Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2019: Thank God It Is Over

2019 was one of the hardest years of my life. I supposed I should take a moment to reflect on it. It was marred with emotional, physical, and existential pain. A few of the “highlights” include my mom having another back surgery, a friend’s father dying, a bad kidney stone (and subsequent surgery to remove it), my car died (for good), a second major surgery for my mom (hip replacement), a pet put down, a friend’s sister committed suicide, some problems at work, and taking care of my increasingly elderly and disabled parents alone. If that wasn’t enough, I broke my leg in late May. It didn’t heal all that well, and I had a second surgery on 12/20 to remove hardware and scrape out internal scare tissue (hopefully increase its flexibility). I will be in a “boot” until at least Jan 6th. It remains to be seen what the outcome will be. The entire year has been a very humbling experience. The biggest sources of stress were, and remain, (1), will I be able to meaningfully skateboard again (and if not, then what becomes of my life), (2) general concern for my parents, (3) anxiety about my own future. It’s certainly been a bad year.

That said, it has not been all bad. In February I started the process of learning to play ice hockey. Granted, I hit a huge speed bump with the broken leg. Hockey was also one of the things that helped get me through the “broken” period. I was able to start dry land hockey stuff long before I could even hope of stepping on a skateboard again. So, I am really fortunate that I had that as an outlet. It’s been bittersweet, however. I was not able to take two different “Learn to Play” classes because of the injury. I should be much further along in this process than I am already.

The two best things that happened in 2019 were that (1) I had some great friends who helped keep me occupied, and positive during the worst of the “crippled” period, and (2) I spent a lot of time with my parents (for better or worse). I am very grateful for those two things.

I leave 2019 behind, not with any resentment or ill-will, but with a greater sense of gratitude and humility for daily life than I ever had before. I have a few hopes for 2020. They are:

(1)    Ride my skateboard and bike as much as I can
(2)    Continue learning hockey
(3)    Develop an even deeper understanding of what it means to find salvation in daily life
(4)    Spend quality time with friends and family

I wish all of you a healthy, happy, and meaningful New Year. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Welcome Back: Starting Up Again After a Long Break, Part II.

                                                         PART II: EQUIPMENT

This is the second installment of a three part series on returning to skateboarding after a long break. The first section covers a mind/body “reality check,” and what you should, and should not, expect upon your return. Also covered in that section is common injuries with returning skaters, and how to minimize them. If you have not read that information yet, you are encouraged to do so. That post can be found here.

This section covers equipment in case you’ve been out of the industry-loop for a while. Part three covers navigating the skateboard social world, as a “returning” skater, so you don’t end up look like a total turboclown (hint: no one cares how good you used to be). Part three will be posted in the near future.

While this is a long post, it intended only to be a “quick” and general overview of equipment. It is certainly not exhaustive. I’m sure that others may have different views and perspectives on everything I cover here. Just remember this material is only intended to be a starting point, and it is not dogma. Only you can figure out what works best for you. I am just trying to help get the ball rolling. That said, on we go…  

                                                                     Decks

The most common question when returning to skating after a long break is, “What kind of deck should I get?” It’s a great question, and the truth is you have more options now than at any point in skateboard history. If you want a 1983 Madrid Explosion reissue, no problem. A late 1980s H-Street deck? Yup. That’s reissued, too. Early 1990s football shaped decks are also available, along with modern “shaped” decks. And of course, the now standard “popsicle” is widely available. If you want it, you can get it. The amount of variety available now is really astonishing. There is literally something for everyone, and that is how it should be.

So, what should you get? The short answer is get whatever resonates with you. That said, what worked for you as younger skater might not work as well for you now. The shape and size of boards evolved for a reason; functionality. You may have an easier time honing your ollie again on a modern deck (large upturned nose and shorter wheelbase) than with an old-school deck (no nose, and longer wheelbase). The upturned nose allows your front foot scoop the board up, and the shorter wheelbase helps with more effective vertical pop. But what if you don’t care about big ollies, or just really want an old-school reissue for nostalgia purposes? Then without any hesitation, you should unquestionably be riding that reissue.

The best path forward is to find a local shop, and stand on as many boards as you can. Stand on everything, 1980s reissues to popsicle-shaped decks. In doing so, start to develop an idea of what feels good under your feet. Most all, just figure out what seems like something you’d have the most fun with. Keep in mind that not all skate shops are the same. Some carry many different board styles. Others cater to only “popsicle” shaped boards. SoCal Skate Shop has a great web site and inventories of all kinds of decks. Browsing their stock can give you an idea about what options are out there. 

