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.

  • 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.  

     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.

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • “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. 

  • 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.

  • 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.

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