The Pied Piper Effect
Posted on November 17, 2015
Marc was one of my good friends in high school and a core member of my skate crew. He started skating again almost exactly one year ago. He now lives in Italy yet, despite the ocean between us, we talk nearly daily about skateboard related ephemera. He was the obvious choice when I decided that, instead of writing about it, I wanted to have a conversation about what it means to be an adult skateboarder. I’d like to thank him for all of his help in putting this together. It turned out better than I had hoped.
A few posts ago I wrote about how watching skate videos inspired me to start skating again. Where did your desire to start again came from? I think I may have had a big influence on you. Is that true?
Skateboarding was always in the back of my mind, that is just what it is like when you skated. You walk down the street and your eye just roves towards possible spots. You see a set of stairs, you see a ledge, you see a bank and your mind skates it. I think that has always been there for me, ever since I quit. It never went away.
But all of this is probably a Facebook phenomenon. At some point, 2011 or 2012, maybe even earlier, you were sending me videos. You sent me Cheese and Crackers, with Daewon and Haslam on the mini ramp…. I hadn’t followed the progression of skating. For me, mini ramps were still Jeff B in 1991. Doing what they were doing [in Cheese and Crackers] was literally not on my radar at all. It blew me away. I was like “Holy shit, what’s happening with skateboarding? Where has it gone? I’ve missed all of this.”
Think about it. I didn’t even know who Daewon Song was because he came up in 1993 in Love Child, and I had quit by that point. So for me Daewon was just like “who is this guy?” and he was already an old pro. I was really fascinated by where skateboarding had gone and it was exciting watching these videos. You kept sending them I started searching them out myself. I had no idea who these people were but it was interesting and it just snowballed. Last year you were posting your stuff on Facebook, your trips to Chelsea and your progress and I was like “holy shit, he can do it, I want to do it!” It was one of those things. I wanted to see if I could do it again. I really didn’t think I could or that it would stick but the desire built and I thought “oh my god I have to get a skateboard now.”
So how long have you been skating again? I can’t remember exactly when you started.
I got my board on November 16th of last year. I received it in the mail. I remember I didn’t even know what to buy. I had no idea about sizes, wheels…. I just got this cheap complete because I didn’t even know where to begin. It was a 7.75, really tiny! So much time had passed and skateboards didn’t look like they did in 1992. I went out the evening I got it. I was so psyched I took it to work. There is this little park near my office that is just flat. When I got off work, it was dark, I was in my business shirt and office shoes, and I took the skateboard out and just ran to the park and jumped on it and started rolling around. Then I hit a pebble and I slammed.
It just didn’t register to me, pebbles. Now, I think about it, but that night I was just cruising around in the dark and I hit a pebble and went flying and slammed on my shoulder and elbow. I had a swellbow the next day. But still, I rode around and tried to ollie. I got about a 2cm ollie and I felt really cool. On the way back to the car I was riding along a curb and I was feeling all tough so I was like “I’ll ride off the curb” but I didn’t realize that the parking lot was all gravel. It wasn’t smooth and I just stopped. I did one of those things where your torso twists to stop yourself from falling and I had a rib bruise for a month.
In the first ten minute session I got two injuries. It was kind of a wake up call.
That’s what kind of happened to Ed. I went to Baltimore last year, for Christmas. Ed lives about two blocks from the new bowl they built there. So I was like “Ed, I’m going to skate the new bowl, you live right down the street, why don’t you come hang out with me?” He came over and watched and then of course he had to try my board. He did an ollie or two, and then he wanted his own board. We went to the local skate shop, Vu, which is literally right next to the park, and he bought a board as well as a mini for his daughter. We decided to skate again the next morning. He carved the deep end of the bowl about three quarters of the way up, both frontside and backside. He then skated the little quarter pipe, dropped in on it, got an axle stall, a rock ‘n’ roll, and then he did an axle pivot on it, which blew my mind.
Which I still can’t do.
Yeah, they are hard. You have to hit that perfect balance on that turn. I think he was so hyped up and me cheering him on fanned those flames. He was a little sketchy. One of those axle stalls looked like he was almost going to go to disaster and hang up. I was like “Ed, slow down, slow down! You are doing the tricks but you are scaring me a little bit!” He didn’t slam doing that though. He was just doing a flatground ollie when he landed off balance and slipped out fell forward and fractured his wrist.
