During our years in Seattle Elias and I accumulated a longboard and a skateboard. Elias rode the longboard regularly for about one summer. Unfortunately the wet Seattle climate put a damper on our best laid plans and the skateboards spent most of their time in our storage unit. When we cleaned it out before the move to Long Beach we got rid of about half of its contents, but the skateboards made the cut.
Elias gave me my first lesson a couple of weeks after the move and we have been making good use of them ever since. They were functional but not much to look at so we decided to give them an update. We bought some paint, sanded them down and practiced up on our painting skills. My board (I should say Elias’ longboard that he kindly lets me use) became a prickly pear and his became a kaleidoscope of patterns and colors.
Before and After:
Elias: It’s funny how certain possessions really stick with you over the years. My very first skateboard was a white Toys ‘R’ Us special, with a big picture of Bart Simpson grinning up at me, the words “Official Bart Simpson Vehicle of Destruction” circling his head. It was quite possibly the coolest gift a 9 year old could’ve received. Sadly it didn’t last long. A friend chickened out on a hill, bailed, and sent it shooting into oncoming traffic. My dreams of becoming a pro skater were reduced to a handful of splinters.
A few years later I got my second board, a hand-me-down from a neighborhood boy a few years older than I. I don’t remember what was on it, only that it had neon green plastic rails on the underside, and that it was FAST. The Bart Simpson board was cool, but it was hardly a quality board. This board was the real deal. I spent hours whizzing around our cul-de-sac, often using the neighbor’s elevated driveway as my personal rocket launcher. Cool as that board was, it wasn’t quite what I wanted. It was an old-school style with a wide tail, and fat wheels. I could really fly on it, but I couldn’t get it off the ground.
Sometime in 9th grade I got my third board. A bonafide trick board, with a rounded nose and tail, and smaller wheels. Perfect for learning to ollie over small obstacles in the center of the cul-de-sac. My friend Geoff and I skated all over the suburbs we called home looking for good parking lots to practice our shove-its, kickflips, and grinds. It was a glorious time, and one of my first real tastes of freedom. With a good friend, time to kill, and a skateboard the world is yours for the taking.
Eventually though, basketball became an all-consuming obsession and my skateboard spent more and more time in the garage. When I turned 16 and started driving it really sealed the deal. I dabbled again briefly in college, but it didn’t last long and I never really touched a skateboard again until Theresa bought me the longboard for cruising around Greenlake, and as you know, that really only lasted one summer.
And now I’m almost 32 and I’ve rediscovered the joy of skateboarding all over again. Turns out Long Beach is really flat, and always sunny. And I have a cute friend, and just enough time to kill in the evenings. I’m not nearly as good at tricks, but that’s OK. There’s nothing quite like cruising along the beach boardwalk at sunset. I guess sometimes you have to grow up to rediscover the good stuff you thought you’d left behind.
Theresa: Most afternoons when Elias is finished with work, we pack up our boards and head down to the beach to skate along the path next to the ocean. I would like to think that I caught on fairly quickly but really I have no one to compare myself to. Long Beach is the perfect place to learn because the boardwalk is smooth and flat and there are fewer people than at the more popular beaches. Now that I’ve gotten used to cruising along on flat ground I have been working on hills and braking with my foot.
So far there have been no falls, and only one ride in which I thought I, or some other unfortunate soul, might die. We took a trip to the Rose Bowl and I was promised the ride was flat. To the more advanced skateboarder that may feel like the case, but to a beginner like me it felt like life and death. Granted the hill was not steep, however it was a long slope in which I continued to gain speed before the path leveled out at the bottom. As I gained speed, my board started to wobble a bit which did not boost the confidence of someone who is sometimes challenged on flat ground.
As I was flying down the hill on a wobbly board at somewhere between 15-25mph it felt manageable, but I started to notice that though I had gotten a nice stretch with minimal pedestrians, there were gathering groups of people at the bottom of the hill that I would have to navigate and I would only pick up more speed before I get to them. I started to imagine the scenarios that may ensue: 1) I will run into someone at a high speed, knocking them and myself to the ground causing damage to us both. 2) I will try to dodge someone and loose my balance and my body will skid along the ground while my board whizzes into either a person or a car, neither good. 3) I could always veer out into the street to avoid a person, but since I am not balanced enough to look behind me while flying down the hill, I will be veering out into the street blindly and risk getting hit by a car.
Reflecting on the ride, I am not sure how I managed without hurting myself or another person. I was pleased to have made it around in one piece but it will be a while before someone cons me into the Rose Bowl again (ahem, Joseph)! Despite my harrowing ride down the hill of doom, I have thoroughly enjoyed learning how to skateboard. It makes me feel less like I am almost thirty and gave me a fine reason to buy checkered Vans like a teenager. Win Win.