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.
Last May I wrote about The World Roundup Freestyle contest held in Canada every year. This year, due to Covid-19, the contest has been cancelled. This had to be a blow to competitive freestylers all around the globe that make the annual journey to compete, and it was yet another reminder of what an odd year 2020 is gearing up to be.
However, the Roundup has gone online! The contest will go on with the skaters remaining in their home countries. Submissions will be done via video and the judges will judge each video. Now, my initial thought was that people will be doing take after take until they get a "perfect" run (you aren't allowed to send edited/spliced videos of multiple takes put together). But that is kind of cool. Rather than be a traditional skate contest it is a one continuous shot skate video contest, and like my Frontside 360 partner Bob Loftin, I am entering.
The challenge of coming up with a run, and filming it without falling is a huge task for me. It gives me a goal for the next few months, and I've desperately needed a goal in my skating. My freestyle improved greatly over the last year, but after I finished my NeverWas video part, I lost vision. I wasn't sure where I was going next. In the end, I moved more toward longboarding again (I always seem to go back to longboarding). Now, I have something to work toward and I get to start thinking about what MY freestyle run should be about.
I think that, because I skated for several years without knowing anything about professional skateboarding, and because I lived in a town of 900 people for my teenage years (shout out to Shawn Force for making the drive to pick me up so I could skate with others so many times) it made my skate style distinctly different from others. I want to tap back into my individualism for my freestyle skating. As many of you know, I don't care for most pogo, rail, and stationary freestyle. So, there won't be much of that, and I'm considering riding a longboard in the contest. A few dance steps mixed with some freestyle footwork and lots of turning and carving.
Later today I'm going to start my "training," and I'll be posting my progress here on Luchaskate.
Sometimes I think about skateboarding and I want to go back to the Skate BDCD days. Forget all tricks, just push, carve, pump...go!
At other times I reflect on last years foray into freestyle with fondness. The joy that came from my first decent spacewalks. The challenge of learning casper disasters. All of those hours spent learning tricks offer a different enjoyment from the joy of the carve.
They are different, but equal. Neither of them outshines the other in my mind. So, I continue searching for the one skateboard set up that will check all the boxes. It will carve like a dream. It will pump. It will be capable of freestyle footwork and I'll even be able to pull off a few dance moves on it.
So, I'm trying out a Globe Gold Trucker longboard deck. It is a 39" board with a 21" wheelbase set up with Slant trucks and some AWOL Mini Logo 80a 59mm wheels. I'm hoping this board can be a "quiver killer" that I can take with me on a daily basis. It will work for putting on a few miles but also will be capable of footwork as well. In fact, I'm hoping to add a few dance moves to my skateboarding that I can do while putting a few miles on.
So, yeah, dance moves. I'm working on improving my cross-stepping, and adding Peter Pans (perfect for an old guy staying young through skateboarding), pirouettes, ghost rides etc...I'm hoping to combine longboard dance with freestyle skateboard footwork (walk-the-dogs, spacewalks, g-turns) into an odd blend of both.
Odd. I think that's the right word.
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.
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.