Monday, 15 October 2012

Skate Mates and Good Times

One of the best things about learning to skateboard has been the new people it has brought into my life. Since I started skating over 7 months ago I have met people from all over the world, from different backgrounds and of all ages; from young kids to people in their forties. We've all connected via our love of skateboarding and I've made some good friends in the process. I really think this is something unique about skateboarding. Other sports are generally organised according to age or ability and in particular with team sports, locality. This often means you don't get to meet people outside your particular group. When you go to a skatepark you never know who you are going to meet. Yes, the core group of skaters are usually teenage boys, but there is more of a mix then you might expect.

In the first few weeks I skated I went to skateparks with my then work colleagues Wayne (a semi-pro skater) and Carlos (who had started skating again after a 7 year break). I ended up going to watch a skate contest in Sofd with Wayne in April. The skatepark was teeming with kids and teenagers, all boys, and I began to feel really out of place. I had brought my camera with me, so I could use 'taking photos' as my excuse for being there. I had brought my skateboard too, but that was staying in the car as far as I was concerned. I planned on staying for only an hour or so and then heading off, that was until I noticed there was woman dropping in on the mini-ramp. I was really surprised, this was the first woman I'd actually seen skating! We got chatting and it turned out Marie started skating 6 years ago when she was a teenager. She managed to convince me to get my skateboard out and go for a roll and, my whole day turned around. Since then myself and Marie have continued to meet up regularly to skate together. Like most things in life, having somebody to go skateboarding with makes all the difference, and I'm convinced that if I hadn't bumped into Marie that day, I might have given up skateboarding after a few weeks.
I met my 'skate mate' Marie at a contest in Sofd
When I went for my skate lesson with Lucy Adams in May, she recommended going to the Girl Skate Jam in St Albans and after I got back from London I told Marie all about it and we planned a trip over. It turned out to be a great weekend of all girl skate madness, and seeing and meeting so many other girl skaters, was inspiring. When I was in London in August I met up with Jenna Selby, (organiser of the Girl Skate Jam) again and we went for a few skates together. I also continue to skate with my ex-colleague Carlos, and along with Marie we try and head off on regular skate trips. More recently when replying to something, that had nothing to do with skateboarding, on a social networking site I noticed that the woman's profile had skateboarding down as an interest. This prompted me to get in touch with her and we've since met up and gone on several great skate trips. I've now set up a facebook group called Girls Skate Dublin to try and get more girls involved in skateboarding and to maybe organise Ireland's first Girl Skate Jam? Who would have thought that a little wooden board with four wheels on it would have such a positive influence on my life...

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

New Wheels: My purple wonders

Although I initially decided to keep my wheels from my original set-up, I was beginning to think that a new set of wheels might worth getting after all. When I was at the Girl Skate Jam in St. Albans I noticed that the very rad skater Anita Almonte had a nice set of wide orange wheels to fly around the park on. I began to hanker after some wider wheels. My decision to get new wheels was cemented when I spoke to Mike Keane at Sofd about the wheels I had.  I felt like they where skidding a lot on the wood and weren't offering much grip. Mike suggested I look at Bones or Spitfire as these two companies specialise in skateboard wheels. Some online searching confirmed this, with skaters seeming to be evenly split as to whether they preferred Bones or Spitfires. I thought about going for Bones Park Formula but then I began to be swayed by what Spitfire had to offer. Their wheels were slightly softer than the Bones and I also preferred the designs. I began looking in different skate shops to see what they had but they never seemed to have the right/size colour combination that I liked. I had decided to stick with 54mm as this size was giving me enough speed and was big enough for park skating. After a few weeks of failing to find the kind of wheels I wanted, I put it to the back of mind. Then when I was at the Kings of Concrete contest, held this year along the side the Tall Ships Festival in Dublin's Docklands, I spotted the wheels I was after at the Wreckless stall. Spitfire 54mm purple Trujillo F1 Parkburners. I bought them there and then.

