Posted on February 8, 2017
I was asked about an update, so here it is. This post was originally supposed to be about learning kickflips but that didn’t really work out as planned. After a month or two of trying them (which is shorter than it seems, it was less than an hour per week) I actually did land a few. Those were in the grass and sketchy though. Doing them while moving and on pavement… no way. My kickflips are rocket flipping, back foot catches with the front foot missing or touching down early most times. After hours of minor adjustments and no significant improvements I realized I was stuck and gave up. I decided I’d rather just skate than struggle.
So, instead of a triumphant “I learned kickflips at 42!” post, here is a recap of the past year. Much like my kickflip attempts, 2016 kind of sucked. Skateboarding can be both incredibly rewarding and insanely frustrating and this past year leaned much more towards the frustrating end of the spectrum. For most of the year I felt like I had plateau-ed or was even actively regressing. So while I generally still had fun hanging out, the skateboarding itself was often also somewhat disheartening as nothing seemed to come easy.
I began skating again the summer of 2012. That year was spent re-learning the basics, my goal being to roll around the skate park and look like I knew what I was doing. By 2014 I had surpassed that and had relearned quite a lot. I had goals and regularly put in the work at Owls Head and Chelsea to learn tricks. I had no goals for 2015. Early that spring this woman I know from Chelsea, Sally, said she had no goals for the year and wasn’t going to push herself to learn anything and instead just skateboard. I liked that approach and decided to follow it. By just skateboarding I may have made the most progress yet. A large part of that was due to the mini ramp at Hoboken. I learned and relearned quite a number of tricks there because that ramp is so small and forgiving. My bigger bowl skating also markedly improved and I was skating near the top of my ability coming in to 2016, before I broke my wrist.
As I said in my previous post, I was off of the board for just around two months and then slowly got back in to skating in May, on the Hoboken mini. Chelsea also remained a regular spot, of course, but on bigger terrain I now had much more fear of falling. You can’t cheat at skateboarding. You can’t fake it. The only way to learn things is to commit. With the commit can come the slam but it is often the hesitation that can really injure you. Post injury I was much more reticent to try things. I took a much more leisurely “carve the bowl, cruise around the park and do some ollies” approach to skating for quite a while. This was all well and good on the bigger stuff, where I didn’t have many tricks to begin with, but was discouraging when I realized this same reluctance carried over to smaller transition as well.
The one place that really stands out was the mini bowl in Long Beach. We rented a car and took a day trip to skate the park there. That day was one of the most frustrating. I struggled to do anything besides axle stall in the mini bowl. I didn’t beat myself up about it but I also didn’t push myself at all. I wasn’t skating well and didn’t want to risk hurting myself. I got a second chance at Long Beach the following weekend because I was there on vacation, but I was alone and it was horribly hot so I half assed it once again.
Another place was Fargo, ND. I took a trip to the Midwest to visit my girlfriend’s family and stopped at a few skate parks along the way. The park in Fargo was awesome but I just couldn’t skate it. While it doesn’t have much flow, it has a lot of small bumps, quarter pipes and mellow banks. It is the kind of park that, given time, I could learn a lot at, but instead I struggled with the basics and ignored large portions of it out of fear of falling.
And again, I also failed to learn kickflips this year, which was my stated goal.
Otherwise, I spent the rest of the hottest part of the summer mostly skating Owls Head early in the morning, as some of it at least has some shade. I generally skated the smaller parts of the park and it wasn’t until later in the fall that I got back in to the bowl for real. Then the year picked up. I took me almost seven months from when I broke my wrist, to really get back up to speed. So, 2016 wasn’t all bad. Here are some of the highlights:
A Chelsea curb session in September.
Chelsea was locked the morning of Old Man Jam because the drains were not working. Stuck outside, we skated a curb for about two hours before I got tired of waiting and went to Owls Head. The rest of the guys eventually got in to the park but I think I had more fun skating that curb than I would have the bowl. That was probably my first legit curb session in something close to twenty five years.
The mini ramp in Starbuck, MN in October.
I had planned to skate in both Fargo, ND and Watertown, SD during my trip to the Midwest but the lakefront mini ramp in my girlfriend’s tiny home town was the best surprise. I only skated it for a few minutes but it stands out because it was so unexpected. We were just driving along and I was like “Holy shit! There’s a mini! Pull over!” It was tiny and in bad shape but I managed to bust out my handful of tricks with no real warm up.
Paine’s and Grays Ferry in November.
I went to Philadelphia for Thanksgiving and met up with two friends from college to skate the next morning. I didn’t skate exceptionally well, I spent most of my time at Paine’s trying to figure it out and I was only marginally better at Grays Ferry than I had been the previous year. What made it so amazing was hanging out with Roy and Jesse. I felt like a teenager again.
(C)old Man Jam at Chelsea in December.
True to my promise I finally started wearing a helmet and pads to skate the bigger stuff and it had an immediate effect. After two weeks of starting to get tricks back at the Owls Head bowl I then skated Chelsea twice. By (C)old Man Jam I was pushing my axle stalls into 50-50s in the shallow. That may not seem like a lot but it was a major step forward for me. Pads helped me get over the fear of the bowls I had developed and I now feel uncomfortable skating anything large without them.
Golconda in December.
After a year of delays this highly anticipated park in Brooklyn finally opened. Designed by Steve Rodriguez it shares many features with 181, which he was also involved in. Many of the elements are too tight, oddly shaped and hard to skate. The brick banks to sticking out marble tops is an obvious point of comparison. Also like 181, it is already incredibly filthy, thanks to the roosting pigeons and dust from the BQE on-ramp bridge above it. This may make it sound bad, but its the exact opposite. It’s odd enough to be interesting and has a little bit of something for everyone, including a mini kidney bowl. That bowl, despite being small is also, in the words of the kids, “low key dangerous”. It was frustrating at first but once I figured it out it became something I have very high hopes for. I moved from Sunset Park to Crown Heights right around the time this park opened and I am pretty sure it will become my new go to spot, now that I am no longer near Owls Head.
2ntr in January.
This one is cheating, since I technically skated this in 2017 but I think the indoor bowl session we had at 2ntr was the best I’d felt since last year. I just felt smooth and confident on the skateboard. I only got one or two new things, one of those being small frontside grinds. Again, that may not seem like much, but as with the 50-50s at Chelsea, this represents a major breakthrough for me.
So, 2017…. I think the lesson learned is to not set goals but to also continue to step outside of my comfort zone. It’s been a rough start to the year already. After 2ntr I got sick and stayed sick for over two weeks, so I didn’t skate except for a quick hour long flat session. The last two weekend (and likely this one as well because of the weather) I’ve been skating Winter Bowl, the private indoor spot in south Brooklyn. That has been very humbling. The tight bowl and steep mini ramp there are by far some of the most challenging things I have skated yet and I’m back to feeling like I suck again.
Thank you skateboarding.