The Meteors

It has been awhile since I wrote a post, I feel like I’ve said that before, it’s why I hesitate to write here, on top of the hate I have for writing about myself, the repetitiveness, it felt like I was either riding my favorite pros of the past, or, just rambling about things I’ve already rambled about.  But that’s kind of skateboarding.

Same trick at a different spot, same spot with a different trick, same spot and same tricks.  At almost 35 years old, I start my day the same at the awkward Paine’s Plaza, pop shove-it, shove-em, kickflip, 50-50 the granite curb, backside nollie, switch flip, switch 180, throw in a couple of backside ride on grinds on the “Love Park bump.”  From there I do some more of the same and mix in halfcab noseslides and nollie tailslides before moving onto heelflips, 5-O variations and every other trick I know, fakie, nollie, regular and switch.

Some days I knock everything out first try, some days it takes all the time I have to work through what I know, I know I’ve said that before, same with mixing new tricks after the routine.  The therapy aspect of skating can get me thinking about(as well as the influence outside of this short 60-80 minute skate window) whether or not I could have been a contender(for an industry pro), had the circumstance had been right, I’m out here every day that it isn’t raining, I shovel out the park when it snows, could it have been?

I’ve finally entirely accepted the answer of, no, no, I wasn’t a contender.  I’ve argued with myself about the amount of occupational therapy I had as a child, add to that the rough and rounded asphalt street in front of my parents house that lies in the dip of two hills, their super narrow front porch, I didn’t have much of a chance at the proper environment.

Of course my argument always is, “Those first few weeks hanging out with my old friend Wes.”  His various boxes kept out and in the garage, the smooth asphalt and flat driveway at his parents house, the various regular, and nollie, kickflip into slides and grinds I figured out within hours of skating his parents’ driveway, I also loved to huck, I could throw a good amount of flip tricks down gaps, maybe if I had the right connections, the right people caring about me?

But, reality is reality, a pro career life wasn’t anywhere near my existence, what it meant to be a pro when I was younger and what it means now, a few months away from 25 years since my first ollie, 31 years since my first board.  It has been and always will be nothing more than a fantasy.

Talking with friends nowadays, in their late twenties to mid thirties, so much discussion comes up of amazing young skaters who moved to California and are now just another random am trying to make it, no more special or different than the other 19-21 year old hometown heroes and California locals.

It seems now, with some promise of money and potential gold stars and trophies, it’s more competitive than ever, not that it was ever easy to become pro or payroll am, there is just so much more today, skaters not being retired because they’re over 22 years old, the internet giving the availability for everyone to figure out skating, the insane level of progression skating has been built up to, could one even go pro simply for having stylish and solid basic tricks today?  Tiago is the next generation Huf, one could argue, much like Westgate is the next Barley, but aside from Tiago and Westgate?  And to bring up the past, Huf and Forbes were not the only ones of their time.

There is so much more involved in the skateboard economy than skateboarding, especially these days, obviously.  But, now more than ever it seems to be like everything else, the financially taken care of and the struggling(and comfort is a mindset, baby).  It had me thinking about the guys who came and went in a few years.  Like Mike Carroll talked about in a Transworld article(I think?), when he talked about how to pour ketchup, slow and steady, too fast and you get this watery freckled assault on your food, take some time, put in some thought and care to shaking the bottle, mixing everything up properly, careful and calculated spread of sauce so everything is enhanced and more delicious, just like his thoughts on skate careers, quick to rise, quick to fall.  Is it that simple?

I don’t want to call out anyone by name, but it seemed and appeared to be different for those five to fifteen years ago than it does now.  Nowadays, if someone disappears, you just look them up on social media, might even find the answer in a comment section on one of their posts, “I got dropped from payroll because I couldn’t keep up.” maybe a, “Hey man, it’s tough out there.” or maybe their biggerspins and biggerflips out that got them their fame faded them out of popularity with their tricks.