I came into town, got him skating again, after twenty some years, and he breaks his wrist the first day. He skated a few more time but kept hurting himself. You know… he’s got to work, he’s got a physical job…. I think he just went for it too hard. It took me months before I was messing around with lip tricks on a quarter pipe. I skated flat for about a month. I failed miserably the first time I went to a skate park. I spent a month just getting comfortable with turning and carving on transition before I did anything.
So since we are already talking about it, let’s talk about injury.
I had a lot of injuries the first six months. Not serious injuries but just little things that don’t stop hurting. It scared the shit out of me at the beginning, I was like “what the fuck am I doing to myself.” I really thought I was going to produce long term injuries or just really fuck it up and regret it. At a certain point you said “Trust me, your body will get used to it after a while” and it did. Those movements kind of became second nature again.
There is a lot of twisting and lateral motions that you don’t normally do otherwise.
Yeah that twisting of the torso…
My back used to be so sore every time after skating. Now normally what hurts is the side of my knee, generally on my back leg, but sometimes it’s still my lower back. If I fall weird or something, I’ll be like “oh god I can’t skate anymore because I’m not going to be able to walk tomorrow!”
The lower back, yeah, when I’m not skating sometimes I do exercise. I’ll do core work and stretching and stuff like that and that helps a lot. I make a point of doing back flexibility and core stuff because I have a stiff back anyway, which is probably really bad for skateboarding. My wife is always telling me “Dude, your back. You shouldn’t do this.” What can I do, you know? I don’t like soccer or any other sports. I get a lot of these little pains in my legs and in my inner thighs. I remember I would go out and dick around on flat ground for half an hour and come home and feel like I pulled a muscle in my groin. From doing shove-its. I remember thinking, “I can’t believe it hurts that bad after like nothing.” I didn’t pull it, I didn’t slam but it would hurt. It doesn’t do that anymore. I can go out and skate for two hours now and if I don’t fall, like slam, I don’t have any real pain. My foot hurts sometimes. My toe. I jammed it trying to backside ollie some gap, the rotation, my foot kind of slammed in the tail wrong way and my toe still kind of hurts now but I got these new insoles and that seems to be helping.
How often are you skating?
I try to skate once a week. Now that the weather’s getting crappy that may turn into once every two weeks. I try to go out every weekend, maybe twice a week if I’m lucky.
About how long are you out for when you do go?
An hour or two. Never three or four. Even when I went to the skate park in Rome a few weeks ago, it was a two hour session. It still takes me an hour to really feel warmed up. I don’t go out and start trying tricks right away. I go out and just cruise around and I work it up. I work up to getting to where I think I am, and feeling comfortable, because even if I don’t skate for a week, when I put the board down it’s like wobbles. You are like “holy shit it’s only been a week and I don’t even have balance anymore.” It can take half an hour just to get balance again. Then you begin doing the tricks you know you can, on lock. Until I get the tricks I have on lock working, I won’t really try anything new.
So how often do you skate?
Once a week. Twice a week occasionally. I go for four or five hours but the parks get busy and there is a lot of talking. If I go to Owls Head, where no one ever goes, I’ll only stay two hours because I have it to myself. That’s the park where I can actually put in work learning new tricks. The other parks, there is often too many people, even early, so there is a lot of just hanging out.
There is a social element to it. You wrote about that, when the social element disappeared, you quit skating.
Yeah it’s really nice. I didn’t even realize I missed it. Sometimes I do like being alone though.
So what’s a trick, even if it’s something basic, that you can’t get that you feel like you need to get?
On tranny, everything. I can’t do anything on tranny so that’s not even a…. On street, a kickflip. I guess it’s not basic, but it is now. I know I could do them back in the day, you have video attesting to the fact that I could actually land them. I have a block, I think, now. Every time I go out I try a couple kickflips and I think I’m afraid of landing primo. My mind just won’t let me try to commit to it for fear of landing primo. I don’t know why that’s so scary.
It hurts and you fall back and jam your wrists.
That’s the idea. I have wrist guards and a helmet but still you don’t want to land primo. Your mind doesn’t want to do it. I think I’m afraid of that more than anything. You know when you reach a certain point with some tricks where you can’t unlearn learning them the wrong way? I think that’s where I am with kickflips. I can’t get out of the rut of trying to land them with one foot and not putting the other foot back on. It’s just like my brain won’t go there anymore. And I’d have to unlearn that whole thing and try it again from scratch, but I don’t know if I can do that so I’ve kind of given up on them. It doesn’t matter that much, you know, flip tricks, they’re cool but….
