Wednesday, November 14, 2018

One Reason I Wear Pads On Small Ramps

Why do I wear pads on ramps that are only 4’ high? Simple. Watch this clip.

 
It’s little shit like this, which is why I will always and unabashedly wear pads on even smaller mini ramps. There is a lot more going on here than it may first appear, and this bail could have been catastrophic without pads. Let's break it down.

In this clip I was going into a frontside 5-0 grind to tailslide. I was leaning a tad too far forward at the start of the trick. The rear truck snagged as I was going into the tailslide, and some how I managed to pop the rear wheels on top of the platform, as can be seen in this screen grab.


With the wheels now on the platform, this caused the board to immediately stop its sideways momentum. I, however, kept going. I then tried to simply step off  (my board) with my front foot, so I could easily just “run out” of it and/or run down the transition (which is the normal procedure for 95% of all bails on a ramp this size). But not so fast. My front foot got “caught” in pocket of the nose (almost like doing an ollie), and I couldn’t get the board out from under my feet. In the pic below you can see how the board is “stuck” to my front foot as I tried to “run out” of it.

 
Worse, the forward inertia had continued to pitch my torso far forward of my tangled-up feet. By the time my front foot was finally off the board, my window of time to “run out” of the trick was over. I was way off balance, and there was no question I was going down. The next pic shows both the moment my foot is finally off the board, and also how far forward my leading shoulder is. There is no recovery at this point. This is also where things get interesting.

 
So, what to do in this situation? If you have pads on, you just drop to your knees, and walk away. If you do NOT have pads, dropping to your knees would be disastrous. You may not be walking again for awhile. Without pads on for this bail, you would most likely tuck that leading shoulder and attempt to "roll out" of it on to your back, take it on your hip, or just dive face first straight to the bottom. There is no way you're not going down head first at this point. God knows how any of those other bail options would have ended, or what other kinds of injury would come from it. But, because I had pads on, I was able to just drop into that knee slide, and walk away unscathed. Pads are not always about saving your knees/elbows; they can often indirectly save other parts of your body, as this situation clearly illustrates. This bail would have been a very, very, different story without them. 

So, I will always wear pads on even “smaller” ramps because they occasionally save your ass, and save it in a major way. Old guys like me need as much help avoiding injury as we can possibly get. We certainly don't heal as fast as we used to, either. Avoiding injury today means we will be able to skate tomorrow, and that is all that really matters. Plus, battle gear is punk in that anti-cool kind of way. The real irony here, is that less than two years ago I hated wearing pads, and didn't even own any. Live and learn. 

I've accepted the fact that I've pretty much become the exact stereotype of an "old guy skater," but I wouldn't have it any other way. Of course, the shorter way of saying all of this is, "I wear pads now because I'm old, and I suck." Hah. But, if you can't laugh at yourself, then what's the point? Life is weird. I'm still doing handrails at 44-years-old, but I won't go near a mini ramp without pads. Something is horribly wrong here. 


Post-Script: I don’t (yet) wear pads when street skating, but I know someday it will eventually come to that. Who knows when. When it does, I will embrace it with every fiber of my being, after all, I'll still be skateboarding. :)  



We Are What We Have Been Becoming

Do you remember the skater you were before the world told you who to be? We are what we have been becoming, and you once again become that skater when you get old. 


Some young kids in the 1980s. Some old guy in the present.



Wednesday, October 17, 2018

"I Broke My Neck, and That's Fine"

This is a scan of a 'zine article by Dan Overfield. Dan is "lifer" who recently broke his neck while skateboarding. He may never roll again.

For many reasons this article brought me close to tears when I first read it; Losing something you love. Loving something you lost. The hope, grace, and strength. The realization that none of us can do it forever. The perspective on larger aspects of life. It's a must read.





Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Shoulder Injury Follow-Up

This is a follow-up from the Sept 25 post about my shoulder injury.

I just got out of a physical therapy evaluation. I can see why people may not get PT for this injury (Stage II shoulder separation). They said that ligaments mostly heal on their own, and there is not much PT can do to specifically aid that process. Thus, my PT goals are to straighten posture a bit, strengthen supporting shoulder/back/trap muscles, and flexibility. Pain level should be the guide as to what I do / don’t do, and I should stop doing whatever I’m doing if pain kicks in.

Of course, my first question was when I could start skating again. He said exactly same thing the orthopedic doctor said, “Ideally, not until shoulder movement is pain-free during full range of motion. But if you started before then, shoulder pads could help avoid a set-back/reinjury if I were to fall on it again before it’s fully healed. And even doing that should wait awhile.”

My biggest short-term fear is falling forward on shoulder again (e.g. those bails when you get pitched forward and hit the ground). Skating right now isn’t a good idea. Skating without some kind of protection up there (esp. now) is unquestionably a really, really bad idea. There is no question that on the tail end of recovery, I’ll be skating for a bit in hockey shoulder pads, no matter how odd that may seem. I actually embrace it. Battle armor is punk. Plus, I think skateboarding is at it’s best when it’s challenging any type of status quo.  

But, the real question is the short-term issue. In six days I am headed to Austin, TX for a week. The purpose of the trip is, you guessed it, skateboarding. Timing is horrible. I’ve never skated a real ditch before, and this was going to be the first time.  So, what do I do?
I’m not sure yet. Essentially it’s going to be a (calculated??) risk assessment. Go, but don’t skate? Do some very mellow rolling around without any shoulder protection? Wear shoulder pads, and still take it easy, but maybe not quite as easy? I really don’t know. Where I am going to draw those lines is totally unknown right now…but I’m absolutely still going. 

