All photos by Jeff 'Gazelle' Petersen who was cool enough to blow some film at the new Tigard skatepark. The brick banks in these photos are replicas of the famous King City banks, that were skated for years but never meant to be. Steep, tight and fun.
I have feared I am too old to be tooling around on a skateboard since I was fifteen. At fifteen it is easy to give into peer pressure. If all your friends are giving up skateboarding for girls, music drink, drugs and so on, it is all too easy to follow suit and be done with it. But I needed my skateboard pretty desperately at age fifteen. While I would still slash my mattress with my switchblade and cutting my school tie in half, I believe my skateboard saved me doing a lot more harm to myself, my surroundings and others. At the same time, I was almost ashamed of my obsession.
I had one teacher I gave a fuck about at that age and I remember I was skateboarding through the city center one day and caught a glimpse of her about to cross my path. Her name was Mrs. Sirl and she was my history teacher. I didn’t want the image of a sweaty, bloody and dirty skateboarder ruining the image of her star history student (it was the only class I ever really excelled at) and so I darted down a side alleyway out of her sight. I picked up my board and looked at it. I looked at my holey shoes and baggy jeans and thought to myself no wonder I’m shit in school, no wonder I’m a social retard and no wonder I’m still a virgin while all my mates are claiming otherwise. It ruined my day.
Not long after that a girl in my class asked me if I was still skateboarding. I said, ‘No I barely skate, in fact I’m thinking of giving up.’ The truth was I was skateboarding more than ever. I was going through boards and shoes at such a rapid rate; I had to sell my other belongings to pay for them. Luckily, I had a mother who never ever questioned my one focus in life and also, I soon scored a job at the local skate shop. I was skateboarding all weekend and every evening, often by myself, occasionally with some younger kids who were still interested and once in awhile with friends I could convince to skate for an hour before they were sidetracked with booze and cigs.
The girl replied, ‘Well I thought you were pretty good at it and it would be stupid of you to quit.’ I shrugged my shoulders and walked off.
Of course I wasn’t living in Southern California. In the places and time I grew up in, it simply wasn’t cool to emulate the Californian lifestyle. So hiding your skateboard identity was sometimes the only way to get through the day unridiculed and unharmed. By the time I was eighteen, I moved to a small university town in rural Wales. I brought a skateboard but never thought I’d use it again. I bought some hiking boots and left my skate clothes in the wardrobe. One evening I was walking around, I heard the tell tale sign of clacking, grinding, smacking and popping at the plaza on the uni campus. I went to check it out and there were a group of lads about my age sessioning a set of steps. They were locals and not students and they didn’t care who was watching them. I walked up to them and asked, ‘What’s it like to skate around here?’
They looked me up and down. I looked like another boring middle-class student ‘You skate?’
‘Well go get your fucking board and we’ll show you around.’
I ran back to my dorm, changed into some proper attire, pulled out my skate shoes, grabbed my board and locked my room. As I was doing so, my roommates caught a glimpse of me ‘You skate?’
‘Ah yeah, sometimes… see you later.’ and I bolted out the door.
I hooked up with the locs and I was soon forgiven for abandoning my priorities. Unfortunately, over the following few years, these locals also fell by the wayside, to drink, families, jobs, drugs and so on. After three years, I moved away without saying goodbye to a core group of rippers who had kept their own little isolated unique scene alive for years.
After uni, I again, figured it was time to hang up my skate for career, more education, and learning to surf properly (as it was more respectable than skateboarding). The next town I moved to had a long history of skateboarding and I soon fell in with a large and diverse group of people who were down to ride all the time. I stopped caring about being in my twenties and getting glimpses of old ladies tutting at me as I bombed my hill into the town. I ignored the abuse hurled at me from speeding cars by lads out on the piss, and sometimes I fed off it. I started to contextualize what I was doing and place skateboarding in the grand scheme of things. I saw its relevance in youth culture and urban theory.
Each stage of my life and each geographical move, I have assumed I will be hanging up my skateboard for good. I thought so when I moved to Oregon to get married. But it has been impossible to quit. Who cares? Why write about it? I’m not sure… Its just sometimes I just want to burst thinking about it. I can’t skate right now as my three year old is napping so instead I’m getting this off my chest. But I know tomorrow, I’ll grab my board step out of the house and push as hard as I can. Beer gut and beard, blowing in the wind, pissing off motorists, going nowhere as fast as I can because its all I know. Nothing has ever compared and I am finally OK accepting that nothing ever will.