Deck Dimensions: If you stopped skating in the 1980s, today most standard sized boards will seem small to you. Conversely, if you stopped in the early/mid 1990s, board will now seem big to you. In contemporary times, the most common dimensions are:

Width: 8.1” – 8.75”
Length: 31.8” – 32.4”
Wheelbase: 14” – 14.6”
Tail: 6.25” – 6.5”
Nose: 6.75” – 7.25”

Remember that these numbers are only the average, typical sizes. You can get boards that are much smaller, or much larger, in both popsicle and shaped decks. Again, stand on as many boards as you can, and just see what “feels right.”

Small Batch Brands: Everything I’ve said so far is about mass produced skateboard decks. There are other options. There are now a plethora of smaller, local, hand-made, brands available. You will have to connect to you local scene to tap into these options.

Grip Tape: The two most common grip tape companies are Jessup, MOB, and Grizzly.  Jessup is a little less “grippy” than MOB (which can be a too coarse for some people). Any local shop, or on-line store, can put tape on for you if you don’t want to do it yourself.

                                                                     Trucks

The three big names in trucks these days are Independent, Thunder, and Ace. There are other options (Tracker, Gullwing, and Venture still exist!), but these three are the most common. The basic rule is to match the width of your trucks to the width of your deck. While you are absolutely free to ride trucks wider, or narrower, than your deck, matching-up width is a great place to start. Each company has their own truck size charts that can be viewed on their respective web sites. Each has their own different truck models, too (e.g. standards, hollow axle/king pin, titantiums, etc). In this post I will refrain from asserting my personal tastes, but you can read more about those here.


                                                                    Wheels

In the 1980s wheels averaged around 60mm in size, and about a 95a hardness. In the early 1990s the size dropped down to 40mm, and hardness went up to 103a. Things have since stabilized. Standard size wheels now range 51-54mm for street, and 55mm-58mm for bigger transition. Again, all of this is somewhat subjective. Like decks, if you want reissue Rat Bones or Slimeballs, you can get them. Most modern wheels are 99a or 101a. There are, however, many companies that make softer wheels, even down 85a. Again, if you want it, you can get it.

For most of this post I will steer clear of advocating for specific brands or products, because I want people to make up their own minds about what works best for them. I will make two exceptions to that rule (well, maybe three). Wheels is the first of those two of those expectations.

In my humble opinion, the best wheels made today are Spitfire Formula Four wheels. There are few reasons why I think they are the best. First, they are among the most flat-spot resistant wheels on the market. There are several YouTube clips of people TRYING to flat-spot them with long power slides, and they are unable to do it. Yes, ALL wheels will go out-of-round with time and use, but Formula Four Spitfires seem to be far more durable than anything else. The second reason I am big fan of Spitfires is that they come in a lot of sizes and shapes. The performance of wheel shape is a subjective thing. Which is the best? That is your call. A wheel with a rounder edge will roll into and out of grinds easier, and will initiate power slides easier than a more squared-off wheel. Conversely, a squared-off edge will “lock-in” to grinds better. Spitfire makes a variety of different shapes to choose from.

IMPORTANT: DO NOT buy “regular” Spitfire wheels. They suck, and flatspot quickly. ONLY BUY THE FORMULA FOUR Spitfires. 

Other popular wheel companies are Bones (Powell), Speedlab, Mini Logo, Ricta, and OJs. Yes, OJs. Note that some of Bones wheels are graded on a different durometer scale (the B-Scale), and might be a bit confusing at first. Their web site will explain it.  

                                                                     Bearings

Bearings are the second place where I will advocate for a specific product. But first, a note about bearing technology. Historically bearings contain seven 5/32 inch balls within each bearing ring. Powell came up with a new system. They now produce a bearing that has six, larger, 3/16 inch balls instead of the smaller seven-ball version. In the six-ball version, the balls are 20% larger, and thus roll fewer times to go the same distance. The six-ball version accelerate quicker, have a higher top speed/roll faster, and resist the impact of landings better than the standard seven-ball design. The six-ball version is most likely the future for bearings. So, what should you get? If you want to go the six-ball route, there are two options. First, is Bones Big Balls Reds. These are the “price point” version. They run about $25 bucks for a set. Second is Bones Super Swiss Six. These, IMHO, are the best bearings on the market. They run about $60 a set. Yeah, they are more expensive, but they are absolutely worth it. If you don’t want to go the six-ball route, Powell still makes standard seven-ball versions. Those are the Bones Red ($18 a set), Super Reds ($30 set), and Bones Swiss ($55 a set). Remember that you get what you pay for, and half the fun of skateboarding is the ability to roll. Bearings are what makes that happen. Choose wisely. There are number of other decent bearings out there, but you will never go wrong with Powell/Bones.

IMPORTANT: Never buy bearings (esp. Bones bearings) from Amazon. Never. There are many counterfeit, fake, cheaply made versions of Bones bearings out there. Powell is aware of this, and has even issued some public statements about the issue. If you are going to buy Bones bearings ONLY get them from a reputable skate shop.

