Archive for the 'Skateboarding' Category

Arrested Development Revisited – The Kid Is Back!

The author in a previous life, c.2005

After a nearly two-year hiatus, prompted by common sense, I am back on my longboard skateboard. A New York Times piece on aging boarders got me rethinking my premature retirement from bombing minor hills here in South Jersey. The first outing was a bit shaky, but improvement is happening, and I feel that it won’t take more than a couple more days of riding for me to be back where I left off. That is of course, barring catastrophe.

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A Literal Fall From Grace

The photo to the left is the grade I call “the big one.” Two years ago, skating a longboard skateboard back up that deceptively mild slope, I miscalculated and found myself seriously manhandled by the surface of that otherwise benign looking street.

If you are careful, judicious and use some common sense, riding a longboard skateboard is not all that difficult. But those qualities could be considered absent in the very act of a person my age, a certified social-security recipient, even thinking of mounting a board. But so far, I’ve yet to fall while actually riding. All five of my inadvertent contacts with the paving have come while trying to skate the board, that is, pushing or kicking it forward along on flat ground, or on returning back up a hill.

In the process of skating or propelling the board, the slightest loss of concentration or loss of balance, and you are off the board and into a free fall. You fly and then you land. Unlike surfing or even snowboarding, when you land, it’s onto an unforgiving surface, blacktop or worse, concrete. To minimize the potentially catastrophic consequences inherent in such an occurrence, I take on the appearance of the Michelin Man; a foam-lined plastic helmet, hard-shell elbow and knee-pads and wrist guards. After my first two falls, both of which were backwards falls, I purchased a roller hockey girdle, that’s a pair of heavily padded long-legged, hi-rise pants complete with a tailbone-protecting strip of foam padding.

My last spill, the one that pretty much kept me from riding for almost two years, was a first, a fall forward, a pitch out over the front of the board as I was executing the third stride of a push back uphill. This was after a particularly graceful high-speed descent of what I define as a moderately steep and curving, deserted residential street. I sensed something not quite right with my second stride, a subtle awareness of an infinitesimal shift in balance, the realization of which came as I was well into my third thrust or stride. What was essentially a minutely minor flaw in technique escalated in a fraction of a millisecond into a major malfunction. My mind flashed a frantic “Mayday! Mayday.” Too late, too late for adjustments, too late to compensate, I was airborne. In a cliché of slow motion replay reels, I could see and understood precisely what was happening, but I was powerless to do anything but ride out the fall. Continue reading ‘A Literal Fall From Grace’

An Open Letter to Bill and Melinda Gates

Dear Bill and Melinda:

You must get many letters like this one, most of them of course from cranks. But knowing that you do lots of funding to support worthy, if little known causes, you might want to help with a really deserving, if almost completely unknown and sadly neglected, cause.

Like every member of the worldwide longboard skateboarding community, I have been chased from cineplex parking lots and warned away from shopping centers while attempting to ride those ridiculously short declines. I have noticed however, that the surfaces that seem the best, if not perfect for our activities are this nation’s interstate highways, specifically the smooth, freshly-repaved, three lanes of southbound U.S. I-295 between Exits #32 and #34 in Camden County, New Jersey.

With only the most modest help from one of your many foundations, an annual “Bill and Melinda Gates” International Longboard Skateboard event could be established on that two-mile downhill grade of I-295. The only costs would be those required to close that miniscule stretch of roadway for a single summer Sunday morning. We also would need some additional money for things like insurance and to hold open a rain date, but nothing like the kind of money you’re spending on malaria or illiteracy in the Third World, although they too are probably good causes.

I am up by eleven most mornings, and will be awaiting your call.

Yours in helping make this world a better place,

p.s. Would your friend Warren be interested in this? Is he related to Jimmy? We could do a “Parrothead” tie-in. Always thinking.

A Simple Plan

“The great disasters occur, not as a result of major blunders, but when finely reasoned calculations, begin to slip, just a little.” S.L.A. Marshall – Quoted in the preface to Bernard Fall’s account of the 1954 French military debacle at Dien Bien Phu.

On any of the many websites celebrating the “Darwin Awards,” my name deserves to appear among the list of contenders. It’s been a little over three years since my grown son presented me with a forty-inch, “Sector Nine” longboard skateboard, and before finally hanging it up just short of my seventieth birthday, I’d logged over eighty hours of riding. Despite forty years of competent skiing and more recently snowboarding, the learning curve on the longboard was gradual in the extreme. I needed dozens of half-hour and one-hour sessions on the nearly flat surface of a movie theater parking lot before taking on the slight to moderate grades of the quiet suburban street in front of our house. Soon, the more challenging topography of an adjacent street began calling me.

The respectable rise in terrain on that nearby street entered my brain and started to dominate my internal landscape. This mountain of my longboard ambitions had on one side, a gently graded, straight descent of about one hundred and fifty yards, and on the far side, it dropped much more sharply, curving and leveling off after a run of about two hundred yards. Months of false starts and nervous reconnoitering went by before I mustered up the nerve to take the plunge. When I did, there was little room for technique. It was all just bombing and holding on until the flat run-out slowed me down. Gradually, I began to gain the riding skills needed to control my speed by carving my board back and forth across the fall line of the hill in what I believed was a series of graceful slalom-like moves. Every run produced an amazing rush, and every run was never less than scary. I was quickly hooked on the thrill of riding, and I suspect, to the utter improbability of the idea that someone at my age would be on a longboard skateboard. Adrenaline and vanity can make for a near lethal combination. Continue reading ‘A Simple Plan’

Bad Craziness

Four years ago, my son presented me with a longboard skateboard. A fully social-security-qualified senior citizen, I took up an activity better suited to pre-adolescents. Below is my progress in skating toward something like wisdom.

Longboarding Log:
2004 49 hours – 3 catastrophic falls
2005 23 hours – 2 horrendous spills (one included significant bloodshed)
2006 4 hours
2007 2 hours
2008 ?
With apologies to Eliot: I grow old., I grow old. I shall wear the bottoms of my cargo pocket camo shorts rolled.