It took me another couple of weeks to actually put them on my skateboard, as I wanted to clean my bearings first. The prospect of cleaning my bearings didn't really appeal, it looked tricky and fiddly. I was also concerned that I was going to do it wrong and wreck my bearings. However after getting some advice from my skater friends and watching some helpful YouTube videos on the subject, I finally took them out and cleaned them. With that sorted I could finally put my new wheels on. This proved trickier than I thought, I found it really difficult to get the bearings in properly just using the axle of my trucks. I got most of them on this way, but made a trip out to Sofd to use their Bearing Press to make sure the wheels were on right and finish off the job properly. My purple wonders were ready to role. I've taken them out for a few rolls in the skateparks since, and so far so good. They grip better and are more stable. Roll on!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Skateboarding at the Olympics

The other week I was over in London soaking up the amazing atmosphere at the 2012 Olympics. I took my skateboard with me as I also wanted to skate some of the skateparks I had scouted out on previous visits. Jenna Selby from Rogue Skateboards, who I met when over at the Girl Skate Jam in June, had kindly offered to come to London to skate with me.  We met up at Finsbury Park Skatepark on a lovely sunny Wednesday. I was looking forward to finally skating here, as I lived only 5 minutes away from the park when I lived in London. However that was in my pre-skateboarding days so I had never skated there. I had been struggling with my skateboarding the last couple of weeks. I had hit a bit of a wall in terms of pushing myself to try new things. I was still trying to master my kickturns at speed but had completely lost the nerve to try rolling off bigger ramps or roll-ins. I was getting frustrated with myself and once more questioning my ability to get to grips with skateboarding at my age. This session with Jenna started of in much the same vain. I wasn't really able to do much. I was even struggling with some basic kickturning. I managed to stick with it and shortly after Jenna left, I finally managed to get some proper kickturns and a little bit of carving done.

Jenna and me at Finsbury Park Skatepark

On the Friday I decided to head down to Clapham Common Skatepark. This was the skatepark I had had my lesson in with Lucy Adams back at the beginning of May and I was keen to skate there again to see how I had improved. It was a really hot day and the park wasn't too busy. Clapham is a great park for beginners, it has lots of smaller ramps and its open plan layout gives you lots of room to manoeuvre. I could quickly feel how much I had improved since that lesson. Things that I struggled with back then I didn't even have to think about doing now. This gave me come confidence. I finally managed to push through the fear and roll down some bigger ramps. These ramps weren't particularly high but they looked steep. When I finally took the plunge and rolled down one, it didn't feel scary at all and I began to wonder why I had been so worried. With those ramps out of the way my confidence improved dramatically and I began to feel more at ease on the skateboard.
On the Saturday morning I went back to Finsbury Park with Jenna and managed to roll in on the side of the small bowl and carve around the other end (well when I say 'carve' I mean managed to get around without stopping, the style isn't quite there yet!). I was pretty thrilled with this development. After weeks of not being able to push myself, something finally seemed to have clicked and I was able to let go. After Jenna left I headed down to nearby Clissold Park to have a quick go in the smaller bowl there. As the bowls are fairly new the concrete is still nice and smooth and I was able to practise some kickturns. I didn't stay too long as I had to leave to head to the airport to fly back to Dublin. Those couple of sessions in London did my confidence the world of good. It was well worth the extra luggage charges to bring my deck over!

