Published in  
June 7, 2021

Skate Brain

I received my first board as a Christmas present back in 2000–an X Games branded Variflex from a Sears catalog. It wasn’t the best board in the world, but it would work for a beginner like me. At the time I had no concept of skate spots and didn’t realize how difficult it would be to learn to ride and do tricks. I only had a general sense that I needed to roll around on pavement and eventually learn tricks like 180s. Fortunately, I had a lot of interest and enthusiasm for figuring it out.

I spent the next few weeks pushing around on the street in front of my house, seeing how far I could roll without falling. When I wasn’t dodging ice patches and snow piles, I was hitting rocks and pebbles on the worn-out asphalt. The ground didn’t bother me much, I didn’t know anything else. Eventually warmer weather came and I connected with an older skateboarder in my neighborhood who taught me how to ollie. At this point, I started gaining a sense for just how vast skateboarding could be. I could feel the change my brain was making as I got into the habit of constantly thinking about skateboarding.

I began to develop preferences for certain styles and specific tricks. I met other skateboarders who introduced me to brands and skate content sources, like videos and magazines which I eagerly consumed. I went out skating with others and watched how they would navigate spots and skateparks. Like immersing in a new culture, my brain started to naturally understand nuances, like the smoothness of the ground or the length of stairs and gaps. I began thinking about the possibility of doing tricks on them. I started following the careers of professionals and bought products from the companies they rode for. First-hand experiences combined with the opinions of others were shaping my preferences and personal style.

Fast forward to today, I’m still going out and riding my skateboard as much as possible, but where and how I choose to skate has changed. I love to do a few 360 flips and frontside flips on flatground, but you won’t find me ollieing off a loading dock these days. I build ramps that reflect all of the mistakes and lessons I’ve learned like using black steel coping instead of aluminum because it grinds better or being careful about designing a quarter pipe transition so that you don’t end up with a four foot ramp with a foot of vert. When I find a spot with some imperfections, I can fix them with bondo and rub bricks. My trick selection has gotten specific and a bit technical. I won’t bother with nose grinds but will do front crooks all day long. I’ve even become particular about the skate content I consume and the professionals and companies I follow. This has come from a lot of investment of my time and energy. As I continue pursuing skateboarding, I expect my knowledge will continue to grow and change; that’s just how it works.

Skateboarding isn’t the only area where I’ve experienced a mental shift. It’s happened in other important aspects of my life too, like faith. My experience in becoming a skateboarder and developing a thought process with skating always on my mind has been a lot like becoming a follower of Jesus and growing in my faith. I started skateboarding with a decision to pursue it and I got a skateboard; I started my faith journey with a decision to commit my life to Christ and then got a Bible. Although I was very young when I became a Christian and went large periods of my life not pursuing a relationship with the Lord wholeheartedly, there have still been many parallels to my pursuit of skateboarding. I’ve spent (and continue to spend) time reading that Bible, listening to sermons, or hanging out with other Christians.

It’s a lot like going out into the street and practicing tricks or going to the skatepark to ride around with other skateboarders. I’ve wrestled with difficult theological questions like when to apply ancient context to scripture and when to take things literally. Several of these questions have caused the collapse of friendships as well as the formation of new ones. I’ve experienced tests to my faith like the sudden loss of my grandmother. These things have all shaped my faith and spiritual journey. Just like I’ve experienced injuries like concussions, sprains, and failures like missed tricks or bad contest runs in skateboarding, I’ve gone through setbacks and challenges in my efforts to follow Jesus as well. Fortunately, He is perfect when I am not.

Skateboarding is one of the best things in my life and something I love dearly. I want to skateboard as long as possible and will  continue investing my time into it. However, experience has taught me that skateboarding is not eternal.

It’ll entertain me, but it won’t save me.

While I believe God placed it in my life because He loves me and wants to give me something I can enjoy, I know that it is far more important that I invest my time and energy into growing in my relationship with God and in my knowledge of His word. I’ve seen the change and growth in my faith just as I have in skating when I invest into it.

When you start skating–or you find that one thing that can’t be beaten out by anything else–you don’t see things the same anymore; handrails aren’t just handrails, stair sets aren’t just stairs–your whole perspective on your environment changes. It’s the same with Christ when you allow Him to lead your life. Your whole perspective on life will change, and when it does, you'll start seeing things a whole lot differently.

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18