I havn't skated in over two now, and it's really starting to get me bummed out. 
     



Thursday, September 27, 2018

Kingfoams: The Insoles That Will Change Your Life


This post is a review, and ringing endorsement, of Kingfoam insoles.

 
Kingfoam insoles are among the best products I have ever encountered. I endorse them to/for anyone, not just skaters. There is literally no product in modern day production that I speak of as highly as I do of Kingfoams. If you are an older skater with any foot/knee problems, you should absolutely give them a serious look.

First, what makes Kingfoams so good? They are made of some crazy-ass foam that absorbs absurd amounts of force / impact, yet still provide for great board feel. I no longer fear Primo on kickflips. Let me restate that, I no longer fear Primo on kickflips. Yes, you read the correctly. They are that good. Bruised heels? Never again.

Despite what you may think of Aaron Kyro / Braille Skateboards, he does a damn good video review of Kingfoam insoles. Watch this clip and you’ll see an astonishing visual display of the impact absorption I mentioned. The video is also pretty amusing, too. Here is a link to Aaron's video.

Kingfoam makes several different types of insoles. People have different types of foot arches. Some shoes accept insoles, others do not. Hence, navigating all of it can be a little confusing. Hopefully this post will help.
                  
Let’s start with the basics. First, for Kingfoams to really function, you need a shoe that comes stock with a removable insole (e.g. Vans Pros, Adidas, etc.). A shoe like the NON-Pro Vans is going to have some problems because there is no removable insole. Adding one will probably make your shoe fit too snuggly/tightly. That’s bad.  

Second, you need to know what type of arch your foot has (low, medium, or high).
This video shows a very simple and easy way to figure that out. The video suggests cardboard. IMHO, newspaper works just as well, if not better. 

Third, take a look at the Kingfoam Buyer’s Guide, and note which of their insoles correspond to what type of arch you have.  

Last, and this is where things get a little cloudier: pick out which insole you want.  Here is what I can tell you about them from personal experience.  

I have a mid arch foot, and skate in Vans Pros. I hate the stock “ultra cush” insoles that comes with Vans. To me, they often feel like heel has sogged after a very short period of time. My knees and feet would often get sore after skating for a while in Vans. Many people have said this, and switched over to Nike as a result. I also work a job where I am on my feet all day. At the end of a shift, my feet are just spent/sore. Once I replaced the stock Ultra Cush insoles with Kingfoams, I never had these problems again

I have tried two different types of Kingfoams. The standard “5mm Kingfoam Insole” ($19.99), and Kingfoam "Elites" ($29.99). I wear the 5mm ones in my work shoes, and use the Elites in my skate shoes. The Elites offer a bit more impact protection. Hell, Jaws even wears them (and for good reason). Both the 5mm version, and the Elite version, fit great in Vans shoes. The 5mm ones comes in specific sizes, and the Elites are cut-to-fit.* Both of these do not work in Adidas. The stock Adidas insoles have a tad bit of arch support on the side. The two types of Kingfoams I use do not have any arch support, so when you put them in a pair of Adidas, they feel really weird. I imagine one of the Kingfoams with arch support would work in Adidas, but I can't speak with first-hand knowledge. I have no idea how they fit in other skate shoes, but I am sure you could find out without too much trouble. Google. Slap forums. Etc.

I have never tried the Gamechangers, because I am so enamored with the Elites. Someday I’ll get a pair and post a review. I have heard nothing but great things about them. Kingfoam also makes some very thin insoles. These might work in shoes that do NOT have a removable insole, but I would be skeptical of it. There is no way they could function as well as the Elites.

*Always cut these a bit too big at first, and then slowly trim to exact size. If you cut them too small, they will float around under your foot, and be extremely annoying, if not useless. To cut them, just remove the stock insole, and trace them against the Kingfoam, and then cut down with scissors. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

What Could Possibly Go Wrong? (Trials and Tribulations of a Turbo Dolt)


I am out on injury again. I haven’t had a serious one in a quite a while (2+ years??). I was overdue, and knew it was coming. It finally happened last weekend.

I was skating a 4’ high mini ramp with some friends, and was having a bit of an “off day.” I was even considering calling it quits early. For some reasons, I just wasn't feeling all that confident on my board, and was bailing things I normally have "on lock." I should have listened to my gut and left/stopped skating. Sometimes there is a 6th sense. However, the sessions' energy picked-up a bit, and I decided to stay a little longer. In the middle of a run I did a backside Indy Nosepick. On the reentry I was leaning too far forward. I thought I could ride it out, and almost did. Eventually, I got pitched forward just as I was approaching the other transition. I ended up squarely shoulder-checking the dead center of the tranny. Instant flash of pain. I thought I had broken my collarbone. 

I love this trick. Except when it goes horribly wrong.
  
I went home, and it got worse. Later I went to the emergency room. X-Ray said no break, but that I might have a “shoulder separation,” whatever the hell that was. I had a follow-up with an orthopedic guy early in the week. He confirmed it was indeed a Stage 2 separation of theAC joint. He said it should heal on its own in about six weeks. I asked when I could start skating again. He said, “Ideally, not until all shoulder movement is painless.” But then he paused, and added, “You seem like a serious skateboarder. Somehow I think you’d be eager to get back at it. A Stage 2 separation can easily become a Stage 3, requiring surgery to fix, if there is significant additional trauma at the start of the healing process. IF you were to start skating before pain was completely gone, and I would advise against, I would wait several weeks, until things are feeling much better. Moreover, shoulder pads of some kind (hockey or football) could help limit further trauma to the area.” I could read between the lines, and knew that I would buy hockey shoulder pads in the near future.