The catch-up interviews and podcasts are always a great place to find answers for the guys of my childhood and teenage generation, sometimes the guys just faded out, their mentality of the industry was that of the industry when they were young: get sponsored when you’re a teenager, travel the world on your sponsors’ dime, then ditch the board and take life more seriously in your early to mid-twenties.  So when they started getting flow at 16 or 17, became am and started showing up on team rosters at 17 or 18, went pro at 20 or 21, once 24 hit, they were already thinking about higher education or an apprenticeship and we as the consumers and fans of their skating, only really got to see a few years of it, maybe their sponsors didn’t even utilize them all that much or their board/shoe sponsor only put out one video during those years and we barely got a taste.

Some injured themselves out, think of medicine ten or fifteen years ago, what knee surgeries and ankle surgeries were in the mid 90’s and into the early 2000’s, you get a surgeon who uses an older method and gives you a bleak outlook, you may not think you can recover 100%, so you don’t.  Other injuries, you’re just fucked.  I knew a guy who dislocated his knee, which then meant that his knee would forever have a higher probability of popping out again, the more it dislocated, the more likely it would be to happen again.  I saw the footy, I heard his bellowing scream, the pain he was in, then, after six months of healing and physical therapy, he skated for about six months and it dislocated again.  He was over it, as much as he loved skateboarding(and he truly did and probably still does), he just couldn’t find it worthwhile to put himself through the injury and recovery time over and over again, he didn’t want to be on crutches for possibly five months out of the year, every year.  I think Cale Nuske was in that category, absolutely ripped, flipped into grinds on huge hubbas and rails that everyone else was barely olleing onto, I can’t remember what exactly happened, but I think he kept breaking legs and wrecking his knees.  It’s a physiological game as much as it is a mental game, some people’s bodies just don’t recover or break more easily, other people like Dollins and Way, they go under the knife and always bounce back, Dollins has had what, like seven knee surgeries(doubt they’re all on the same leg, but still, not all knees and joints are going to be able to handle that).

***Off topic ramble warning*** In the same vain, some dudes aged out who weren’t that old, but skated big shit, their body couldn’t take it because we aren’t all Reynolds and AVE, I mean, how old was Heath when he was over it?  And for some, the fans scream, “We just want to see you skate!” but I recall seeing some video parts from one or two of my favorite rail skaters who were aging, watching them do a front rock in a pool and being under par with their ledge game was uncomfortable and awkward for me as a late teenager.  But seeing Heath hit a bank to ledge or throw around some flat, ugh, it’s a thing of beauty.  I could probably watch Pete Eldridge do a warm up line on a mini with stalls and get more pumped and psyched to skate than seeing a three sixty double flip down some quadruple set.  But these are not short lived careers or the type of pro I’m talking about right now.

The last section of the meteoric rise and fall category is the most interesting to me personally, a part of me understood it, but didn’t know how to word it for awhile after seeing this particular trend pop up with the meteoric pro skater path.  This is the group I don’t want to name names in, because they’re generally bundled up as the pile out skater, the party going burn out, which I don’t think is a fair label.  What I believe, is that it comes down to structure, as much as it is unwise to speak in absolutes, I think this is an exception, there are those who need structure to get things done and those who don’t.  The catch up interviews started to touch on a lot of the guys I grew up watching and paying attention to, the ones I loved as a late teenager and growing into my 20’s.  As my late 20’s rolled around and I started coming across more of these interviews, when the question inevitably came up, “So what happened?” the answer was nearly constant, “Oh man, I just couldn’t handle it, you didn’t have to do anything!  So I didn’t.”  It usually starts the same for most of them, big checks start rolling in, they start spending it, they would talk about just drinking all night, smoking blunts and playing video games all day, or something along those lines and maybe having a week or two where they didn’t really skate, but the big checks still came the next month (the ones who admitted to numbers claimed various level of 150K to 400K annual salaries at the time).  So the slacking off continued, they skated even less, partied even more…

