The year is nearly finished, and I've never wanted to see the back end of a period of time as much as 2020. To think this entire year has been upended by a virus seems like the plot of a movie, but not real life in 21st century.
One thing I think has happened due to the pandemic and people having to quarantine is that freestyle has gained a little popularity. Freestyle is, of course, a solitary pursuit for most. It is finding a flat patch of concrete away from other people and drilling the same tricks over and over until you get them locked in.
Meanwhile, as I watch the world turn to fingerflips and rail tricks, I move back and forth between longboards, street boards, and a freestyle board. I'm so fickle about my skating. I want to freestyle but I'm drawn to turning. So, I've set up yet another board. This one is odd. It is a mini popsicle stick (7.4x29.5) with Bennett trucks and Powell Rough Rider wheels. So, it is the shape of my street board, the turning of my slalom board, the size of my freestyle board, and the soft wheels of my longboard.
I, of course, just wrote blogs talking about how there is no one size fits all board and this one isn't the magic secret do it all skateboard. I set this thing up for one specific reason: It can pump, carve, wheelie, and still endover. I've been thinking about Gesmer again. You know the video, I'm sure. Let's see what happens.
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!
I should call this Size Matters Or: Am I Even a Freestyler?
I watched Denham Hill's YouTube video on freestyling on a street board earlier today, and I feel like I really need to say a few things.
First off, lets get this out of the way:
Denham says we should support (invest our money) in freestyle based companies because they are invested in freestyle. And he's right about that. I feel a little guilt ordering a non-freestyle company product, and I do make sure to order skids, shirts, and bushings from Decomposed but I feel guilt when I could order from Mode or Waltz or Moonshine and I don't.
Now, to the meat of the conversation, why do I ride what I ride and, am I really a freestyle skater? Because I'm not sure anymore.
Board size: I ride what I ride because they are all enjoyable. Sometimes it is a 7.3 " board with a sub-13 inch wheelbase. Sometimes it is an 8" street sized board. Sometimes it is a 8.75 popsicle and sometimes a longboard. I ride each board for one reason, they're all enjoyable. And they're all enjoyable for different reasons. The 7.3 requires that I am more precise. It turns faster and has a lot less room for error. The 8.75 is enjoyable because it feels like a tank after riding the 7.3. I can go slow and sloppy riding it...and it is really fun for non-freestyle curb bashing slappys. The longboard is enjoyable for the pure flow of it. Smooth and slow.
But, all of that said, I primarily ride the 8" pop these days, and it has me questioning whether I'm a freestyler or a just a guy that is primarily a flatland skater. See, while I love how Denham (and some others) do rail tricks, I don't have a strong desire to do them (aside from casper disasters, those are awesome). And pogo tricks do nothing for me (I just don't like 'em). I need to work on 50/50 tricks, but I'm waiting for the dead of winter and snow days to do that. They look great when mixed in with a lot of rolling tricks.
The traditional freestyle stuff I love are fingerflips and footwork. I'm working hard to add wheelies as well, but if I'm honest, the wheelies feel better on my 8" popsicle. G-turns, flamingos, hang ten nose wheelies are all more fun on the 8" popsicle if I'm honest.
I have also started doing tons of step off tricks. Step off tricks, no comply based stuff, is a mainstay of the 80's street skater (which are my roots, of course), but they get looked down on by a lot of freestylers. They're too easy compared to the non-step off counterparts is generally the main argument. The secondary argument is the "floor is lava" tradition of no stepping off the board for freestyle. As I go from g-turn to endover to shove it to 360 no comply I have wondered if I just left freestyle and moved into flatland territory.
Add in that I love longboard dance stuff including some really really step off ghost ride tricks, and I'm wondering if what I do even constitutes freestyle anymore. Maybe I'm a flatland skater not a freestyler. Maybe I'm a longboard dancer without a longboard (most of the time). Sure I do walk the dogs and spacewalks, but who knows?! I was once told that telling the difference between freestyle and flatland skating was a lot like telling the difference between pornography and art. You just know...but now I start to wonder...