Gettin' my carve on in Finsbury Park. Photo by Jenna Selby

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

A blast from my skateboarding past: My first ever skateboard

After a week of trawling through a box of old photos I finally managed to locate a photo of my very first skateboard, a 'Turbo II'. The photo confirms that it was every bit as cheap and nasty as I remember! Purchased some time around 1990, as far as I can remember it was from the Irish supermarket chain Quinnsworth's (now owned by Tesco) toy department. I don't recall it being bought for my birthday or any other particular occasion, so I must have used enough 'pester power' on my Mum to get it for me.  As you can see from the photo it had plastic trucks (!!) and terrible hard plastic wheels that took some effort to roll on. Even at that young age and without any skater friends I was acutely aware of the limitations of such a board and used to spend hours pouring over fancy 'proper' skateboards in magazines and in my local skateshop in Monkstown Wind & Wave (sadly long since gone, this shop mainly sold windsurfing gear, hence the name. It also stocked some fancy skateboarding gear). My weekly pocket money didn't stretch to buying anything better, so instead I saved up £10 to get some decent bearings put into my wheels. This was under the mistaken believe that it would make my rubbish wheels roll better. I seriously doubt it made much difference. For all it's faults, I still loved that skateboard and kept it for many years after I stopped skating. I think my mother finally threw it out in one of her cleanouts, otherwise I'm sure I'd still have it...

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Girl Skate Jam UK

I spent last weekend in St Albans, England at an all girls skate jam. Lucy Adams had gushed about how wonderful the Jam was when I had my lesson with her. When I mentioned it to my skate buddy Marie, she was really excited about the prospect of seeing and skating with women that could actually skate (instead of having to watch me attempt a kickturn for the twentieth time!). Before I knew it, we had booked our flights to Luton (nearest airport to St Albans) and sorted out some accommodation in the town centre. I skated as much as I could leading up the jam weekend as I wanted to try and get the most out of my time there. I had also discovered that the massive indoor XC Skatepark was only 30 minutes for St Albans by bus, so we penciled in a trip there on the Friday.

On Friday morning we headed of on the bus to Hemel Hempstead. The XC was just as big and impressive as it looked in the photos. Two of the girls taking part in the Jam were already there skating; Emily Russell and Emma Richardson and later on we were joined by Lucy who had decided to come up for part of the afternoon session. As often happens when I visit a new skatepark I was feeling a little nervous. Although all the ramps were wood the floor was concrete, and due to the rainy conditions outside had some very slippy patches (I managed to slip out just pushing off in one spot). I had also lost the ability to kickturn at any sort of speed, something that I have recently been learning and practicing. I did however roll down some fairly large ramps, building up plenty of speed in the process, which gave me a bit more confidence. The most impressive features in the park were the bowl and the pool, the only indoor concrete bowl and pool complex in the UK. However the highly polished concrete and steep drop looked far too slippy for me and I decided instead to watch Lucy show me how it's done!
Me & Marie at the XC Skatepark
After the XC we all headed back to St Albans to skate in the Pioneer skatepark, which was being opened especially for a girls only session. Pioneer is one of the UK's oldest indoor skateparks and it is here that photographer and skateboarder Jenna Selby, has been organising the Girl Skate Jam for a very impressive 11 years! She also runs her own skateboard company Rogue, which has a team of female riders.  Pioneer has a large indoor section with wooden ramps and a concrete floor and an outdoor section with a large mini ramp and a midi ramp. Some of the other riders were there and I was particular impressed by Anita Almonte an Italian rider who was shredding the ramps to bits. Again the concrete floor, this time a little cracked and uneven, made me nervous. I was a bit frustrated with myself as I desperately wanted to get to get as much as possible out of the sessions in the new parks. However with skateboarding, as with most other activities, sometimes you just have off days. Still it was great to have such a large space to skate in and even better that it was full of women ripping the place up.
Pioneer Skatepark
The Skate Jam was the next day and myself and Marie headed over to the park just before 12pm. The jam didn't get going for a couple of hours so this gave me a chance to have a little roll around the ramps. Marie decided to feel the fear and signed up to skate in her first ever skateboard competition, the over 18's jam. I was just happy to watch... The comp was split into an under 18's jam, an over 18's jam,  a sponsored jam, and a mini ramp contest. The day was was really chilled and it great to hang out and watch some fantastic women skateboarders. Lucy Adams cleared up in the sponsored jam and mini ramp contest, while Anita Almonte took the over 18's, and Rogue rider Claire Thompson claimed the under 18's prize. There was also a special Best Newcomer to the GSJ award for 8 year old ripper Tamsin Bunce, who impressed everyone with her skills on the mini ramp. Check out a full break down of the results here. That evening most of us headed to the Beehive pub in St Albans for a few well earned drinks and a good laugh.
Mini ramp at Pioneer skatepark
Girl Skate Jam 2012
The whole weekend was really inspirational and further confirmation that taking up skateboarding is making my life more interesting! The skaters were one of the nicest groups of women I've ever met, everybody was really chilled and genuinely friendly. They made myself and Maire feel very welcome and we are going to keep in touch with some of the skaters we met. I can't wait to get back over to England for some more shredding!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Time for a new setup