… Although, a side note with the partying.  Imagine it like this, you have a crew of four or five guys, one of those guys is RIDICULOUSLY good, they get the hook up, he/she’s this pro we’re talking about.  So, you now have every skater in your community hot for this homie, you’re hot too now, the whole crew is.  So you’re pro friend buys a house, you maybe even live at the house, you’re partying, living it up, but you’re also still skating, because that’s what it’s about.  But now you’re pro friend has women/men/whatever throwing themselves at the pro, maybe one sticks and is there every morning when you are hitting up the wake and skate and your friend starts giving the, “I’ll catch up later.”  Also, when heavy partying goes down, you’re gonna have some party heads, like the dude who always wants to roll up a blunt but never has weed and is only there for the weed, if that hope of being smoked out didn’t exist, your company would mean nothing to them, when they have weed, they may not even bring it over, same for alcohol and any other substance.  So when you wake up to go work(if you live in the house) or to go skate the night after partying and crashing there, you and your three other friends may be the only voices pushing this pro to skate, the other six or whatever people who crashed on couches are gonna argue the pro friend to roll up a blunt, maybe throw on a video game before skating, skating will be there later.  So you kind of stop trying to get your friend to skate, they’ll still come out sometimes, maybe it gets awkward when you go out to skate all day, then go hit up your restaurant job or whatever and come home to find out your pro friend is out skating without you and your crew.

So you stop pushing them to skate, they aren’t really out there as much, plus, your pro friend now has a whole lot of people expecting him to always pick up the tab, to always have the weed, maybe they even come out skating too, so they don’t miss out on any free highs they can get.  This isn’t blatant or black and white, especially from the inside of the situation, but enough of these pros in these catch up interviews give strong hint or direction towards the deduction that there was a non-skating party crew that overtook the situation, and the pro let it happen and maybe none of them may have even been aware at the time and so many other variables and reasons can and will exist, but still, it’s what happens.

So, these pros blew onto the scene, maybe they had part time jobs before they started getting the fat checks, maybe they didn’t, but it was always the same, they all admitted to having some click in their brain, checks come whether you skate or not, of course, after a year(or two) the checks stopped coming, maybe they got their act together for one or two more video parts, a couple more ads, but that was it, months would go by and their names started disappearing from team rosters and pages gone from websites.

The part where the issue of structure comes into play is their answer to the question, “If you had the chance to be a pro again, would you?” They all give a firm and hard, “Hell no!”  They talk about how finding a job after skating being what got them back into skating, maybe some of them used their money from skating to start a business, some saved enough to only have to work part time, but they all credit the day job (the structure) as being what has them skating more than they ever did as a pro, that they absolutely love where they’re at now that they’re forced to work, forced to appreciate, forced to get out of bed even.

I’ve almost always worked, as soon as I was old enough to work without a permit, my parents told me to get a job, as an adult, working a day job, reading these interviews with these ex pros with the quick rise and fall career, it made me think about how my job is the one thing getting in the way, it’s what keeps me from skating more, making less art, slows down my writing and editing with the literature and fiction I create and publish, if I could only get rid of the day job and had nothing but time, I could do so much more, what was it that made having all the time in the world destroy these people?  The structure.  I still feel and have the same energy for skating as I did when I was a kid, instead of being at school and wishing I could skate, I’m working wishing I could skate, or thinking about the next time I can skate, thinking about how tricks work in my head.

