Billy: Whoa! Skateboarding looks so cool!
You (probably): Oh, Billy. Skateboarding is for the devil!
Alright, perhaps a bit exaggerated there, but imagine your first impression of your little loved one expressing an interest in skateboarding. Your first thought is likely something negative about it: danger, profanity, outcasts, weed, vandalism. I won’t lie, those elements are there, but it is faulty black and white thinking to assume that is all there is to it. Every sport has players that do it justice and those who don’t, but it isn’t the sport itself that is bad. We need to give it a fair chance, and that starts by looking at sides you’ve likely never explored before.
Filling the Gap of Fatherlessness
I started skating when I was about 12. My friend down the road had just gotten a skateboard, and though he didn’t end up sticking with it, watching him try sparked what would be a forever passion. My dad saw my interest and brought me home an all gold Wal-Mart complete called the Slider. It was awful, but I was proud. As a shy kid new to a big school, I came to school ready to speak up the day after I got it. I was not aware that a Wal-Mart board was not cool then, all I cared about was this new excitement alive in me.
*Disclaimer-It is perfectly acceptable to start your kid out on a cheaper setup, but visit your local skate shop for lower priced goods. Wal-Mart boards are not skate-rated, which basically means the trucks won’t turn, the wheels won’t spin, and the board won’t pop. Not to mention, that makes an already dangerous activity even more dangerous. Check out this Consumer Report (NSFK).
Back to the story now. As I grew up I got more and more engulfed in skateboarding until I got married and had to get a real job. There would be some year-long breaks between skating but it would always come back. I just turned 30 with my third son on the way and I am more into it now than ever. It was cool to come back to it as an adult to really understand the beauty of it.
Understanding the Drive
If you have ever met a skateboarder who is truly invested in it, you already know they are some of the hardest working people. One day it was raining so I took my flatbar down to a pavilion to skate. While I was there, a group of guys my age were there skating, which is always exciting to skate with anybody, let alone new people. More on that later. As we started talking, I noticed they all had one thing in common: their dads left them.
These guys were amazing. Their drive and focus on growth was evident in their skating. Their kindness was outstanding as well considering we hadn’t met and their vulnerability to share painful things was inspiring. I remember leaving the pavilion that day with a brand new excitement for skateboarding. The coolest part is that it wasn’t even about my own development. Was there a trend in fatherlessness in the skate community? Could that be what is so special about it?
Following the Trend
Looking further into that aspect, I started going through interviews with some professional skaters online. It was easier than going up to random people on the streets or at the park and asking “Hey man, did your dad leave you by chance?” What I found is that no, not every talented skateboarder you meet or watch was abandoned, but there is certainly something to skateboarding that I believe these guys turned to to fill that gap.
Chris Joslin, a pro on Plan B and Etnies is an incredible skateboarder. He came seemingly out of nowhere with two of the heaviest parts in skate history in 2014 and 2015 with his True and Welcome to Etnies parts, respectively. In his recent X-Games highlight, Being, Chris shares his story about his skateboarding journey. He touches on his father’s absence, but what is more apparent is his drive that came perhaps as a result of that trauma. When you watch him skate, notice how he does it with authority. He skates fast, and he pounds everything he lands. The perfect release of aggression and the need for control for those that was taken from.
Nyah Huston is a skateboarding prodigy, winning contests and going pro at 11 years old. Many people aren’t fond of Nyjah at this point in his life for one reason or another, but there is no denying that he is one of the most gifted skateboarders in the world. He has also been open about childhood issues and what skateboarding has meant to him in his Growing Pains highlight. In his case, his father was there, but did more harm than good as he tightly controlled Nyjah’s life. A probable explanation for his perpetual tattoos, drinking, and spending. Obvious exercises of the healthy freedom he was deprived of as a kid. It can’t be all bad, though, considering his work ethic that was established through skateboarding.
The legend, Andrew Reynolds, talks here about the bond that skateboarding opened up for him and his daughter. There are countless dads out there without a big name that took to skateboarding to fill the gap of fatherlessness. Without a doubt, father issues are traumatic and there is something special about skateboarding that promotes healing and growth. These dads are taking lessons they learned from skateboarding and applying them to being fathers themselves, the ones they wish they had. Just what is it that is so special about it?
5 Ways Skateboarding Develops You
- It promotes individuality.
