Tuesday, April 21, 2020

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

                                                      Part III: Social Navigation

Welcome to Part Three of a four part series on returning to skateboarding after a long break. Part One covers a Mind/BodyReality Check. Part Two covers equipment. Part Three covers basics social navigation in the modern world of skateboarding. This section is included so you don’t end up making quick enemies, looking a turboclown, and having people desire to become better strangers with you. More importantly, all of this here to keep the Stoke flowing, and to make sure you have a good time. I recently added a Part 4 to this series which deal with skate-related anxiety.

An unknown older skater.

                                            Where to Shop: Skater Owned v. The Mall

There are basically two types of shops. The “core” skater-owned shop, and the “Mall Brand” shop (Zummies, Vans, etc.). Within skateboarding there is a common trope which mandates that you should “support skater owned” businesses. If all other things are equal, then sure, there is merit to this sentiment. However, it is seldom that all other things are indeed equal. You may not have a skater-owned shop near you. They may not carry the equipment you want. They may have horrific customer service. They may be assholes. There is absolutely no reason why you should support a bid’ness that is far away, doesn’t have what you want, and throws around attitude, just because they are “skater owned.” Anyone who tells you to patronize a shop like that just because it is “skater owned” is an idiot. Like everything mentioned (about equipment) in Part II of this series, find a shop that best suits your situation, no matter what that is. That said, there are a few things to watch out for.

If you go to a Mall Store, chances are they may not have same knowledge-base that a “core” shop has. If you know what you are looking for, then this isn’t really much of an issue at a Mall Store; they either have it, or they don’t. If however, you have some questions, the people at the Mall Store may not be able to answer all of them. Of course, I am generalizing here. Some “core” skate shops have employees that are ultra dolts, and there are also some very knowledgeable skaters that work at Zummies and Vans stores.  

Be prepared to catch some heat if you mention shopping at a Mall Store to other skaters. I would recommend that you never mention getting equipment at Mall Store while you are actually INSIDE a skater-owned shop. This may seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people can’t keep their feet out of their mouth. It’s better just to avoid those awkward situations.

On-Line shops also vary a bit, too. Some are skater-owned, some are not. Two really good ones are SoCal Skate Shop (huge selection), and Old Skull Skateboards (smaller, skater-run shop). Tactics and Skate Warehouse are also a good place to shop on-line. Again, I would caution mentioning that you bought stuff on-line while/when you are actually in a “core” shop. 

                    General Interactions (On-Line, the Park, the Shop, Local Curb, etc.)

When older and/or returning skaters interact with other skaters (ones who never quit, or skaters who are much younger) there are few things to avoid saying or doing. These are things that generally rub people the wrong way, and can get you off on the wrong foot. That said, these are just guidelines. At some point, I have broken every single one of these “rules” myself, and can easily think of examples where it might a good idea to do the exact opposite everything stated below. However, if you do heed these “warnings,” you’ll never go wrong.

First, nobody cares how good you used to be, or who you used to skate with. This usually comes across as some washed-up braggart who is desperately trying to remain relevant. Live in the collective present, not your personal past. People care about what positive energy you can bring to TODAY’S session, not some cool-guy shit you (maybe) did twenty-years ago.  

Second, don’t bash modern skating (or go on about “how much better it was back in the day”) to people you are not friends with. Skateboarding evolved, and you got left behind. If you don’t like, or can’t relate, to modern “flippy shit,” huge rails, big gaps, popsicle shaped decks, modern parks, etc., that’s great. However, like it or not, that is the state of modern skating, and a lot of people are stoked on that. When you bash stuff other people like, you are probably coming across as a pretentious dinosaur with a bad attitude. No ones like that dude. If you know your audience, by all means, bash away. However, spewing that stuff off to random people (in person OR on-line) is just going to leave a bad taste. Focus on the positive, not the negative.

Third, don’t hate on people who wear pads. Conversely, if you wear pads, don’t be a Public Safety Evangelist. Both of these people suck. People who wear pads often fall into one of three categories. First, is the Evangelist. He thinks it’s insane that anyone would even look at a skateboard without full gear on. Worse, is when he tries to convert everyone to his pad-religion. This dude sucks. Never be him. Second, is Mr. Insecurity. This is the guy who feels really self-conscious about wearing pads. As a result, he has to constantly explain to everyone around him about why he has them on (past injury, can’t miss work, wife makes him, etc.). 99% of the time, no one as asked why he is wearing pads, but he feels the need to constantly broadcast in case anyone was wondering. The last type is Mr. Zen. This is the guy you want to be. He never mentions his gear unless it comes up naturally in conversation. He is not trying to convert anyone. He is not trying to justify himself. He is comfortable in his own skin. The truth is, no one really cares if you wear pads or not, and Mr. Zen knows that, so he doesn’t awkwardly force the issue into the spotlight. If you don’t like pads, that’s great. Good for you. Keep that to yourself and don’t act like some big tough guy (you’re not) just because someone else has them on, and you don’t. In any of these situations, you do you, and let others do themselves. Everyone is better off this way.   

Fourth, don’t act all “hardcore,” now that you’ve been back on the board for two weeks. People can smell a “poser” a mile away. Don’t become what you once hated.