Despite the name "freestyle" I am starting to believe that freestyle isn't free at all. It seems to have as many if not more rules than other types of skating. Is that good for the future of freestyle skating? Should I care? I mean whether I'm a freestyler or not I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing. I've tapped into the skating I love now, as a nearly 50 year old man, more than I have in the previous 30 plus years so...I guess what I call it doesn't matter except that I'm calling it...
I'm not even sure if I want to call what I do freestyle anymore. Maybe I'll drop the name and just call it skating.
I just went for a cruise on my latest complete. It is an 8" Real deck with Tensor trucks, mini logo bushings, and Spitfire 97a Formula Four Wheels. I didn't do anything more difficult than a caveman and a powerslide. No ollie tricks. No flip tricks. I just cruised.
It was fun, but I was surprisingly bad at it.
Yep. I can do 62 miles in one go on a longboard, and I can do my fair share of freestyle and flat ground tricks, but just cruising was difficult for me today. Okay, difficult isn't the right word. Awkward is the right word. And it was awkward because, as I quickly realized, I haven't skated somewhere with giant cracks in uneven pavement in far too long.
It has been too long since I skated the real world!!! I have been so caught up in skating a perfectly poured track and an even basketball court that I had lost the feeling of skating real streets!
Now, about this new setup. I'm riding an 8" pop because, quite frankly, it suits how I'm skating these days. I've given in to my desire to mix freestyle footwork with old school step off and ollie street tricks with longboard dance stuff. I've realized that the slightly longer wheelbase, while not as good for footwork like walk the dogs, is much better for g-turns. G-turns just feel better on a little wider board with a little looser trucks. And my flamingos?! So much easier on the "street" setup.
Now, all of this doesn't mean I won't jump on my frestyle set up. Heck, knowing me, I'll be on it again working on casper disasters next week (they're impossible on this other setup), but I'm really enjoying a little bigger, turnier board this week.
It was pretty cool of the IDSA to allow make up races until the end of the year. I missed a few of the challenges, and this will give me the chance to make them up.
This month, I did the last challenge, a 20k skate and did the 10k from earlier in the year. I had actually done the 10k when the challenge was posted, but because I wasn't a member of the IDSA I redid it now that I am a member. I will hopefully get the opportunity to do the marathon challenge in December. I need to get my legs into distance shape a little better. After the 20k, and having not distance skated or ran since pulling my hamstring, I need to do some more rides (and runs) before I do a full marathon.
For the last three weeks I've been using softrucks instead of my skateboard for trick practice during the week. They have improved my fingerflips, underflips, and kickflips dramatically. However, I noticed during my actual freestye session over the last two weeks that my footwork is rusty. Spacewalks seemed a little more rust covered than anything else, but everything was a little off.
I blame this on two things:
1. My softruck deck is bigger than my freestyle board. I'm using what was supposed to be a 7.5 inch wide popsicle (that really measures closer to 7.8 in the center of the deck) with a 14 inch wheelbase. My current freestyle board is 7.3 inches wide with a 12.5 wheelbase. I will be, in a few week or months, be moving to a 7.4 with a 13 inch wheelbase, but it is still significantly smaller than the softruck deck.
2. I'm not rolling enough during the week. Working on tricks doesn't necessarily translate to keeping footwork fresh. I know this seems obvious, but it is worth mentioning that, taking a day or two away from footwork sometimes has a positive effect on my footwork. I have no explanation for that, and I'm not going to venture any guesses. However, a five day break from footwork does no good for footwork. Two days off is the largest amount of time that seems to have a benefit or, at any rate, no detrimental result.
I attempted to fix the not rolling thing by doing some distance skating over the past week. I did a 20k last Sunday and a 10k on Thursday of this week. I was in need of some distance skating as I haven't done nearly enough cardio since my pulled hamstring a month or so ago. However, it didn't seem to have any footwork benefit. So, really, doing footwork is the only thing that will keep footwork fresh. I know this is an obvious result, but I'm going to waste an entire blog post on it anyway.