Mine is just frontside 5-0s on transition. Not even a slash. That’s what I’m working on now, I’ve got them so that on small things I can tail drag to stop and then kind of teeter and fall into the ramp, sometimes, but I can’t do that fully committed, manual, leaned back….
I don’t think it’s an easy trick though. It wouldn’t be in my top ten first tricks on tranny. It’s also kind of scary because if you slip out, boom, you fall to the coping.
Yeah, you do.
You go right on your hip on the coping. It hurts.
I have the same problem with curbs. If I’m skating a decent curb that grinds… not a ledge, because ledges are kind of high, but a curb, I can’t do a 5-0. I can ollie up to 50-50. I can do a few variations, little tailslides, noseslides but whenever I try to ollie into a 5-0 I over ollie it and land up on top the curb or I twist too much and get to where it’s almost to tail but it’s a really hard thing to do I think
I got them in Richmond, when I was there. There was that skate park that was pretty good, downtown, the concrete one, and they had a perfect manual ledge, which was the only perfect manny ledge I’ve ever skated because you can’t find them. One of the sides was like a 6 inch curb, you know? And it had metal coping and I got 5-0s on that pretty consistently, that day, but that was the only time. I started doing them without really thinking about it because I was doing manuals already so it just seemed like it was easy, just on the coping. So sometimes you get things you didn’t expect to be able to get, like I got 50-50s to front shove-it out and that’s a trick I could never do before. But it’s easy, because once you get in the 50-50, if you know how to front shove, you just kind of flick it and there it goes. It just kind of happened without thinking about it. It was like “that was easy!” Because sometimes you are surprised by things you can do that you didn’t think ever that you could do them.
Back disasters were the ones that surprised me. I didn’t remember being able to do them, so I never tried them again but one day….
What happens is these kids… these kids are just like “can you do this? Can you do that? Try this” and after I’ve been skating for a little bit I forget that I’m 41 years old and I just start going for things. Missing a back disaster is sketchy. If you get up on that deck instead of catching on the board, you are going face first into the flat. Or you are going to noseblunt without meaning too….
No you don’t want that.
I’ve definitely done that before and you just go barreling forward…. But I got them, after just a few tries.
I remember back in the day mini ramping, my backside disasters were pretty much on lock. If you look at those mini ramp parts from like 1990, those pro parts…. That wasn’t like advanced mini ramp skating but at the time there was all those combo tricks, like back disaster smith stall, fakie hangup back smith stall or you’d revert it, all those little combo tricks, I remember learning those things with Jeff B and Young in 1990. We were doing all that stuff, rail to smith over the spine and what not. We could do a lot of stuff back then, for the time. We weren’t really bad.
Young doesn’t have much in the old video I have but he has a line or two on Dookie ramp where he was doing some crazy things.
Like disaster slides to smith revert.
Yeah, he was doing lots of little sliding in and out of things that I didn’t remember him doing.
Yeah disaster slide smith grind revert. It’s in the video. I remember him doing them. He had them on lock. He was really good. He had a great pop too. He could really ollie high. But again we are talking about stuff that is still prehistoric skating by today’s standards. I would say that the last video that was in anyway approachable was Useless Wooden Toys. Where you felt like you might be able to get to that level if you skated well enough. Those people were that good then, that they would just blow your mind, but that all changed with Plan B Questionable.
Its different on transition. The guys that rip the bowls, it’s like smith grinds through the corners, frontside ollies over the hip and maybe something crazy in the deep end that I would never thinking of doing, like a back disaster slide on three feet of vert. But something like a smith grind, that is within the realm of possibility of me learning again. I don’t know if I ever will but that’s not unimaginable to me. A lot of transition skating is almost the same as it was in the ’80s.
Yeah in bowl skating it is, bowl skating is bowl skating unless you are going to kickflip noseblunt in the deep end of a bowl, I mean, come on.
I mean that’s kind of antithetical to the bowl because the bowl is all about lines. It’s not about just doing a trick.
Yeah, a lot of the guys that skate the bowl just carve and do lines. Bowl skating is like retirement skating. You can carve a bowl into your mid 50s, which a lot of these guys have demonstrated to me. I still feel like I’ve got a few years of learning left though. I still feel like there is a bunch of stuff I can get if I put the time in.
