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Hobby Road Test: Becoming A Skateboarder

I have been plagued — yes plagued — by skateboarders since I was in middle school. That’s when I first became friends with/attracted to skater boys. It’s also when I first became acquainted with the stultifying boredom of sitting around waiting for your friends to finish up at the damned skate park so you could go to the movies or the mall. Ahh, the loneliness of being one of a couple of girls that was part of the skater boy posse. Yes, I knew who Ricky Oyola was and could attest to the fine-ness of Mike Vallelly, but watching your buddies hit their balls over and over again while trying to grind on a handrail wasn’t that fun. Oh, what am I talking about. It was pretty fun. I’ve dated countless skaters and skate enthusiasts and over the years, I tried getting on the board myself a few times, but with little success. Those who know me and love me are well aware that I have a little problem with this thing called balance. And hand-foot coordination. You might recognize this, if we ever walk down the street together, by the number of times I accidentally amble into you.

Enter Seth, the owner of There Is No Cool skate shop, a little place down the street from my house. Every day, I see him out skating with a crew of kids on my street. It got me thinking: What do these 12-year-olds have that I don’t have? I could learn how to do this! And also, why not be the guy I want to date, you know? If all my lame ass ex-boyfriends can master this crap, than surely I can, too!

The first mistake I learned I’d been making? I’m goofy-footed, which means that I prefer my left foot over my right, and as such, would lead with my right foot and push with my stronger left foot. I never knew this! Most skaters are not goofy-footed and operate in reverse. So all those previous times I’d tried to skate never worked because I was using my less balanced, weaker leg to push. With that problem solved, Seth handed me a vintage board and took me out on the street, in front of all the neighborhood kids.

Very gently, and very kindly, he urged me to get on the board, placing my weak right foot on the front of the board and my left foot on the ground. And then he showed me how to push. Seth — who, did I mention, only started skating three years ago? — grabbed my hand and guided me along the street. We tried to stay in the middle of the street and off the slope, so that I could avoid running into parked cars and small children; I began to glide. The whole time I was skating, Seth patiently stood by and guided me, either by the shoulder or the hand, so that I could begin to feel more confident actually owning the bodily space above the board. And suddenly we were rolling down the street. And it felt awesome! Now I see why people like skating.

But oh, what about steering? That’s a whole other world of pain. The way to steer a board is by controlling the camber, or the angle of the wheels of the board. You do that by angling your body and your feet on the board forward or backward to move to the right or the left. If you are really good, like Seth, you can do entire circles and figure 8′s and not stumble or fall off completely.

Eventually, we decided to take our boards down to the neighborhood park, so I could practice skating on the unoccupied racquetball courts. Seth had me attempt to do a full circle around the entire two racquetball courts, as a means of practicing my steering. I could not do it. Steering is hard. Especially when your clumsiness begins to set in and your feet start catching on the wheels. I was afraid Seth was going to lose his mind. I was afraid I was going to fall on my face. I did, once, but I got up and kept skating. As we were leaving the park, I spied a long patch of uninterrupted smooth concrete and I asked Seth if he’d mind if I took a try at it. I rolled forward and managed to steer myself lightly through it for about 300 feet. I wanted to go back and do it again and again and again.

I would like to say that I had a zillion more lessons after that and now I’m a pro that can do kickflips and ollies, but hell, last week it was a 100 degrees out and there was no way I was gonna hang outside in the sweltering murderous heat. But! Seth and I have worked out a deal. He can come swimming at the pool in my apartment complex in exchange for future lessons. I think that’s a pretty sweet arrangement, wouldn’t you say?

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