I am really bummed out by the timing of this injury. First, no skating for six weeks? Ugh. That’s a long time. Second, it’s now early autumn in New England. This is the best time/weather of the year for skateboarding, and I will miss out on a good chunk of it. Third, my best friend Joe is leaving the area for an indefinite period at the end of the month. I wanted to get in some final sessions with him. Last, in early October I am going to Austin TX for a week. The purpose of this trip was to (a) skate drainage ditches, and (b) skate with a bunch of other people from around the country. I’ve never skated (or even seen) a real ditch before, so this was a “bucket list” trip. Now, it’s just frustration of purpose. My only hope is that my shoulder can heal-up as soon as possible. But, well, I kind of, maybe...well, I might have just prolonged that a bit by doing something obtusely dumb. I went skating tonight, and fell on it again, without any pads. Yeah. Let's play "Find the Turbo Dolt." Oh, right, it's me.

The city of Boston is renovating a large public park near my apartment. Baseball fields. Roller hockey rink. Soccer field. They are also putting in a new “pump track.” Two nights ago Joe and I went over to see how it was coming along. To our surprise, the surface had been finished. It was dusk, and we “broke in” to the construction site to get a closer look. Joe grabbed his board, and I told him to get mine, too. I took some real mellow runs. The track was unbelievably fun. More fun than almost anything I had skated before. It soon got dark and we left. We made plans to come back today, after the construction workers had left, but before it was too dark. If I was successfully able to roll around the pump track after dusk, I assumed I’d be fine carving around it during daylight. I was wrong.

The day before I had actually purchased a set of hockey shoulder pads. I had even mod'ed out a hockey jersey to wear over them. 



My plan was to probably wear them toward the tail end of recovery when I started skating again, and then sell them at Play-It-Again sports once I was healed-up. I was debating bringing them over to the pump track tonight. I put them on, and the weight alone was enough to make my shoulder hurt. That should have been enough of a red flag. It wasn’t. I decided to not bring them. I also thought I should wear shorts and bring my knee pads. Sometimes when you stumble out of something, you could either drop to yours knees (if you had pads on), or just roll on to your side (and shoulder). The latter is the most common way people bail, but I was worried about that “roll on to your side/shoulder” option. Dropping to knees would be a much better option right now, even if not usually the most practical way to bail in a “street/bank” setting. But, I decided to also forego knee pads, and off to the pump track I went.

So, let’s review. I have a Stage II separated shoulder that is only 8-days old. I am not supposed to be skateboarding. I was advised to wear shoulder pads. Knee pads would potentially be a lifesaver. Oh, did I mention I was wearing brand new shoes, too? What could possibly go wrong?

We had skated the track for about 45 min the other night, with no problem. I felt like I had pretty good familiarity with the bumps/transitions/quick turns/etc., and knew what to expect. On the first run I get through the bigger parts of the track, and enter the mellowest set of bumps near the end. Something happens. I’m still not sure what, but I realize that I am going to go down. I step off my board, and start stumbling, realizing that I could have dropped to my knees, if I had knee pads on, but I don’t. To avoid shattered kneecaps, I do what 30+ years of skateboarding muscle memory has taught me to do; roll on to your side, and take the impact with your arm and shoulder. And that’s exactly what happened.

The pain was instantaneous. Hell, tying my shoe and wiping my ass hurts my shoulder right now. But this? It was bad. Real bad. I was convinced I had just turned it into a Stage III, and would soon be back at the hospital for surgery. I was infuriated at myself for every bad decision I had just made, starting with even getting on my board in the first place, not to mention leaving the pads at home. Was it now going to be TWELVE weeks before I could skate again? I seethed and boiled. I wanted to sit down and cry with frustration, anger, and stupidity. How could I be so dumb?  I went home, took Advil, put ice on my shoulder, and headed-out to work about an hour later. I was in the foulest mood I can ever remember having during my adult life. Everything was foreseeable, and was 100% of my own doing. How could I be so dumb?  

It’s now 3:26am. I am home from work. The constant pain has mostly subsided in my arm. That is a good sign. It hurts more than before, but now it also feels different. Before it hurt, but that was mostly it. Now it hurts, but also feel like something is out of place and/or not aligned correctly. Super dreamy. I am going back to the doctor’s ASAP to see if there is additional damage.

Morals of the Story:
(1) Don’t be an idiot and skate when you are injured. 
(2) Pads are your great friend, when you don't ignore them.
(3) Expect the blog to be a lot more active over the next few weeks during recovery.
             

   



           

Saturday, July 21, 2018

A Few Simple Rules

I have a few simple, self-imposed rules. Moreover, there are acute, experiential, and practical reason for those rules.

Example: Always wear high-tops when skating decent sized mini ramps.    

The Practical Reason: When you bail skating transition, something happens that does not happen while skating street. The board rolls down the transition. As fate would have it, the board usually makes a bee-line for some exposed part of your body. The ankle bone and Achilles are prime targets. Sometime ago, I started wearing hi-top shoes (Vans Sk8-Hi) when skating transition for this exact reason. The extra height of the shoe can provided some protection against the board taking a "shark bite" out of your foot.

I didn't follow the rule today. I had my 1/2 Cabs on. What might be foreseeable under a situation like this? Oh, I know. A DIRECT hit to the center of my Achilles. And of course, the hit was on the foot where I already have Achilles tendonitis, resulting in an extra painful "shark bite." The fact that I wasn't wearing socks didn't help either. An hour later, it's swollen up, and I'm limping all over the place. Did I mention that my high-tops were even in the car, and it's just that I was just too lazy to put them on? #lifechoices

The rules exist for a reason. Maybe next time, I should follow them.