CLEAN YOUR BALLS: Bones bearings can easily be cleaned, provided that you so according to manufacture specs. You should do this when needed, esp., if you get one of the more expensive versions. Cleaning them will make them last longer, and keep you rolling at top speed with minimal effort.   

                                                                        Shoes

Ok, shoes. This topic could be it’s own post. Shoes are a huge market, and there are many, many options. Shoes are actually a somewhat controversial topic. Some very Big Name Sporting Companies have developed a strong presence in skateboarding. Nike. Adidas. New Balance. Converse. Etc. And as I am sure you know, Vans is no longer a tiny company that takes out tiny ¼ page ads in back of skate magazines. They now have retail outlet stores at almost every large mall in America. Things have really changed. Before I get into specific brands, there are two basic models of skate shoes. One is “vulcanized.” The other is “cupsole.” These terms refer to the way the sole of the shoe is manufactured. They feel, and skate, radically different from each other. Vulcanized give you much more “board feel” but can also provide a lot less “cushion” for your feet. Cupsoles are the exact opposite. Cupsoles can make it more difficult to “feel” the board, but they provide a lot more impact cushion. I’ll go an extreme to illuminate the point: vulcanized shoes are like skating in socks, while cupsoles are like skating in moonboots. What to get? Go somewhere and try on lots of shoes (and stand on a deck if you can), and see what feels best to you. Usually people fall squarely into one these camps (vulcs v. cups) and despise the other. It is very rare to find someone who likes both vulcanized and cupsole shoes.

VANS: Vans have been around forever. They have supported skateboarding since Day One. Their shoes have changed a bit over the years, but mostly remain the same (quality is not quite the same as it once was). The vast majority of Vans shoes are vulcanized. Some older skaters say that their feet and knees will no longer allow them to skate in Vans. Some of those exact people have changed their opinion on Vans after reading this.

NIKE / ADIDAS / NEW BALANCE / CONVERSE: These are all big name sports companies that have deep pockets for research and development department. And it shows. Contrary to vans, some older skaters claim that Nike (or other Big Name company) shoes are the only reason they can KEEP skateboarding (but have they read this??). These shoes can be surprisingly expensive. Moreover, all of these companies can be somewhat controversial in skateboarding. I’ll cover that more in Part Three.      

OTHER BRANDS: I’ll be honest, I cannot speak from too much personal experience on other brands. I skate in Vans with Kingfoams. I have tried other brands (inc. Adidas), and I just didn’t like the board feel and fit. There a ton of other brands, and each offer lots of different shoes. Other big companies are Emerica, Etnies, and eS (all owned by same company), DC, Fallen, Lakai, and Supra. If you want any more detailed reviews of these, check out the SLAP Forum. 

                                                                  Accessories

Ok, maybe I lied. I said you could gat anything you want these days. Well, that may not be true. I am not sure if you can get skid plates anymore (aside from ones for freestyle boards) or nose bones for that matter. That said, rails, coopers, and even lappers are still available! Moreover, side rails have made somewhat of a comeback. While they never really went away for big transitions skaters, for a long time you never saw side rails used by street skaters. That is no longer true. While they are not the standard for street skating, you absolutely see some street using them again. In some contexts rails have a huge advantage. They can be really fun to play around with.

                                                                      Pads

I talked about a bit about pads in part one of this series. I have also written a lot about pads elsewhere in this blog (which can be seen here, here, and here).

This section will not go into per se discussion about the merit of pads. It will, however, provide information for anyone who may want to get pads, so they can make some educated shopping decisions. One thing is quite true with pads, you get what you pay for. If you are seriously looking for protection, drop the money for it. If something seems expensive, ask yourself, is the ability to walk worth $150?

ELBOW / KNEE: There are several options. First, is to determine the level of protection, and mobility you want. If you want serious impact protection, you will want something different than a pad that just protects against simple abrasions. Terrain is also something to consider. Will you mostly be hitting curbs near your house? Will you mostly be hitting a local park that has lots of transition and banks (e.g. greater chance of actually needing to knee slide, or falling from something higher than a curb)? Consider what you will be skating, and adjust accordingly. Below are few comments on different brands/options/etc.

Pro-Tec: Pro-tec has been around awhile, but their quality is not what it used to be. If you want a pad that is lightweight, and serves to protect against minor bumps and scrapes (rather than serious impact protection), check out Pro-Tec street pads. Again, quality is not the best, and neither is the protection, but they are better than nothing, and they are pretty easy to move in. They are a little on the thin side, so I would not recommend anyone do serious knee slides/impact with these. Also note that fit-wise, they tend to run on the smaller side. Maybe order a size up.

