You Can't Be Careful on a Skateboard, Man
July 31, 2005

I wrote earlier this week about learning to waterski and mentioned that had also done a little skateboarding.

The first skateboard I had was actually a hand-me-down that I found in my grandparents' garage in Oklahoma City. I adored going through my grandparents' garage - they had such cool stuff. I found old radios and would stay in the garage, setting them all on top of each other ... some leather encased, some bakelite, some plain old transistors and metal. That was my spaceship.

But one day, when digging through all of the interesting stuff in their garage I came across something I'd never seen before. It was a piece of flat wood with these funky axles on the bottom of the board and some metal wheels - just like my roller skates. The top of the board said Sidewalk Surfer in red and showed some little foot icons. Cool.

I set it down on the ground and carefully stood on it. Shifted my weight and made it move. Whoa, this was weird! Used my left foot to push a little and the thing just zoomed on the ultra smooth and ultra slick concrete in the garage. Wicked!

I trot into the house with it and ask Grandma what it is. "I don't know, that's your aunt Sandy's. I think it's a skateboard. She doesn't use it anymore, you can play with it."

Mom flips out - "Ma, ma, that looks dangerous, she can't play with that."

"Oh Sharon, leave her alone."

I hurry outside before an edict can be made, but Mom comes to the door and shouts out after me, "First time you fall off that thing, it's going in the the trash!"

Damn. I dart off the little front porch and put the skateboard down on the sidewalk, pointing to the steep driveway. Right foot at the front of the board. Left foot push. Rest the left on the board's back edge when not pushing - I didn't find out until the debut of the Tony Hawk video games that this was called goofy-footed. Figures.

I'm pushing down the sidewalk and then I hit the seam in between squares. The board stops. I don't. But I keep running and I don't skin my knees, so that doesn't count as falling off. Mom huffs and goes back in the house.

I know from my metal-wheeled roller skates that the only way to get over things like sidewalk cracks and seams is to go fast. But how can I go fast on this thing without falling off? I fell all the time when I was learning to rollerskate. I mess around with the skateboard for a little while on that short expanse of sidewalk, running off the board when it looks like I'm going to fall. This is now officially boring. What else can I do on it?

So, I sit down and point myself down the driveway, turning the board at the last possible second and ending the ride dumped in the grass. Again, if you sit on the board and tumble into the grass, it doesn't count as falling off. Mom's rules are often arbitrary and unnecessary, but I have already learned how to work the system to my benefit - at least to some extent. No scrapes = keep playing.

That skateboard eventually came home with me, but I didn't get a skateboard I could really play around with until a few years later. The shape of the board hadn't changed a whole lot - it was still skinny, but now it had a little bit of a tail at the rear which angled up. And the front end now narrowed to a point.

Best of all the wheels were now some kind of funky plastic! My cousin Tanya kind of laughed at how enthralled I was over this chunk of old plastic that she didn't really play with, so she tossed it at me and told me I could have it.

Mom re-issued the edict: "First time you fall off it, it's going in the trash."

So, I played with that one in my room, where she wouldn't know if I fell off or not. I learned to do a 180 spin and but I couldn't quite get the 360.

I had at least two more skateboards before I moved out of the house and I had seen a couple of freestyle contests on TV, including one where people only did flatland tricks - like the stuff I tried in my room. Somehow they'd flip the board and stand on the side of it - one guy even did all sorts of stuff with two skateboards, a foot on each board!

Today, I still ride skateboards. I can't do many tricks because every time I try to ollie (make the board jump), I can still hear my mom's voice, "First time you fall off that thing, it's going in the trash." She was well-known for making edicts like that and carrying through. My favorite red baseball cap that I'd gotten at Disney World when I was seven was the first thing she'd thrown away. It still haunted me as a teenager. I'd worn that Donald Duck baseball cap to school for hat day against one of her edicts. When I got home from school, she asked where it was because she knew I'd taken it to school. When I finally handed it to her, she threw it in the kitchen trash. I was about nine at the time. The reason she didn't want me to wear it to school? Because she thought the other kids would make fun of me for wearing a Disney character at such an old age.

I know she can't throw away my skateboard now. But I'm still so cautious. I don't want to fall off it. I have a World Industries board, a mountain board (big knobby wheels and a handbrake for going "off-roading"), a long board, a stow-board, an antique 60s style metal wheeled board, a 70s plastic piece of crap, a Pivot (a board with no wheels but it balances on a pivot point so you can practice your balance). (And a snowboard, too.)

I would still rather practice skateboarding in the house because over the years my mind and body have become convinced that I won't get in trouble or get hurt skateboarding in the house.

You can imagine this does not go over well with my other half ... or, to be honest, with any of the four cats and two miniature dachshunds, either.

I keep trying to replace that old Mom tape with one from Stephen King's book, It. "You can't be careful on a skateboard, man." And you can't. Riding a 'board is all about taking risks, throwing your body weight around, moving your center of gravity and above all, experimenting. It's a sport, an activity, that promotes the idea that you have to fail a LOT of times before you succeed. And I think that's a valuable lesson for anyone to learn.

One of these days, I'm going to learn to ollie and kickflip and the rest of the basic flatland tricks. One of these days I'm going to quit hearing Mom's voice and I'm going to be able to finally stop letting that hold me back.

I hope it's soon. I'd like to have a little less of the Hogwart's Hufflepuff in me and a little more of Griffyndor.

Meanwhile, I have my Tony Hawk Tip Tricks DVDs and my Tony Hawk video games. I study how to do the ollie. And I do still take out the longboard for downtown surfing and the mountain board for a couple of good spots in the Potato Creek State Park.

But I'm going to learn to ollie. One of these days.

Posted by Red Monkey at July 31, 2005 3:57 PM | Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping. | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


Redphi5h said:

Great post, and I love the layout, Redmonkey.

Would you like to form a brotherhood of red beasts?

July 31, 2005 5:47 PM


Storm said:

Egads! I can only imagine my mom telling me that something I owned was going in the trash. How traumatic!

July 31, 2005 7:01 PM


Andy T. said:

I have heard that the reason parents find it so easy to press our buttons is because they installed them. This is a perfect example of that.

You can't be careful on a skateboard, man.

August 2, 2005 5:55 AM


Theresa111 said:

I remember when skateboards first appeared. I never could stay on and gave up after my fifth try. Nowadays when I watch the competitions I am just as amazed as I am by the modern day acrobatic dancers. I would never have envisioned the expertise and talent would be developed to this extent.

Great story!

November 24, 2007 12:17 AM
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