LEARNING TO SK8 @ 28

I write about skateboarding and snowboarding as an adult

"What a Guy"

I still subscribe to skate and snowboard magazines because I enjoy physical media. I enjoy everything from flipping through the pages after it first arrives, to sitting down with a cup of coffee and reading all the way through a long article or interview. I even enjoy the smell.

The article I’m reading right now is in the latest issue of Transworld SKATEboarding. The article is about Guy Mariano. Like Eric Koston, Guy Mariano is a skating legend who is still doing his sport at a high level. A really, really high level.

He just won Transworld's Best Video Part award for his part in last year's “Pretty Sweet” from Girl Skateboards. To win Best Video Part is the highest honor in skateboarding. The achievement requires a brutal process of searching for spots, attempting tricks and failing more often than not, attempting to get the shots right at the same time, avoiding property owners, security, and police, getting injured, recovering from injury, and then editing the footage to depict the skating with precision, style, and originality.

Mariano, with the help of the camera men and video editors at Girl Skateboards, did this better than anybody else at an age when most pro skateboarders have been long retired.

Guy Mariano is thirty-six years old.

-Christoph Owens


 

"You Are Never Too Old to Horse Around"

Eric Koston will be thirty-eight years old on April 29. He is a legendary pro skateboarder and skate industry mogul. I just watched him win a round of http://theberrics.com/battle-at-the-berrics-6 against Morgan Smith. Smith is twenty-six years old.

Battle at the Berrics is a yearly tournament that takes place at a private skatepark owned by Steve Berra and Koston. The bracketed tournament is single-elimination and each round is a flat-ground game of SKATE. The game is like basketball’s HORSE, except instead of attempting shots, each skater attempts a flat-ground trick.

The game of SKATE between Koston and Smith included no less than forty unique flat-ground tricks. They started off simple with a kickflip. The ender was a fakie laser flip. The tricks in between ran the gamut of flip tricks with a couple 360’s here and there.

For a high-quality, exhaustive collection of videos of flip tricks, go here: http://theberrics.com/trickipedia

Koston came back from four letters behind. He outlasted a guy over a decade younger than he.

He proved that you’re never too old to horse around.

-Christoph Owens

HELLA CLIPS

I have an addiction. I watch too many skate and snowboard “edits.” An edit is a relatively short video made for the internet.

Although there is still snow on the ground, WTF MN, I declare that it is skate season. Thus I’m watching skate edits.

The link I posted above is to hellaclips.com (click on post title), a site constantly updated with a dizzying amount of skate edits. They’re all of at least decent quality, so a guy can spend way too much of his valuable time staring at the computer instead of, you know, actually skating or writing or engaging with people or otherwise being a productive member of society.

Alas, if you have some time to kill, there are worse ways to kill it.

Enjoy at your own risk.

-Christoph Owens

MUCH NEEDED TIME OFF

There are inches of snow on the ground. The temperature’s only a little above freezing. All the local ski areas are closed, but I can’t skateboard outdoors yet.

I’m alright with that.

I’ve been snowboarding an average of 3 to 4 days a week since late November.

In addition to my full-time Monday through Friday job, I coached 2 days a week from 3:30 in the afternoon to 7:30 in the evening and sometimes on Saturdays from 9:00 in the morning to noon. Then there were competitions, which were usually a full Saturday and/or Sunday.

I also made it a priority to do terrain park laps on Sunday mornings from 9:00 till around noon or so. This has been a tradition for me and my youngest brother for three years. This year we filmed a “SundaysinthePark-Hyland” series: https://vimeo.com/channels/452246.

The last snowboarding-related activity of the year was coaching at the USASA Nationals at Copper Mountain, CO. It was a grueling week of early mornings at the top of the halfpipe and late nights under the lights at the top of the rail jam course or trying not to fall asleep in my beer glass while socializing with other coaches at the bar. Don’t get me wrong - the Nationals experience was highly rewarding and fun.

I’m not complaining. I’m blessed to have the health and time to participate in these activities.

But I’m tired.

