I started learning how to skateboard in 2020; ever since I was a teenager I knew I kind of wanted to learn how to skate, but I didn’t really feel empowered to go out there and learn the thing, especially since I would probably look foolish whilst doing so.

Things I learned

Everything is harder than it looks

For a beginner, even standing on a skateboard without falling off can be an effort. It will take quite some time - let’s say 10 hours give or take - to progress past even this early stage. Supposing you want to learn tricks, most of your time will be spent failing rather than succeeding. Any given trick can take you upwards of 100 tries to land once, and many more to commit it to muscle memory.

Tutorial videos will break tricks down into steps to supposedly master and then combine into a full trick, but most likely you will need to experiment with trick practice until you find an approach that clicks for you, and let it evolve over time. Your tricks will look sloppy at first, and will mainly improve as your skating improves overall. There is never a linear progression from zero to mastery for any trick; progress will come in unpredictable stops and starts, so you are probably better off just going out and having fun rather than fixating on a single trick all the time.

Find a good spot

Not all ground is equally skate-able. Typical sidewalks can be a nightmare to skate depending on how cracked and bumpy they are. You don’t need a big spot to have fun, but you want at least one reliable spot with smooth concrete where you can practice. Finding new spots can be fun too; explore local surroundings and re-examine them with skating in mind, and you might find some surprising favourites.

Things I like about it

Recontextualising the urban environment

Skateboarding is in some ways a reclamation of the conrete jungle, turning unassuming urban spaces into a playground. While pro skaters could turn almost any mundane architectural object into an opportunity for a really cool trick, you don’t need to be an expert to have fun. Even the humble roadsibe curb can be a source of hours of entertainment and/or practice.

The impermanence of deck graphics

When you first buy a skateboard, you’ll probably pick one that has a graphic design on the deck that you particularly like. Savour that moment; take a photo, show it off to your friends, then kiss it goodbye, because as soon as you start attempting any tricks whatsoever, that deck is gonna get scratched the hell up.

At first it seems disappointing to see your beautiful deck graphic get all dirtied up, but if you view each scratch instead as evidence of your progression as a skater, it takes on the beauty of a tool well worn. I think in this small way skateboarding has given me incentive not to view degradation as a purely bad thing.

Space to think

Perhaps this is the case with any complex physical activity, but I find that spending time skating sometimes puts my brain into a different zone that gives rise to new thoughts. This can help give me a new perspective on things if I’m stuck in a rut.