***Another off topic ramble warning*** I had summers where there was nothing but time to skate, I skated, I wasn’t tired of skating or struggled to skate by late August, I still wanted all that time, there was maybe a little under a year, I worked for a Riverboat company during the summer when I was 21.  I was the only person posted at one of their docks, they had another guy, but as soon as they hired me in April or May, he quit.  So it was just me, they had me work 10am-10pm, seven days a week for the rest of Spring and all of Summer, they paid 10 bucks an hour(good for ’05) but didn’t pay overtime, so I started ditching to skate flat and hotbox my car and would show up fifteen minutes before a boat arrived.  Then some private party boat that I didn’t know about showed up and had to dock by themselves, the captain was super pissed and the manager and I had it out over the phone.  They knew they were overworking me and I knew I was being a dick employee, they also couldn’t fire me, since there was no one else to man that dock.  So, they kept me on until mid September or October, whenever their season ended and we wouldn’t be contacting each other about future work.  Anyway, long pointless story to say that since I had worked 84 hours a week for months on end and lived in my parents’ basement with no bills outside of gas, insurance, skate product, cigarettes, weed and beer, there was some good money to keep myself unemployed and just skate, not that I was living a pro skater life, or had skate checks coming in, but I lived that free time life, it didn’t get old, it didn’t get boring, I skated more than I had ever skated in my life.

I’m sure it’s physiological, part of the brain, I had never thought about it before, I had heard about it plenty in school, part of parenting, to me it was all crap, I knew what I wanted, I knew how I wanted to spend my time and having things in the way is what made me want to stay in bed, to not do anything, in a way, you could argue it’s a spoiled brat mentality that I have, I don’t want to get out of bed because I can’t do what I want.  But I’m single, childless, I have the responsibilities of a dog and cat owner, I still feel the same way about life that I did as a child, “I’m not here for very long, I’m not wasting time, so get out of my way, I’m trying to gain speed.”

The day job isn’t a waste of time, the money is something I need to buy product to skate, eat and feed and all that, but it’s still something that is just in the way for me, it is the distraction, the ball and chain, the destructive non-skating party crew.  It was brilliant for me to have this experience of my brain and thoughts putting sense into reading the same handful of interviews from different people, to go from, “I get it, but what the hell, how is exactly what I want the same thing that destroyed you?”

At first I thought maybe it had to do with appreciation, I haven’t truly experienced what they have, sort of in the same argument that some artists stopped making decent art because whatever they put their name on sold for good money, I didn’t truly and don’t truly understand what it means to do nothing, but still get a near five figure (or actual five figure) check and to have that happen month after month while putting in little to absolutely no effort.  Even the times when I had money that would eventually run out, I didn’t care, even today, I don’t really look too far into the future, quitting or ditching my day job would be more based on how much of a nuisance any other day job would be on my life, I dream of the day my books or art give me a steady income or solid enough base to survive a decade or two, maybe to not have to think about money at all does leave a gaping hole, does change things, maybe just like structure, it depends on the person.

I don’t believe I would take it for granted.  There’s always more tricks I want to learn but don’t have the time for, but I do have the need for a portion/majority of my actually daily skate to be the therapy/medication/ceremony to give me freedom and medicine for the structure I’m forced into but don’t want, only need, and need is a strong word that brings out strong reactions.

It almost made me want to be like them more, I always take it back in my head, or when I say this out loud to my dog or cat, and I’m going to take it back now before I say it, because I’d rather be me, I’d rather be this mess that skates, writes and paints over any other life, but, I would love to be able to just go handle some corporate office job and collect those good checks with benefits and retirement, promise of promotion and more money, but it kills me, my attempts in the past proved that, much like total freedom of time and financial restraint killed these pros.

I love it though, that’s what the world takes, like the saying, “the perfect marriage is between someone who hates pickles and someone who loves pickles.” kind of a fast food nation turn of phrase, but truth nonetheless, what’s life if everyone wants to skate all the time but nobody wants to lose the time to build and manufacture the product, to perfect the product for those of us who (arguably)only consume?  I love that these guys found the balance and skate harder now more than ever, especially with social media, so we can see their non-marketable comeback.

Also, fuck yeah to social media for it’s proper purposes, I can’t tell you how much Mikey Chin footage is out there that no one would know about if it wasn’t for youtube.  DISCLAIMER: Mikey Chin is not a meteor pro, just an Oregon local who has killed it in the underground for decades.  In fact, I’m ending it here, Mikey Chin parts below and Cale Nuske for continuity.

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