My arms and hands are tired of rope tow laps. My knees are tired of flat, icy landings. My mind is fatigued of watching run after run and edit after edit - by choice, mind you - while thinking, “I wonder if he could’ve pretzel’d out of that hardway backside 270 to backside board-slide.” Or worse yet, “Could I do something different with my arms as I land that switch front-side board-slide to switch?” Probably I could, but it’s not worth losing sleep over.

Although this whole blog is about continuing to do physically-taxing board-sports as an adult, I’m ready for a break.

I appreciate Minnesota’s seasons. Even when I was in my teens, I enjoyed the break between sports afforded by the cycles that applied to board sports and the arbitrary schedule boundaries that applied to team sports.

That’s why I like being a skateboarder and snowboarder in Minnesota. Right about the time I become exhausted with one iteration of my hobbies/sports/art forms/obsessions, i.e. board-sports, a new season arrives and everything about the new activity it brings is refreshing and exhilarating.

It’s like a cool spring breeze or a cold blast of winter air.

Suddenly it’s snowboard season and every rope tow, jump, and magazine seems like a portal into a new world of possibility.

And then it’s skateboard season and every mini-ramp, sidewalk, and on-line edit seems like a undiscovered tonic for happiness.

I’m ready for skateboard season, but as long as there’s snow on the ground and cold in the air, I’m going to enjoy some much needed time off.

-Christoph Owens

IT IS TIME

It has been almost a year since I started this web log.

It was spring.

I put away my snowboard.

I started skateboarding.

I wrote about it.

Since then…

A skateboard season.

A snowboard season.

Spring, summer, fall, and winter.

And during those seasons…

Sun, clouds, rain, snow, heat, cold, speed, air, rails, ramps, jumps, pow, getting buck, going ham, scrapes, bruises, sprains, sweat, smiles, friends, gapers, swag, shots, edits, vids, mags, coffee, beer, and above all…

Fun!

But…

I went weeks and months at a time without writing!

And now…

I am still 28.

I am still learning to skate.

I am still obsessed with the concept of linking tricks together.

On pavement.

On snow.

No matter, as long as it is on a board.

Even though the Minnesota snow that lingers outside my window says otherwise…

It is spring again.

It is time to be released from the straps and ratchets of binders.

It is time to take up pen and paper.

It is time to skate again.

It is time to write again.

It is time.

-Christoph Owens

Words to Shred by

Hello, reader. I previously mentioned that I coach part-time for a competitive snowboard team. The focus of my coaching is on developing skill in the slopestyle discipline, which includes every type of terrain park feature except the halfpipe. Over the last year, I have developed a handful of phrases that I teach the riders in my groups. They have used them as a psychological tool not only for learning but for competitions and filming. The following are my “Words to Shred by,” which are in bold, along with brief explanations of my reasoning behind them:

Why do I practice? Because discipline leads to skill, and skill allows for creativity. When our groups are doing drills and everyone is working on the same tricks, at times it can seem like our goal is to become some kind of robotic organism that moves down the hill as one, executing the same maneuvers in the same way. That is the way it may seem, but that is not the true purpose. The goal of building a common skill set is to achieve a level of ability that allows the riders to combine their skills into complex, unique tricks. In the end, skill allows a rider to execute their individual vision of what can be done on a snowboard.

Why should I practice patience? Because patience leads to poise, and poise leads to points. (Points in competition and/or style points on film.) At Saturday practices when the terrain park opens at 9:00 AM, things can get a little hectic. For example, I saw one snowboarder literally land on top of another snowboarder during the blitz that happens after the rope tow opens. I have required my group to wait at the bottom for those first few crazy minutes in order to practice patience. The idea is that a rider needs to be confident in their abilities and plan, whether on competition day or any other day on the hill. Rushing out on the hill without a plan and chucking and hucking off whatever feature is in your path significantly raises the probability of injury, and injury halts progression. On the other hand, patience built in practice means more confidence under pressure (poise), which will mean less injury and better performance in competition and on film.

