Ha. Just like most things in life. I didn’t realize how challenging it would be, although I didn’t suspect it was as easy as riding a bike. I asked the owner of an NYC West Village specialty shop last week if he thought an old dog could indeed learn new tricks. I knew the answer. Still, he responded like a good salesman telling me what I wanted to hear.
For some reason, over the years the sport bugged me. When I lived in San Francisco, they hung out in groups, loud and sort of obnoxious, disturbing casual walkers along the Embarcadero, perhaps because they didn’t have a formal place to play. Instead, they used benches, railings, steps, and anything they could otherwise jump or slide on, and eventually destroy.
But beyond the racket they made, the sport didn’t make sense. Incessantly practicing tricks and performing by flipping a wheeled board while not going anywhere didn’t seem logical, or much fun.
My feelings about skateboarding started to change when I was exercising at Manhattan Beach, in So Cal last year intermittently watching surfers finish their morning bout with the waves, then hopping on skateboards to travel along The Strand. That made sense — a commute vehicle. Since then I’ve noticed more people using boards as a form of transportation, not just for acrobatics.
Gradually the bug bit. ‘ Why not use a skateboard as an alternate form of commuting in China, where it’s relatively flat?’ I started thinking. GV suggested that I consider a scooter, which is probably a smarter idea. But I was anxious to try the hands-free wheels. Hence, I walked into Uncle Funky’s Boards last weekend and left 30 minutes later carrying a new longboard. They told me the longer the board, the easier to learn, so I picked up a 32-inch model. The more extended 38 incher I may have preferred was too long to hand-carry on my fight to China. As it was, I barely finagled the 32 through the Newark airport security process strapped to my backpack. It was too long to fit in my checked bags.
It didn’t take long to gain respect for how fast this board travels. The four thick 75mm wheels start rolling without much coaxing. Tumbling on my ass as the board sped away gave me the reason I needed to start slow. I’m sure it’s simply a matter of TOB (time on board), and balance.
The new toy means I’d better carve out a little time each non-rainy day practicing if I’ve got any hope of seriously using it.
As in skiing or skating, part of the skill and confidence comes with stopping ability. Today as I was cruising down a slight decline picking up speed, I realized I didn’t know how to stop without jumping off. Being a low profile board, the trucks — skateboard lingo for the bracket holding the wheels — are at the ends of the board bolted on top, opposed to typical boards where they are positioned underneath. These low boards make stepping on the end and tilting the board down to stop, hard to accomplish.
Another challenge is twisting the feet. While pushing the board for acceleration, both feet are parallel with the board, but cruising, they are perpendicular. While I was gaining speed in the decline, my feet were in the perpendicular cruise position. How was I going to twist my front foot parallel and skid to a stop when all I could do was concentrate on saying on the board? I awkwardly jumped off, knowing I have a major hurdle to conquer.
It will be a while until I’m ready to use the board for a commute vehicle. The manner in which the locals don’t give much credence to right-of-way means bikes, peds, and cars can end up in your path unexpectedly — requiring immediate reaction.
All in all, I’ve got a new respect for the skateboard tricksters. Even though I still have zero inclination for tricks, I’m hungering for some of their stability. But I suppose that will come with TOB. For now, I’ve got a newfound appreciation for balance.