Triple 8 / Smith: I am lumping these two brands together. I do not consider them to be as “cheap” as Pro-Tec, nor very high-end. Both companies make a something akin to the Pro-Tec street pads mentioned above (e.g. just protect against simple dings and abrasions but not offer serious impact protection), and pads that are a much higher quality and would be suitable for almost any terrain. For Triple 8, check out their Knee Savers, Street Pads, KP 22, and KP Pro (cheapest to most expensive). For Smith, check out their Scabs and Elite Scabs.  

187 Killer: These are very popular with big tranny skaters. You can get these in a lot of custom colors off their web site. I am not a fan of 187s. I just don’t like the way the look, and they seem to stick way out from your knee (e.g. very bulky, high-profile, etc., esp on their higher-end pads). That said, they are popular for a reason—they are a quality product. 187 also makes a full range of pads, from a thin “street” pad, to the very bulky “Pro” pads. They recently introduced a “slim” pad, but I know next to nothing about it.  

Pro-Designed: Pro-Designed pads are really, really, really good. They are expensive, but they are worth every cent. I would not ride tranny with anything but PDs. They make both Mini Ramp/Street pads (lower profile), and the Super Single pads for bigger/full-sized bowls/ramps/etc. I own a set of each. Pro-Designeds are on the bigger side of pads (e.g. they are not “slim flitting”), but they are within acceptable range, at least for me. I’d take them over 187s any day. For street skating, these are a mixed. I only wear pads when skating transition. But on occasion I do stray over to the “street” area of my local park after skating transition (e.g. while still wearing my mini ramp pads). I definitely notice some difference in mobility (esp. on big ollies and more technical tricks), but it’s not a deal breaker (e.g. there is nothing I cannot do because I’m wearing them). Yes, it’s a little more cumbersome, but I’m sure if I wore them regularly on street I wouldn’t notice them anymore. PDs might be overkill for just street skating, unless you need/want serious impact protection.

Me falling, with my PDs saving my ass.

An internet friend added these comments. "I will say that Smith Scabs Elite 2 knee pads are of exceptional functional and protection. The padding can be removed from the outer shell/sleeve prior to washing to reduce degradation, and they are much more capable to achieve a fine-tuned fit than 187s. Also the Elite 2 pads have removeable and replaceable caps. A great improvement on the whole over the earlier Elite Scabs style. 187s are robust, but they repeatedly SLIP on me, so I won’t use them. Lots of people have good success with 187s, but not me." -Bryan Chuck

WRIST GUARDS: I hardly ever wear wrist guards, but every older skater should own a set. Why? Because when you fall, and hurt/sprain your wrist (and you will), wearing a wrist guard will help prevent it from getting worse. Fortunately I don’t do this that often, but when I do, having wrist guards available is a god-send. With these, there is no debate. Pro-Designed makes the best ones. Period. End of story. Nothing better.

HELMETS: There are number of different manufactures that produce good, quality, certified helmets. Pro-Tec, Triple 8, S-One, 187 Killer, and Bell are all good. All of these fit differently, and people’s heads come in vastly different shapes and sizes. So, if you want a helmet, go try them on somewhere. A good fitting helmet you will hardly notice. An ill-fitting one will either give you a pounding headache in 10 minutes (because it’s too tight), or provide inadequate protection (because it’s too loose). Can’t find the exact style and color you want? Simple, just go try helmets on somewhere, and determine the brand/size that most comfortably fits. Once you have that info, just order the exact one you want on-line somewhere. Make sure to cover it with stickers. 

IMPORTANT: ONLY BUY A CERTIFIED HELMET. REPEAT. ONLY BUY A CERTIFIED HELMET. Non-certified helmets are useless, and do almost nothing for actual protection. They should be banned from sale due to their misleading nature (in fact, they are banned in California). If you have a non-certified helmet (or your kid does), throw it out, and get a real helmet. Below are a few links to more information about certified helmets.

https://helmets.org/skatepam.htm
https://helmets.org/dualcert.htm
https://www.cpsc.gov/safety-education/safety-guides/sports-fitness-and-recreation-bicycles/which-helmet-which-activity


                                                                On to the Next

So, that about covers it for equipment. Remember that skateboarding is supposed to be fun, and it has no rules. With those considerations, when putting together a new board, go for what you are going to have the most fun with. Follow your own path to happiness, no matter what deck, truck, or wheel that may be.

In the next section we are going to cover navigating the skate shop, the skate park, and skateboard social media without making a fool of yourself. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Welcome Back: Starting-Up Again After a Long Break

So, you started skating again (or want to) after a long break? Awesome. First, and foremost, welcome back! This is a great time to get back into skateboarding. Our golden age is happening now. There are parks and DIY builds everywhere, any type of equipment you might want is available (not true in the past), and there are plenty of ways to get connected with other (older) skaters. Moreover, if you stick with it, you will have more fun skateboarding now than you ever did before. I promise you that.