I am a freestyle assassin. I visualize with my brain. I execute with my heart. This mantra is an adaptation of a “lesson” from the fictional Roland of Gilead, the knightly “Gunslinger” in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. If I remember correctly, the Gunslinger teaches his pupils to shoot with their hand and kill with their heart. When I read that part of the book, I knew Roland was on to something. Prowess with a gun and prowess with a snowboard are both reliant on mastery of body mechanics. However, for someone to achieve a mastery of body mechanics in any given discipline, that individual first needs to desire that mastery. (There is an excellent explanation of the importance of inspiration in Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code, www.thetalentcode.com.) You have to know how to do something with your brain, then your brain tells your body to do that thing, but the choice to do that thing has to be made in your heart. Hence - think with your brain, then do with your heart.

I am a one man (or woman) demolition crew. I tear the park down methodically - one feature at a time, one trick at a time. This is meant figuratively, of course. The park is torn down by doing every trick in the book on every feature. This especially applies to warming up, which I prefer to do by going from smaller to larger features, working my way through basic to more complex tricks. Some of my riders have referred to this technique as the “progression session.” Almost every practice, I get asked the question: “What are we going to do today?” Before getting more specific, I say, “Same thing we do every day. Try to tear the park down.”

Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Anything worth doing well is worth doing switch. This is intended to encourage a rider to think of snowboarding as a never-ending process of learning and improvement. A snowboarder can always do a trick better, e.g. smoother spins, longer and more tweaked-out grabs, more squared-up boardslides, more elevated presses, etc. If the trick is done perfectly, it can always be learned switch, in its mirror image.

Pop! Trick! Stomp! Freestyle snowboarding maneuvers can be boiled down to three steps: 1. You pop. 2. You trick. 3. You stomp. After a rider has painstakingly “visualized with their brain,” then I tell them to “execute with their heart” while following the concise steps of “pop, trick, stomp.” If the visualization in the brain is complete and the rider truly wants to execute the trick (in their heart), the body will follow the words: “Pop! Trick! Stomp!.”

I hope, reader, that these words may help you with whatever sport, art, craft, or science you may be learning. If citations are needed for any of these words, please let me know. Thanks!

-Christoph Owens

The Talent Code: Week 2

Well, reader, the Summer Olympics are here. Have you ever wondered what the elite athletes in the games have that you and I don’t? According to Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code, the primary difference between those who perform on an elite level and those who perform on an average level is the amount of myelin wrapped around the nerve fibers in their brains. He compares the the circuitry of the nerve fibers of elite performers to a high speed, broadband internet connection. Meanwhile, the rest of us are working with dial-up.

Imagine two scenarios:

In the first scenario you have a relatively slow internet connection, and you attempt to watch a video online. You know that your connection is slow, so you knock the quality setting down to 360p. Even so, the video takes thirty seconds to start, and once it gets going, it’s choppy at best. The video stutters along until it freezes indefinitely or you get so exasperated that you chuck the nearest object at the screen and walk away.

In the second scenario you have upgraded to the highest speed internet money can buy, because you are tired of all the broken screens. You find the video you have unsuccessfully attempted to watch, and this time you adjust the quality setting to HD. The video begins immediately and plays smoothly at a resolution so high your eyes cannot detect any imperfections.

The first scenario illustrates the average person, you and me, performing a hobby at a frustratingly mediocre level. According to Coyle, we are mediocre because we don’t have the myelin insulation that is necessary to perform with the smooth perfection illustrated in the second scenario. Fortunately for you and me, these thick layers of myelin unique to the elite performers are not actually that unique.

We all have myelin. It is not something you are either born with or without. Rather, according to Coyle, the thick layers of myelin associated with high levels of skill are developed through “deep practice,” a style of learning that we are all capable of utilizing.

Fear not, reader. You don’t need to be stuck with dial-up forever. With lots of “deep practice,” we can all upgrade to broadband. Next week, I will write about what “deep practice” is.

-Christoph Owens

The Talent Code: Week 1

Hello again, reader. Sorry I didn’t post anything last week. Frankly, I was under the weather because of an evening with old friends that involved too many vodka tonics. I don’t metabolize alcohol well, so my usual writing time was spent trying to recover from my over-indulgence.

Now that I’ve had plenty of time to clear my head, I would like to share my enthusiasm for a book that I’m re-visiting. It’s called The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle.