When you take your kid to the skate shop, you’ll watch them ooh and ahh over the endless possibilities. They can choose what kind of deck they like, which trucks they like, which wheels they like, oh and the shoes. The shoes are the coolest part. But it’s more than that. With their deck, not only can they choose the graphic they like, they choose the shape they like, the concave that they “feel” the most. If they are old enough, they can choose which brand they want to support. The same applies to all the other hard and soft goods. They can even choose a wacky grip tape design or wild clothes. Style and personality get their first chance to shine through. The best part? Not a soul has the right to tell them they’re wrong.
2. It engages community.
When I say no one has the right to tell someone their style is wrong, it alludes to the barrier-breaking power of skateboarding. As Brent Sanders, co-founder of Chattanooga Skatepark Project, local artist and fellow skateboarder, puts it in this News Channel 9 interview, “There are not really many situations when a kid from East Lake and a kid from Signal Mountain are hanging out getting to know each other.” For those not from the Chattanooga area, East Lake and Signal Mountain are two entirely different socioeconomic worlds. When people come together to skateboard, their style doesn’t matter. Their income doesn’t matter. Their home life doesn’t matter. They are together to bond through a mutual love of the same thing. Check this little clip out of a guy making a difficult trick. Notice how people rally around him. Nothing else matters.
Yuri just put out an incredible part and you can watch it here.
3. It increases confidence.
Sure, like any other sport, there are some jocks that think they are above everyone else. Those that are mature enough to appreciate what skateboarding really is have laid that aside, though. We already talked about making some style selections, and that alone is a confidence boost to be allowed the freedom to make your own selections. But there is an entirely separate style element to skateboarding that really starts to open the door to long-lasting confidence. No two skaters you watch are the same, and that’s because each style is unique. The way people bend down to prepare for their snap, the way they flare their arms, how they sink into their knees when they land, the way they flick their tricks, their trick selection, the way they skate with power or precision or consistency: this is their style. It is physically natural to them and is a visible evidence of the mind and body connection. When they are in their element, it’s just them and their board. They need no one to approve or affirm them. They just know that this style is theirs alone. Skaters like Reynolds, P-Rod, Ish, Foy, are known for their style, and celebrated for it. This goes beyond ability alone. You can have a small bag of tricks but when you put your own flare on them, it’s enough.
4. It ignites passion and creativity.
I had the pleasure of speaking with our local shop owner, Chris Scoggins, a few months ago. I asked him a really weird question considering I am a stranger: “What made you devote your life to this?” Naturally taken back by it, he shared that it was the escape of his own issues and the passion that was ignited in him that led him to pursue his love of it. Seeing skateboarders in his time was still a new concept, so he said he felt sort of like a pioneer in his community. “We didn’t know what we were doing or how this was supposed to be.” It was clear that the never-ending possibilities were a driving factor and an obvious escape for him. With skateboarding, you can walk down the street and your brain is constantly firing off possibilities. What most people see as an aesthetic ledge, we see as a functional spot to get a line or a trick we’d be proud to share. We might try that switch trick we’ve been thinking about for a year here, or that difficult flip in or flip out we’ve dreamed about. The passion comes from the love we have of it, which comes from the purpose it gives us. The creativity comes because there are literally no limits other than the ones we apply to ourselves.
5. It develops character.
I once spent three hours working on a simple line. It wasn’t even really something I was challenging myself with, I just knew that I could do it and it became a matter of principle for me to carry that out. Here is your boy here a few years ago at that pavilion on another rainy day:
On a larger scale, Chris Joslin had to revisit one of his battles an entire year and injury later on a trip across the world. You can watch his war story here to understand this concept of character and drive even further.
We talked about confidence, and this is really the root of it right here. The intrinsic drive of skateboarders is awe inspiring. We might fall a hundred times, we haven’t eaten in hours, our clothes are shredded, we’re exhausted but don’t even know it, we might even break some bones, but nothing can stop that drive once it’s on. The driver behind all of this is one of the greatest facets of character development that we could exercise: perseverance. There is a scripture in Romans 5:3-4 that confirms this. It says, “We also glorify in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance produces character, and character produces hope.” Every attempt we make after a failure strengthens the development of our inner man and connects us to hope, one of the things we know lasts forever.
Encourage It. Support it.
I hope that all of the above breaks the taboo mentality of skateboarding and reveals the beautiful secret that is now gaining mass appeal. If your kid watches X-Games or Street League and it catches their eye, take that opportunity to connect and run with it. Visit your local shop, ask your kid what they like, and even more importantly, why they like it. Don’t judge them, just hear them. I talked a lot about fatherlessness and “guys” but the ladies have just as much a right to skateboarding as guys and that is also gaining popularity. No matter what your home life looks or looked like, skateboarding is special, and everyone deserves a chance to be a part of it. My dad was there, but I sure learned a lot about life from that Slider.