Long & Boarding Serendipity
The feedback from our series on longboarding and spirituality propelled me to examine the role that serendipity plays within skateboarding. For those of you unfamiliar with the word, serendipity means a “happy accident” or “pleasant surprise” – specifically the accident of finding something good or useful without looking for it. I am sure many of you have experienced serendipity while you’ve been out longboarding. So sit back and enjoy these documented stories of happy surprises! — Michael Brooke, Publisher.
YOU JUST NEVER KNOW Pierre Moatti
I could picture myself “patting the dog” as I carved out the most graceful turn on my snowboard on some fresh snow. The only problem was that I was nearing 50 and unsure. And I’d never snowboarded before.
I hadn’t been on skis in almost 20 years, and I thought to myself, “What if snowboarding is as diametrically differentas windsurfing is to actual sailing or downhill skiing is to cross-country skiing?” Bonnie, my wife and my muse, did what she always does when I am hanging on the edge of a cliff of indecision – she shoved me right over. Well, the rest of that chapter was a blast. Many years of skateboarding made picking up snowboarding far easier than I had thought. It helped me and my son to connect as we would race down the slope trying to knock one another off (I had the weight advantage and often won). The bruises and aches and pains were our reward for a great day on the slopes.
Like my snowboarding, I came across longboarding quite late in my years through karmic serendipity. As I now approached my 60th year, I had been watching one of my neighbors for the past eight or so summers as he would scoot off on one of his longboards and would imagine myself getting stoked from a great ride; coming home just exhausted from a long push.
Oh, oh, here I was hanging on the edge of a cliff again. And along comes Bonnie again, ready to push me off. “But my age?” I say. “Quit being a wimp,” she responds. Secretly, I think she’s trying to collect on my life insurance.
But I immediately Google and read up anything I can on this thing called longboarding. Come on, it’s got to be easier than skateboarding in my youth, right? Wrong! Right after getting my new Landyachtz, and just barely putting on myhelmet, I went zipping down my street a lot faster than I intended. (Did I mention that I hadn’t read the chapter on how to stop?) In snowboarding, we called it “having a yard sale,” and that was exactly what happened. After sustaining bruised ribs; a mild concussion and cuts and bruises, I decided that body armor was definitely “de rigueur” when trying this again. then I actually regained consciousness, I thought it was time to reach out to my old neighbor and get a few tips especially on how to stop without using my head as a brake. The serendipity is that everything happens for a reason. My old neighbor turned out to become an awesome friend who is on a 100% high on the sport and shared his knowledge with me like a religion. It’s become a part of my religion, too, and I try to go out a few times a week in nice weather, only now Bonnie follows me on the “support vehicle” (her bicycle) just in case I have another yard sale.
You never know where your life will take you. You have to open up to the universe and accept what is offered to you – that is serendipity – and always try to do some good along the way.
If I would have gotten up off the longboard, I would have been hit from behind, and I struggle to even think of the damage that could have happened.
Back in September I was just out cruising on my longboard late at night with my friends Marco and Misha. We were tired and had to get home, so we decided to longboard back on the road. Five minutes away from home, a car out of nowhere changes lanes, honks its horn and hits me, barely missing my friends, then makes a 180 turn and just leaves the scene. I ended up with two fractures, a dislocation torn ligament in my ankle and a fracture in my fibula that will take two to three years to fully heal. I was unable to walk for three months, and now, five months after the accident, I’m still working on getting back to normal. After looking back, I realized the reason I survived was because my longboard took the hit. If I would have gotten up off the longboard, I would have been hit from behind, and I struggle to even think of the damage that could have happened. If I hadn’t been on my longboard, I might not even be here to tell this story. Longboarding saved my life, and even as I am still learning to run and jump I am already longboarding again.
I asked T.A. to sign my board and he did – two relatively “old” dudes sharing a moment in time and space, all because of the shared experience offered by four wheels and a board … Priceless.
BLUE TILE FEVER Ron N. Buliung
If I’d never been on my cruiser, I would never have met Tony Alva in Toronto, Canada. I was skating home from work atthe Cities Centre, University of Toronto (I’m a professor of transportation geography), and I passed by Blue Tile Lounge, a skate shop on College Street. I skated past the shop and then decided to go back and have a look around totally random. I literally paused, thought about it and went back. I entered the shop and Tony Alva was there!
Now, you have to understand that I’m 41 years old and started skateboarding in the late 1970s on things that looked like the Penny or Stereo cruiser boards you see today. This was around the time it all went down with Alva’s frontside air out of the pool. I knew about him back then (as hard as it was to know anything in the pre-Facebook era) – so meeting him in 2012 was like someone who gives a damn about golf, for example, meeting Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus. In that moment about 30 years fell away. I asked T.A. to sign my board and he did – two relatively “old” dudes sharing a moment in time and space, all because of the shared experience offered by four wheels and a board … priceless.