You were a flow skater. You never had a huge bag of tricks back in the day. You always did the same things for the most part but you always had good flow, good consistency. That’s the way I always thought of your skating, more consistent than lots of new things all the time. Is learning tricks an important thing for you now?
That’s how I still skate. I just do the same things over and over and over again because I want them to be perfect. I don’t want to have to think about them. Then I slowly start to work in something new. It does feel great when you learn something new though. My goal, when I started back up, was to just look like I knew what I was doing.
I think you’ve gotten there.
Yeah. Some days I’ll learn like three new things and other times I can’t do anything. I get frustrated with those bad days, but generally, if I’m not feeling it, I’ll just roll around and talk to some people.
You are skating primarily alone aren’t you, or are you hanging out with kids sometimes?
Sometimes I do, but it’s difficult. The kids around here, the skater kids, they all know each other so they are always in contact so they all kind of organize to go to the same spot at the same time, so if you are not part of that you might run into them at that spot, but you are probably not going to. Because here the spots are few and far between. There are no skate parks. I usually go to the same four spots. It depends on what I feel like skating. The best all around spot is that place with those banks, because there is flat, those banks and a bench, it’s about the best you are going to find around here. So it is also where most of the skaters go most frequently, and it’s the site of our future skate park if that ever happens (this spot has been temporarily closed by the city since we did the interview). Usually who I run into there though are kids who don’t really know how to skate. You get these 11 or 12 year old kids with some crappy K-Mart board their dad bought them and they are trying to learn to ollie. They look at you like you are a god because you can ollie and do a couple of tricks, because for them, it’s probably like you and I looking at Chris Cole or something.
It blows little kids minds when an adult can actually do tricks because generally their parents aren’t doing anything and that is who they relate adults to. The parents are just sitting on a bench playing on their phone while the kid is pushing around. So to see an adult do it, they are like “oh my god you are so good!” and you’re like “Not really.”
Right, but again it’s all frame of reference. If you can’t even ollie and you see someone 180 ollie it’s a big deal and of course if the dude has a beard and is losing his hair, it’s like cognitive dissonance. Which is kind of cool in a way but then again I just want to go skating, I don’t want it to turn into teaching the kid to skate. Because that is my time, I don’t have a lot of time, I’m not hanging out at the skate park all day every day. So for me when I go skating I really skate hard for like two hours. I don’t sit down a lot, I don’t rest a lot and I stop when I am tired and sweaty and just can’t do it anymore, or if it’s dark. Those two hours for me are really concentrated skating. An hour of that is warm up and an hour of that is working on something I want to get. You can only roll around on a mellow bank for so much, so if you aren’t working on a trick there isn’t much to do. So I do end up working on new tricks a lot but there is also a sense of satisfaction I get from learning new tricks. I almost always skate alone, though.
Are there any older people at all, even guys in their mid 20s?
Yeah there is a core group of people who are probably between 20 and 25, they started this… you know the Majer crew in Texas? Well they all want to be like the Majer crew now so they started this YouTube channel and they have this crew identity now. Some of them are in the 20s but you don’t get much older than that. I’m the oldest person out there by at least ten years, maybe fifteen years, every time.
What kind of reaction do you get from those guys? Do they think you are weird?
Well those guys, they don’t talk a lot. They are really into their own thing. They come out there with their earbuds in, their iPods on and they don’t talk to anyone. They just skate around and do their tre flips and their crook grinds and then they go off to some other spot together. Sometimes they’ll get involved in a game of skate and it’s like “hey do you want to play?” and I’ll be like “yeah right, I can’t kickflip.” The funny thing is I’ve ended up winning some of those games, because they can do the flippy dippy stuff but they can’t do a backside 180 ollie. So you end up winning games of skate against people who can technically skate your ass off.
There is not a lot of communication but it’s cool though. There is no ribbing, no “hey old man”, because they see that I can skate. They see that I’m not just out there with a longboard and my Thrasher shirt on, or whatever, being a dork. So I think there is a certain level of respect because they kind of know me now and they see that I can skate.