An unknown older skater.

People often ask for tips and info about starting-up again. Frequently the same issues/questions arise. Thus, it seemed worthwhile to make an in-depth response to all of those issues/questions. This is the first in a three part series on making your way back to skateboarding after a long break. The aim is to maximize fun, reduce common old-guy injuries, and to get you reacquainted with the skateboard market if you’ve been out of the loop for a while. The three parts are:

(1)    The (Mind/Body) Reality Check: What to expect, and what not to expect.

(2)    Equipment: Boards. Trucks. Wheels. Shoes. Etc. 

(3)    Social Navigation: Navigating social aspects of being a “renewed” skater without making a turboclown of yourself.

I have been skateboarding for 34 years. While I never quit, there were long periods where the amount of time I spent skating was drastically reduced (e.g. when I was in law school, serious injuries, etc.). Starting up after some of these periods was almost akin to beginning all over again. Thus, I speak to a lot of this material from direct, personal experience. It’s also not just my experiences. Similar stories are repeated all over the Internet among other older skaters that started-up again (esp. the common injuries). Heed these words, and it will help avoid injuries, keep you in a good mental space, and keep you skating for years to come. Ready to drop back in? Let’s fuckin’ roll!

                                         PART I: THE (MIND & BODY) REALITY CHECK

We start with a reality check. You are not a spring chicken anymore. There are two major points related to this that are essential to remember. First, have no expectations. Second, we are far more susceptible to injury when we are older. Worse, injuries take longer to heal when they occur (and they will). There are, however, ways to minimize that. Let’s take a closer look at each of these two points.

                                                   1.  HAVE NO EXPECTATIONS

Have no expectations about what you “should” be able to do. None. Nada. Zilch. Zero. You will be shocked at how much you (now) suck compared to a previous version of yourself. It’s not like riding a bike. You will also be amazed at how much your mind thinks you can still do, contrasted with how much your body can actually do. It’s basically the difference between lightening and a lightening bug. This can be really disheartening for some people. Don’t let it be. Remember that progress is relative to where you are today, not where you were 20+ years ago.

When you start skating again, go in to it with no expectations, especially none from years past. Skateboarding is not the same later in life as it was when you were young (I would, however, argue that it’s substantially more fun now). If you carry the weight of expectations from your past, you will not last long. Your skateboard will only bring frustration, despair, and disappointment. The fun and joy will never manifest. Abandon expectations, and skateboarding will open up to you like never before. I can’t stress this point enough. The single most important thing to remember when you are start-up again is to have no expectations.

My friend Eric added these words of wisdom, “The whole "I use to do this and now I can't" part is often looked over when getting back on a board. You could ollie the moon at age young, but now the years have caught up. Don't expect what 15-year-old you did with the reality of older-you. Go slow, get the feel/balance back before doing much else. Stretch, and relax. It will either all come back, or you will discover new forms of skating that are just as rad as moon ollies, only easier on the present-day-body your brain now occupies.”

                                                     2.  MINIMIZING INJURY

You will get injured, and it takes longer to heal. This one is a hard fact of life. It takes much longer to heal from injury when you are older. Avoiding injury today means skating tomorrow (or going to work). What are the best ways to approach all this?

Start slow, and ease your way back in. I also can’t stress this one enough. I frequently hear about people injuring their Achilles and Patella tendons when first starting-up again (tendinitis, tears, etc.) because they go too hard and too fast, before the body has had time to become reconditioned to the demands of skateboarding. Do small, short, low-impact sessions when you first start again. Slowly work your way up to longer, more intense sessions.

Start your sessions out slow, and end them slow. Warming up is critical when you are an older skater. Moreover, the time it actually takes to warm-up becomes longer and longer. Again, if you go too hard too fast you open doors to injury. Listen to what your body is telling you to do/not do. A long time ago I developed a specific “warm-up” routine (I have different ones for street/transition). Basically it’s a serious of tricks that become progressively harder/more physically demanding. They are all still very easy, low-impact tricks, but they get the blood flowing, and the muscles/joints loosened up—which is exactly what you want to have happen. Injuries often happen at the start and end of a session. At the start, they happen because you're not warmed up yet. Towards the end, they happen because your muscles are tired and you get sloppy. Make sure you have increase awareness of your bailability during both of these periods, especially towards the end. Additionally, a slow end to a session helps your muscles "cool down" before coming to a complete stop (otherwise you'll stiffen up really quick).

