Our second son, Griffin, tried the same organized sports as his older brother when he was young. He enjoyed baseball and soccer but, did not have a competitive nature that his brother had. He is a very kind sole and naturally supported his teammates and opponents. Griffin also was not drawn to practice skills for these sports. When these and other games were played on the playground at school, the aggressive attitudes of the other kids led Griffin to try other activities.
Just like most kids in our suburban area, we traveled around town on scooters, bikes and skateboards. This can be fun, and is just a free activity with no rules, time clocks or competition. At around 7 years old, Griffin left the scooter behind and started pushing on a skateboard with a broomstick as a “paddle.” By the end of that week, the stick was gone, and he was pushing with his foot and riding like real skateboarders. From then on, barring weather, he has ridden a skateboard to school every single day.
His newfound excitement for the sport led to a summer camp at the UC Berkeley skate ramps. He skated 7 hours a day for a week and was begging for more. He just fell in love. The counselors were much older but had similar spirit. There was encouragement to do new tricks and “applause” when one was landed. Applause in skateboarding comes in the form of slamming skateboards against the ground. It sounds great and is fun to do. Fellow skaters tend to have a sense of where a skater is at in development and what they are working on. They may cheer for a trick that they themselves mastered years ago, but they know that this kid has just advanced along his own journey. The community is teaching/coaching.
So, Griffin has found a community of non-competitive, highly supportive individuals of all ages that have similar personalities. Also, this community is worldwide. Whenever we travel, the skateboard comes with us. We can meet locals and share the love of skateboarding. “Ollie,” “kick-flip,” and “shuv-it” seem to be universally understood.
All this time at skateparks has gotten me to give the sport a try. It is a great strength and balance workout for a 50-year-old. I really come to understand the idea of “progress daily.” There is some competition but, with one’s self. It is natural to want to land the next trick and keep improving. I know that this is true for Griffin as well. There is great pride in watching him work on a trick for a week and finally land it with a shout and fist pump. The skill of perseverance may be the biggest skill that skateboarding teaches. Griffin has become very physically strong, and strong of spirit. He still wants to skate every single day, and always has a new skill that he is working on. He is always meeting new friends at the skatepark as well as connecting with the other regulars of all different ages. As we arrived at Berkeley Skate Park today, five different skaters from 10 to 25 years old shouted, “GRIFFIN!” What could be better than that.