I will say this: While the softrucks have no benefit on your rolling or footwork skills, they have dramatically improved my flip tricks. I mean dramatically. In just three weeks I've gone from having a 40 percent land rate on a variety of flip tricks to having an 80 percent land rate on flip tricks. The best part about that is that, once you hit that 80 percent mark, it makes learning new flip tricks that much easier.
In conclusion, I'm going to continue working with the softrucks daily during the week. They help me be able to work on things despite having a new schedule at work that sends me home after the sun has gone down. I will, however, make sure to work footwork on a daily basis as well. After all, a freestyle skater with no footwork is just a flat ground skater.
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.
I've spent a little time pondering the week spots in my freestyle game over the past couple of weeks. One is the kickflip. For some reason I did these much better before I started frestyling. I originally learned them several decades ago on a whim and could always count on them should I decide to try one. After a turf toe injury about five years ago I lost them, and for whatever reason, they've been difficult to get back.
I have started really working on them again and look forward to having them consistently again. For me it is all about foot position and where, on my foot, I hold my weight. I haved to put the weight of my left (front) foot on the ball of my foot to make it happen and I have to have my legs spread wider than most.
One of the other tricks I'm spending a lot of time with is a 360 tailstop fingerflip. I have a tendancy to throw the board behind me on these and it is a habit that is hard to break. Unfortunately, working on these has also made my varial fingerflips more difficult. Transitioning between the 180 and the 360 is subtle and I'm not always the best at subtle.
Add in lots of footwork variations and tons of step off longboard tricks and you know all about my last couple weeks of skating. I'll be exploring longboard dance tricks on a freestyle sized set up more in the next couple of weeks.
I'm happy to say I'm back on a skateboard this week, and I have been having a blast! The break did me good.
I took the first couple sessions easy and then started stepping things back up by really working on some new footwork combinations. In truth, although I watch other freestylers skate, I have never spent enough time studying combinations of tricks. So, I've been looking at what footwork combinations other freestylers put together and trying to emulate them. So far, each thing I've tried to do turns out different when I try to do them, but I don't want to copy exactly what they do anyway. I want to see how their tricks flow together, and use that flow to do my own stuff.
For instance, these two clips are from watching other freestylers and doing things my own way:
As you can see, I'm back to riding a bigger board again for now (8.75). I'm not sure how long I'll ride it, but it is a really good size for doing footwork. I'm considering putting some freestyle wheels on it, but for now I'm good with what I have going. No rail tricks, but really (like I've said before), I don't really like doing rail tricks. I love footwork and fingerflips.
I also like that the same size board is fun for street skating. I've been doing a few slappys and other curb tricks over the week and it has been a welcomed change of pace.
As a much younger man, I did a lot of sprinting and pseudo-sprints (400 meters). I recently tried picking up sprint workouts to add to my weekly training. In addition to skating, I love to run. However, my old nemesis, the hamstring pull, reared its ugly head again and, I'm afraid, it has taken me out of running, most skating, and some weight lifting for now.
I must admit, a week off from skating is kind of nice (except for the strong desire to go skate). I've spent the week planning a backpacking trip to Devil's Den, camping in central Arkansas, visiting with my kiddo in Memphis, and catching up on much needed rest. I have done a little tinkering with boards, and my street setups are ready to go because I have been having a strong desire to do some street skating. After all, man can't live by freestyle alone, I suppose. It is good to vary things up, and I'm going to do some curb skating when I'm able to push again. I like doing footwork on my street boards as well. I think the mixture of freestyle stuff and obstacles can be fun, although I don't really get into pogos down stairs or anything like that. Then again, I am becoming a picky, persnickety old man. No matter what I say, do what you like on your skateboard, and to each his own in the trick (or no trick) department.
I also ended up skipping the last IDSA social distance challenge of the year: the marathon. I was simply too exhausted going into the weekend to try it. On one hand I regret not giving it a go, I really like the marathon distance, but on the other hand I knew I was going into it worn out physically from work. No need to push myself too far. I think I'm going to plan a solo marathon ride before the end of autumn.