Within weeks I mastered every boardslide and lipslide on that rail, regular, fakie, nollie, switch, up the rail, down the rail. Mike even got to the point of telling me to move onto something else. Over and over, like a broken record. I could inconsistently fifty-fifty down half of it, but, as many of us know, a fifty-fifty on round rails, especially low ones, can be death. Even more deadly on a round rail, the five-O. The rail was too hollow and too light to learn much more than fifties, lipslides and boardslides, unless you had the most perfectly placed crooks, or smith… tailslides, no way(Later years taught me that it was easy to frontside bluntslide, as long as you came down on the rail with a legit vertical tweak). But smith grinds, crooked grinds, tailslides, anything you could bash the truck or wheels into and the rail fell over or shifted. I would put a cinder block on the taller end’s foot stand, but the lower end would still fling out. Later I thought I should’ve popped off the capped ends and filled it with cement. But facts are facts, it was a beginners rail, and it treated me well(still does when I visit my parents’ house).
I took to Mike’s advice and mastered fifty-fifties on the rail. First trick of the day, the entire rail, everyday(that was dry, the DC area is a swamp and gets about as much rain as Seattle), rainy days I skated the rail in the garage with one push run up. I would try and learn kickflips by holding onto the hood of my parents car in the driveway, I couldn’t commit both feet when riding and popping a kickflip, I didn’t trust myself and my reality yet.
I mostly worked on fifty-fifties on my rail and learning more grinds and slides on the doorstep. Then, on a trip to East of Maui skate shop, one of the guys working asked me, “Have you ever been to our park?”…. WHAT?! This place exists, and is within a decent driving distance?! It was slightly farther out than the shop for me, in Silver Spring. I remember the drive there down 495, it was early spring, my father driving me through downtown Silver Spring, the amount of spots we drove by, stairs, handrails, granite. This was my first urban trip since learning of what street skating was. I saw everything in the new perspective. I had before, but so much that I would see in my forested and suburban life was fictitious, imagining grinds on the guardrails and barriers along the highway shoulders, seeing grassy hills with wood steps built in and a chest high handrail and picturing the long high speed grinds down it.
But downtown Silver Spring, was loaded with urban skate spots, like all the photos of east coast skaters and skating I would see in the magazines, I always identified more with the west coast skaters and photos, more suburban and neighborhood aesthetics, it’s all I had in my tiny world, and within that tiny world, skateboarding only existed on the section of street in front of my parents’ house. I was more hyped than I ever had been, the magazines, the videos, I saw everything through a screen or on paper, even though it was from a car, I was seeing what spots I would see in videos and print with my own eyes, it had become tangible, the entire reality of skateboarding. We needed to get to the park.
I remember my father telling me telling me we had arrived. I couldn’t see anything more than what looked like an empty lot with a chain link fence. The deck and coping of the vert ramp came in sight first. We found street parking in front of the park, the boxes, flatbars, flybox, three different sizes ramps. Even a vert wall against the back fence next to a quarter pipe.
The entrance was a trailer, inside a mini-shop, in case of breakage to any part of the board during your session, no shoes, just board product. Five bucks to enter, skate all day, homies/local heads could hop the fence or nod their way through the trailer, moonlight behind the counter when they were beat or wanted a break. Helmets were required, I think elbow pads too, if they didn’t know you. I skated the long, long box. Taking my ollies into fifty-fifties to new heights and lengths, the flybox, learning how to whip off the lip of a ramp and out over the flat, of course landing on the flat at my stage of development.
I learned to drop in that day, the pain and emotional defeat. Unless you’re a prodigy or freak-skate-god, you’re walking away with a limp. Dropping in was the last thing I did that day. A small four foot stainless mini ramp with round iron coping. I was hesistant, asked for advice from the kids, hardly a year older than me. I didn’t get much more than, “Lean forward.”, “Just go for it until you get it.” So I leaned forward and went for it. Tailscrape to board shoot out as I rag-dolled into the air and onto my hip, my board catching a good launch off the opposite lip. I got more pity than cheers from the three others and got up to wait in line to try again. Same deal. Over and over, the same slam, the same hip, the same spot. I could barely walk when an older teenager, maybe sixteen or seventeen, got in line and watched me slam. I took the same hit. He saw my limp, asked me if it was my first on a mini-ramp. He told me, it may seem even scarier, but try and grab your nose when you drop in, if it helps, even hold your nose and keep your shoulders parallel with the bolts on the board. That was all I needed to hear, I reached my hand down as I dropped in and frantically balanced out as I hit the flat bottom and rode up the transition of the other side to uncomfortably kickturn. All four cheered me on. I skated that ramp another hour, just dropping in and doing kickturns, learning frontside kickturns lower in the transition. Not even caring that my runs were over a minute of kickturn after kickturn. I remember my right thigh freezing up by the time my dad drove us home. A hard and heavy limp taking me inside. I was ten, so it was nothing I couldn’t skate loose the next day. I didn’t even care if I couldn’t, I skated my first park, I took what I knew farther than I had, I even dropped in, that’s all that mattered, wiping out yesterdays beliefs and replacing them with higher ground.