Stretch for flexibility. If your flexibility is compromised a simple bail, or even a run-out, can quickly turn into a twisted or torn muscle, ligament, joint, etc. The more flexible you are, the less chance there is of soft tissue damage. Soft-tissue injuries are among the most common injuries with the older crew (that’s us). Stretching on a regular basis can be a tremendous help to minimize these from occurring. I often see people “stretch” for 30-60 seconds before a session. This is not stretching. This is polishing brass on the Titanic. Like going to the gym, to get any real benefits from stretching it has to be something you do on a regular basis, not just for 45-seconds before a session. There are plenty of simple and easy ways to incorporate stretching into daily life (Google will show you how). This Instagram account, run by Dr. Kyle Brown, features some great stretching and training exercises designed specifically for skateboarders. It's absolutely worth a look/follow.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
Your feet will hurt for a while. There are so many small muscles in your feet/body that support the larger ones. They have “atrophied” over time, and are not use to the rumbling and quick movements involved with skating. It will take awhile for them get used to it again. Seriously consider different shoe options (more on this in the equipment section).

Once you start, don’t stop. Once you get up and running again, skate as much as you can. Like stated above, skateboarding is like a lot like going to the gym. If you only do it once every 14 days, you will not see any benefits from it, and you will be really sore after each and every session. Worse, you leave yourself open to injury because you never really become “conditioned” again. There is real truth in the phrase ”use it or lose it.” You will be surprised at how fast you loose something by taking time off the board. 

“Getting your legs back” and cross-training. When you get back on the board, your legs will feel like a gelatinous mass of non-responsive, unstable, and uncontrollable muscle tissue. One of the most common questions returning skaters have is, “How do I get my legs back?” The short answer is keep skating, on a regular basis, and they will come back. It will take awhile. Cross-training with other stuff will help (riding a bike, squats, etc.). But much of it does not replicate the jumping, crashing, and sudden jarring of body like skating does. Jumping rope, box jumping, and running can all be huge assets in this department. That said, remember two things; Take it slow in the beginning, and once you start, do not stop. Slow and steady wins the race.

Ibuprofen. 800 mg is prescription dose. It’s a God-send. Ibuorofen can bother some people's stomach. Be careful taking any drugs.

                                                     NO CORRECT ANSWER

Everything above is hard fact. Healing is slower with age. Stretching will help minimize injury. Go too hard, too fast, and you’ll get hurt. Now we are moving into a gray area, and covering something a little more subjective; Pads. These fall into the realm of personal cost/benefit analysis, and what risk factor(s) you are willing to assume. There is no correct, or even fact-based, answer. The only answer is the one that makes the most sense for you. That said, here are few things to consider.   

Mini Ramps, Embankments, Bowls, Etc.: If you’re going anywhere near mini ramps, bowls, quarter pipes, or even embankments seriously consider pads (and a quality set). When your reflexes, balance, core strength, and flexibility are not what they used to be, when your brain remembers things that your body just can’t do as well anymore (and you don’t heal as fast), pads can be the only thing that saves your ass.

If you are skating transition, knee sliding out of a bail (that you could otherwise easily run-out of) can help avoid twisted ankles and knees. It also saves energy and can put less impact on joints. For example, if I run out of a lot of tricks on 5’ mini, my knees hurt at the end of the session (from all the jarring/jamming motion of running down the tranny). If I wear pads, and knee slide instead, I have no knee pain later on. Moreover, pads can help remove some the hesitation and fear that absolutely becomes more acute with age.

Personally, I won’t go near any ramp 4-feet tall (or over) without knee/elbow pads anymore. I cannot begin to count the number of times that they have saved my ass from some really serious injuries, as can be seen here. Never be fooled by the size of a ramp. Mini ramps can bite, and bite HARD (and again, healing is slower with age).  

Street Skating: If you are pure street skating, pads are not as “essential” as they are on transition. You can’t really “knee slide” on street (but they otherwise unquestionable protect against knees impact and abrasion). I don’t wear knee pads on street, but I always wear an elbow pad on my forward elbow, even if just skating a curb. Falling on your hands sucks, and can also lead to a sprained/broken wrist (remember, we break easier now). When I fall, I tuck my arm in, and let the elbow pad take the brunt of the impact. No cut hands, no wrist injuries, no swelbow (and to really drive the point home, everything takes longer to heal with age). 

Helmets: In recent years much new information has come out about concussions. I am sure you are aware of that material. If you want to go down a really grim rabbit hole, look up skateboarding and head injuries. You will see a lot of stories about people of all ages becoming incapacitated and/or having serious long-term injuries related to head/brain trauma. If you have a family to support, or a kid to set an example for, or any other considerations, a helmet might be something to think about. Again, there is no correct answer. I wear a helmet on ramps 5’ high or taller. It’s an arbitrary line, but that’s where I have drawn mine (probably because I hit my head on a 5’ mini without a helmet on, and then quickly learned to start wearing one). Some wear a helmet anytime they step on a skateboard. Others never wear one, on any sized terrain. It’s your call.

