Skateboarding: Money, Time, and Aging
Creativity, Agency, and Economics
Whenever you dedicate yourself to a creative act and invest an enormous amount of time into doing it, people will ask you why. The question of your motivation or intention is typically a result of curiosity and can sometimes be negative in tone or accusatory. I may have observed a trend in and around this conversation, though I don't engage in it too often, because I am a solitary person. I'm referring to how non-creative types may speak to creatives dismissively because of an assumption that their time must be an unwarranted privilege or unfair advantage. "Well, if I could just sit around all day…" sort of mentality. Which is condescending, even if accurate.
It comes down to money. Being creative costs money and time. I believe it is misguided to assume that a creative person's time is granted to them by way of someone else's work. Regardless of your economic standing, you can manage your time and budget in order to complete any creative task you desire. Of course, within the limitations of that economic standing.
The tools you use to engage in creativity are largely influenced by the money available to you. At the same time, you cannot expect a given financial investment to yield an exact, predictable outcome of any kind commensurate with the dollar amount spent. You could spend $10 on supplies and produce work worth $10,000, or spend $10,000 and make something worth $10. Respect to the economic limitations is hard to circumvent. And surely anyone who takes creativity seriously will want good tools. But the most valuable aspect of an artistic endeavor, I would argue, is the spirit behind the effort, more than the cost of the production or material.
For example, whenever I have spoken to people who call themselves writers, they talk about how early they get up or how late they stay up to write, how many words they generate, and the process of integrating their dedication into a daily routine. All of which says nothing about the quality of what they write. It is irrelevant. The person obsessed with their routine can write a million terrible words at 4:30 in the morning over the course of a year, whereas someone else can write 20,000 desirable ones in three months whenever they make time. Routine is helpful, but the amount of time you invest - like the amount of money - does not equate to a predictable outcome with regard to quality.
There are plenty of people, maybe most people, investing money and time in creative acts who make things no one will ever care about, except them. The choice to do so is commendable, in my view, aside from the ambition. And, from a money and time standpoint, I do not see much difference between someone who tinkers with cars in their garage or shoots guns and someone who paints boats in the harbor or writes poems at a cafe on the weekend.
The Cost of Skateboarding
The cost of skateboarding made my dedication to doing it possible. If there was a higher price financially I would have not had access as a child. On the other hand, skateboarding definitely requires a huge amount of time to acquire mastery or even competence. I suppose the willingness to invest the time needed to reach a high level of performance could seem daunting to a beginner. The meditative and centered focus, however, that I found when engaging with the process of learning to skateboard warped any sense of time. So, in that way, the only hurdle insofar as cost was the material.
During the first few years of skateboarding, I would get new boards now and then from my parents. Once I began to skate nearly everyday, I went through boards very quickly, so then I resorted to asking people for their used decks. That was during my peak learning period, at around 15 to 17-years-old. All the basic tricks I know I learned on used, crusty boards with no pop, no noses, no tails, chips, chunks, and worn-out griptape. Later, in my early 20's, I befriended a guy named Dan, and I was bro-flowed by him, meaning he gave me his barely used gear that came his way through actual flow or sponsorship. I personally bought a board very infrequently. And I developed a preference for pre-ridden decks.
And that preference carried me through to my 30's. Even after I was no longer getting boards from other people, which was like taking trash off their hands in a way, I purposely rode decks for a long time until they were ragged. Some part of it had to do with me not necessarily pushing my skills to the maximum, and another part was to prove I could skate good on anything. I also didn't skate that often in my 20's because I was somewhat burnt out from how much I did as a teenager.
Skateboard Progression as an Adult
At 31, I started to feel the itch to progress again. To skate as well as I could within the context of my mortality. Skateboarders have not really been around long enough to age out. Most of them die fairly young. The elite class of vertical skaters still take risks, but they are not normal and never were. And the similarly gifted group of street skaters continue, with less vibrancy, lower impact.
I found myself wanting to skate in a slightly different way, and to do tricks I will likely not be able to pull off when I'm 50. I started to learn transition skating and sought to integrate my street background into that practice. Essentially because you can achieve greater longevity when utilizing ramps. The thrill of finding street spots remains, though, and I skate existing structures as much as I care to.
Due to the latent influence of conformity, I struggled to detach myself from the invented architectural rivalry between the two terrains. Growing up, you were either a street skater or a vert skater, or you were a street skater who sometimes rode concrete parks with no safety equipment. The rules were that you could not film tricks in a park and pass it off as legitimate, unless it was concrete. And even then, the caliber of the trick had to be very high and contain a serious danger factor. Which meant, I was still hesitant to film at skateparks.
After I decided I was going to improve my transition skating, I decided to abandon that rivalry and prohibitive mindset. Ultimately, skateboarding is not defined by the terrain, the terrain is defined by skateboarding. There is more freedom as a skater when you open yourself up to performing your particular style on all obstacles, in a designated area or not. Taking this approach has made me appreciate the artistry, great or terrible, of the concrete park builders. And, I learned to develop more patience and focus for progression in the parks because I am allowed to be there, expressly for skateboarding. Overall, transition skating is more relaxing.
With this change, I found myself craving fresh boards. Decks with pop in proper shape. What used to be one board for six months turned into six boards for half that duration. I usually have a nice stack of decks, to make it easy for myself, and a roll of griptape. To ensure I remain in good physical shape, I started to wear a helmet and pads, which is one of the best decisions in my skateboarding life. I feel that these more open-minded choices are simply just a more mature way to skateboard and allow me to consistently enjoy the activity. I've accepted that I am too old to be cool, too old to care, and am content to do whatever the fuck I please on my skateboard. In doing so, my skate-voice has flourished well beyond my expectations. What started as a rebellious and relatively inexpensive act has become, 25 years later, a lifelong investment of time with unfathomable spiritual rewards that I would recommend to anyone willing to dig as deep.