Right after beating Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, I ran into my driveway and flailed around on my first skateboard, thinking about how cool it must feel to grind. The idea of being on a skateboard as it slides across a rail or ledge was just crazy. Hell, I thought that ollieing was impossible (how can I make something not attached to my feet go in the air when I jump?!). Today, I’m proud to say that as I went through adolescence, I made that little twerp proud.
When my family and I packed up and moved from New York to Virginia when I was in middle school, my small world came crashing down. We had just moved into a new neighborhood in N.Y. and having to hit reset and go through being the new kid all over again was something I wasn’t ready for at only 12. But skating was the literal and figurative vehicle I used to meet new people.
Back when I was a teenager I really didn’t appreciate my innocence. My mom would scold me weekly that I tear up shoes to quickly, that all my clothes have holes in them and that there was no way her son would ever have a lip ring (I still think about going out and getting my lip pierced just to make my old self proud and scare the bejesus out of her). I wasn’t nearly self-aware enough to realize that I was just a kid and had no real reason to be worried about anything.
Skateboarding was everything. What I wore, what I watched, what I listened to, and most importantly, who I hung out with were influenced by skating. I look back at the most awkward years of my life with a smile thanks to it. As a teenager who was trying to be pissed off at the world, anytime I was upset I’d grab my board and get the sweet catharsis of skating where I wasn’t supposed to.
My iPod Mini was stuffed with bands like The Adicts, Neighborhood Friendly, Rancid and every other punk band I could download from MySpace Music. I dug up my dad’s old vinyl records and learned about some rad old bands like The Cure, The Jam and The Clash. Minor Threat introduced me to straight edge which would be my moral compass for the better part of high school. I got countless citations from Rent-A-Cops and security guards for skating where I shouldn’t, and at the time I felt like I was doomed to end up in a jail cell. But now I’m glad that I was getting in trouble for skateboarding instead of drugs or alcohol. Skating helped keep my head straight, despite the trouble I’d get into.
I rocked skinny jeans before they were in fashion magazines and got called every derogatory term out there by “preps” for doing so. If a t-shirt didn’t have a band’s name or skating brand’s logo on it, I wouldn’t be caught dead in it. I was terrified of being just like everyone else, and I still fear that today. Skateboarding taught me to be weird, but damnit I thought my crew was the sickest group of dudes there was.
I really ought to have realized that I wanted to be a writer when I was 16 and won “Letter of the Month” in Transworld Skateboarding‘s August 2007 issue (which I still have framed in my room), but instead of thinking about my future I just kept skating with not a care in the world. And I’m glad I did.
Maybe now I enjoy wearing suits, getting an education and caring about how my hair looks, but I still feel like a kid. My perfect meal is still Gino’s pizza and an Arnold Palmer, I still wear Vans everyday, I still put stickers all over everything I own and I’ll always get down to Operation Ivy. Every time I hit the park these days I find myself thinking that I really don’t skate as much as I should, and someday I hope I’ll be the cool dad who rips the miniramp in his backyard with his son’s friends.