Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I Sk8

     What?  A grown-man and airline Captain who skateboards?  A bit juvenile you say?  Not around these parts.  Not around SoCal, especially Encinitas California, perhaps known as the epicenter of vert & transition skating.  Did I mention my neighbors are Tony Hawk, Andy Macdonald & Cara-Beth Burnside?  Did I mention the 2003 X-Games half-pipe sk8 event was held 5 minutes from my house, the same park where Shaun White learned how to skate?  My daughter goes to school with Mike McGill's daughter.  My CPA neighbor gets his mail everyday, barefoot on his skateboard.  When we're not surfing (or working), we're skating.  Did I mention we built a wooden skate-bowl in our backyard?  Yeah, I have a really cool wife, and she skates too.  Skateboarding is pretty much a family affair and a way of life around here.  It certainly doesn't soley define us and we're not that good, but its become a passion that bonds our family together.  Actually I should speak for my self - my daughter is that good, considering her age, and I am her coach.  In fact she is ranked top 12 in the world in women's bowl-skating.  But enough about her...
     ...Why am I so ADDICTED to skating?...and yes I meant addicted:  Skating is FUN and it is full-body, functional fitness that involves the 'FLOW' psychological factor, meaning it keeps one completely immersed in the 'present moment' as it challenges just enough to heighten one's awareness & focus while still preserving fun-factor and triggering a massive surge of reward neurotransmitter dopamine.  Dopamine is the same neurotransmitter released when one indulges in chocolate or to be more explicit & literal, when cocaine is snorted, which triggers an instant flood of dopamine...lasting for about 30 minutes. 
      Skating is a direct land-based crossover from its ocean-based cousin, surfing...where skateboarding first got it's inception.  I surf too (Encinitas also has amazing surf), but surfing takes a lot more effort & patience to score, when you factor in swell, wind, tide, moon-phase, crowds, equipment etc.  Surfers who sk8 often will exclaim right before they drop into a concrete bowl, that "It's always 6 feet & glassy with no crowd!" - a bit cliche but very true nonetheless.   And skating a concrete pool or bowl, truly is an endless land-based, metaphorical wave: You literally can pump and carve until your legs are on fire with lactic-acid accumulation, (Did I mention it is functonal-fitness?!)  But even on flat-land, skating will make you a better surfer without a doubt and skating is so accessible: you don't even need an ocean...just some hardscape!
Carving at the local YMCA Encinitas Sk8park where we sk8 with many legends daily.
     I grew up playing all conventional sports but rode my first skateboard sometime in 1978 and it was all plastic and we never wore helmets or any pads as we bombed hills.  In 1985 I bought a Vision 'Gator' Ragoswki pro-model with Tracker Trucks and that was the first board I ever road transition & ramps with.  While attending college in the late 80s I was on the varsity track team for pole vault, club-wrestling & flag-football but I still had my trusy Vision skateboard even though skateboarding was slowly fading out.  I still have that board today, hanging in my garage.  In the 90s when skateboarding allegedly 'died' for a decade or so, I still skated but I was also in the Navy and skating on base as an officer was seriously frowned upon, so I mostly surfed and played beach volleyball during those glory days.  But in '95 I bought my first longboard made by Gravity while stationed in Norfolk, VA and I used to carve & pump the boardwalks along Virginia Beach while my wife Donna roller-bladed.  The surf was decent at VA Beach and so was the flying as a Naval Aviator.  Life was good, and yes I still have that longboard today!
Above photo by shot at Venice Beach, CA 2011
     In 2005 I was out of the Navy and flying for JetBlue Airways and that's when I rented a historical skate documentary by Stacey Peralta and narrated by Sean Penn titled 'Dogtown and Z-Boys'.  I was so moved by it and so inspired that the next day I went to my local Encinitas sk8shop, McGill's, and bought a new skateboard, a proper bowl set-up, put together for me by none other than Mike McGill him self.  I hadn't ridden transition or a ramp in almost 20 years an had no idea what to ride at the time and he graciously helped me build a board that made sense for me.  It was the first time I had ever met Mike and I won't forget his humble kindness that day as I was totally clueless and a sk8-KOOK in every sense of the word!  Within 6 months I had built two quarterpipes in my backyard and placed them on a slab to make a ghetto mini-ramp.  Within a year I had Jim Bell from Aura over to build a proper mini-ramp - Mike McGill had recommended him as we discussed how to build ramps while our daughters were in swim lessons together at the local YMCA.  Jim had built Mike's backyard ramp.
My slice of backyard paradise: The Iguana Bowl, Encinitas
     In 2009 I brought Jim Bell back on board to transform the Iguana mini-ramp into the Iguana BOWL (did I mention how cool my wife is?!).  The Iguana Bowl is my backyard paradise.  It's a labor of love, kind of like a boat or a giant tree-house, and when we skate it, I truly feel like I'm living the dream...The SoCal dream.  It's also the primary training ground for my daughter Bryce, and host-venue to many epic sessions with friends and awesome crews like Silly Girl Design, Original Betty and Girls Riders Org.
The Iguana Bowl, Encinitas California built by Jim Bell of Aura. Photo by Z-Studios
with Silly Girl Design co-founder & co-owner Matt Gaudio & friend Mike Ross.  Silly deck.
with my daughter Bryce at her contest. Not only am I her coach but we're also sk8 buddies:)  Photo by Z-Studios
     So using my own random history of skateboarding, I can truly say that it is never too late to get back into it or to even start skating!  And it is a great way to spend quality active time with your kids!  Doesn't matter if you skated all the way through the nineties & air 5 feet out above coping, simply street-carve, or if you took a hiatus to go serve on board the USS Carl Vinson: skateboarding welcomes all types, from all walks of life on all different shapes of boards & urethane durometer!
Living the dream in my backyard...

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