5 ways that skateboarding has undeniably bettered my life
From making new friends to fostering important values, skateboarding taught me the greatest life lessons of my teenage years.
Growing up, I was always enamoured with skateboarding. Watching Aaron Homoki fling himself off a 25 stair-set and witnessing Tony Hawk streak through the air to land the first “900” on camera boggled my mind.
The idea that you could “conquer the world” with nothing but a piece of wood and four wheels stuck with me and I vowed to replicate their colossal feats after getting my first skateboard at 16.
While I did not get to that level of mastery, I was still able to amass experience through those four years that shaped my outlook on the world. Here are five of these invaluable life lessons I learnt through skateboarding.
1. Making friends can be easier than you think
Visiting the skatepark used to be a terrifying prospect to me. The sheer adrenaline that radiated off the tumultuous crowd as they whizzed by was enough to keep me on edge.
Over the years, I gradually learnt to welcome and even reciprocate the energy that was always abundant in these places, especially since it beckoned new friendships.
One of these friends I made was Rex, who was revered by many as the best skateboarder at Somerset Skatepark.
With a gelled up mohawk and his adamance to not wear a shirt, Rex cut an intimidating figure. Yet, my most vivid memory of him was one where he was kneeling next to a young boy decked out in protective gear, gently holding his hand to guide him down a ramp.
Rex’s action embodied the warmth and consideration I often witnessed in a skatepark.
We were a community – one which revelled in the victories of strangers who landed their tricks after working on their craft tirelessly, one where you could feel the palpable sense of camaraderie in the air despite not knowing anyone’s name.
Bounded by our shared love for the sport, striking up a conversation no longer seemed so daunting. Sometimes, all it takes is a simple greeting and a casual handshake and you are off to the start of a great friendship.
2. Getting hurt is unavoidable but precautions can be taken
One certainty in life is that there will come moments where you inevitably stumble and fall. This rings true, especially in the world of skateboarding.
Some days, I was lucky to get off with just a ripped t-shirt soaked in perspiration. Other nights, I would return home with tender lumps on my shin which I would gingerly dab medicine on to prevent them from swelling further.
One incident that occurred when I was just starting out was my wheels getting caught on the yellow truncated domes on the sidewalk. My board propelled forward as I was thrown off my board, landing on my spine. It resulted in me being in bed for a week, unable to move.
The injury proved to be a revelation, making me realise that I was not exempted from debilitating injuries and that I should not take my safety for granted.
While I continued skating with vigour, I prepared myself by learning different techniques to fall, an essential skill which skateboarders refer to as bailing.
Over time, I embraced the fact that while humans are not invincible, we can do more to protect ourselves at times.
3. Perseverance can bring you far
With how often skateboarders experience failure, it is then unsurprising that one of the indispensable qualities needed to excel is perseverance.
It was perseverance that spurred Aaron and Tony on whenever they attempted the impossible and, like them, I learnt to embody this grit each time I slammed on the unforgiving concrete.
I distinctly remember the lead-up to my first successful ollie. Until that very moment, landing the trick had seemed like an insurmountable challenge. I had dedicated weeks of daily practice to it without being able to reap the fruits of my labour.
Still, I persisted until it all came together. I recall the sharp snap of the board striking the ground as it lifted up, catching just enough air underneath to let my feet slide across the board. I caught it perfectly and in one fluid motion, I brought the board back down to the ground.
The triumphant elation I felt then was indescribable. It was in that moment that I fully grasped just how vital it was to dust myself off and keep moving forward in times of turmoil until I succeeded.
4. The devil is in the details
Little details can make all the difference in the world.
Every pop of the trunk, every flick of the heel were intricacies needed to execute each trick flawlessly and this was something I recognised early on.
I would film my attempts and the perfectionist in me would replay the video frame by frame to pin down where I was going wrong so that I could tweak it.
This simple act of nitpicking helped me to develop an eye for the minute and has served me well in many other aspects of my life, from identifying inconsistencies in my schoolwork to even learning the guitar.
5. Nonconformity can be a good thing
Skateboarding is not constrained by rules or structure, offering a medium for us to be creative and experimental.
Personally, skateboarding has empowered me to venture beyond the norm throughout my life, with my fondness for androgynous clothing and obscure 90s hip-hop being cases in point.
This penchant for the unconventional is ubiquitous amongst skateboarders. Walk into any skatepark and you will be confronted with a diversity of personalities. From baggy pants held up by neon shoelaces to beanies embellished with punchy illustrations, everyone has a personal flair.
Through skateboarding, I recognised how going against the grain has helped me carve out my own identity, namely pertaining to fashion. It has led me to explore unique subcultures such as Haute Couture and Avant-Garde fashion which in turn has had a large impact on the way I purchase and wear clothes.
Recently, my busy schedule means that my weathered board no longer sees the light of day as much as it used to. However, I am confident that I will dust off the cobwebs one day, for I believe that skateboarding is an odyssey that never ends.