In our neighborhood, I noticed a group of skateboarding kids who congregated and did tricks down the street. My son’s eyes lit up, as did mine.
LONGBOARDING THE GENERATION GAP Scott Norcott
In 1973 I received a really terrific birthday present from my parents: a cool-looking skateboard made of fiberglass with a kicktail. At the time, skateboarding was not that popular, and my interest had stemmed from the ads in my older brother’s Surfer magazines. I skated the area briefly, but my friends were not into it at the time, so other activities won out. Two years later a friend got a skateboard and we started looking for hills to bomb. Wheels and bearings were fairly slow and bombing was moderately safe, as speed was limited.
Then Road Rider wheels and precision bearings hit the scene. Leaving everyone in the dust was exhilarating! Too fast, in fact, because the trucks at the time could not handle it without the infamous speed wobbles. Bruises and strawberries (road rash) were commonplace, but it was great fun that year on the streets and at the local skate bowl in Huntington. It was most excellent to be a teenager, being a daredevil while surrounded by beautiful girls in Huntington! We were the wild ones – born to push the limits before the term “extreme sports” existed. The bowl was great; I alone seemed to be the most interested in downhill, but I stayed where my friends were.
Time passed. I got my driver’s license. High school sports, parties, prom and college replaced the old set of wheels I once treasured. I was always an absolute athlete, so skiing, surfing, waterskiing and speed boating became a lifestyle. It took many years and a Huntington beauty to tame this wild one. Luckily for me! A home and a young boy growing up filled the days. Teaching him to swim and to ride a bike was fun, although he was not into athletic sports the way I was. His mother forbade me from teaching him to skateboard, worrying that he would be injured. and when Mom’s not happy, Dad’s not happy. So my son had to wait to learn.Besides swimming and riding, my son and I did not have a lot in common, which was not easy for either of us.
Several years had passed, and we moved to a north shore Long Island town where there were many hills. In our neighborhood, I noticed a group of skateboarding kids who congregated and did tricks down the street. My sons eyes lit up, as did mine. After approximately six months of convincing his mother, there were two new skateboards in the basement.
It took a lot of effort for my son at 13 to find his balance on these skinny toothpicks. Finally, at a garage sale I came across a pool board with longboard wheels and trucks – extra wide and stable. My son found his balance and was hooked. He started hanging with the locals, which was good. And I wound up purchasing my first real longboard, a 46” bamboo pintail with Randal RIIs. What a great carving board it turned out to be. Of course, my son needed a similar board. We have a great street to ride down an excellent hill right out of our door! As with a lot of families, my son and I had many differences – some of them difficult. Still, we could always break out the longboards and rip the local hills. Discussing future plans to film rides and trips was always therapeutic. Our mutual interest in this sport has helped us bond when there was nothing else.
At 16 years of age, my son has become an experienced rider, and together we have developed a local longboarding club, which became chartered last fall. We are the North Shore Cruisers. Attending charity runs and events has been a blast. We are in the process of developing and hosting several runs and races in the Northport and Huntington areas this fall. Many are joining our club, and we are looking forward to shred, photo and filming sessions! We have both found that there is a sense of community within longboarders. A free-spirited energy and attitude with good intentions, positive actions and a sense of adventure exist among these riders. The sport of longboarding is growing rapidly here in Long Island and throughout the globe as well. It attracts many ages, both men and women. My son and I are happy to be a part of it, and helping it grow. I have noticed other fathers and sons getting into it. I hope that they can enjoy the commonality my son and I have found longboarding the Generation Gap.
*Special thanks to Sector 9, whose Pipeline and BHNCs have carried my son and
me on an excellent journey. Without Theseus and longboarding, I never would have found my passion and my direction.
LESSONS FROM “PASTOR” THESEUS Joel Goodman
My entire involvement with longboarding was delivered to me by serendipitous chance in 2009 while working on a showfor MTV. I met a crew member named Theseus Williams, a 6’3”, 220-pound guy with a heart of gold and an infectious passion for longboarding. Theseus would talk about longboarding – the feeling, the convenience and the community – ad nauseam every day on set until I finally agreed to meet him in New York City’s Tompkins Square Park for a weekly meet-up of longboarders.
He let me kick around the park a bit, and just as I was starting to feel comfortable on the board, I was told everyone was heading over to Theseus’s house a few blocks away. Ever the ambitious one, I said I would skate along with them through the streets of NYC on a borrowed longboard. In the first minute out on the street, I nearly fell under a cab trying to turn. Persistent, I brushed myself off and slowly made my way to Theseus’s apartment. By the time I arrived, the group was ready to skate on to the Williamsburg Bridge, about 15 blocks away. Feeling I had reached my danger limit for the day, I attempted to bow out, thanking Theseus for the loaner and the chance to ride.