Before I started skating, I used to simply divide deck sizes into 'old school' wide and narrower street style ones. It wasn't until I got my first proper deck that I realised that there are dozens of size and style configurations to get your head around. I decided to skate the 7.75" width deck and 54mm wheel setup I had until I had a better idea of what I wanted. In a few months I've become a bit of an expert on deck widths, truck hanger sizes, and wheel durometers. As I was feeling a bit unstable on the 7.75" I decided that something wider would be better. However I was almost overwhelmed by choice. How wide should I go? Was 8" too narrow? Should I just go all out and buy an 'old school' 10" deck? I sought the advice of several skaters and skateboard shop owners, but that brought its own problems as everyone gave me different advice as to what sort of deck would be best. I spoke to Clive in Skate City and he almost had me convinced to go wide, 8.5" or bigger. Clive has been skating since the seventies and is firmly in the old school camp. Mike in SofD scoffed this idea, saying that an 8.5" would be too difficult for me to control properly and that an 8" would be fine. When I had my lesson with Lucy Adams she brought an 8" setup for me to try. I felt a lot more comfortable on this and after discussing the 'width issue' with her, and seeing how big an 8.5" deck really was, I decided to get an 8". I think I had convinced myself that by going really wide I'd suddenly lose 'the fear' and turn into a fantastic skateboarder overnight. Unfortunately this isn't quiet how it works...

After deciding what size I wanted, I had to choose which manufacturer and design to go with. This was to prove another headache. As an ethically minded consumer I wanted to choose a brand that supports women skaters. Turns out not many companies do. Despite there being an ever increasing number of pro and sponsored female skaters, not one of them currently has their own deck. This is of course a total disgrace, but mirrors the wider issues that professional sports women face in the industry. Instead I had a look at companies that sponsor female skaters and went from there. I had narrowed it down to several brands but couldn't find a design I was happy with. I just couldn't find the perfect deck in the local skateshops and getting one over the Internet was going to be too expensive due to shipping charges. I was thinking about it far too much, so in the end I decided to get one of SofD's own branded decks. This way I would at least be supporting a local business, plus it was a lot cheaper than the major brands. Mike gripped it up for me and I decided to get him to cut a little arrow into the grip tape so I could quickly identify nose from tail while skating.
As I had gone up to a 8" I also needed to get some new trucks. What size trucks you need is directly related to the size of the deck and my previous ones were already on the narrow side. Thankfully deciding what ones to get was a far simpler decision then the deck. Independent Trucks (Indys) are considered by many pro skaters to be the best, and that was a good enough endorsement for me! For an 8" deck I needed to get '139' Indys and Mike had the prefect pair. Trucks come in three different heights; low, mid (standard), and high. Low are best for street tricks and kick flips and highs are better for carving those bowls. My Indys are standard 'mid' which means they are good for different types of skating. When Mike set up the trucks on my new deck, I noticed the height difference immediately, so my previous trucks must have been 'lows' (I didn't even know).  I kept my original wheels, as at 54mm they were still the right size for the new setup.