 

Friday, June 1, 2018

A Skateboarder's Take on Gay Pride, 2018 Edition


 
Well, it’s June. That means gay pride events/parades around the country. For the last week or so, for some reason, I have felt compelled to write something about this subject. I am not quite sure why. Actually, compelled isn’t the right word, “obligated” is. Again, I ask why. Gay pride in Boston starts this weekend. The big parade is next Saturday. I have a lot of mixed feelings about it.

The first “pride” event, in June of 1969, was a bunch of liquored-up transsexual/transgender/drag queen prostitutes who started an actual riot, in retaliation of/for/to police brutality at a local gay bar in NYC. That night they decided to vote with a brick. Three nights of riots followed (sounds a lot like modern police/race relations, actually). Today, gay pride parades are family orientated events. They are often nothing more than advertisements for corporate banks, local politicians, and churches. People march down the street in pretty rainbows, behind a nice little banner with assorted corporate logos, as if they are walking commercials.
Street League for homosexuals. Is this what we fought for all these years? To walk behind a bank’s advertisement?  I know I am oversimplifying the issue, but at the same time, I am absolutely not.
I suppose I feel compelled obligated to write something about “pride” because I know how important it is to be “out.” It’s a lot harder to be a homophobic asshole when one of “those people” is someone you “know.” That, in turn, helps make the world a more livable place for everyone. Part of me wants to touch on that issue, especially in the context of skate culture, because I am indeed one of “those” people (and skateboarding could certainly use it, despite the influences of BA and Lacy). Or maybe I could talk about, how what I learned from skateboarding, helped me to actually “come out” some 20+ years ago. But, I am so over per se identity politics. I’ve been “out” for over 20 years. At least in my life, being queer is mostly a moot point by now. It’s just like…*yawn*. Big fucking deal. Do I need to rehash this, again? Can't we just go get tacos, or skate a curb? To those who think of me, or anyone, as lesser person because of their sexual orientation, I'd be more than happy to take the claw side of a hammer to your face.
And yet another part of me just wants to unleash on everything I despise about so-called “gay culture.” Because of skateboarding, I grew up dirty, bruised, bleeding, in the streets, running from the police, listening to crazy-ass music, and hanging out with crazy-people, as we did crazy-ass shit. The world of high-fashion, fancy cocktails, show tunes, rainbows, some pop-diva wailing about some bullshit, and overall fabulousness makes me want to cut off my own arm, and then fist myself with my own severed limb. Ok, maybe I’m being a little bit dramatic (I am gay, after all. I mean, aren’t we’re supposed to be dramatic, or something). That said, I really don't want this blog to dwell on the negative, so I am hesitant to totally unleash. I also don't want a skate-based blog to focus on what I despise about gay culture. Don't get me wrong--there is nothing inherently wrong with all of that stereotypical “gay” stuff I listed above, it’s just not a world I can relate to, at all. Glitter, rainbows, Armani, and Madonna? Fuck that. Blood, bikes, skateboards, and punk rock. And yes, the irony is not lost on me. I know that I am the classic stereotype of a (older, washed-up) skateboarder. I've got my Dickie's, my old-school Vans, Indys, Antihero decks & attire, and pads when I ride even a small 4' mini ramp. I own that stereotype as much as others own their vile, sick, twisted, unholy, unfathomable Beyonce/Gaga/ABBA obsessions. 
   
So, in terms of what to say about “gay pride,” all these reservations just leave me with a void. A void that I still feel an obligation to fill. I guess the only thing I really have to say, which I learned from both being a skater, and from being “queer,” is to be who ever the fuck you are, and tell the rest of the world to go fuck themselves. One thing I know for sure, is that no one, NO ONE, on their deathbed is going say, “Man, I wish I had lived a less authentic life.” Be who ever you are, and rock that party as hard as you fuckin' can.  
 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Keeping Vert Dead & the Freak Zone Alive

When it’s 2018, and some younger rippers have...

-old school high-top Vans,
-high socks,
-Dead Kennedys logos,
-“Keeping Vert Dead” stickers, 
-pads,
-and they are NOT perseverating over ledges/handrails...

...I feel a lot better about the future of skateboarding. These kids are the outliers, the freaks, and the ones bucking the (modern skateboard) system. I salute you.




Monday, April 30, 2018

Their Victories Are My Victories

Someone posted this on Facebook. I thought it was great, so I am sharing it here.

“Props to skateboarding forever. It's taught me life lessons. Here's a few.

1. The only competitor worthy of challenging is myself, and the only real challenge is my own self imposed limitations.

2. My real friends are doing the same thing, and because we aren't competing with each other, their victories are my victories and my victories are theirs. - Real friends aren't trying to one up each other. (Refer to point #1)”

-Robert Henderson

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Tangible Earthly Belongings, Part II: The Full List

     Well, this entry certainly took on a (nightmarish) life of it is own. When I “moved” two weeks ago, I took a photo of all my essential skate gear, and made this post. I had intended to do a follow-up, with a list of everything in that photo, and a few comments on some of the items that might seem a bit out of the ordinary. Then…uhm…well…the post below happened. What I had first intended to be something relatively short and simple turned into a monstrosity. Basically, once I started writing, it avalanched, and I couldn’t stop. Mark Twain once said, “If I had had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” Some real truth there.
 
     Anyway, below is the complete list of everything pictured in that other post. The commentary on each item is (mostly) written with the non-skater in mind (yes, there are some non-skaters who read this blog). Any skater immediately knows why a “skate key” is an essential item. A non-skater doesn’t even know what one is, let alone why it is among the most important things to own. Hence, I have a wide net on this one. As a reminder, here is a photo of the entire mess before we dive in.




