The first time I rode a skateboard I was in high school. I transferred from an all-black school in Detroit to a predominantly white school, and learning to navigate a new cultural landscape – hacky sack, field hockey, acoustic guitars – led me to Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 and, later, a group of children playing “SKATE” outside.
The rules were pretty familiar – no different from the HORSE and PIG rules I was used to on the basketball court – so when they told me an ollie was easy to learn, I trusted them. When I stood on the bridge and tried to jump, the board flew under me and I landed on my side. I couldn’t breathe and injured my ribs. I never touched a skateboard again.
When Lifehacker resident health genius Beth Skwarecki was organizing our Lifehacker Fitness Challenge series this year, I noticed that I wanted to use it as an opportunity to address something I was afraid of; my logic being that if I choose something that I’ve always wanted to do but was too intimidated, I would go public so that I couldn’t back down. (That was probably the logic behind our parental editor, Meghan, choose to become a runner.) And here I am, closer to 40 than 30, choosing to overcome my fear of skateboarding.
Why am I afraid of skateboarding
Learning new things rarely scares me because I’m not afraid to make a fool of myself. I have this in my favor: adults are often bad at learning because we are so used to being proficient at our jobs, hobbies and interests that we are reluctant to look or feel stupid, but I’m good at laughing at myself. Like many adult learners, I’m inspired by the endless quotes about how Vera Wang didn’t start designing dresses until she was 40, or how Toni Morrison only published her first book. at 39, or how Ava DuVernay did it. t take her first camera until she takes her first camera.
Skateboarding is different, however, in that it’s not as much a mental skill as it is a physical one. Concretely, skateboarding is a physical hobby in which I will get hurt. It is practically inevitable. My tongue may bind when I learn a new language, but that won’t make my mouth bleed; my fingers won’t hurt me playing the wrong piano keys.
So I’m afraid of the long term pain and injury that can keep me from playing for longer than this challenge is supposed to last. I’m afraid of how I felt when I played SKATE and landed on my ribs, and the instant failure that an injury can bring. To alleviate these fears, I have probably gone a little too far.
How much did my beginner skate gear cost me
Lifehacker staff writer Sam Blum wrote about how to start learning to skate as an adult, so naturally I took his advice by buying a skateboard (I bought a local skate shop in NYC called Uncle Funky’s Boards), finding a suitable beginner’s surface to practice on (I chose a local basketball court in Harlem) and getting inspired by watching other skaters (my Instagram feed is now full of skating accounts).
What Sam didn’t mention, however, was the safety gear I would need to feel confident enough to step back on a bridge at my age. I bought enough protection to protect myself from a two-story fall, let alone a regular fall, enough to make Sam laugh when he saw me engulfed in protection. Have I crossed the line? Probably. In the interest of total transparency, I also didn’t shop a lot or do a lot of price comparison.
Here’s what I bought and how much I spent:
- Fairweather Street 8.5 completed: $ 175.00
- Triple8 Certified Sweatsaver Headphones: $ 60
- 187 elbow pads: $ 38
- 187 wrist guards: 25 $
- 187 knee pads: $ 45
Add $ 30.44 for the 8.875% New York sales tax, and my total was $ 373.44 to deal with my fears. Anyone else who learns to skateboard can probably get away with it. a lot cheaper if they shop, but my determination was in a race against my fear, and I was happy to support a local skate store that was patient in answering the myriad of questions I asked them.
You can also buy a lot less. As I’ve learned so far – officially a week after starting my trip – I could have gotten by with just the wrist guards and without the other pads. These are just the types needed at my local skate park, and while I did do some hard falls luckily none were hard enough for the time I felt the skates were critical.
How the skateboarding community can help a beginner
Since I started learning to skate, I have received some advice and support from helpful friends and strangers, and I have asked them the same question: “What is a reasonable trick for?” beginners ? ”
(The first question I actually asked the staff at my local skate store was if I could learn how to ollie in a month, to which the salesperson replied, “It depends … how are you engaged? ”Since then I have had a lot of differing opinions on whether ollies are a good“ beginner’s trick ”or not, so I changed the question to“ can I learn how to make ollie in a month “to ask what thing I should try.)
What I’m sure is that I need a goal to achieve one, and this is where I might need help. I found my own answer to the ollie question pretty quickly: This is my first baby ollie after skating almost daily. So what’s next? A better ollie? Tick tock? Something else? I will take the advice on what makes a reasonable and achievable goal, and I will also take the encouragement. I’m still scared, after all, but I won’t let that stop me.