Friday, 8 June 2012

A blast from my skateboarding past: A letter from Essjay

I still can't locate a photo of my original skateboard I had when I was a kid, and am beginning to fear that one may not exist. I did however come across a letter I got from Essjay's skateshop in Truro, Cornwall, from February 1990 (When I was 12 years old). I remember there had been talk of a family holiday to Cornwall that summer and I decided to do some research and find out where I could skate while I was there. At this stage in Ireland there was absolutely no public skateparks and I'd never even seen a real life half pipe. I remember being excited at the prospect of seeing, and skating, in a real skatepark. In the pre-internet days I was a prolific letter writer (and I've kept all the replies!) and I can only imagine that I got the address for Essjay's out of a copy of Trasher magazine. God knows what I wrote, but I remember being thrilled to get a reply and an Airwalk sticker (which I still have intact!!) off the man himself along with a letter telling me that they stocked lots of skate stuff and that there was a nice ramp in Perranporth... a free bowl at St Newlyn East... and a bowl at Holywell bay. Unfortunately that family holiday to Cornwall never happened and I never got to visit Essjay's or skate the bowl at Holywell Bay.  Who knows how my skating might have developed if I had, instead by the following summer I think I had given up on the skateboarding. Coincidentally in my recent job with Podium Distribution I ended up working with the UK sales rep who covers Cornwall and guess what? Essjay's shop, now called SJ Skate Store, is still there! I still haven't been to Cornwall, so now that I've started skating again, 22 years later, it might be a good time to drop in on Essjay and have a chat!

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Nothing like some skating in the sun

After weeks of awful cold and wet weather the sun finally came out in Dublin last week. Time to get out and hit some skateparks. It was almost too hot to skate!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

A lesson with skateboarding pro Lucy Adams

Lucy and me at Clapham Common Skatepark in London
At the beginning of May I went over to London for a long weekend to visit some friends and decided to take a skateboard lesson while I was there. Google wasn't giving me any useful results for 'skateboard lessons in Dublin' and although the older guys at the skatepark are all up for showing me how to things, it's not quiet the same as having a lesson from somebody that actually teaches skateboarding. Wayne Gallagher had mentioned to me the name of a female skateboarder in England that he had skated with before, called Lucy Adams. After a bit of googling it turned out that Lucy wasn't just any old girl skateboarder but the number one female skateboarder in the UK. And luckily for me, she also happens to be a skateboard coach. After a couple of tweets and emails I had arranged an hour long skateboarding lesson with Lucy (who kindly offered to come up to London for it) in Clapham Common Skatepark. As it was on a Saturday, and it's a free to use public skatepark, we had arranged the lesson for 9.30 in the morning (I'm not a morning person!) to try and avoid the place being packed with scooter wielding kids. I was a bit apprehensive before the lesson, mainly because I was afraid I was going to make a complete fool out of myself and not be able to do anything she showed me. Thankfully this wasn't the case. Being an expert in your field doesn't necessarily translate into being a good teacher but it was obvious from the start that Lucy was a good coach. She managed to quickly put me at ease, was fun to work with, and most importantly she was able to help me progress onto new stuff as well as refining what I could already do. Unfortunately the weather wasn't very good. It was freezing cold for May and after around only 30 minutes it started to drizzle rain, which made the smooth concrete surface very slippy. This slightly curtailed what we could work on, but Lucy managed to improvise on the less slippy tarmac and I was able to practice fakies and kick turns among other things. The lesson flew by and I thoroughly enjoyed it. So much so that I was on a complete high for the rest of the day. There are days when I sometimes wonder if I will ever be able to skate at a decent level, but this lesson certainly gave me hope that I'm not completely wasting my time. I am already planning some more trips to England during the summer and want to arrange to take some more of Lucy's expert coaching lessons!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Learning to fall... the hard way

