Hello everyone, and Happy Friday! For your weekend reading (and maybe some motivation), I’ve written this essay about how I’ve started skateboarding again – after 30 some years! And spoiler alert, it’s not been entirely pain free. I’m posting it to my Medium page, but I’m offering it here too. Enjoy!
Who’s the Old Guy on the Skateboard?
Against perhaps her better judgment, my wife bought me a skateboard for Christmas this year. It was not without some consternation and deliberation on her part, along with my repeated assurances that I wasn’t going to break my neck.
“I used to skateboard all the time,” I told her. “My freshman year in college, I didn’t have a car — my skateboard was how I got around.”
I’ll admit that wasn’t the most persuasive argument, given that I was thirty-some years removed from college and hadn’t been on a skateboard since. So when I noticed that look in her eyes and could tell that she was thinking the same thing, I hastily followed with, “Tony Hawk’s in his fifties, and he skateboards,” to which my wife, without missing a beat, replied, “But you’re not Tony Hawk!” Touché.
Nonetheless, I was unwavering in this request for a skateboard for Christmas. There was really nothing else I wanted. I was good on sweaters and ties and cologne. And sure, perhaps there was a little (or a lot of) midlife crisis involved. But it had been a difficult couple of years, for everyone, in lots of ways, and maybe I just wanted that feeling again of being youthful and reckless.
The kids — I mean, the young salespeople — at the skateboard shop were very kind and patient in demonstrating the various skateboard models for me, and didn’t seem to be snickering behind my back as I at first feared might happen when I went up to one of them and asked to be shown something that a former fellow skateboarder — “who hasn’t skateboarded since the ‘80’s,” my wife was certain to clarify — might be able to manage.
The salesperson directed me to a row of skateboards in the back that were longer than the others, with thick wheels and a lower center of gravity, that I could possibly, as he stuttered to put it politely, “um, cruise around the neighborhood on, ya’ know — but not to really do any tricks.”
“Oh, he’s not doing any tricks,” my wife was fast to confirm.
“I might do tricks,” I mumbled meekly, under my breath.
I was particularly taken with a lowrider skateboard that had a parquet design on the deck and a quite colorful, sort of South Pacific motif underneath. But aesthetics aside, there came the task of trying it out, of stepping onto it, as I wasn’t getting this just to decorate my office.
Cautiously, carefully, clutching onto my wife’s shoulder with one hand and gripping the sales counter with the other, I, to my surprise and amazement, was actually able to stand on the skateboard without it taking me careening into the adjacent display of t-shirts. It helped that the store was carpeted. All the same, I gleefully proclaimed that that was “the board for me, dude!” (And I honestly would not have blamed anyone in the shop for snickering behind my back at that comment.)
I left the store, leaving the fate of my resurgent skateboarding career completely in the hands of my wife, and lo and behold, come Christmas morning, there was that same skateboard under the tree. I instantly did what anyone my age who got a skateboard for Christmas would do: I texted pictures of it to my friends to show them how cool I still was (and, really, how cool my wife was for getting it for me).
Since it was the middle of winter in Kentucky where we live, I had to be satisfied for the time being with just standing on the skateboard in our living room and imagining myself dropping into a halfpipe. Yet that did afford me ample opportunity to watch Tony Hawk’s MasterClass on skateboarding so that I would learn everything I needed to know — or rather, simply to refresh my memory (the former skateboarder I was).
On the first decent day in mid-January, I began the first day of the rest of my life as a skateboarder — by skating up and down in our driveway, making sure to stay within arm’s reach of the garbage cans, the back fence and our cars just in case I needed to grab onto something for support. I was certain that the neighbors thought I had lost my mind but so be it. I felt like a kid again. I felt great. Maybe I did still have it, I thought.
I was so taken with my prowess on the skateboard that I filmed a few snippets of footage on my phone (before I went stumbling into the grass) that I posted to Instagram. My friends cautioned me to be careful (“. . . at your age”), but my college sophomore niece replied simply with the word “King.” I was not entirely sure what that meant, but I decided to take it as a positive.
As the days wore on, and I became more confident in my skateboarding ability, I aimed to take this show on the road — or more accurately, down the street where there was a little park with a walking track and a basketball court. It was midday middle of the week and the basketball court was empty, so I dropped in (so to speak) and skated back and forth the length of the court. I also incorporated some turns by slightly leaning my body in the direction I wanted to go (thanks to Tony Hawk’s MasterClass for that pro tip).
I was having a blast. I even progressed to doing figure eights and loop-de-loops (though I doubt those are part of the skateboarding lexicon but they should be). While folks passed by on their constitutionals, their anxious dogs yapping at me, I could only imagine them looking at this fifty-five-year-old man skating circles in an abandoned basketball court and wondering “who’s the old guy on the skateboard?”
A few more outings like that followed, regardless of the weather — I just bundled up. The overachiever in me, I was determined to perfect my push off (one of the fundamentals of skateboarding to get speed and gain momentum) as that was giving me the most difficulty. One afternoon, I spent a couple hours doing just that, pushing and pushing and pushing with my right foot — I had, what was referred to in the parlance, a regular stance, with my left foot leading on the board.
As I kept on like this, I started to really feel it in my right foot, the stress and the strain, until it became too painful to continue and I had to stop. I picked up my skateboard and carried it, limping, the several blocks back to the house. Once I got home, did my right foot ever hurt, especially my heel. The pain was more intense the next morning as I stepped out of bed. My foot throbbed and ached throughout the day, with an unbearable stabbing sensation whenever I put any weight on it.
That was when I realized that in my exuberance to master the fine art of pushing off on a skateboard, I had re-aggravated my plantar fasciitis (basically an inflammation of the ligament under the foot that connects the heel to the toes) brought on from years of running. Alas, my skateboard would become a decoration in my office after all, at least until I recovered from this nagging, and lingering, injury.
The next few weeks were spent hobbling around, popping ibuprofen, icing my foot and sleeping in a night splint. To my wife’s credit, she refrained from saying I told you so (although, in my defense, I didn’t break my neck). To add insult to injury, winter promptly turned to spring, and it became ideal skateboarding weather. I couldn’t even re-watch the Tony Hawk MasterClass lessons because that only made me further long to skateboard. I would just have to wait this out.
And wait this out I did, until, eventually, with minimal pain, I was ready to return to my skateboard. Unfortunately, in that intervening period of skateboarding inactivity, I had forgotten most of what I had accomplished, and I had to resume, once more, up and down in the driveway under the judgmental eyes of my neighbors. But it came back to me quicker than I had expected, and before long I was skateboarding at the abandoned basketball court (which wasn’t as abandoned as it was in the winter so I had to go there at the crack of dawn to get my skateboarding sessions in uninterrupted).
I am pleased to report that I’m still blissfully skateboarding (albeit with a neoprene brace strapped around my foot with Velcro that I bought at the medical supply store). Maybe next I’ll venture to the skateboard park downtown and give that a try — or perhaps I’ll just stick with our driveway and the abandoned basketball court. Either way, I’m happy. I skateboarded in the ‘80’s (when my body was a tad more flexible, and forgiving) and, with any (or a lot of) luck, I’ll be skateboarding into my ‘80’s, because I just like how this makes me feel — the plantar fasciitis aside. Who cares if I’m the old guy on the skateboard?