Like an evangelical pastor, Theseus was not willing to give up a new member of the flock so easily. Placing the board in the street, he told me, “Stand on it; find a comfortable stance.” I got on the board and spread my feet apart to the most secure stance I could. “OK, now I’m going to grip you by your belt and push you to the bridge,” Theseus said. WHAT?! I thought as my heart jumped nimbly to my throat. I’m gonna die! Like a high school kid, though, I attempted to maintain my cool, insisting that he need not go to so much effort for me; I could walk – it’s cool. Theseus was having none of that. He gripped me by my belt and we were off, flying down 2nd Avenue with great speed (in my mind). My fear quickly gave way to pure exhilaration as the city whizzed by and our pack traveled south toward the bridge. What a feeling, what freedom – the grid of the city streets opening up to me in a way I neverknew possible.
That was when I heard the two words I never knew I feared, but quickly learned to: “HARD LEFT!” Hard left?! I had just learned how to stand in place – hard left was not in my repertoire! As Theseus attempted to pull me left, I lost my connection to the borrowed boardnand watched in slow motion as it went shooting through a busy Manhattan intersection, narrowly missing wheel after wheel before crashing with a thud against the far curb. Normally that is where I would have called it a day, but with Theseus it’s not that easy to just call it quits. Before I had time to form a half-assed excuse as to why I should not get back on the board, I was back on it, with Theseus pushing me ever faster through the streets of NYC, with our destination looming larger and higher with every kick.
To say the Williamsburg Bridge is the tallest structure in the world is ludicrous; it is not even the tallest structure in the city. But to say it looked like the tallest structure as I stood at the bottom of the bike path with a longboard underfoot is more than reasonable. At this point I had become intoxicated with the group mentality of skating in a pack and I did not want to be left behind. So all I could think was, “How am I going to get to the top of this?” I didn’t have the strength to push up it, and walking seemed too foreign at that moment to even attempt.
Luckily, Theseus had it covered again. Switching positions so that I now had his belt firmly gripped, and with the added support of a new friend riding a bike, Theseus began pulling me up the Williamsburg Bridge. I watched as the two men strained and kicked us slowly up the inclined ramp toward the center point of the bridge, wishing I could help but not daring to take my foot off the board. All my thoughts were so focused on staying on the board and not getting my wheel tangled with the bike or Theseus that I never thought about what would happen when I got to the top. Until I got there.
When I look back on this moment it seems surreal, as if it is really a story not of mine but of someone I know or met once at party. Because there is no way it was me who stood at the top of the bridge looking down and kicked off on a longboard I had ridden for the first time an hour before. There is no way it was me who, despite some death wobbles made it all the way down the first section of the bridge into Manhattan without any difficulty. But it was, and I did, and I couldn’t have been happier. I stepped off the board after the first downhill and my legs were jelly. Having seen my success on the first section, my new friends were proud and urged me to follow down the main section of the bridge. Despite the lack of stability in my legs, I stepped back on the board to ride the final section of the bridge. After about two feet, I knew I was in trouble. Every foot I rolled, my speed seemed to double. My trucks seemed locked, unable to turn (although really I just didn’t know how to get them carving). I saw a messy end to my first longboarding experience. I prepared myself to attempt the high-speed jump and run, the only method I had available to me to stop. As I mentally planned my daring, escape the biker who had so graciously helped haul my ass up the bridge pulled alongside me. Seeing the fear and panic in my face, he yelled out that I should grab his arm anytime I needed to slow down.
This turned out to be a life saver. I was now able to enjoy small sections of freeride, coupled with desperate clutching of his arm to slow me down.
Once safely at the bottom, my legs announced to me by turning to total mush that there would be no more riding today. Some time later, Theseus showed me a photo from that day, in which I am standing at the bottom of the bridge with the other longboarders I had just met, leaning on the board looking casual and cool. In truth, I was leaning on it to keep from falling down thanks to my severe case of jelly legs.
I left the group and headed home after that, buzzing with the excitement of what I had just done. I knew there was no way I could not do this again; it was too exciting, too exhilarating to not be a part of my life. I needed a board. I needed to ride!
Since that fateful day, my life has indeed been forever changed. I kept in touch with Theseus, and when it came time for the Broadway Bomb, I organized a ninecamera shoot to document the race. The resulting short film, titled Push Culture: The Broadway Bomb, which featured Theseus quite heavily, was screened at the next year’sBroadway Bomb, the Vancouver International Longboard Film Festival and numerous other venues to great acclaim.
After seeing it, Michael Brooke introduced me to the Davenport brothers, and that is when my career became solely focused on the sport of longboarding. I now am the director/producer/editor of Push Culture News, which I am immensely proud of. I have made some of the best friends and done some of the best work of my life, all because of longboarding. We have a huge season coming up this year for PCN, and I can’t wait to advance my personal skating as well as the sport as a whole through our coverage. Without Theseus and longboarding, I never would have found my passion and my direction. Thank you, Theseus! CW