I remember skaters were really judgmental back when we were kids. You always felt like everyone was judging everyone else, there were the cool kids and… us. I don’t feel that any more. Maybe I just don’t give a shit because I am older but I don’t even see that between the other kids. There is not a lot of snickering if someone can’t do a trick or the feeling of that you are not cool because you can’t do the cool stuff. I remember that whole crew of guys who were just one year older than us but I felt this huge abyss, like they were cool and we were just dorks. There was the perception that if you wanted to talk to those guys they wouldn’t even talk to you because you were a dumb kid. And now, I see the younger kids and the older kids and it seems like they are cool together. It seems like there is not as much of that, or none of it. I don’t know if it’s an Italian thing, if Italians are just more laid back.
What about the adults in your life? What do they think about you skateboarding?
They think I’m cool. The people around here, who never really thought I was cool before, now that I’ve started skating and they see the videos on Instagram and whatever, some of them think I’m cool now, because they are my age and they can’t skate. They’ve probably always wanted to, or they skated when they were younger and always thought of skaters as being cool and that changes their perception of me. It surprised probably everybody because it kind of came out of left field.
I told my wife recently, “Hey, I’ve been skating for a year already!” Her comment was, “You’ve lost weight.” But she’s come around, too. She’s no longer afraid I’ll kill myself.
Is skateboarding popular in Italy now? In NYC there are a bunch of older people who have come back to it and they all come back with their vintage Powell Peralta decks, with no nose and no concave, and if they stick with it they eventually get a more modern board. Also longboarding, which may be past its peak, but longboarding… there are just kids pushing mongo down the street everywhere.
Skateboarding isn’t super popular here yet, not like in other places like Brazil, for instance. I still never see random kids skating the streets. It’s just this core group of maybe twenty guys here. It’s probably more popular in bigger cities where there are skateparks, like Rome and Milan, though. Even American pros make a pit stop in Milan to film.
In some ways skateboarding is kind of accepted now but I still feel like there is a stigma to it. People at my work know I used to ride my bike more seriously; they think of me as a cyclist. On Monday, after a nice weekend, they’ll be like “so did you go for any rides this weekend?” and I’ll be like “no I was in the park all day.” But I don’t say I was in the skate park, because then I’d have to explain it.
Like when they ask “did you go to mass yesterday?” and you are like “not really, I went to the other church.”’ Is it like not wanting to say you are an atheist to your colleagues?
Yeah, I don’t want those weird sideways looks and….
That’s the exact analogy I made to my wife. Skateboarding is the atheism of the sports world. There is a stigma attached to it. Sometimes I wonder if the stigma is just in my mind from when we were kids, from the skateboarding is not a crime generation.
It’s still there. I was getting off the subway, had my board strapped to my backpack and I hear “look at that, grown ass man with a skateboard, he’s got to be 40 years old.” It’s the only time I’ve heard it out loud but it’s there. There are always articles about skateboarding as a mid-life crisis, it’s a constant theme. No one would think twice if I was to dress up in spandex and go ride my bike for hours but the fact that I’m grey and bald and dirty and have a bleeding cut on my leg and dragging a skateboard on the subway, people won’t even sit near me. Like “oh god who is this weird old guy.” I feel it.
Cycling is considered a serious sports. It’s always been looked at that way, its Olympic. In the culture, skateboarding is something that kids do.
Yeah its a toy and adults aren’t supposed to play with toys.
Useless Wooden Toys, just the name of that video says it all. Toy Machine. It is looked at as something for kids, something you experiment with for a little while and then you grow out of. Real, serious people, adults, don’t do it, it’s not considered an adult-compatible pursuit or sport or whatever. Which is one of the reasons I like it.
I’m curious what your opinion on that is, because in my opinion skateboarding is not a sport.
Okay that is debatable. I don’t know what it is. I don’t really care if you call it or sport or not, it doesn’t matter to me either way. Sometimes it seems like a sport, other times like a philosophy. My wife does martial arts and the two actually have a lot of aspects in common.
I compare it to dance. I read something somewhere that said that Rodney Mullen invented the tricks and then Gonz made them look like dancing. That’s what I think about it. You just go out there and do these weird physical motions for almost purely aesthetic reasons. Like you are chasing some kind of Platonic ideal of what a trick is. If you don’t film it, it’s like… sand mandalas or butter sculptures or something. You created this beautiful thing and if you didn’t film it is it gone forever. Its this really aesthetic thing which is why I compare it to dance. You just do this beautiful motion and you take pleasure in the fact when you know you did something perfectly.
But now there is the tendency to try to film everything. Which is kind of an obsession and I don’t think it’s really positive all the time. I think it takes away from a session. Sometimes I feel like I’m too obsessed with being like “I have to film this thing I did”, instead of spending the last half an hour of a session just skating. It’s like “oh my god I learned something, I have to film it right away”, otherwise it didn’t really happen.