Again, there is no correct answer on anything pad related. The only answer that counts is the one that keeps you rolling, and the one that makes the most sense for you.

                                                     HAPPY & HEALTHY ROLLING

In closing, you will get injured skateboarding. Healing is slower with age. Yeah, it sucks, but that is our reality. As a result, really consider everything above about injury prevention (e.g. taking it slow, stretching, warm-ups, pads, etc.). It will absolutely help. Have no expectations about what you can do, and skateboarding will flourish like never before. Happy and healthy rolling!  

[In the next section we dive into equipment. This is the best time in history for skateboard gear. You can get literally get anything you want. An early 1980s reissue, an early ‘90s football shape, a popsicle, or a modern shaped board. Whatever you want to ride, it’s out there. Wheels don’t really get flat-spots anymore. Bearings are better than ever before. Shoe technology has advanced a lot, and that can be a huge help for old-guy knees. You will be more stoked on your set-up than at any point in your life.]

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

2019, The Year Things Changed

Kind of at a loss for words. Skateboarding is the most important thing in my life, usually. Then something real happens.

Parents’ had their dog put down on Nov 15th. I was there when it happened. Thought about the passing of Edward Pidgeon not long ago. A friend’s sister committed suicide last month. Two days ago I got word another friends’ mother had passed after a long illness. “I was with her, holding her hand and talking to her as she passed,” he wrote. I was at work when I saw those words. I went into the bathroom and cried for a bit—out of both sadness for him, but also out of a deep existential appreciation for how profound, beautiful, and meaningful the scene was that those words painted. Of course, all of this has made me (again) think about my own parents’ mortality.

Thanksgiving is next week. For several years now, every time a holiday, birthday, or some other special occasion rolls around I always think, “Is this the last one that we will all be together for?” That perspective is both a blessing and a curse. In either assessment, it really forces you to sap every last bit of meaning out what time there is. To some extent, without finality everything might become meaningless. That our time is limited is what really allows it to…flourish.

I have reached the point in life where I will be attending more funerals than weddings. I have reached the point in life where, at 12:30am in the morning, I am not out at a bar, or skateboarding, but sitting home alone writing about death (and thus life).

2019 has taken me down a notch. Only one other year has provided me such “opportunity for growth,” as the optimists like to say. Between my own injuries, my parents’ age/health issues, and what has happened to those around me, much has changed this year, and not for the better. I leave 2019 a very different person than I entered it. Many do.

On Dec 20th 2019, I am having another surgery on my ankle. They are going to remove a large screw in my leg, and potentially scrape away some internal scar tissue, which may be preventing flexibility and movement. I really hope this improves things. For walking. For hockey. For skateboarding. Five days later I’ll be spending Christmas with my elderly parents.

Flexibility. Movement. Hope. Improvement. Family. I can’t think of a better way to end this year. Whomever may be reading this, you have my best wishes for 2020.
 

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Diesel Jeans, Gucci Bag, Waxed Eyebrows (and a Thrasher shirt)

I was in line at a café. A mundane afternoon. Then I noticed the guy in front of me. Introspection followed.

He was wearing shinny, opulent shoes. Diesel jeans. A black Gucci bag dangled from his bent wrist, which was adorned with several loose fitting gold and silver bracelets. Obviously gay. He had short, neatly trimmed facial hair, vaguely resembling George Michael. Freshly waxed eyebrows. A few streaks of platinum-blonde were dyed into his otherwise dark locks, which were slicked back. A ghastly toxic cloud of too much cologne hung in a 3’ fallout radius around him. He was wearing a black sweatshirt that was torn around the head opening, in some garish type of Vogue/GQ sanctioned manner. More gaudy, loose fitting gold jewelry hung around his neck. The logo on the sweatshirt? “Thrasher Magazine.”

I wanted to talk to him. Not to be an asshole, but because I was genuinely curious. I wanted to ask him why he chose to wear that sweatshirt. I wanted to know what it meant to him. I wanted to ask him if he’s ever picked-up a single issue of Thrasher magazine, or if he’s ever ridden a skateboard. I wanted to ask if he was willing to bleed, tear ligaments, shatter bones, and destroy parts of his body for something he loved. I’d like to ask what he thinks skateboarding means to skateboarders. I’d like to ask how he thinks people perceive him wearing that garment. I’d like to ask him if he cares about those perceptions. I’d also like him to know what it all means to me.

I’d like to show him my scars. Show him my inability to walk correctly, and how much trouble I have with stairs. Show him my x-rays, before and after surgery. Show him my deformed ankle. Show him the places my skin and blood has been left behind on rough asphalt. Show him the medical bills. Show him the tears when I realized it would be long time, if ever, before I could skate a 1/2-pipe again. Show him the nightmares that keep me awake at night when I think about life without skateboarding.

