THE DAILY PUSH
Skateboarding as Sport: Why Our Bodies Hurt
Words: Matt Beare // Photography: Roland Dittmer (@rofilesshots)
Is skateboarding a sport? Microsoft Word definitely doesn’t think so as it places a green squiggly line underneath the word "skateboarding," asking me to "consider revising my sentence." The Oxford definition of a sport is: “An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.”
Microsoft Word's sarcastic squiggly
According to this definition, skateboarding as a whole isn’t a sport. Only the competition side of skateboarding could, maybe, be considered one, but we all know this is just a mere morsel of what skateboarding really is, and even the skate competitions that do exist are pretty different to "normal" sports competitions. The closest thing skateboarding has to a standard one is, ironically, the already legendary Dime Glory Challenge. I say this because, like with pretty much all sports competitions, it’s measurable, and you can’t argue who’s won; a goal’s a goal, just like the last man standing on his board in the Gladiator Challenge is the winner. This is the only competition where there’s an objective winner for each challenge, excluding the Gangster Challenge. However, I think we can all agree Wade Desarmo’s innate G-ness would be sufficient for him to be able to objectively judge this one. We really need to make sure whomever is in charge of organizing the Olympic skateboarding event is aware that the Dime comp is our best option to replicate a sports event. In fact, from now on I’m giving up on The Daily Push and putting all my energy into making sure the 2020 Olympics skate event turns out the same, except with twice as much fire.
Outside of the skateboarding competition world you don’t compete against anyone and there aren’t any rules, other than little unwritten ones like no mall grabs, no mongo pushing unless switch, etc., but even these come and go with different trends; sex changes were hated on a few years ago but look how popular they are these days. (I’d love to see the facial expression of a non-skater reading the end of that last sentence.) This lack of rules and competition generates a sense of freedom which I’d say is one of the main reasons a lot of people are attracted to skateboarding in the first place, along with the fact that it’s just really fucking fun. As a kid you just want to mess about, have fun and set fire to things, but, at the same time you’ve got your parents telling you what to do, teachers shouting at you, sports coaches forcing you to wear small, silky shorts and vests, and then, out of nowhere, this magical little stick of wood appears, bringing with it no rules, infinite hours of messing around time with your friends, the need to jump fences into schools and other private places, and—unless you get caught—unspoken permission to do almost whatever you want without restrictions.
I think this freedom and the realization that competition and rules aren’t the only option, nor the best option for us as skateboarders, makes us move away from and reject anything sport-related, even the things that are beneficial for us. Things like stretching, taking time to recover from a session, taking care of your body, and oranges cut into quarters are all rejected and just bring back bad memories of that same angry coach that forced you into those shorts shouting at you for being too fat to score a goal. I know it may seem like I’m uncovering some weird childhood trauma around short shorts and coaches but I’m not, honest…
From my early 20s I had the same issue most skateboarders have—my body started aching. I’d wake up with new pains after every session and only in about 1 in 5 would I actually feel fresh and energized. Then, I started feeling more severe pains and twinges every time I skated and eventually I ended up needing surgery, which kept me off my board for over a year.
Matt Beare, kickflip.
Not being able to skate for so long sucked. It was as painful as being on filming duties for your mate who hasn’t committed to his trick in the last 100 tries, but out of it came the realization that if I’d taken more care of my body, it probably wouldn’t have ended up so fucked. Skateboarding puts a lot of stress on the body and, surprisingly enough, we didn’t evolve to skate. At least if we did, it was on sand in the African desert, not on solid, unforgiving concrete. If you imagine taking a chicken fillet and smacking it against a table multiple times—that’s similar to what skateboarding does to your body during a heavy session. Your joints, tendons, ligaments, muscles, testicles and bits in between all get beaten about every time you go skate. Over time it adds up, and the throbbing begins. P-Rod lays it down in an interview when he says, "Growing up skating, the mentality is anti-athletic and rebellious. That works well and good when you're fifteen and invincible. But, when you're 20, and start feeling pains in your legs, you have to do more than just skate. If you love skating and can't see your life without it, you need to stretch," along with other things. However, most of us don’t do anything to counteract the attack skating places on the body and this is why so many of us start hurting.
Most of us get to a point where our bodies start feeling like shit and we think it’s game over, that there’s nothing we can do. Considering how wrong this idea is we have to ask why it’s such a common one in the skate world… I think in part it’s rooted in the barrier we’ve built up to everything we think is sport-related—stretching, taking care of the body, etc.—making a lot of us not even want to give them a try and just ignore their existence.
Simon Weisser, lipslide.
I had to do a lot of rehab to get my body back to how it was pre-injury but eventually I got there. Since then, to avoid feeling like a fool blasting out stretches at the spot I had to unlink the idea that counteracting the damage skateboarding has on my body has anything to do with sport, and instead, see it as something I do just because I love to skate and want to do it as long as possible. Once I started stretching on the regs, eating well, and taking time to recover, I started feeling so much better. Now, instead of feeling good in one out of five sessions it’s more like one in ten that I don’t feel fresh and fully energized. By taking care of your body, not only can you improve how you feel and protect yourself from injury now and in the future, but improve how you skate as well. The better your body feels, the more you’ll be able to skate, the more consistent you’ll get, and as a result, you’ll even enjoy it more. No one enjoys feeling like shit. Wanting to get this message across and change the thinking around these kinds of things so other skaters could avoid as much time off their boards as I had and to feel better when they’re on them, was the main motivation behind the creation of The Daily Push.
Luis Aponte, backside Smith.
Whether it’s now, or in five or ten years, you’ll eventually arrive at a crossroads where the skate troll will present you with a question: you either start taking care of your body now or you’ll be sentenced to a life of no-complys and miniramp sessions. This kind of realization is definitely becoming more popular, and we’re starting to see more and more pros doing things outside of their skating, for their skating, and to prolong their time on their boards: Guy Mariano, Neen Williams, Miles Silvas, Andrew Reynolds, Paul Rodriguez, Ryan Sheckler, Lance Mountain, and Matt Berger, to name a few. It’s a good thing the negative vibes that revolve around taking care of yourself are slowly getting phased out as it literally only has positive outcomes for us as skateboarders, and one thing's for sure, it’s not going to make skateboarding anything more like a sport. Maybe I’m biased but whenever I see someone out there in the streets doing something like stretching before they skate, I respect it. To me it’s just a sign of how much they truly love skateboarding.
Head over to www.thedailypush.com for everything you need to lengthen your time on your board and keep your body fresh now, and as you keep skating.