Skating on Borrowed Time...

Sometimes I feel like I'm skating on borrowed time. I am 32 (and a half) now, and it is beginning to feel a little too old to skate. But how could this be?! Skateboarding has been such a huge part of my life, and still brings me so much joy; but there is this one thing that has been just getting to me lately about the sport...I keep getting hurt!

Three years ago I made a pretty good skate video that I'm still proud of. I pushed myself and learned a lot of new tricks. I was progressing at a sport most kids drop after high school...into my thirties! Even after the movie was finished, I kept skating and shooting, preparing for the next video. Then we moved, and my recreational life slowed down. I started working a lot, skating when I could, usually at the school I grew up skating, piddling around on ledges and manual pads. But then I broke my arm -- my first broken bone after fifteen years of skateboarding!

The recovery was speedy thanks to some faith-filled prayer, and I was back on the board not too long later. But this fear filled me -- mostly because the broken bone was expensive and we couldn't afford another one! I took it easy, but still wanted to do another Skater Dad movie. Eventually I did, but the progression was slowed, and I found myself not as proud of this second series. And then I kept getting hurt! I busted my knee at the local skatepark, and thought I broke my knee cap. (More prayer.) I kept falling on my previously hurt arm. I scraped a third of my thumbnail off riding a park in the dark (my fault). And then there was this last weekend...


I went skating at a little set of stairs I have been driving by lately. It's nothing special, but sparks some creativity in me for new skateboard tricks. I jumped the stairs a little, tried a couple tricks, but just wasn't feeling the spot, the run-up, the proximity to a major street. And so I tried a little nose stall on the upper two-set, slid my foot underneath the deck and flipped the board into a casper, then tried to get out. It was a slick little trick, but felt like a bit of a concession -- my dreams were big tricks down the stairs or over a planter gap on the ledge. Was this where my skating was headed? Freestyle tricks on street spots? I guess that's not so bad -- my friend Kyle does it well and with great style and charisma. I went with it, trying to video the trick. But after ten minutes or so, the board flew up and hit the inside of my knee and I dropped to the ground. The pain leveled me, and though nothing was seriously hurt and I was able to skate home, I quit early. I had barely broken a sweat! (I'm pretty careful with my knees though, mostly because my dad has had tons of problems with his.) On the whole, though, this entire session was really...deflating.

My closest attempt.

It all makes me wonder how much longer I can keep doing this. I still love skating so much, and really enjoy it most of the time. I had a session a few weeks prior on a mini-ramp where I enjoyed myself, progressed and didn't get hurt -- and it was great! But these injury sessions are becoming more and more prevalent, and that is a problem.

I guess this is just part of getting older. As I reflected on it, a couple things occurred to me. First, I'm pretty blessed to have been skating even this long. I remember reading years ago that a lot of pros take a huge hit in their skating around age 24. Their situation is a little different of course, because they were chucking themselves down huge sets of stairs for a decade or so, but for me to still be skating at a fairly competent level, and even progressing in some ways, at 32 is pretty good.

Second, I think losing your ability to skate is more difficult than it may look like to an outsider. Imagine something you love taken from you -- your favorite car totaled or your favorite band disbanding. You typically have no choice in the matter; I mean, no one drives their car into an intersection hoping to get smashed. But with skateboarding, a hobby I have loved for over half my life, it's not just suddenly gone -- the decline is slow. It's a microcosm of aging I guess, and eventually you just hit a point where you can't do it anymore, or the lack of progress is so great that you just don't want to do it anymore.

A friend's mentor once explained this concept with a chart: as men grow in age, their abilities decline (think of this chart as starting around late-teens). There is a moment in middle age where the age arrow keeps pointing up and then intersects with the abilities arrow, which is still going down. The age keeps climbing but the abilities lessen -- this is middle age, and this is one reason so many men freak out at this point. I'm not quite at middle age yet, but in the world of skateboarding, I'm a dinosaur. So maybe this is all good. I am learning to deal with aging before all my friends, so I can help all us wandering millennials through every man's hardest season. But maybe that all depends on what attitude I can keep as all this shakes out...

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