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Monday, June 1, 2009

"Hi, I'm 35 and I've been skating for 3 months."

Well, that's not exactly true. I skateboarded when I was a teenager, from the ages of 12-16. I was not an impressive skater, but it was very fun for me. I recall that I could caveman a handrail. What I did best, I feel, was I could ollie very high and very far. With enough speed, I would ollie entire parking spaces. I also liked curb tricks. I could never really slide or grind, though. And although I had a little ramp, I never mastered it.

Here is an old picture of me with my ramp. I'm the one on the left with the red shirt. On the right is my friend Dennis. Although by his clothes you wouldn't think it, that fellow was an awesome skater. One day he did an ollie impossible, much to my amazement. He commonly pulled one footed ollies about 2.5 to 3 feet in the air. Somewhere I have a picture of him doing that, I'll upload it in a nostalgia post further on down the road.

I gave up skating in the fall of 1990. We moved to Burke, Virginia, which at the time was somewhat rural, somewhat suburban. Definitely outskirts. The asphalt was rough and full of cars, and nobody skated. This was right at the beginning of the big 90's decline of skateboarding, so I guess Burke was progressive in that sense, as skateboarding was already quite dead there. I gave up skateboarding for lack of opportunity. I got a hybrid bicycle for my birthday, joined the swim team, learned to drive, and all in all watched as my decks gathered dust, including an as-yet-unskated Natas Kaupas deck.

In college, I learned about lifetime sports. The physical education instructors offered us an array of sports from which to choose, sports that would ostensibly keep physical fitness interesting enough to keep us in shape. People choose sports like skiing, badminton, volleyball, racquetball, tennis, golf, swimming - all sports that are low-impact and sustainable well into old age. I did skiing and swimming. Later, I found that skiing was actually very expensive and very dangerous. Swimming was a lot better but required a lot of preparation and clean up afterwards. Swimming is also kind of boring, and did nothing to help keep my bone density up. But the idea of a lifetime sport seemed like a good concept to me.

It was also in college, around 1995, that I noticed that skateboards had completed their evolution from curvaceous, high-tailed, unidirectional boards to the double kick tail popsicle stick shape many of them still have today. I also noticed that the skaters' wheels were tiny! 45mm was the norm, with some as small as 39mm. Nowhere could you find a wheel larger than 49mm. Strange. There were also some new brands I'd never heard of, like Alien Workshop, Royal, and Bullet. In a bid to recapture the fun of my youth, I bought a new school skateboard. It was about 7.5" wide by 31" long, with 46mm Bullet wheels and Royal trucks. I think it was an Alien Workshop deck, maybe Toy Machine, I'm not sure. It had a picture of Optimus Prime on it, I remember that. I skated it a little bit, late at night when nobody was watching. The board was so toy-like I felt embarrassed. I found it tragically tiny - at that point the last board I had skated was 9.8" wide and had steep concave. My feet kept slipping off the board, and the tiny wheels were very frustrating because I was constantly pushing to keep moving. I went home for a vacation to my mom's house and left the board there.
Fast forward 14 years. There I was, 34 years old, halfway through the winter. I had smoked cigarettes from 1996 to 2007. I had a big gut, flabby muscles, aches and pains everywhere. Both of my knees hurt all the time but my left knee was decidedly worse. I could barely walk and I would get out of breath walking the dog. I was convinced that all the skiing, bicycling, and running I did in college and during my mid to late 20's had ruined my knees for good. I felt old, really old. I bicycled my way through nicotine withdrawal, but unless you want to ride 20 miles every day, bicycling is no way to stay in shape.
I finally decided to see the doctor about my knee once and for all, find out exactly what was wrong with it. The doctor pulled and prodded and did many different types of tests before finally saying with a shrug, "The tendons in your knees are just heavily scarred. If you exercise your legs, especially your quads, you wouldn't have any pain in walking." That was the blessing I needed. I promptly dug out an old deck from storage and got skating again. This time, for real. After skating for 3 months, and feeling the strength returning to my legs, I have decided to make skateboarding my lifetime sport.
In this blog, I will talk about how I go executing my plan of skateboarding well into my old age. In my next post, I will talk about the sagas and perils of outfitting oneself with skateboarding equipment.


