Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Skater Dad: the movie: the blog post

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Over a year ago, while taking my infant daughter on stroller walks, I noticed a few good skate spots by our place; and so I thought it'd be fun to bring a camera and start shooting some skateboarding. I grew up making skate videos, and so it breathed new life into my skating to be shooting again (it had been a couple years since the last one). Taking my daughter also made for great father-daughter time.
Soon after, while driving around looking for new skate spots, I happened across a fenced-in skatepark with an 18-and-over-only session in the middle of every weekday -- it was perfect -- I could take my daughter in her carrier/pack-and-play, and skate knowing she was safe (I always had the skatepark to myself because all the normal adults work in the middle of the day). Pretty soon the idea to make a Skater Dad video started forming, and I made it a goal to shoot a new trick every skate session.
This is when things got difficult.
On my birthday I asked my sister to shoot me skating for a present, and decided it was a good time to try out a sizable gap near me. I hadn't done a gap in a while, and so after about an hour my thighs started giving out on me. I got farther and farther away from landing it and eventually had to give up. There are few things worse in skateboarding than walking away from a trick, but I couldn't go anymore -- age had caught up to me, and though I thought it was a one-time occurrence, this unfortunately became the theme of shooting Skater Dad.

I vowed to come back and make the gap. Meanwhile, I had my eyes on some other big tricks -- namely a kickflip down a 7-set nearby. Another intense session, another walk-away. While recovering, I managed to make a lot of tricks at smaller spots, but those two big ones plagued me. I also kept my eyes open, and had a few more "big" tricks in mind to capture before finishing Skater Dad. But the big question was: could I make them?
Eventually I went back to both spots, and both times was not able to get the trick. I tried other spots, namely a 6-stair handrail in a neighborhood -- to no avail. It was as if I knew I could physically pull off the tricks (I had done gaps and rails just as big), but couldn't get my mind to put my feet on the board to land it. To make matters worse, my muscles just didn't have the endurance I used to, and so if I didn't get the trick in 45 minutes or so, I was done. Skateboarding is indeed both mental and physical, and both were failing me.
Skater Dad: the movie was almost done, I was just waiting to get these big tricks to finish. I had even written a song to compliment the big comeback moment I hoped for in the movie, "Relentless," written about the tenacity I used to approach skateboarding with and how it had bled into my personal life. Even the song was bigger in my mind than I could manage to produce, and so it got nixed from the film. Time went on, the release of the movie lingered, but the tricks were never captured.
Not getting those tricks was incredibly difficult for me -- a realization of both age and ability. It made skating not fun, and I knew something had to change for me to keep enjoying the sport I loved, or else I'd have to quit.
big gap fail
The gap that got away.
Eventually, through many ups and downs, good sessions and bad, I came to a few conclusions...first, skating for the sake of a video is stressful and kind of lame. To have in your mind that your session is a failure if you don't land a trick on video puts a pressure on your skating that is the antithesis of what it's all about. Combine that with running out of space on memory cards, dying batteries and expensive equipment being hit by runaway skateboards...and you're setting yourself up for higher blood pressure. Don't get me wrong -- I love making skate videos and will continue to do it -- but it just has to be done with what I will call an "open hand" attitude, i.e. - if you don't get the trick, it's not a big deal, so let it go. After all, at the end of the day you're still skateboarding and that's what matters.
Second, I had to come to reckon with my limitations. When I used to aim for lofty tricks, I would rely on perseverance to finish them, trying tricks hundreds of times until I landed them (and making my friends videotape half of the attempts...sorry). At this point in my life, my body just can't take hundreds of attempts anymore. Additionally, with the responsibilities of an almost-thirty-year-old, I don't have the hours and hours of free time I did in high school to keep trying tricks (this is another stressor in making videos by the way: time limits). As a result, I decided to accept that my skating must change for me to keep going. The last tricks I shot for Skater Dad were an impossible footplant and flamingo at fairly mellow bank. As I head into the future, I think you'll see more technical tricks like this than kickflipping sets of stairs.
Bouncing off the last lesson was a big realization that the way I've been approaching skateboarding the last fifteen years is skewed. My process has always been to get to a spot, imagine a trick, and try it until I landed it (usually on camera). After that, maybe I'd do it a couple more times to get it down and move on, but likely never attempt it again. While shooting Skater Dad, I went to the Hope Chapel Skate Church in Hermosa Beach. I skated their miniramp with a guy who would literally do the same trick successfully over and over and over again, each time trying to go a little higher or get it a little tighter. It was super annoying to watch, but he had his tricks dialed. Now I know that if this guy were going out shooting for a video, he would have landed the trick a half-dozen times at least before shooting a single frame. The result: way fewer attempts, way less frustration, and way better skating. I realized I had spent most of my time skating with the wrong attitude in progression; if only with it hadn't taken fifteen years to learn...
So there it is -- some life lessons in a tough video shoot for a movie that I'm pretty proud of. In the end, whether or not we get the tricks we want is always secondary to becoming better people, and ultimately more like Jesus. And so even though this video wasn't what I thought it would be when I started, the growth process will always have counted for more than landed tricks.
P.S. - If you care to watch me talk about this same stuff you just read, along with some fun video clips of what I'm talking about, check out the video below!

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