Of course, I did none of things. Nor would I ever. Calling-out some random stranger is more obnoxious and pretentious than wearing a Thrasher shirt when you can’t even name a single pro skateboarder. Instead, I thought of the irony. He had no idea who he was standing next to. In fact, neither did I. I was acutely aware that this entire situation revealed far more about the content of my own consciousness than it did about anyone around me, including him.

Skateboarding has changed. Perception of skateboarding has changed. We used to get beaten-up, shunned, and ostracized for skateboarding. Now we are fashion icons, and profit demographics for multinational corporations. No news there. I can’t change any of that. I’m not sure I’d even want to.

That said, it always stirs deep emotion when something I have dedicated my life to, and destroyed my body for, is reduced to mere “fashion accessory” for those who have never known the same passion. I would never wear something just because it “looks cool” without some sort of horse in that race. I am forever bewildered by those can.  

To be clear, there is no point, moral, or social edict to this story. Do not look for one. I am simply sharing an experience I had at a café.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Recovery Edit #1 (Learning to Ollie, Again)

DOCUMENTING THE RECOVERY, Edit #1.
Sat 8/31. Fourth time back on the board since breaking my leg in May.


PERSPECTIVE

A cynic might say, “Wow, your skating has been reduced to that?” I’ll take the opposite view. This is what its RISEN to. Six weeks ago I couldn’t walk w/o crutches, let alone stand on skateboard. I won’t lie. It’s very frustrating to loose so much (and not know if it will EVER come back), but the situation is what it is. At least I’m rolling.

HOPES
Right now It would be a miracle if could ever again (1) do any kind of flip trick, (2) 50/50 a bench, (3) ride a ramp 3’ or taller, (4) be able to run/jog.

REALITIES
It is hard to ollie up a small curb right now. Pushing is difficult. I still walk with an acute limp. The fakie ollies in the clip were a real struggle. The b/s blunt was a big. Tried one the other day and just collapsed to the ground in pain. Too much sudden weight on my front foot, and I just drop like Whitney Houston in a hotel bathroom (hence the pads, which I’ll be rocking for the foreseeable future). I’m also bringing back the ‘80s “ankle pad” look. That’s right where the break/surgery/metal plate/scar tissue was/is. The scar is still super sensitive. That spot is very prone for board wacks, and I definitely don’t want a direct hit to the hardware in my leg. That would be bad.

So, that’s where I’m at with everything. Hopefully the future “Recovery Edits” will show some meaningful improvement. Again, thanks to everyone for the support and encouragement. I’ve come pretty far, but there is still a long road ahead of me.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Is This The End?


Today is August 25, 2019. I broke my fibula with ligament damage on May 21, 2019. Surgery was two days later on May 23, 2019. Almost exactly three months later, where are we now? To be honest, things look a bleak. Two days ago the orthopedic surgeon said the fracture was completely healed. While that is great news, there is another, much bigger problem—my ankle.


There are two problems with my ankle. The first is swelling. The second is flexibility. My ankle has dramatically lost its range of motion. Because of that I am still limping. Going down stairs is hard, and skateboarding is like try tying to play the piano while wearing oven mitts—you know what to do, but there is a physical barrier. To make matters worse, the orthopedic doctor said he “usually tells people at three months they are seeing 75% of what they are going to get back.” That is simply horrifying. Another 25% is not going to enable me to run, or skateboard. I need more than that. A lot more. Things in my ankle still hurt.

My next appointment with the physical therapist is this week. I am going to ask her if I should get a second opinion about my ankle. They put a screw in my leg, which the orthopedic doctor said, if removed, would not make any difference in flexibility. Others have seemed to indicate the exact opposite. I don’t know what to think right now. I just want my ankle to move again.  The idea of not really being able to skate again is horribly depressing.  

In related news, wearing a sock feel really weird over the surgery area. I am not sure if that is from the scar tissue, or from being able to feel the plate in my leg. It feels really weird, and I don’t like it. Second, since I haven’t been able to do any exercise in the last three months I’ve gained like 10 pounds, and I feel really gross/disgusting. Apparently I need to go on the first diet of my life. Third, due to swelling my foot, I can’t yet comfortable put on my hockey skates. God knows how long it will be until I am back on the ice, and what mental factors I will have to overcome learning to ice skate again, of it I'll even be physically able to do so. 

That is the physical stuff. Mentally, I am pretty depressed right now. I had a lot of hope to up and running again (pun intended) by the fall.  Now, all I have is medical professionals indicating that things are not going to improve much beyond what they currently are. If they are correct, where does one turn when hope is gone?