I.  SOFT GOODS
  • Clothes
    • Baseball Hat: It actually has some real function. In the early and later part of the day, the Sun can create a nasty bad shade/glare dichotomy on parts of a half-pipe, bowl, etc. The brim of a hat can reduce that glare, and make a ramp that would otherwise be hard to skate much more accessible.
    • Gang Colors / Skate T-Shirt: I’ll admit it. I am a label/brand whore. Any logo I’m going to pimp has to be something I am 100% behind and/or represents “me,” and my “tribe” in some manner. Skateboarding gets you dirty. It ruins clothes, and devours souls. Yeah, while skating there are people that wear blank t-shirts from K-Mart, or clothes from Gucci that cost stupid-money, but I can’t relate to either. Give me a good Anti-Hero, Independent, Spitfire, or band t-shirt, and I am happy.
    • Windbreaker: Boston is the windiest major city in the United States America (Chicago’s nickname is about its politics, not its weather). Unless you’ve got a windbreaker, the wind will pierce through any t-shirt, sweatshirt, etc. you’re wearing.
    • BDUs or Dickies Pants ONLY: I can’t skate in denim. Too thick. Too uncomfortable. Modern stretch fabric feels too weird. Moreover, BDUs and Dickies are loose (easy to move in), and built to withstand serious abuse. Perfect for skating. And don’t even get me started on sweatpants.
    • Shorts (cut off BDUs): When skating transition, wearing kneepads over pants just doesn’t work well. Shorts are far superior.
    • Thick Socks: Everyone owns socks. Why is this on this list? Skating is brutal on footwear. My feet shred socks like razor blades. Need a thick pair otherwise they won’t last.
    • Skate Shoes: Skate shoes are very different than normal shoes. They are designed specifically for the abuses and nuances of “feeling” the board with your feet. A must own. I have two pair, as I figured out awhile ago that I vastly prefer high-tops on transition, and low-tops on street.
    • Kingfoam Insoles: The most mind-blowing insoles ever made. Watch this video.  I would recommend these to anyone, not just skaters. I have a pair in my work shoes, too. They are simply astonishing.
    • Extra Shoe Laces: Grip tape on your board, or knee sliding on ramps, will destroy your laces. They will inevitably break after a while.
           Winter Gear
    • Under Armor Cold Gear Shirt & Leggings (Base layer): Super warm, and designed for “athletics.”
    • Hooded Sweatshirt: Should be obvious.
    • Knit Hat: Keep the ears & head warm.
    • Under Armor Cold Gear Hood/Mask: A new item to the essential list. In extreme conditions, I’ve worn a face mask while snowboarding/cycling for years. Yet, I had never done so while skating. This year I started wearing one when then temps got real cold, and wow, did it ever make life more enjoyable. Don’t know why I waited so long on this one.
    • Gloves: Should be obvious. Warm hands = good.
    • Athletic Tape: Grip tape shreds anything in touches, especially gloves when you are holding your board. Taping-up the thumbs prevents gloves from becoming totally destruction in two weeks’ time.  

II.  PADS:
     A note on pads…skate parks are now everywhere. With that comes big transition. Having a decent set of pads can open doors to stuff you might not otherwise skate, esp. if you are an older skater (at 43, I certainly am). And of course, some parks require pads. Skating a deep bowl/big transition with pads also just adds an element of confidence (at least for me), that I don’t have without them. The real irony is that I just recently re-learned that pads are a necessity to own. I didn’t have a set for a very long time. Now that I do, and I am skating transition I wouldn’t have gone near without them. Increasing what/where you can skate is always a good thing. Oddly, I also now find myself wearing pads on smaller ramps I previously never would have worn them on. I’ll put in a plug for Pro-Designed pads. I love mine.]
  • Knee Pads: I only wear kneepads on transition. I used to hate wearing them, but now I love it. I now have two sets of kneepads; a thinner pair for mini ramps (Pro-Tec), and a thicker pair for bigger ramps (Pro-Designed). The Pro-Tec pads would not offer sufficient impact protection on bigger ramps. Likewise, the Pro-Designed can be a little bulky on mini ramps. 90% of all bails I take on smaller ramps (e.g. 4’ high) I can run out of, and don’t need kneepads at all. The other 10% always makes me glad I had them on. With ramps 5’ and over, I definitely need knee pads (5’ is the height where I can’t run out of bails as easily, and knee sliding becomes a much better option). They main reason I wear pads on smaller ramps (e.g. 4’) is purely mental—I feel way more confident with them on, and that is worth a lot to me. Plus, as my friend Reed once said, “Sometimes I want to skate with pads on because they look so cool.” Clearly, some people have different ideas of what “cool” looks like.
  • Knee Gaskets: Neoprene sleeve that fits over your knee/under kneepads. Gives a little more support/protection, but more importantly, they keep your kneepads from slipping down when you are knee sliding (e.g. so you don’t end up knee sliding on bare skin).
  • Elbow Pads: Same as kneepads, I have two sets. One set is for street/mini, and the other is for bigger ramps. When street skating, I often wear one elbow pad on my leading arm. I have become very adept at falling on my (padded) elbow rather than on my hands/wrist (thus prevent hand/wrist injuries).
  • Wrist Guards:  I almost never wear these. However, if you ever have a wrist injury or sprain (esp. at my age), you definitely want to have the option of wearing a wrist guard for a while.
  • Helmet: I hardly ever wear a helmet. Some parks require you to wear one. Thus, it’s always good to have one in your bag. Last fall I hung-up on a 5’ mini, and when straight to the flat bottom. Mostly hit hip and elbow, but also bounced my head off the ground, and got a nasty goose egg. First time I ever hit my head skating, and I wasn’t wearing a helmet. Now I wear one all the time on any ramp 5’ tall and above.
  • Football Girdle: Also something I almost never use, but is a real lifesaver for those times you really need/want it. Anyone who’s ever had a bad “hipper” (e.g. hard fall to hip bone) can tell you how painful they are. Moreover, they become increasingly more painful if you fall on them again before they have healed. Even a slight tap can cause serious discomfort. Transition skating causes hippers far more often than street skating. A football girdle holds hip and tailbone pads. You can get girdle/pads for under $10 bucks on-line, which is far less $$ than skate-specific hip pads. Moreover, since you can remove the pads from the girdle, you only need to wear one pad as opposed to an entire set required by skate-specific ones. Football pads are also much more low-profile than skate pads, too. Under shorts you can hardly even notice they are being worn.
  • Shin Guards: Another item I hardly ever use, but a God-send when needed. A few years back I scrapped my shin pretty bad on the side of my board. Then I kept hitting the exact same spot, over and over. Brutal pain. I bought shin guards, and wore one until things were less tender. Worn under pants, no one even knows.
  • (Smith) Gloves: Same with shin guards. Sometimes you rip a hole in the palm of your hand, and you need to cover it so you don’t fall on it again / it can heal. I’ve also worn these a few times during the summer when skating metal half-pipes on really warm days. The metal can be extremely hot to the touch when bailing, or climbing back up to the platform. Without gloves, your hands can get all fucked up.