On the cover of the book it says, “Greatness isn’t born. It’s grown. Here’s how.” That statement summarizes the author’s philosophy on mastery of trade, art, science, and sport.

After much research on people that are widely considered talented and the neuroscience of learning, Coyle has come to believe that talent is something that can be developed in anyone. So, reader, ordinary people like you and me are capable of greatness in a trade, art, science, or sport? Coyle would say that yes we are, as long as we know how to practice.

I’m looking forward to re-reading this book because effective practice and efficient learning are of high value to me. In both my vocation and my avocations, I have an overwhelming amount of things that I want to learn.

To say I have a lot to learn at work would be a gross understatement. I work in a concrete forensics lab, although I didn’t graduate college with a degree in the sciences. I started coaching snowboarding last season, so I am on the lookout for anything that can make me a better coach. Also, I personally want to continue to become a better snowboarder. Oh yeah, then there’s this Learning to Sk8 at 28 thing, which involves not only learning to skateboard but improving as a writer.

The point is: my life is all about learning, as I’m sure yours is too. Therefore, wouldn’t it be nice to know how to learn more effectively? Please join me in the coming weeks as I post about my reading and application of The Talent Code.

-Christoph Owens

Product: Vans Chukka

Hello, reader, and thanks for joining me on my first product review.

The Vans Chukka shoes are one of the brand’s standards, they are highly imitated by other shoe companies, and they have served me well.

In appearance, the Chukkas have a classic tennis shoe design. I generally don’t like products that are trendy, futuristic, or otherwise stray too far from the classic molds. Appearance is important to me because while skateboarding I frequently look down at my board, and I don’t want to be distracted by ugly shoes.

As far as construction goes, the Chukkas have a vulcanized sole which in the case of Vans is usually characterized by a two-piece construction of a brown waffle sole and the surrounding white rubber tape. The vulcanized sole is thin and flexible which allows for more board feel than a thicker, more rigid one-piece cup sole would.

In my experience, the thin sole also keeps me on my toes and the balls of my feet because I want to avoid any impact to my relatively unprotected heels. Due to this inclination, I think the thin sole encourages better skateboarding technique.

As far as material goes, the uppers are primarily made from suede and canvas. They also have vinyl piping around the ankle that extends down next to the laces and between the suede and canvas panels near the toe. The suede sticks to the board during ollies and the canvas ventilates during long, hot skate sessions. At first glance, the vinyl piping would appear to provide reinforcement, but it did not in fact provide any protection to the seams, which appeared to blow out as fast as they would have  without the piping.

If you generally like the look of the more classically-styled Vans, and you’re willing to sacrifice a little bit of quantity of shoe life for quality of board feel and appearance, I would recommend the Vans Chukka.

-Christoph Owens

Skateboarding is Simple

Smooth pavement and speed are a skater’s best friends. Adam Murray, fast ollie, West End Compound, St. Louis Park, MN.


Hello again, reader. Would you like to go skateboarding?

If you would, it’s simple, really. Here’s what you need: a skateboard and pavement.

It would be nice if you had a good pair of skateboard specific shoes, such as Vans, for good grip and board feel. It would be nice if you had a push broom to move pesky pebbles and miscellaneous debris from your path. It would be nice if you had a bar of wax to make features more slippery in order to slide and grind on them.

The essentials and the non-essential essentials, board, pavement, skate-specific shoes, broom, and wax. Big Lot, St. Louis Park, MN.


If you would like to go skateboarding, there are an infinite amount of accessories and tools that would be nice to have.

However, I believe the beauty of skateboarding is found in the simplicity of grabbing a board, going outside and cruising through the streets, wind and sun in your face, sweat on your back, and the happy focus in your mind that creative physical activity brings.

A word of caution: once you get the feeling of rolling and carving around a slab of blacktop or concrete; once you try something and fail but then try it again and succeed; once you have fun on a skateboard, you may not be able to stop.

Pavement and board, the elements of the addiction. Sunset at the Big Lot, St. Louis Park, MN.

Reader, if you want to go skateboarding, all you need to do is buy, beg, borrow, or steal a board. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding the pavement.

Skateboarding is simple. Just go skate.

-Christoph Owens