After a few weeks, I moved back into my apartment and started to slowly get back into my life. Spending time with friends was not the same. It had not taken long for them to all know what I had done. It was apparent they didn’t know how to act or to treat me. The impact I had had was obvious.
Thankfully, my episode fell between semesters. School started again and soon my life was full of classes, quizzes and exams. One day, as I walked between classes, I saw a guy riding a longboard. But he was not riding it like those I saw commuting between classes. He was carving back and forth while walking up and down the board, cross-stepping and spinning. I had never seen anything like it. He righted himself, crouched down and spun the board 180 degrees, making the wheels hiss across the concrete. I was awe struck.
I watched him every day as I walked to class, engrossed by the technique and style. Eventually, I stopped him and complimented his riding.
“Thanks! Do you skate?”
I shook my head, “No, I snowboard though. I am Brian by the way.”
“I’m Justin. I snowboard too. This is what I do when there is no snow.”
“Is it similar?” I asked
“Yes and no.”
“Well how ‘bout you come and see for yourself?”
Geez, this guy wasn’t shy. “I don’t have a board though.”
“That’s cool, I have an extra. Longboarders tend to hoard gear.”
I was hesitant. I kept envisioning myself trying to do one of those slides and slapping the pavement. Snow was like a down pillow compared to concrete. But in spite of the risk, I agreed and we decided on a time and place.
The next day, I arrived at the appointed time and place. Justin wasn’t there yet. I surveyed the hill. It was not too steep but it was long. There were no cars to be seen as it was part of an undeveloped subdivision on the edge of town. Pretty soon, Justin rolled up in a maroon mini-van. He got out, opened the back hatch and tossed me a helmet.
I put it on, a bit surprised. My limited exposure to skateboarding culture didn’t involve helmets. But I didn’t object. I anticipated a lot of falls today. Justin then handed me a board. It was different from any skateboard I had ever seen. It was just over three feet long and had cut outs on both ends, clearly exposing the trucks and wheels underneath. Probably to keep the wheels from hitting the board when you turn. The trucks were also mounted on top of the board and went down through a hole cut in the board. This made the board ride a lot lower to the ground.
“Ok, let’s just cruise down the hill. Think you can handle that?”
“Sure.” The hill wasn’t too steep and I was sure my snowboarding experience would make it a fairly easy feat.
We started riding down the hill. It was not too fast, and it was actually really fun. Pretty soon I was carving back and forth across the pavement. Justin, however; did not just cruise. He would do little slides, checking his speed. Sometimes he would do 360’s and 180’s. All without putting his gloved hands to the ground. Each time he slid, his wheels made a satisfying hissing sound.
“You are doing a great job. You ready to slide?” Justin asked with a big smile on face.
“Yeah right.” I responded. I thought he was joking.
“Seriously! You can totally do it.”
I was hesitant, but I agreed to try. “So what do I do?”
“Well first you need to put these on.” He threw me a pair of gloves with hard plastic pucks attached to the palms with Velcro. I slipped them on and the lesson began.
“You are just going to go down the hill, crouch down, put your hand on the ground and carve hard. You are trying to do a 180. Don’t go too fast but keep in mind that the faster you go, the easier it will be to slide. Here watch.” He went down the hill and successfully brought his board around 180 degrees.
“Now you try!” He called up the hill.
I made sure my helmet was secure, put my foot on the board and pushed off. My first attempt yielded no results. I chickened out at the last moment and couldn’t get myself to crouch down. But Justin just told me to try again. So I did. Again and again.
After not too long, I started to get the wheels to break loose and slide a little bit. It felt cool but I didn’t feel like I was in control. With each failed attempt, Justin gave me encouragement and tips to improve. Eventually, I was consistently getting my board about half way around but I couldn’t complete the full 180.
I started getting frustrated. “I think I am going to call it for today”
Justin shrugged, “That’s up to you but I have skated long enough to know that you are right at the point where you need to try just a little bit longer. You are super close. You got this!”
I decided to trust him and try again. I climbed the hill and ran through the tips my new mentor had given me:
“Keep more weight over the board”
“Don’t grab stink-bug”
“Turn your hips more”
“Remember to put your weight on your front foot once you get the board around”.
I got to the top, pointed my board downhill, and pushed off. I carved out to the right side of the road then to the left. I crouched down, put my glove to the ground and carved hard right, twisting my body. The wheels broke loose and the board came around all 180 degrees. I adjusted my weight and stood up.
“YEAH!” Justin yelled
A feeling of exhilaration came over me, new and unexpected. The feeling was intoxicating and addicting. I felt elated and wanted more. I stepped off my board and started walking back up the hill, determined to get my fix. I was hooked.