I’ve been trying to figure out why it feels so good to me. Like we were talking about earlier, it really isn’t so much about learning tricks to me. Just carving the walls and not doing anything… there is something deep in the mammalian brain that likes going fast and gliding. Like riding a bike down a hill. That rolling feels good, but that’s obviously not it.
One of the things I have really enjoyed about skating again is I get hit with these constant waves of nostalgia. I’ll be standing on top of a ramp and have an instant flashback to standing on top of Jeff B’s ramp. Like I was right there. The smells, the sounds, the leaves on the ground…. It just comes back. I’ll remember exactly where I was and what it felt like when I learned a trick. I’ll remember being at Lutherville at 8am, trying the same trick over and over and over. It just floors me sometimes, the stuff that it brings back.
I think because for us, for most skateboarders, it was this intense experience you identify with entirely. When we were skateboarders, it wasn’t like we played soccer, or we had bikes and sometimes we skateboarded. It was what we did. It was all we did. That was our social life, our physical activity, what we thought about in our beds at night, that is what we talked about, that is what we watched on television, that is what we read in magazines, that is what we drew in our notebooks.
It was all encompassing, it was 100% who you were. The music you listened to, everything was connected to this thing, that is why I guess you are kind of right in saying it’s not a sport. It’s kind of a culture. It’s 100% of who you are when you are a teenager, and that kind of experience is so total that it can’t not leave tracks in your psyche. The whole idea that twenty years later, you have not stepped on a skateboard and you still walk down the street and you skateboard in your head. You see a handrail and you think, I could do that.
I still play with my fingers, on the edges of tables, doing lip tricks. I did that for the entire twenty years I didn’t skate. I would just be sitting bored in a restaurant and doing disasters on the edge of the table with my fingers.
I would imagine that every person who ever skated is exactly the same way. It just gets into your brain. I played basketball, I played football, I played soccer but none of them left that… aftertaste. I never think about kicking a soccer ball. Now it’s even worse, now that I do it, because now I spot hunt when I’m driving. It’s like “Oh shit, I almost got in an accident because I saw stairs.”
You never stop thinking about it, it’s totalizing and that’s got to be unique. I imagine if you are a pro cyclist you think like that. But just kids who ride bikes, they don’t think about riding their bike all the time.
Maybe the BMX kids… but yeah, there are very few things like it. Maybe it is tied into teenage tribal identities.
It’s beyond that though, it’s not just about that, it’s about the fun. Nothing makes you feel as good as just doing a smooth ollie on a bank, or a powerslide down a hill. There is something about it that is different than kicking a ball around. There is something about it that is just so satisfying. When it goes well. It is frustrating when it doesn’t, obviously. There is something so satisfying about whatever it is we are doing out there. I have no idea how to explain why that particular thing is that satisfying.
I saw this cool video by this guy named Dr. Tae. He’s a physicist. He did one of those TED talks. He’s an eccentric guy but he’s a decent skater. He did this talk about how he was trying to learn this trick and he filmed the entire process and condensed it into a five minute video where he showed the 100s of times he didn’t make it, only to make it once. And he said, essentially, this is skateboarding. You go out there alone with the board and the pavement, the ramp, the obstacle, and you just work on it, and no one can make it easier for you. No one can short cut it for you. No one can do it for you. It’s just you and the board. It’s up to you.
I think, for me, that’s the core thing with skateboarding and probably why I love it and why I came back to it with such verve. It’s so individualistic. It’s like a martial art. It has the same discipline to it that martial arts have. It’s almost a meditative experience. Sometimes I almost like skating alone, it’s almost bothersome when there are people there. I like people and I like to skate with other people but sometimes I just want those two hours of me and the board. To have that time to just block everything out and forget about work, forget about whatever else in life and just concentrate. It’s an intensely inner experience.
Maybe it’s just that we are skateboarders. The kind of people we are were drawn to this. It could be as simple as that. It speaks to who I am. Maybe we are looking in the wrong place for the answer. Its nothing mysterious. Maybe we are attracted to this because that’s the kind of people that we are. Again though, it does seem like skateboarders suffer this very particular and very peculiar pathology. And we are seeing it more now, because when we were kids, old skateboarders didn’t really exist.
