Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The 35 Year Old Skateboarder

Week before last, I happened across a concrete skate park in nearby Niagara Falls, Ontario. It is a beautiful place, free and open to the public. This means I can go while all the kids are at school (a benefit of self employment). I returned last Thursday with my friend Ben and we spent the morning skating with no one to bother us. When we were teenagers in the late 80s having a skate park this close would have been a dream come true. Back then You had to be in California to have access to this kind of pavement. Better late than never, I plan on skating this place as much as I can.

There two main problems of being 35 and skating. The first is finding a place to skate where there are no kids around. The second is that I weigh about 35 pounds more than I did in High school, this is a lot harder on the knees. I can't seem to skate two days in a row without my knees feeling strained. Being heavier, also makes the falls harder, and bruises seem to take longer to heal now.

Sweet Concrete

My skills are strictly old school. I can go up and down on banks and transitions and I can ollie, and that's it, no flip tricks. In the late eighties flip tricks were seen as aesthetically suspect, you were supposed to keep your feet on the board. Today's skateboard tricks are incredibly complicated and impressive, but I can't seem to shake the old school aesthetic sensibility.

I seem to do unfortunate things with my tongue when skateboarding.

Ben "Ollie" O'Brien

I don't think it will ever be possible to fully explain to someone born after 1985 what life was like before the internet. Being a skateboarder in Buffalo meant that Thrasher and Transworld Skateboarding magazines were the only way to get information about skating. When I open up an old issue now, every photo and ad is utterly familiar, having been studied intensely and repeatedly. I remember that I bought the issue of Transworld on the left in Flagstaff, Arizona while on a 5 week western road trip with my family (I was 13). I remember trying to savor it, not even opening it the first day, knowing it had to get me through weeks of sitting in the car (and not skating). What I didn't know at the time was that Transworld was making news in the world of graphic design under the art direction of David Carson (later of Raygun). Back then we saw Thrasher as being authentic (on newsprint) and Transworld as being a bit too slick and commercial. The fact that Transworld was brilliantly breaking every rule of design in magazine publishing was not something we understood.


mark said...

These are sweet, you still got some skillz, I see.

When I was a kid, I used to skate at the park that was at Darien Lake before it was a maga-amusement park. It just a campground with a rudimentary water park and a skate park in the late seventies (born in 1966, my man). I would be afraid to skate now, though I have been reading new skateboard magazines while at the gym on the stationary bike. I know, pretty pitiful, I know.

Don't hurt yourself, old man!

Julian Montague said...

I never new that Darien Lake had a skate park. How inconvenient that my youth fell after they tore down all the 70s parks and before the built all the new ones!

Jason said...

a friend of mine (also 35) recently quit skating because it hurt too damn much when he fell. i haven't been on a board since the same friend built a half pipe in our garage when we were in college. everyone thought i was crazy for riding it on my old school Natas Kapas.

also, nice call on the TransWorld/Thrasher dichotomy, i pretty much felt the same about both even thinking that Raygun looked oddly familiar when it came out...

Julian Montague said...

I just went to the park yesterday with a friend of the same age. Unfortunately he fell and twisted his ankle. I suppose my own skating career is hanging by a thread too...

Shane said...

I'm 37 and started skating again last year. I got hurt the first two times I went, but then decided to stick to fogey-skating tactics. (Transition only, NO street or rails, stick to carving/grinds, nothing fancier than fakie-rocks). It sucks, having to stay away from the fun tricks, but it's better than no skating at all. (Remember to rock the glucosamine chondroitin!)

Anonymous said...

nice one, im 34 and my mate is 37 and we are both still pushing our skateboarding, dont really care about age, i used to be told i was to old at 15 to skate!

Shane said...

I feel ya' on the magazine stuff.

I remember, at 13yo, having to bike 7 miles to get to the closest store that sold Transworld. Forget Thrasher. No one carried that.

I loved scavenging through every little detail of an issue for an entire month. I can still picture, in detail, the layouts for some of my favorite articles. Even the tiniest change in font for one of the recurring ads was reason to get excited.

BTW, I love that the ramp on the cover of the TWS to the left has PVC coping! Talk about the bad ol' days. That stuff was shit, but it brings back memories. :)

Anonymous said...

Hey, Julian. I came across your post w/ a google search. So, 1 year and change later--are you still skating?
I just turned 35 last week. I started skating as an "old man" at 15 yo in the middle of nowhere, Ohio. It was the beginning of the 90s and I didn't know anyone into it.
But now, I live in New York City, where there are skate parks all over and I see 40+ old men skating w/ 12 year old kids. I'm sure the kids are like "go away, grandpa" but who cares? Well, it does take a toll on the body at a certain age.
But about tricks--do you know any post-30 year olds who can manage any of them? What about Tony Hawk? Does he do any of these fancy things? Just wondering.
Cheers, mate!

Jay Int said...

Werd! I just dusted off my 1981 Cabballero re-issue that I bought about 7 years ago with high risers, indie trucks and the ever coveted swiss bearings and made my second skating comeback. The first was about 5 years ago at age 30. That was short lived. It ended when I tweaked my wrist just enough to get my attention and make me think about how I didn't have health insurance at the time. 5 years later I'm even fatter and older and stiffer and slower but I'm fully insured! I started skating a 4 foot mini-ramp at a local skate park 3 weeks ago and despite having nearly broken my spine and leg during the first 30 minutes - I've hardly been able to think about anything else ever since. I went again last night and this morning feel like I was in a car wreck. I'm fully onboard with keeping it simple and old school - ramp only, grinds, fakie rocks and tail stalls are all I can get close to doing but that is enough for now. The brutality of it all reminds me a little of Fight Club. There is something very addictive about getting your ass kicked by a half-pipe.