Sometime in the early 80’s (1980 or ’81, I believe) my Gran informed me that she had picked up a present for me. Gran sometimes did that, finding bargains at charity shops and jumble sales for me. These items usually turned out be toys and games that were great fun. This time, my present turned out be something different: a skateboard.
It was a small red plastic skateboard that she had found at some local kids garage sale, and bought for a few pence. At that time my only concept of a skateboard was of a craze that had peaked a few years ago when I was younger. Kids didn’t ride skateboards anymore and the thought of actually trying to ride it didn’t appeal to me. So the skateboard was left in the garage for years and never used.
Red plastic skateboard. Amateurish camera strap in view.
Fast forward a few years and I saw the film “Back to the Future”. This is something of a cliche now, but suddenly my eyes were opened to the possibility of what I could do with that old plastic board. Out of the blue skateboards had become “cool”. The toy in the garage that bemused me previously now had serious potential. That looked like fun.
Our driveway at the time was about twenty feet long and fairly steep. I decided that I would dig the skateboard out of the garage junk and ride it down the drive. Placing the board at the top of the drive, I held it in place with my front foot. Then carefully lifted my back foot off the ground, placed it on the board and started rolling. I rolled about three feet, lost my balance and fell. Grazes to right hand and that was it. No more skateboard.
The board went back in the garage junk pile, there to stay forever more.
But it played on my mind. Over the next week or so, I could remember the few seconds of riding the board successfully. And I could imagine what it would be like to ride it again. I could see in my mind’s eye what it would be like, and what I would have to do to stay on. I liked that feeling. My imagination was sparked. What if I made it to the bottom of the drive? Wouldn’t that feel great?
So I tried again. Skateboard at the top of the drive, facing downhill. One foot on, then the other. Rolling. Keeping my balance this time, like I had in my mind’s eye. And I made it. I rode the board to the bottom of the drive.
When I reached the bottom I felt great. I felt a feeling of accomplishment that I hadn’t felt before. This was to be the beginning of an amazing relationship.
I then began to learn to ride the board, down the drive, along the street. I learned to turn, left and right, and keep rolling. Big sweeping turns and short, quick turns, leaning to each side.
At the time I was unaware of (then modern) skateboarding tricks so learnt from old 1970’s books. I practised over and over, doing the same moves and fine tuning them. Kick turns left and right, round corners – over and over again. Hour after hour, learning and perfecting just very basic techniques.
That’s over twenty five years ago now. I’ve had many skateboards since then, of different sizes, shapes and styles. Learnt new tricks. Travelled to new spots. Met great people, some of whom I’m still friends with. Some aren’t with us anymore.
I still have the small, red plastic skateboard that I learnt to ride. It’s faded and looks a bit worse for wear now. It only cost a few pence and was eventually superseded by larger, better quality boards. But of all the skateboards I’ve ever owned, it’s probably the most important.
- Length: 22.5″
- Width: 5.75″
- Wheelbase: 12″
- Plastic deck, flat with no concave. Minimal kicktail.
- Metal trucks.
- Wheels: Unknown – hard – not polyurethane.
Soundtrack: Huey Lewis & the News.