Skateboarding: My Source of Clarity in a Noisy World

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m a skateboarder. I’ve been skateboarding for the better part of 15 years, and I continue to skate as much as my schedule allows me to. How come I keep skateboarding even as I get older? I do because I love it and it’s my refocusing mechanism for life. It’s like meditation.

I figured today would be a great day to get down some writing about skateboarding and what it means to me.

FS Board B&W.jpg
Frontside Boardslide – Ucluelet, British Columbia

My entry into the world of skateboarding was when I moved from Edmonton to Calgary (in Alberta, Canada…), I was 13 and just entering the 7th grade. My good friend (who is also named James…I swear to you I’m not crazy, he really exists!) had been doing it for a while, so quite naturally I started up and joined him. I had a skateboard in Edmonton prior to moving to Calgary, but I hadn’t really started doing tricks until I moved.

I enjoyed the fun of ripping around on a skateboard, trying to learn how progress past the basics of doing ollies. As most skateboarders will tell you, the defining moment where skateboarders get hooked is when they can kickflip. The experience of landing that first kickflip is a lot like the first time you kiss a girl, you always remember it (regardless of how bad it actually was…). I was hooked ever since.

I’m going to give a small history about myself. It illustrates the point later on.

Like most people growing up, I struggled with the regular trials and tribulations of going through junior high and high school. Grades 7 through 9 were a challenge for me, I found I struggled to develop my social identity as I wrestled with my inability to communicate with girls and understand my thoughts and feelings in social groups. I wasn’t necessarily an outcast, but I can’t say my social groups during this time were all that helpful to my growth and development. My confidence was also lower considering that I was in a french immersion school. The only thing that made sense to me was math, hence a decent math grade followed by a lot of poor grades in other subjects. Low grades didn’t help reinforce me confidence. A part of me was convinced I wasn’t book smart at all.

In high school things turned around academically. I found myself close to the top of my high school in the academic front. It’s easier to do well when you understand the language! I wasn’t right at the top, but I didn’t really need to be. I crushed the math and sciences (except for chemistry, damn I dislike chemistry). I had enough issues navigating more social development in high school.

Halfway through high school, I joined a soccer program where I played soccer pretty much everyday. What I discovered about this program is that I actually didn’t get along with any of the other people. I found myself an outcast, with my interests and attitudes being completely different. Most people joined with the prospect of playing in university and beyond. Also, while this didn’t embody all of the students, I found that intelligence wasn’t a factor at all in dictating whether you could enter this program, only whether you had the excess cash to throw at it. That’s an unfair statement though, because at the time my only barometer of intelligence what grades in school. I’ve since discovered that grades don’t mean diddly squat in a lot of cases. Regardless, my inability to get along with others and my differences typically led to bullying, which certainly didn’t help.

Long story short, my soccer skills increased exponentially, my confidence in myself decreased significantly. While I still play soccer today, I do purely for exercise and at the end of the game, I could care less what the score is. While I try not to speak ill of others, I hope I never have anything to do with those who were involved that program again.

In short, high school was a mix of playing soccer, learning that I don’t understand social circles, and dealing with a diminishing confidence in myself and my abilities. That being said, I continued to skateboard.

Sorry for the plug, but you can see the height of my skateboarding after high school at the link here: Apologies in advance, the video quality really sucks, it’s an old video, when they still had film! Good god, I’m getting old.

At some point in the future I’ll have a more recent compilation, I’ve learned some fun new tricks.

So why do I give this little history?

The reason I talk about this is because while I had all these other issues to contend with, I continued to skateboard through it all. I got better and better and it made my identity. Whenever I was feeling low, or whenever I needed a boost of confidence, I could always go skateboard. It’s always been there with me.

One thing that always irritated me about team sports like soccer and hockey is that you are always limited by the weakest player on the team. I discovered in high school that I could be one of the best soccer player on the team and it wouldn’t make a difference in the overall outcome. My success was always dictated by the shortcomings of others. As selfish as this sounds, this is one reason why any time I played team sports, I got incredibly frustrated. I could give it all it got and it still didn’t make a difference.

However with skateboarding, the only person standing in the way of progressing and succeeding is yourself. You completely control your development when in comes to skateboarding, and I love seeing that putting in the work shows results. I am the master of my own success and if I can’t do something, it’s nobody’s fault but my own. This is one reason why I naturally gravitate towards more singular activities.

As a side bar, this doesn’t mean I don’t see the value in teams. There’s a time and place for them and there are many ways to make them work. That’s probably a post for another time.

Backside Tailslide – Canmore, Alberta

Skateboarding was a pillar in my childhood development and was something that let me escape the world when I needed to. It was a way to get out of my own head when things were difficult.

Fast forward to today, I still skateboard. I can’t say I do ledges that are as big as I used to, nor can I go as long while serious aches in my body, but I continue to improve. When life feels like it’s becoming too difficult to handle, I have my skateboard.

Even this weekend, I was having a shitty start to the weekend. I found myself incredibly discouraged in a lot of aspects in my life. From my non-existent dating life, to feeling somewhat frustrated at work like most people do from time to time, to just feeling like my life isn’t going anywhere, I was feeling pretty down on myself.

In moments like these, I tend to spiral downwards in personal confidence and negative thinking. Once I noticed that happening I grabbed my skateboard and headed to the skatepark near me.

Once I hit the skatepark, my whole attitude shifts from feeling down and sorry for myself to focusing on whatever is in front of me. It might be improving my nollie kickflips, or how to lock into that switch 50-50. It might even me discovering new tricks I didn’t know I could do, I recently started to get the board motions of nollie 360 flips. I haven’t landed one, but just knowing how they work is something for me to work towards.

I find myself in a state of flow where nothing else matters. Whatever annoyed me at work doesn’t matter. My disappointing dating life doesn’t matter. My life regrets and disappointments don’t matter. I can shut out the world for the time and just focus on my skateboarding. I can remind myself every now and then that I can still skateboard and I have a few cool tricks still up my sleeves that impress people.

What I’m getting at is skateboarding is a huge part of my life and my identity. If there’s anything that skateboarding has given me, it’s a sense of flow and a means to be at one with myself when things just aren’t going my way. I can’t say every skate session I have goes well, there are days when I can’t land anything, or when I biff really hard and have to end early really pissed off. Regardless of what happens, it gives me a chance to refocus my thoughts. It gives me a sense of clarity in my life when there’s nothing else to provide it.

In short, I plan to continue skateboarding for as long as I possibly can, hopefully for the rest of my life. I would hope my joints hold out for long enough so I can continue to provide my life the clarity it needs when times get tough.

In a future post, I plan to explore how the process for skateboarding progression can be applied to solving problems in real life, because like so many things, doing a skateboard trick is a problem that needs to be solved to land it.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the post!