III.  BAGS
  • Board-Carrying Back Pack: I live in the city. I often bicycle to skate spots. I need a way to carry my board there. I don’t have a rack on my bike, and I have no intention of putting one on it. That means I have to carry the board on me somehow. Without getting into the nuances of cycling bags, suffice to say Blind Chic makes the best board-carrying specific back pack I’ve yet to find. I did a big review of that bag in this post. [Actually, the Chrome "Fortnight" backpack designed by John Cardiel might give the Scum Bag a serious run for the money.]
  • Back Pack (military style): When not on the bike, I usually want a bigger bag that has several compartments to carry stuff in. My military bag does the trick.
  • Pad Bag (mesh laundry type): When headed to big ramp, you need something to carry a full set of pads in, right? The mesh version helps them air/dry out, especially after skating. 

IV.  SKATEBOARDS
  • Street & Transition Set-Up: I am mostly a street skater, however I skate transition a lot, too. I like a different truck and wheel set-up on ramp (and sometimes a wider board). To make life much easier, I just have two complete skateboards. One for street, one for tranny.
  • Spare Deck: Sometimes you can’t get to skate shop for a few days. Sometimes they don’t have what you want. Sometimes it takes a while for something to arrive if you order it on-line. If your board breaks, gets a huge chip out of nose/tail, it loses the “pop” etc., it could be a few days before you are skating again. You never have to worry about this if you always have your next deck waiting for you at home.

V.  HARDWARE & MAINTENANCE
  • WWII Ammo Canister: I keep an assortment of smaller hardware stuff all in one place, which is inside a WWII ammunition canister. It’s small, and I can just throw it in the car when heading out. Stuff I keep in here has saved me, and friends, from session-ending equipment malfunctions. Inside the ammo can, I keep the follow:
    • Skate Key: The basic “fix-everything” skate tool. This Spitfire one is my favorite.
    • Tap & Die Set: The Die part is the essential item. I am actually surprised how many skaters are unaware of Tap and Die sets. Taps rethread nuts (like an axle nut). Dies rethread bolts, or axles. Over the years, I’ve certainly had a few axle nuts I couldn’t get back on a truck, because the end of the axle was so chewed-up. The inability to get a nut back on an axle might mean having to buy an entirely new truck. What a waste. A Die will rethread, and fix that chewed-up axle. A few skate keys (Reflex and Pig) have Dies attached to them that are the proper size for axle rethreading.
    • Metal Hand File: This is a sub-set of the Tap and Die necessity. To properly rethread an axle, the barbs at the end of the axle need to be filed/grinded off. A tabletop grinder works best for this, but there is no need to own one of those, if you are only going to use it to fix an occasional stripped truck axle. A hand-file will also do the job. Hand-files, of course, are also great for grip tape application.
    • Extra Axle Nuts: New replacement nuts are cheap. The below photo is the result of a blown axle nut. As I was reentering the bank my axle nut, and then wheel, came off (axle nut was stripped-out). My board came to an immediate stop, and sent me flying. Yes, that is my wheel rolling away in front me (in red circle). I didn’t have any extra axle nuts with me. Session was over 5 minutes after it started, and I was pretty far from home, too. Lesson learned. I knew the axle nut was a little wonky, but thought it would hold. I was wrong. Worse, jamming the exposed axle threads into the pavement deformed them beyond function. It was either rethread with a Die, or by a new truck. Needless to say, I was able to rethread.


