I push hard with my shoulder on the swollen garage door to force it open. After the spring thaw and the arrival of summer humidity the wood swells and does its best job at keeping us from getting in. I wander across the concrete to the far carport, the light is dim and the air is musty. Sitting on a steel shelf is a skateboard, my old board, an Enjoi Panda deck riddled with scratches and nicks from a time when I could not imagine getting off of it. I grab the deck and lift it off of its hibernation bed, then grab a wheel and give it a good pull. Worn down and faded blue it spins fast on my favorite set of Black Panther bearings; not shot yet I think to myself. Carrying the board out of the garage I open the overhead door, drop the deck on the ground and roll out into the driveway. Riding feels just as good now as it did when I was thirteen.
My time spent on a skate deck isn’t nearly what it used to be, I can’t even call myself a skateboarder anymore; something I used to define myself by. Every year since I stopped skating I have wandered out to that garage and pulled my old deck from its resting place at least once a summer. Pushing around my driveway I slowly shuffle to the back of the deck, get my toes loaded on the tail then pop an ollie. I skate around and pop a few more, allowing myself to grow familiar to the feeling. After ollies become more natural I will start doing a few shove-its, typically washing out a few times before they feel natural again. Once ollies and shove-its are back under my belt I’ll try and kickflip. I load myself to the back of the board again, press the tail and flick my front foot with a snap to the left. The board sticks to my front foot and shoots forward towards my vehicle sitting vulnerable in the driveway. There’s a little frustration but I grab the board and try again. The next few tries will typically result in finally being able to spin the board, landing on the bottom of the deck, then landing one foot on the deck right-side up, then finally I’ll line up right, snap and come down on top of the board. It feels good to catch a kickflip, I’ll toss a few more, sometimes landing but most times not, eventually I start to figure it out. When I’m on the board I’m content, no matter how much ability I’ve lost.
Skateboarding taught me so much when I was younger, I never realized it until recently, but if it were not for skating I may not be the same person. When I officially gave up skating as the love of my life the deck felt like an evil thing, now it seems far from that. Today I long for skateboarding at times, I remember riding down Wellsville street with my friends as fast as we could before the light turned green and cars poured onto the street. We would go to the high school and wax anything we could ollie onto and jump over any stair set we had the balls to ride towards. Fueled by a youthful ignorance of consequences and Monster Energy drinks we turned a small town into a big playground.
I got my first good deck around the fourth or fifth grade, then my first expensive Element brand deck in the sixth grade. From that point on I was committed to skateboarding full time, alongside my partner in crime, Shane. We would ride the town almost every day and go to the nearest skate park (thirty minutes away) whenever we had the chance. The skate park was a haven; all the kids there were older than us, but we could hold our own, especially Shane. That kid was fearless and incredibly talented. From the day he started skating he was a natural. He pushed me to get better, I would play keep up and he would let me know what was truly possible. We had the time of our lives through middle school. I wasn’t particularly the coolest kid during those years and as much as I tried I sure wasn’t good at organized sports. That didn’t matter when a board was under my feet. It was my solace.
The day I gave it up I wasn’t upset, the world had convinced me skating was a childish thing and it was time to grow up. It was my freshman year when two friends and myself were pulled up to the varsity soccer team, with that I finally felt an acceptance among the “normal” crowd in my town. I would still skate but it was not without hassle. Skating around the high school soon became an issue as any coach or teacher I had would tell me I was setting myself up for injury. Then my mother received false rumors that I was doing drugs because of my identity with the skate scene in town. Skating was soon becoming destructive, an association that others judged me by and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I quit skating that soccer season. The soccer team was where I thought I belonged and the more distinguished appearance I gave off made me feel pretty good. That spring I joined the track team and running began to take the place skating held.
The thing about all of these organized sports I was becoming so involved in was they still didn’t satisfy me; I never really got good at any of them. I had snowboarding to keep me happy in the winter but the rest of the year I was just trying to get through sports seasons. Eventually I started running 5k’s and half-marathons and they satisfied me more than track season did, but I was still missing something. I never really felt the same acceptance by kids older than me like the ones at the skate park gave me. Sure I had hunting and fishing, but that community wasn’t what I was looking for either.
What skating gave me was something I could be myself with, no one told me what to do, there were no rules. It wasn’t until I found climbing that I discovered that freedom again. The beautiful thing about activities like skating is that it gives kids the chance to work and progress without pressure from others. If someone couldn’t skate as good as Shane or I we wouldn’t sit them on the sideline and if I wasn’t as good as kids older than me they didn’t shut me out. It was all about learning from each other at our own rate. It inspired freethinking and communication, there were problem solving skills involved and it kept us outside. After a day of parental pressures, educational pressures and coaching pressures all that myself, and I am sure plenty of other kids wanted, was an outlet. Skating was merely what I found. Maybe you the reader found that same solace on the sports field. I know plenty of people who felt much better about sports than I did and that was their outlet. We all write our own stories.
The day I gave up skating I lost a little part of myself but every time I take that board out I feel reconnected. I push my board down the street and carve awkwardly then lay deep and power-slide, just as Shane and I used to do across the church parking lot. I kick the board up into my hands and smile. Maybe climbing is more important to me now, but if it weren’t for skating I may not have realized the importance of having something I can be entirely myself with.