  1. Amazing. I have had a near identical experience. Skated as a kid in the San Francisco bay area, rode ramps but never pushed myself, mostly skated as transportation and as an excuse to go to places where 'real' skaters were. I have always been thrilled watching great skating.
    Then the 90s came, i couldn't understand anything, and left my mini-Caballero in storage for...over 20 years.
    Then the city where i live repaved the long (1 mile straight_ street that has only a mild incline and put in very luxurious granite curbs.
    Coincidentally i'd started doing yoga the year before and had a growing feeling that my balance and physical confidence was better than ever.
    So out came the mini cab, i started on the local steet, moved to skate parks and now am almost done building a miniramp in my car port.
    i've been able to try tricks i never would have dared and i too found my lifetime sport...again. :-)

    1. Awesome! Others have golf, we have skateboarding. A mini ramp in my garage is a current dream of mine. What are the measurements of your ramp?

  2. go for it!!!! i just turned 35 on feb 10 2012. i know this blog is old but i two started back skating after about 13 years or so of not skating! great blog by the way! keep up the good work! oh, i found your blog by doing a search for a review on theeve vs indy and your blog came up in a google search! after reading your 5 part review, i've got some TiAX 5.85's on the way to replace my 149's!!! yo, your got a facebook page?

    1. Awesome, thanks for reading! The Theeve TiAX 5.85s are awesome, awesome trucks. I really recommend you just toss or give away the Bones bushings they come with and replace them with Independent standard bushings in your choice of hardness. I like the reds, they're the softest, and I like loose trucks.
      I didn't have a facebook page, but you've motivated me to build one. I sent you an invitation through email, but here is the page:

  3. Somewhat similar story here... I just hit 35yrs old and found an old, dusty, and rusty lance mountain board in my grandfather's workshop. I stopped skating around 14-15 (around 1992), picked up surfing about 6 years ago, and just started longboarding about a year ago. Now I've been hit with some nostalgia from finding that board and am wading through everything from old boards and videos to new school gear. I was a decent street skater doing high ollies, launch ramps, slides, handrails, etc... but never really had the opportunity for vert back then. At this point I'm trying to figure out what this body 20yrs later is able to do these days and what board/trucks/wheels are going to help me out the most for mostly street. I came across your reviews and this... thanks for posting it all!

  4. My journey is a long and winding one as well. I had a 70's era unidirectional skateboard as a birthday gift which was the literal definition of a POS, but it was fun. Put it away, and never looked back. My 8 year old has been bitten by the skating bug and pestered his old man to get him a deck. Next thing you know, I'm out there ripping it up with him. My aching knees feel better, we're having a blast, and my wife cannot understand why a 40 year old man is out there "goofing off" with our son. I call it being a good father, but really, it's a convenient excuse and a damn good one, so I'm sticking to it. You're only as old as you feel, and I feel like 20 years have been lifted from me. Besides, how many other skate rats can say, "Well, my dad pushes mongo and rides goofy, but at least he rides!"

  5. I'm so stoked to be skating again too. I'm Forty two and skating has reinvigorated my body. My core and stabilizer muscles are getting a tune-up. Plus skating is maybe as thrilling an activity as I have ever partaken, and I have road raced motorcycles.
    It's almost like a martial art in what it requires in balance and strength, and it offers expression and style. I've definitely re-found my lifetime sport.
    I've also suffered some impact traumas including the dreaded turf toe. I already push mongo however I will start working on pushing with my back foot. That makes sense to me.
    I have also been getting a lot of satisfaction out of tweaking the parts. Bushings and truck widths. wheel hardness. Tracker darts, love em. I also like ace trucks a lot. But have you ever tried one size smaller truck in the rear? Sounds weird, but I like it on a couple of my cruiser boards. (asymmetrical]
    Great blog. thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for writing! I like what you've said about skating being like a martial art.
      When I was younger, I did the wide front truck with the narrower rear. That was kind of the style where I lived, but the fad only lasted a few months. Nevertheless, we enjoyed how kick turns were a lot easier and we could still be stable on downhill runs. But it was difficult to stay on a grind.

  6. Glad I took the time to read your story Bertrand! On April 17 I will turn 41 and mark the 7th anniversary of being back on board after walking away in the mid 90s when things got weird for me. I often credit my wife for having saved my life with skateboarding by getting me that Powell Skull and Sword for my 34th. Since then I have reversed fatty liver disease, got my son on board with me, and reignited the flame. It was rad to read all of the responses posted too, we have all walked a similar path and we're still rolling.

  7. Yes, this is pretty much me. Started in 87 or 88, quit in 91. Started again in December of 2011 at age 34. I'm better now than I was then, but still need to improve conditioning. Legs get weak/stiff if I try to skate too much.