By Barry Mohn
I started skating when I was six. 1979 in Southern California. My older brother, the kids on the street and I had cheap plastic boards. We’d carve and tick tack in the driveway. Then, boom: let’s attach cardboard boxes to our skateboards with a staple gun and poke holes in the bottom to shove sticks through for brakes. We climbed inside and flew down our steep street with massive smiles on our faces. Hill bomb.
In 1980, our family moved to Hawaii. After unpacking, the two toe-heads from Southern California grabbed their skateboards and rode around the streets of their new neighborhood. Other kids heard the familiar growl of wheels over asphalt and tore out of their driveways on their own boards. Instant friends.
This is how we made friends everywhere we lived. It came easy because skaters are likeminded in the style, edge, creativity, and pumped feeling that comes with the sport. Your crew was tight, always. But it welcomed other skaters.
By chance, over our house’s back wall on Oahu was a famous drainage ditch for skating called Off the Wall. We’d watch pros like Christian Hosoi and Johnee Kop as well as local skaters “bomb drop” a four-foot fence onto the 45-degree walls—until the police came, which was often. We young “groms” skated it daily too, pushing each other to drop in, try power slides, boneless’s.
Skaters push each other to learn new tricks—this is unique. I also surf. Surfers can be assholes. Skaters are supportive. Beginner, pro, or somewhere in between, we’re all skating the same locations and everyone cheers when someone lands something new.
My brother, Brady, Oahu, circa 1983
In 1985, we moved just outside Portland, Oregon. Again, the skaters spotted one another and became instant friends. My brother always got noticed first. He was better than I was and most other skaters we came across. I’ve rarely seen someone with a smoother style on a skateboard than he has. I looked up to him. Still do. We skate together occasionally nowadays and the feeling is no different than when we were growing up.
A common misperception is that skaters are punks. While there are some, there are punks in every demographic of society. However, skaters only wrong a curb by grinding of its fine edge or a handrail by stealing a tiny fraction of steel. That’s about the extent of the damage done, save for their own skin and bones.
In I987, we moved back to Southern California—Orange County, where the skate scene was thriving. We cultivated a tight pack of friends there. We skated everything, a good waxed curb that we pushed five miles across town to, ditches that we dried out with our t-shirts, half-pipes and “spine” ramps we built, and Upland Skatepark’s famous Combi-bowl, which we begged our mom to take us to.
Smash cut forward through college in Pullman, WA, and a mountain chapter in Lake Tahoe, CA, and now I live in the Bay Area. At 46 years old, I’m still skating. I’m still trying new tricks (mostly slamming) and more importantly making new friends. These friends are your crew, your people, and your family in a way, with whom you communicate daily on ridiculous text threads of banter and pro skate videos.
At this age, my body gets punished. I often hobble in the front door and get an eye roll from my wife and two girls for a rolled ankle or split chin. Occupational hazard. No matter, I’ll happily accept it to continue the rush of skating and bonds I’ve developed with so many skaters over 40 years.