Day #143: The Eliminators – “Dawn Patrol”
I love summer. I don’t care if it gets puke hot and humid, I’ll take it over having to bundle under layers and forgetting what it feels like to be warm as I do sometimes in the winter. The summers make me miss living in Florida. I sometimes look at the Facebook photos of old classmates who stayed behind, convinced by the motif of smiling, tanned friends aboard boats in the middle of a sparkling ocean that it’s the place where summer vacation never ends.
You’re always around water in Florida. Lakes. Rivers. Swamps. The state is so narrow that even from a midpoint, you’re only about a 40 minute drive from the beach. Here, the drive is at least 3 hours, and always in crawling traffic to a destination so ridiculously crowded with people as desperate as you to be there.
I’ve always wanted to take up surfing. I haven’t yet. It probably would have helped to have actually known other people who surfed when I was still living in Florida. We lived near Orlando. Close as it may be to the beach, I didn’t find many there who surfed regularly. Instead, I live vicariously through surfing magazines, pouring over the crisp, beautiful shots of surfers captured in the middle of the action, as I tried to imagine what it felt like to be almost completely vertical on the face of a wave with a fiberglass board. The surfers seemed to be so entranced. Deep in that spirituality that surfers talk always about. Or, at least they do in the documentaries. Even Australian pro surfer Nat Young once argued that surfing should be recognized as a religion.
I haven’t set butt to board yet, but I feel like I get that much already.
Rather than surfing, I got into skateboarding. Otherwise known as surfing’s obnoxious cousin. And it made perfect sense. Because, as an unemployed 16 year old, I had an easier time scrapping together money for a cheap skateboard. Plus, I could use a skateboard in a lot more places. But, my involvement with skateboarding stemmed from more than mere practicalities. I was drawn to the art. To the point that I decided that designing deck graphics was what I wanted to do when I grew up. I also stuck by skateboarding because the boys I liked skated, too.
I was never very good at skateboarding, however. Despite all the jokes about sweet jumps, it took me forever to learn how to even get all of my wheels off the ground (on purpose, anyways). And, as cocky as I can be sometimes, and usually with painful results, I couldn’t shake the fear of trying certain things. I cringed at the thought of anything that might deliver potential shinners.
The Dogtown and Z-boys documentary came out when I was in college. I listened to all these people in it go on and on about style and had no clue what they meant by that. Skateboarding today is all it’s own. The techniques just feels so generic. When it was still very primitive, when the limits were just being tested, you had guys coming from all kinds of other sports and that translated into their skating. Tom Sims was a skier. You could see it in the way he handled the board. Much differently than the Z-Boys, who were surfers.
I love watching the old footage of the skating surfers. How they’d tuck themselves on these amazingly narrow little boards, and glide so fluidly up and down the face of concrete banks as though they were waves. You don’t see that anymore. Skaters have become obsessed with heights and speed. (Not that it hasn’t made for some nice tricks).
The house where I grew up sits at the top of a hill. Every year, it seems, a new batch of kids discovers the hill and get their friends to bomb down it on their bikes, sometimes all day long. It’s not so long as to make that an exhausting endeavor, nor too steep to worry about killing yourself (although some of the very small kids have been hesitant). I gave up trying to do anymore jumps on my board, and decided to instead just enjoy bombing down the hill, shifting from the edge of the sidewalk on one side, then the other of the two-lane road, trying to get low to the ground on my comfortably wider board, just like a surfer might. Just like the Z-Boys did. I gave my brother an old board so he’d join me, and once he got the hang of it, too, the runs became a lot of fun. Or could be, once you shake off the fear of board wobbles from the speed. Quite different than going down the hill on a bike. We’d ride all the way to the end of the hill and then turn around and go right back up to the top and do it again. That’s about as close to surfing (if you can call it close to surfing) as I’ve gotten so far.