As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts the fear of falling is probably the biggest hurdle I need to overcome to progress with my skateboarding. Falling is simply a part of skateboarding. Even the pros fall. I have no problem with the inevitable cuts and bruises, I actually like bruises! I love watching the colours develop on my skin and the different patterns that they make(!!) but the feeling of falling off a moving skateboard is not easy to get used to and of course falling on concrete does hurt.  A few weeks ago I had my first proper fall in Monkstown skatepark. I had fallen a couple of times before but only a minor slip in Sofd (on wood) and one rather comical fall in Monkstown when a small pebble jammed in my wheel and I was sent flying off the board (Luckily I managed to land on my shoulder and hardly felt it). I arrived at the skatepark around 7.30 in the evening to find it empty. I was delighted to have the space to myself and was feeling confident after a good session in Sofd the previous Friday so I pushed myself a bit more. I rolled of a small ramp and up another and tried to fakie but just as I was about to roll back off I started thinking about what I was doing, momentarily panicked, and fell. The board slipped out from under my feet and I slammed my left elbow and thigh into the concrete. I lay there for a few seconds in pain before realising that thankfully I hadn't done any serious damage, and got back up. As nobody else was in the park, I was also saved from the embarrassment factor! However my confidence was seriously dented and I rolled gingerly over to the seats not sure if I wanted to continue. It was around this time that my skate buddy Marie turned up and encouraged me to get back on the skateboard and give it another go. She rightly pointed out that if I didn't get up and try it again there and then, it would make it even more difficult. So I worked my way around the park slowly again and tried to get some confidence to try the move again and thanks to Marie's encouragement I did eventually manage to do it! My whole left side was very stiff and sore for the next three days and I couldn't lie on it or left my left arm up properly but I didn't have any cool bruises to show for it! I still worry about falling and injuring myself but as long as I continue feel the fear and do it anyway my skateboarding can progress to the next level.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Ready, steady, skate. My first time at a skatepark

After I got my board put together, I went to some quiet spots in the city centre with my colleague Carlos, who has recently returned to skateboarding after a seven-year break, to practice rolling around. This was a good way to get a feel for my new board and to practice pushing again, but I was eager to visit one of the skateparks that have popped up in Dublin over the last six years. A couple of weeks later Wayne offered to take us to SofD (Skatepark of Dublin) in Santry, North Dublin, one of only two indoor skateparks in the city. We set of one Saturday morning to get there for about 12.30, before the afternoon hoards of kids arrived.

It was quiet enough when we got there, and I was itching to get skating. However, I didn’t realise just how difficult it was going to be to roll on the smooth wood. The board moved significantly faster than on the tarmac outside and I felt like I was going to fall off. My confidence evaporated and I was afraid to even roll down one of the tiny ramps in the middle of the park. There wasn’t a hope in hell I was going to drop in off the metre high mini ramp, which was squashed in a corner on its own. Instead I just tried to push myself up the ramps, but when I started to roll backwards on the way down (riding fakie) it felt really unnatural and I bailed every time. It also didn’t help that the park is very small, which makes skating there a rather claustrophobic experience (particularly when you’ve got loads of skater kids and rollerbladers flying past you). I was really disappointed and I felt utterly defeated.  I thought I’m never going to get the hang of this and felt like giving up before I’d really begun.  I was jealous of all the young kids that were there flying up and down the ramps without a care in the world or a hint of fear in their eyes.  I wished that I was ten-years-old again, because at that age I was fearless too. 

SofD, Santry
After that not so great introduction to skateparks, I began to realise just what a challenge learning to skateboard was going to be for me. It wasn’t so much the lack of physical ability but the terrible fear of falling. It was the fear that I found most frustrating, but now that I knew what I was up against I could at least begin to prepare myself for my next skatepark visit and try again.  

Next up was a visit to Monkstown skatepark in South Dublin with Carlos.  As skateparks go, Monkstown is pretty ugly. A large concrete square with concrete skate ramps that look like they were just dropped from the sky, and have the sort of slippery surfaces and hard edges that scream ‘injury’. However for a beginner like me it did have one advantage: lots of space. There was plenty of smooth flat concrete for me to skate around on and warm up. Eventually I managed to work up the confidence to roll off one of the small ramps (see clip below). Once I managed this, my confidence improved significantly and I began to feel more comfortable.  I even managed to roll off one of the bigger ramps, but I could feel my board wobbling on the way down and decided after two goes, to quit while I was ahead. This experience was a lot more positive for me and I felt like I might be able to give this skateboarding lark a proper go after all! 

