What percentage of skateboarding, I wonder, is talking about skateboarding? Half, probably. There is such rich joy to be found in these debates without stakes, these endless recollections that go nowhere, slowly. And if the impulse to write grows from the impulse to converse, one could reasonably suggest that writing about skateboarding is a natural extension of the activity, too. But skaters tend to have a cautious relationship with the written word. Our culture has produced an array of photographers and filmmakers and sculptors, so it’s not a lack of work ethic or creative energy that’s kept us from producing poets.
At some point in my early twenties, I decided I wanted to become a novelist. So, I worked very hard to become one. By necessity at first, and then by habit, I viewed most any non-novel writing as a threat to my primary purpose. For my second novel, it seemed obvious that I should write about skateboarding. It proved difficult. I hit a snag, as happens, and then another. By the third snag, which was substantial, I decided to send out an email to friends in the name of research. It was four questions, a brief survey about a basic paradox or conundrum central to our practice: Is skateboarding inherently competitive, I asked, like diving or gymnastics? Is it possible for any of us to treat going skateboarding like going for a stroll in the countryside? Or does something within the activity, some internal characteristic, urge its practitioners toward improvement? Read More