|(Posted 9/14/2002) |
By Christina Reed, California * Mammoth Times writer
You might feel as if you're flying or riding the perfect wave. Maybe you just love the feel of the wind and speed. What are we talking about? Skateboarding through the streets, sidewalks, parks and ramps of America.
No one is quite sure who invented the skateboard, but we do know that it has been around since the 1930s. With little more than a two-by-four with roller-skate wheels * nailed to the board, the early sidewalk surfers careered down hills with the single goal of staying on and avoiding a wreck.
Skateboard Parts Made Simple
Basically, a skateboard has three main parts: the deck or board, the wheels and the trucks *. Two trucks connect four wheels to the board to allow skaters the ability to turn the board just by leaning.
Modern decks are made of seven glued layers of wood pressed together in concrete or metal molds. Then the board manufacturers cut out the final shape. Trimming and painting come next, and this process can make the difference between a simple deck or a custom work of art. A layer of sandpaper or grip tape * on the deck keeps the skaters' feet stuck to the top, and, by using friction and numerous, pairs of shoes, a skater rides.
What Goes Around Comes Around
Today, thanks to improvements in technology and design, skaters enjoy greatly improved dynamics. Executing flips, turns and jumps and achieving high speeds, modern riders of the board use the laws of physics to their advantage.
Skateboarding physics literally revolves around "what goes around comes around." Centripetal force, gravity, friction and momentum all play into this sometimes-extreme sport. Invented in the late 1970s by Alan "Ollie" Gelfand (a 13-year-old Florida * skater at the time), the ollie demonstrates many of the elements of skateboard science.
To do an ollie, a skater taps down on the tail (back) of the board and lifts up. The board seems to stick to the skater's feet as it leaps up into the air. What's amazing about the ollie is that to get the skateboard to jump up, the skater actually pushes down on the board! Before a skater performs an ollie, three forces are acting on the skateboard. The first force is the weight of the skater, followed by the force of gravity on the board itself and finally by the force of the ground pushing up on the board.
A skater must be able to crouch down, jump up, come back down and absorb the impact. A constant slave to inertia, the body of the skateboarder encounters the laws of physics each time he/she pushes hard on the board and it pushes back with an equal and opposite force.
Tricks on skateboards are as varied as the riders themselves. Grinding (dragging the board along an edge of an object), flipping, hopping, jumping, grabbing and kickflipping are all moves used in variations to complete tricks. You hope you won't bail (fall) or focus (break your board in half) - otherwise, you will probably slam (a hard fall). Ultimately, you want to be known for doing sick (amazing) tricks, or be considered a ripper (a good and consistent skater) and turn pro ( a skater who is so good, companies want to put his/her name on their products).
Park Skating vs. Street Skating
This is an issue that begs to be tackled. Both sides have good and bad aspects, but mainly, it's about personal preference.
Freedom is at the heart of this debate. Street riding can let you go anywhere at any time - but with the risk of getting busted for skating on a rail or ledge.
Street skating offers variety and ledges until they're all chunked up, and then you can go and find another one (so the theory goes). The same goes for handrails, and not the ones that are in the skate parks. Street skaters are free to ride unequipped with safety gear and to use the board as a means of transportation.
Park skating is skating within the confines of a controlled park, during designated hours, and sometimes for a fee. You have to follow some rules and wear pads and helmets, or you will be ticketed. Too many tickets equals no skating in the park.
Locally, the Eastern Sierra offers skate parks in Bishop, Mammoth Lakes *, Gardnerville and soon in June Lake. Private skate parks exist at Wave Rave in Mammoth Lakes and Propaganda in June Lake. These parks have professionally created ramps for big air, and competitions for locals.
Skate parks offer rails, ramps, walls and other obstacles to ride on and over, as well as chain link fences to keep you in and others out. Provided you live near a skate park, it's a convenience. Park skating is basically guaranteed skating time without the hassle of worrying about being ticketed by the local law.
Whether you prefer street or park skating, the differences depend solely on who you are. There really isn't a "better" or "worse," and labeling yourself one or the other seems limiting. Try everything out, and decide for yourself. Skate everything!
Big Hurts, Little Hurts
All right, let's face it, getting hurt is part of skateboarding. Heck, it's part of living. Nobody lands their tricks all the time, not even the pros. In fact, most tricks are learned through trial and error, which means that when you go for a new trick, you're going to end up falling.
Essentially, when you try a new trick one of three things is going to happen: land, bail, or slam....If you land your trick, congratulations - you have defied death again. When you bail, you weren't committed to the trick in the first place. When you slam, well, it means you went for the trick, didn't make it and are now experiencing various degrees of pain.
How long it takes to recover from your injury depends on just how badly you slammed, and sometimes it takes months to recover from eating a handrail. Hairline fractures, chipped bones, overextended muscles, and serious sprains are just some of the injuries that could require you to take a vacation from skating. Sadly, some injuries are fatal.
What do the pros do with their slam-down time? Tony Hawk * (the skateboard king) catches up on personal mail and tests his newest video games (totally gnarly). Donny Barley hangs out with movies, PlayStations, computers, worrying and too much nightlife.
Taking care of your injury means ice, ice, ice, rest, see a doctor, and more ice. And for heaven's sake, don't skate until you are rested and completely healed, or you will be bothered with pain for a long time.
Wearing safety gear can save skaters a lot of grief and in some cases save your life. Riding hard and fast can take a life, just as it might in any extreme sport. Above all else, skate safely! After reading this, when normal people see skaters, chances are that they see the falls more than they see the makes.
For the onlookers and beginners, skateboarders are flying acrobats, leaping and skidding over and onto obstacles, executing flips and turns of great complexity - all at top speeds. It can be difficult to follow the action, let alone answer the burning question: How on earth do they do that?!
This article was originally titled "No Ordinary Sport: Skateboarding!" and was found at http://www.mammothtimes.com/times2002/ Skateboarding08-22.html
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