I enjoy cross country travel books. I've read (and listened to) books about ultra-marathoners and cyclists crossing the U.S. on two feet and two wheels, so a book about someone skating a longboard down the west coast into Mexico and through all of Central America was a must read.
In World on Board, Adrian Oh, a Singaporean who has become a central figure in the world of distance skating, chronicles a portion of his world travels. He rides a bracket longboard with Orangatang wheels while pushing a running stroller that, instead of carrying a child, carries his camping gear and water down the west side of the US and into Latin America. As both a longboard distance skater (although I've not done anything like Adrian) and as a camping enthusiast, it is a very interesting book. I've often wondered what it would be like to take off on my longboard with a pack on my back not to return for days and weeks. I imagine sleeping in my backpacking tent or in my hammock only to get up, pack up, and resume skating. Adrian has taken my imaginings and made them his reality. He has skated through Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Costa Rica. He has detailed his journey through each country and how each country differs. I must admit, however, pushing a stroller and so many heavy items seems like it would take a lot of the joy and freedom of skating away. There's not much fun carving or surf style antics when you're simply trying to make it to the next host's house or campsite on item.
It must be said that Adrian's first language is not English and this is, basically, a journal printed in book form. The editing, done by Asnah Ahmed, could use a lot more work to turn this book into a finished piece. Sentence structure is often off, and I'd love to see certain parts fleshed out with more show and less tell. All of that said, however, I recommend anyone who is interested in long distance skating or any touring sport activity. His rides make my 15 to 20 mile pushes seem silly.
I believe a kindle version has just been released for anyone wanting a good deal and not being picky about having a paper copy.
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.
When Bob Loftin (TexasLongboader, The Freestyle Podcast, and Bob's Trick Tips) asked me to start up a longboarding website with him, the decision was easy to make. Of course I would start up a longboarding website with him! Bob was an influence on my skateboarding long before we first spoke to one another. I loved Bob's Trick Tips and Texas Longboarder when they were around. The Freestyle Podcast, in recent years, has become required listening since I started dipping my toes into the freestyle world.
This website is different from our respective current projects. Luchaskate has, of course, gone through several changes over the last seven years. It started off as an outlet for me to write my skate story (when it was called Meat and Two). It grew to be about the Memphis skate scene (The Four-Eyed Luchador). It then grew to be a blog and zine (Luchaskate proper).
Luchaskate then, of course, died. I killed it off for several reasons, but one important reason was that Luchaskate no longer reflected who I was as a skateboarder. After another project, I brought the Luchaskate name back, but now, instead of having a 'zine, podcast, and Facebook group, it is me writing about my skatelife just like it had started.
And Luchaskate will stay exactly that: me writing about my skateboarding. It will continue to be my daily struggles with skating and my thoughts on skateboarding as a whole. Frontside360, on the other hand, is my opportunity to riff on what is posted by another skater, and write about other skateboarders. I'm trying my best to separate my skating to here and other people's skating to there.
We are also recording a weekly podcast where we discuss longboard skating. They are short, mini-casts. We're attempting to keep them to 10 minutes long, but we nearly doubled that on the second episode.
Check it out, here.
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 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/
Some time ago, I promised myself that I'd start doing one long skate each month. By long skate I mean over ten mile ride. I know, the true long distance purists think 10 miles is a warm up, but ten miles is about an hour of skating and sometimes getting an hour to distance skate can be a stretch when you also want to progress as a freestyler, maybe run a few slalom cones, skate the occasional curb, ditch, or bank while managing your family life and career.
What I've been doing lately is skate a few miles here and there during the week, but honestly I don't feel like I get anything out of it distance-wise unless I put in at least ten miles at a time. So, I'm making good on the promise to myself of 12 good 10 plus mile rides this year. I'll have to catch up on January and February when I have the chance.
I'm pretty stoked on this Relive app. It links up to Endomondo and creates a video based on my tracked gps ride and the photos I take along the way. So, you'll see in this video two things of note:
1. I was about 1 mile into the skate when a deer ran into a tall chain link fence, broke it's neck, and died right in front of me. I, of course, stopped skating and tried to call the park ranger to help the deer (at the time it was still alive but writhing and convulsing in pain). The last thing on my mind when it first happened was, of course, that I was tracking my mileage and time. I just kept calling numbers I found online to try and get an actual person to speak with me. I never got through to anyone. I just kept going around the same loop of voice mails and number options to speak with sales and reservation departments. The deer died while I was trying to get a live human to speak to me. Some runners said they would go find a ranger toward the visitor's center. By that point, the deer being dead, I started skating again.
2. Gumballs! I don't know what other people call them, but you'll see a picture of a "gumball" or one of those round, prickly seed balls from the sweet gum tree on the video. They were everywhere on today's skate. They kept causing me to slow my roll to nearly stopping, and they took me out at one point. I hit the gumball and went flying off my board. I ran it out the best I could, but I did end up ninja rolling and getting a nicely scraped knee out of it.
Anyway, look for more monthly longskates and some posts about how my weight training and running have helped my long distance skating trips because twelve miles today felt like nothing. I think I could have skated thirty with no problem. Also, look for the blog to be very longboard-centric for awhile. I'm trying to adjust my freestyle skating to a longboard and work in some common longboard moves (more on that in another post).
I have been wondering, however, about my wheel choice for distance skating. I'm riding 80mm wheels, and I like them, but when you skate these urban paths that force you to stop and start quite a bit, I wonder if the huge wheel size isn't a detriment. The greenline has a lot of crosswalks that force you to stop and restart. A smaller wheel (68-75mm) might accelerate faster if you're having to stop every mile or two. Just a thought.
The last blog post on this website was about doing anything other than skateboarding. In fact, it was about expanding my life in other directions outside of skateboarding.
This, as I knew it would, has brought me full circle back to skateboarding. Mountain biking has proved fun, but is no replacement for skating. Camping is also fun, but it can easily be worked into my life...er, skatelife. And running has proven to be a great addition to skateboarding. In fact, it has brought me back to distance skating, something I've taken some time away from while I was exploring freestyle skating. I'm now riding a Bustin Sportster with Caliber trucks, Orangatang Kegel wheels, Zealous bearings, and Skull Skates Flat Head hardware. This is a great push board so far.
And the distance skating has brought me back to longboarding in a big way. I've set my landyachtz kicktail longboard and I've been doing some freestyle and street on it.
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