Fifth, Thrasher t-shirts, Vans, DC Shoes, etc. are all now mainstream fashion. You may not like it, but that game is over. Complaining that non-skaters are now wearing skate brands it is just going to make you sound really out of touch with reality, as if you were complaining that someone wearing a New York Yankees shirt didn't actually play baseball (anymore), or may not even be a real fan of the game.

Sixth, wax can be a very controversial topic. If you are anywhere other skaters are actively skating, and you want to wax something, make sure you ask others first. People will be pissed if you over wax something. First, maybe throw some wax on your board rather than the ledge. If you are skating alone somewhere, use as much wax as you want (but lacquer is often a much better option, esp. on curbs).

Seventh, a note on the word “build" in regards to your skateboard (e.g. look at my new “build”). I would encourage you to never use this term. “Build” is a term used by collectors (who often do not skate). The term "build" is never used by actual skateboarders. You know how you can instantly tell when someone is from out of town, because they mispronounce the name of common street, store, city, etc.? That’s what it sounds like when the term “build” is used. 

                                                                  At the Park

A few “rules” for the skate park, spot, ramp, etc.

First, don’t be a sheep! You have as much right to be there anyone else! Just because someone better than you suddenly starts skating the bowl, curb, ledge, bank, etc. it does NOT mean you should stop skating, or let him get a run whenever he wants. Rather, I would argue it’s MORE of reason to take your turn/turn/etc. On the flip side, realize that a total beginner (or someone else just starting again) might be really intimidated by your ability. Smile. Be kind. Talk to people. Make them feel comfortable, no matter who they are, or what their ability is.  Finally, parks can get really busy after school and on weekends. Early mornings are the best time to go if you want to avoid crowds, cross traffic, and small kids on scooters who have zero situational awareness.

Second, you’ll be shocked at how good even the locals have become. Go to a local park, and you’ll see kids doing stuff that will probably blow your mind.

Last, and I hope this one is obvious, if you are at a skate park, be mindful of others. By that, I mean pay attention to where you are standing, sitting, and skating. You don't want to be sitting on a "bench" someone is trying to skate. You don't want to be standing at the base of gap someone is trying to ollie, or standing too close to the coping while someone is skating the bowl. Also, PICK UP YOUR TRASH!

                                                              Follow YOUR OWN Stoke

Hate modern boards, can’t relate to huge rails, and despise super tech ledge skating? No problem. Just ignore that stuff and find/follow what gets YOU stoked to skate. Watch old videos on YouTube that used to get you amped-up. Check out the Thrasher Archive for your old favorite issues (ALL of the 80s and early 90s issues are fully scanned, cover to cover). Look around on Facebook and Instagram and you will find tons of other people doing the exact kind of skating that YOU relate to, and motivates you to get out there on the board. Social Media sucks on many levels, but it can also be pure stoke. As I said before, the Golden Age of skateboarding is happening right NOW—there is something for everyone, and yes, that includes YOU.

                                                          Maintain a Positive Attitude

Last, and most important, remember that skateboarding is supposed to be fun. Don’t take it, or yourself, too seriously. However, sometimes that positive attitude can be hard to maintain, and anxiety around injury, or being around other skaters can cause some problems. Part 4 of this series talks about those exact issues.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Small Victories

Writing something down transforms abstract concept into something more concrete. It makes dismissal and repudiation a harder task. Moreover, it is acknowledgement and admission that something occurred. It provides for recognition. 

My relationship with skateboarding has been quite strained recently. It has been creating far more frustration than joy. This mood is spilling over into other aspects of my life. I am probably not a fun person to be around right now.

The problem is expectation, reality, and the vast, empty chasm between. It has been eleven months since I broke my leg. I expected to be much, much further along the so-called “recovery process” this late in the game. I thought I’d be able to skate a 4’ mini ramp again by now. I am nowhere near that (ankle could not handle running out of a bail with that much force). I thought my ankle would be strong enough/flexible enough to do nollies again. It isn’t close. I have to wear pads to skate a curb. I thought I’d be able to jog/run by now. I cannot.  Stairs can be difficult. These are but just a few examples. There are many more. Worse, I do not know if it is reasonable to think things will improve much beyond what they are now. A broken leg is troublesome, but loss of hope is what really cripples. I find myself incredibly…frustrated. I try not to have any expectations from the past, to stay in the moment, and enjoy skateboarding for what it is now, here, today…and to not be clouded by ghosts from before. It is not an easy road.  

So, how to push through this? I posted something about it on social media the other day. I got a lot of feedback from people. Two things stuck with me. First, was something Jim T. posted a few hours later.

The other was a comment someone made directly to me on Instagram.

Dude, you broke your leg and had two surgeries on a key component to your skateboarding. It’s gonna take time, and progress is progress, regardless of how frail it looks. It’s easy to let shadow overcome light when you know what you are capable of at 100%. Allow yourself small victories. Build on those. Enjoy growing into a new skater.” 

Allow yourself small victories.” 

I bought a small note book today. About 3” x 5”. On the cover I wrote in small (but bold), black, block letters “SMALL VICTORIES”. I will bring it with me every time I go skateboarding. It will serve as a ledger, a journal, a register of, well, my small skateboard victories.

I repeat myself. Writing something down transforms abstract concept into something more concrete. It makes dismissal and repudiation a harder task. Moreover, it is acknowledgement and admission that something occurred. It provides for recognition. 

Before I can allow myself small victories, I first need to recognize and admit they even occurred, no matter how small they are. To that end, I now have pages to fill.