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Thursday, 26 April 2012

My first proper skateboard!

Of course if I wanted to start skateboarding I needed to get myself a skateboard. I had been half-joking to my colleagues for a couple of months that I was going to get myself a deck and start skating. Finally in December 2011 I decided it was now or never and went on a mission to get myself a board. I couldn’t justify spending €150 plus buying myself a full setup from the local skate shop, especially as I was unsure if I was going to last more than a week or two. So I decided to use my workplace to my advantage and ‘acquire’ what I needed.  I went to the MD and told him straight out that I wanted to start skateboarding and needed to get a deck. He picked one up from a collection in his office and told me I could have it.

This was just before Christmas 2011 and in January after the holidays I sent an email to the two UK sales reps I work with begging them to try and get me some trucks and wheels off their contacts.  Within less than a week one of them had got back to say he had managed to get me a pair of trucks and a set of wheels. After another couple of weeks gently pestering him to stick them in the post, the package arrived on my desk (thanks Adrian!). A brand new set of Jart 54mm wheels and a pair of IronTrucks.

As the two skateboards I’d previously owned were just toy store completes I wasn’t even sure what else I needed to put the skateboard together, so I got some advice from my skateboarder colleague Wayne Gallagher.  All that I needed now to get me rolling were some bolts, bearings, and grip tape. At the beginning of March, after several months of getting the components together, I went to Skate City in Temple Bar, where Clive Rowan (a legend on the Dublin Skate scene) sorted me out with the last bit and pieces, and put my skateboard together for me.  Finally I had my first proper setup and was ready to roll!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

How did I end up learning to skateboard?

How did I end up trying to learn to skateboard in my thirties? Well it’s one of those serendipitous stories. I had been living in London for four years trying unsuccessfully to launch my journalism and photography career. Eventually I had had enough and reluctantly decided to move back to Dublin to recoup and revise my plans.  I needed to find a job quickly to pay the bills and after dozens of applications and a couple interviews I inadvertently found myself working in sales support for an American skateboard shoe and clothing distribution company, Podium Distribution, whose European HQ is based in Dublin. I had actually never heard of the brands they did, I was only familiar with the mainstream skateboard shoe brands Vans and DC. I wasn’t exactly overjoyed at the prospects of working in sales support again but I was intrigued that I would be working for a company that distributed skateboard shoes. 

Within a few weeks of working there I found myself reminiscing about my childhood fascination with skateboarding. I got my first skateboard when I was about 11 or 12. It was from a toy shop and I remember it vividly. It had a black deck and plastic trucks, hot pink plastic nose and tail guard, rails, and wheels. (I’m trying to locate a photo of it but haven’t been able to find one yet. It was a typical 80’s skateboard set-up). I did a little bit of rolling around on it, rolling down hills in car parks and parks, but as there was absolutely no skateparks in Ireland then and I didn’t know anybody else who I could skateboard with, I never got any further than rolling around.  I grew up in what I always joke about being ‘the most boring suburb in Dublin’ Booterstown.  The average age of our neighbours was around 80 and there was hardly any other children living there. This being Ireland I also went to an all-girls primary, and secondary school and none of the other girls where interested in skateboarding.

By the time I was a teenager I had stopped, but I always retained a fondness for skateboarding. I would drop into skateboard shops every now and then just to look at the decks, and watch people skating whenever I got the chance.  When I was 24 myself and my then partner bought skateboards on a whim in a toy shop one day and spent a few weeks rolling around empty car parks for a bit of a laugh but that didn’t last long and it soon ended up in my parents shed (and eventually got thrown out in a skip during a clear out).  I hadn’t been near a skateboard since and I never really thought I’d end up trying to take it up again, but being surrounded by skateboard shoes and skateboarders in my current job has motivated me to give it a go once more, and this time I’m serious about it! So here I am at 34 and a half years old, learning to skateboard.