    • Extra Bearing: Ceased bearing = session over. I clean mine on the regular. I carry this more for friends than for myself.
    • Extra Bushings: these blow out sometimes, especially Bones Bushings (despite their otherwise brilliant performance) and then your truck can suddenly get real wonky.
    • Extra Hardware: This is far more of an OCD issue than an actual one. I can’t deal with looking down at my board and seeing a missing mounting bolt. If one goes, I want to be able to replace it IMMEDIATELY.
    • Belt Cleaning Stick (e.g. Grip Tape Cleaner): This is a new one to me! A friend showed it to me a few months back, and I was amazed. We were skating this really, really, really dusty parking garage (winter skating in New England). When we were done. Our grip tape was all caked-up with dust. My friend asked if I wanted to use his cleaner. “What’s that?” I asked. He pulled this weird-ass stick, rubbed it on his tape a few times, and suddenly his tape looked like it was brand new. I was awe struck. Essentially this is a cleaning tool for sand belts on power sanders. I got mine off Amazon for $7.00. Considering how much sand-salt there is around New England in the winter, and how nasty it makes your grip tape, this thing is really useful.
    • Razor Blades: Cutting grip tape to fit a deck/board.
    • Soft Wheels w/Bearings: Some spots, esp. in the crusty east coast, are just unskateable with modern 99a-101a hard wheels. A set of softer wheels simply allows you to hit some really fun spots that are otherwise inaccessible. I have a pair of Spitfire 80HDs (with bearings in them, for quick change-overs) to rock the crust world.   
  • Bearing Maintenance
    • Bones Bearing Cleaning Kit: Bearings get crudded up. If you don’t clean them, you’re dumb. Powell makes this great thing. Full product review coming soon. Get one. It’s well worth the money.
    • Acetone: Acetone is great for cleaning bearings. Powell recommends Acetone as a degreaser/cleaner, but they do not mention WD40 in their official bearing cleaning directions. WD40 is a horrific nightmare, avoid at all costs.
    • Speed Cream: Bearing life will be drastically reduced if bearings are not relubbed after they have been cleaned/degreased. Relube with Speed Cream after Acetone cleaning, and roll forever.
    • Canned Air: Used for drying bearings after an Acetone wash.
    • Straightened Paper Clip: Used for removing the bearing shields (on Bones bearings) so you can clean them.

VI.  RANDOM STUFF
  • “Field Notes”: I keep a small notebook in my backpack. In the notebook I keep a list spots to check out, tricks to try, or random skate notes. This might be an odd item for some, but it is an absolute essential for me. Often I see some trick on Instagram/Internet/etc. that looks really fun to try. Usually, if I don’t make an actual note of it, I will have forgotten about it by the next time I go skating. My “Field Notes” is a central dumping ground for all this info. If things feel stale at a session, I’ll just have a look at the Field Notes. It never fails that I find a spot or a trick I had completely forgotten to check out or try.
  • Pen: See Field Notes above.
  • Reusable Water Bottle: Trash is lame. Reusing stuff is better for the environment. Don’t be the turboclown who litters or buys an excessive amount of needless plastic crap. 

VII.  SPOT STUFF
  • Push Broom: IMHO, this is one of the most important things on this list. A true necessity. So many spots need a sweeping to get things rolling. Dirt. Rocks. Leaves. Acorns. Salt/sand in the winter. Yes, I’ve even swept up syringes at a sketch DIY. A broom is an absolute must have.  If you are on Instagram, check out @Broomkult for an amazing feed on why brooms are the lifeblood of all skaters [I am not affiliated with them in any manner. I just think they are hilarious/know what's up.]
  • Dust Pan: When you sweep-out a bowl/pool, how else are you going to get the shit out of the bottom?
  • Wax: Get those curbs and ledges grinding.
  • Spray Lacquer: This stuff is great. Read all about it here.
  • Brick Rub: I am also surprised how many skaters don’t know about these. They are like sand paper for concrete. They can help smooth out the edge of any curb/ledge to make it more skateable. Brick rub + wax/lacquer = It’s fuckin’ on!
  • Snow Shovel: I live in New England. It snows in the winter. It can been too much to shovel out a decent sized street spot, but local mini half-pipes can be quickly cleared to provide endless fun in an otherwise snowed-in world.
  • Ice Breaker: Helps get frozen snow/ice off ramps when shoveling them out.
  • Blow Torch: The snow shovel and ice breaker will only go so far. Sometimes there is black ice on a ramp that will only come off by melting. Break out the blow torch, and you’re skating in no time.
  • Towel: Can be used to dry off ramps, or to dry off your board (e.g. when it shoots off the side of the tranny, and then lands in the pile of snow you just shoveled off the ramp).
  • Steel Wool: In the winter, metal coping on ramps can get absurdly rusty in very short time. A quick rub down with steel wool will get the major crud off that would just cause your trucks to stick like glue.
  • Blue Tooth Speaker: Skating is so much better with music (esp. if you’re at a mini-ramp or bowl). 
  • Dust Mask: There are a few spots I skate that get insanely dusty. When we sweep them, an incredibly dense fog of super fine powder-dust gets kicked-up. It gets so bad that you can write your name in dust on the side of a car after 30 seconds of sweeping. Shit is nasty, and really unhealthy. No way I am breathing that in. Unfortunately, sometimes there is no way to skate these spots unless you sweep them clean—sometimes you have to pay to play. How bad does it get? Check the photos below, and you’ll immediately know why a dust mask is an absolute necessity.  These photos were taken with the same iPhone. 

This is how this spot looks on any given day.
This is how it looks three minuets minuets after sweeping started.
This is about seven minutes after sweeping started. If you look real hard, you can still faintly make out the parking block on the right side of the pic. All the mine canaries were long dead by the time this photo was taken. This place is brutal when you sweep it.

VIII.  FIRST AID
  • Ibuprofen: Nothing keeps a (old) skater going better than this stuff. Great anti-inflammatory and pain reducer.
  • Band-Aids: Sometimes you need help to stop/contain your blood from spilling all over the streets, especially on the bigger cuts. Band-Aids deliver.
  • Antibiotic Ointment: I always throw some of this on if I get a cut when skating a really nasty spot, or end up getting a lot of dirt in a cut.
  • Ice Packs: Sometimes you really need to ice an injury after you get home.

