going to see a lot of hybrid longboard freestyle from me for a bit.
End of rant here. You can, however, read more ranting about the lack of decks like the Loco 37 on my other website: www.frontside360.com/2020/03/10/a-deck-rant/