Well they did, but they were just kind of off the radar
But an old skateboarder in 1990 was like someone who skated for Hobie in 1965? Now we are seeing people who are “real” skateboarders in the sense we understand it, who are 50, sometimes 60 years old. Tony Alva, Caballero, those guys and they’re still fucking good too. You read comments on the internet and it’s from people who are 45 years old, and they’re not a minority. They’re part of the demographic.
Skateboarding was so big in the the ’80s that every weird, creative, physical kid of our generation skated, or at least tried it. The smart creative misfits were the ones that gravitated towards skateboarding and that is generally my peer group now. All these musicians or artists…. My friend Brian, he skated when he was young and I got him to go to the park with me. He probably won’t go back again, but he rolled down the banks, got an ollie out of a bank, landed a kickflip….. It was probably his first time on the board in years. I see it all the time, these guys are just like “oh! I could do that!” You can see them thinking “maybe I should try this again?” Most of them don’t. Maybe they have other things going on, maybe they don’t have time, maybe they are afraid of getting hurt, but so many of them…. I see it. All I would have to do is lean on them a little bit more and I could get them out there the next weekend.
You’ve always been the Pied Piper kind of person. Even in high school you were always in to contaminating other people with your obsessions.
I think it’s always been part of your personality to sort of export your obsessions. It’s cool though. I’m glad actually, because if you hadn’t done that I probably wouldn’t be skating now. If you hadn’t already been doing it I don’t think I ever would have thought of doing it. It wasn’t just about watching the videos, it was about seeing you actually out there doing it successfully. I was like “holy shit, I can do it too.” This is the right time, before I get too old.
I don’t think that happens with 40 year old ex-lacrosse players. Its part of who you are, forever. You can be anyone you want to be, but underneath it all, you are still in some ways a skateboarder. It’s something to do with how you think about the world. How you approach life and I guess there is a DIY element. I don’t think you can really explain it, it is so complex. So doing it again, it’s like, can I ever stop?
I don’t know why I ever stopped. I mean I know why but….
We were 18. You don’t think about it like that. You just think at the time…. It just wasn’t cool anymore and it was going through a lull and wasn’t as popular as it had been in like ’88. So maybe we were just victims of waning popularity.
What’s nice about being an old skateboarder is you have the excuse of being an old skateboarder. No one expects you to be able to do anything, so if you can, it’s like “you’re good, for an old guy!” You’ve got that built in excuse.
I don’t feel like I have to ollie stairs now, or drop in on vert, like you did.
I remember at Cheap Skates, just standing there with the tail over the vert ramp.
That thing was huge, it was like twelve feet.
But still, you feel like you have to do it. I’m a skateboarder, I have to drop in on vert. I have to do it. I would stand there, almost in tears, looking down, my heart just pounding, and I’d step back. I’d almost cry because I couldn’t make myself do it. I was always too prudent to have been a really good skater.
The kids at Chelsea are always like “can you drop in on the deep end” and I’m like “I can, but I won’t because I’ve got nothing to prove” but then I did it. I was hyped up that day at Riverside. I told my buddy Andrew that if we went up there that I was going to have to drop in on the vert ramp and that he had to do it too. I just kind of hyped myself up into it.
I’d never even entertain the idea. It’s like saying “I’ll ollie down ten stairs.” But I guess you feel comfortable enough on transition to try it. I think when I was at that park in Rome I dropped in on a four foot quarter pipe. It was fine, but at first I was like “oh shit, if I don’t make it I’m going to slam on the concrete.” Of course it was nothing.
If you had a park and skated transition all that stuff would come back pretty quickly.
Yeah I’m sure, but I don’t.
So do you really feel like a skater again?
Fuck yeah, are you kidding me? It feels like I never stopped skating. You go out to the park and throw your board down and after ten minutes it feels like you never stopped. It’s not perfect but it feels right, it feels like what I should be doing. It makes me feel better as person, too. I feel physically better, I feel mentally better.
Exactly, we’ve got a little while longer before it starts to get too painful. Hopefully into our 50s.
I want to be able to do it for a while. Nobody twenty or thirty years ago would have thought that at 40 you could come back to skateboarding. So already we are beyond the ken of our imaginations. So now when you are like 50…Cab is 51 and he’s still doing demos. Bucky is still winning vert contests.
Yeah I hope to be able to just carve some bowls in ten years.
Think about how good you are going to be in ten years.