     And there it is. As I said in previous post, call it what you want—Essential Gear, A Complete Buyer’s Guide, or a Sick Hoarding Problem. Whatever you call it, this was the first stuff I packed for my move, the stuff I prioritized over everything else I own. And thus, items on the above list are arguably more important to me than any other tangible things I possess. My priorities are exactly where I want them to be.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Tangible Earthly Belongings, Part I: Essential Gear? A Complete Buyer’s Guide? An Acute Sick Hoarding Problem?

I recently had to move back in with my parents. My mom fell and broke her hip. Dad has been in a wheelchair for years (Polio). They need some help while my mom is recovering. Hopefully I won’t be there too long, but will remain as long as needed.

In any event, I was chatting with a friend about the move, and the skate equipment I was/wasn’t brining to my parents’ house. He suggested a “What’s in Your Bag” blog post about the essential gear I was taking with me. Similarly, a common trend in camping, hiking, outdoorsman, living history, military, etc. circles is the “Loadout” or “Kit” photo. What a Loadout/Kit photo shows is all the vital gear/equipment a person will use on a given event or trip (or just all the gear they own). When getting all my essential skate stuff together for the move, I decided to take a Loadout photo of all the gear, and to follow my friends’ advice with a blog entry. That brings us to this post. What can I say; I’ve got a lot of extra time right now while hanging out with mom.  

After 30+ years of skating, the photo below shows every skate-related item I now view as essential. While I may infrequently use some of this stuff (e.g. snow shovel), all of it has kept me rolling at some point in time. I’d be at a loss if a single item went missing. Every single thing in this photo was obtained for the single purpose of making/allowing skateboarding to happen.

This photo includes only essential stuff directly needed to (1) maintain my board, (2) provide for simple skate spot maintenance, and (3) maintain me (e.g. skate shoes, pads, etc.). Not included is stuff for heavy spot construction/maintenance (e.g. concrete, saws, masonry tools, etc.), non-primary skateboards, collectables, shit I’ve built, etc.

Call it what you want—Essential Gear, A Complete Buyer’s Guide, or a Sick Hoarding Problem. Whatever you call it, this was the first stuff I packed for my move, the stuff I prioritized over everything else—and thus, what is seen in this photo is arguably the tangible Earthly belongings that are more important to me than anything else I own. And Yes. That is a bottle of Ibuprofen. Most important thing in the photo.

A follow-up post will contain commentary on some of these items, and what makes them essential (at least to me).




Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Chasing Phantoms & The Mythology of Rainbows


There had been a few passing rain showers in the area. The skate park, however, was mostly dry. The sun began to peek-out from behind the clouds.  A few moments later a huge, vibrant, double rainbow appeared in the sky. I thought it would make a cool/funny backdrop for a skate photo (esp. considering the whole gay thing). With the rainbow in the background, Joe took my cell phone and filmed me ollieing over a makeshift picnic table/box. This is a screen grab from that video.


  (Here is a side shot of a different time I ollied it, so you can get a better idea of the size)

 
A little kid, who was about 12-years-old, came up to me afterwards. He looked up at me with big eyes, and sheepishly asked, “How do you ollie so high?” I laughed to myself when I heard the question. When I was his size and age, I wondered the same thing about older skaters. I responded that my legs were stronger than his, that I was taller than he was, and most of all, I had been skating for a very long time, and had spent years doing ollies. I told him that if he kept skating, he would be able to ollie much higher as he grew up, and got more practice. I gave him a few pointers on ollie technique, and then went to sit in the shade for a bit.

I sat down behind the mini ramp, and looked up at the two giant rainbows that lingered in the sky. I followed their arcs with my eyes, looking to see how far they stretched, and where they ended. Then it really hit me.

The mythology of rainbows is that a pot of gold lies at the rainbow’s end. Of course, no one can ever reach the rainbow’s end. It’s actually quite a stark, and bleak metaphor: there are hopes and goals you can never reach, no matter how hard you try. Worse, while chasing phantoms, you lose sight of the fleeting gift that is right in front of you; the rainbow itself.

“How do you ollie so high?”

As a kid, I chased that pot of gold. I wanted to ollie over a crack in the sidewalk. Then a stick. Then a curb. Then a bench. Then a handrail. Always wanting to go higher and further. Never satisfied with where I was, or what I could already do. Always pushing. Sure, there is merit in that.  But then a 12-year-old kid asks you a simple question, and your world changes.

To that kid, I had the pot of gold at the end of rainbow. The ollie I did was unimaginably high and unattainable, at least to him.  When I was his age, I thought the same way when I saw people do “big” ollies, or pretty much any trick for that matter (well, actually, I still pretty much think that when I ever I see anyone else skating).

Personal progression is always a part of skateboarding, no matter how old you are. We always push for longer, higher, faster, or to learn something entirely new, or relearn something we used to be able to do. We are doomed to forever chase targets that we ourselves are always moving.  

That 12-year-old illuminated something profound. Sometimes it’s better not chase, but to just enjoy what already is. I sat behind the mini ramp for a while, and watched the double rainbow fade away to nothingness. Its existence now just a memory. Another perfect life metaphor. From across the park I heard my friends laugh while skating a curb. I stood-up, looked at the sky that was now nothing but gray clouds, and smiled.  With a profound sense of gratitude, I pushed-off in the direction of my friends, and that simple curb.