WORDS & ART Jake Grove
I’ve been working with Wheelbase for a little while now and I’m stoked to announce something new—my monthly column. I’ll be sharing my views on skateboarding as an outsider, insider, rightsider, wrongsider, backsider, frontsider, and a no-sider. If you don’t know me, I’m a skateboarder, a photographer, an aspiring artist, a high school student, an anti-haircut activist, and possibly a human—if the tests come back positive. Via this column, I’ll be taking Wheelbasers on a journey through my mind and thoughts—using this space as my medium to communicate to my fellow skaters. My intent is to analyze the different effects and relations of skating, and everything surrounding it. So open up your mind, push out all thoughts, and clear room for new ones. Breathe in. Breathe out. Let it flow.
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Broken off. It’s something that’s recently flipped my life upside down, and I’ve seen it happen to many. For a lot of skaters, getting “broken off” is an inevitable part of riding—it’s a sacrifice for enjoying the love only a rolling plank of wood can provide. At some point in most skaters’ lives a period of time is faced when the temptation of riding must be pushed away in order to fully recover. It sucks, but at the same time it reminds us what it’s like to be a “standard person”, one who lives a “standard life” without skateboarding. It teaches us what our lives could have been like had we never hopped on a board. For many, this realization is dreadful, but it makes getting back on a board that much better.
My story of getting broken off and kept from skating is a little different than most—my condition didn’t result from a slam, but rather, comes from something internal that has recently hit me hard. I was recently diagnosed with POTS Syndrome (No, it doesn’t mean I’m stoned out of my mind) and this syndrome caused me to have some sort of POTS induced syncope after waking up. It hit the hardest 12 weeks ago when I got a gnarly headrush after standing up, I went fully blind for a little while, and lost all bodily control and collapsed. Long story short, my autonomic nervous system is constantly trippin’ out and not providing enough blood from my lower regions to my head when I change bodily elevation—my autonomic system doesn’t control my body as it should. This is a condition that affects me everyday with a wide range of symptoms that I’ve always considered normal and were ignored by doctors. But right now they’re at their worst. Due to this, I’ve been kept off my board for the past three months. I’m just now barely getting back into some mellow transition skating. The crazy thing is is that even breaking out of a tuck could mess with me and end badly. But besides all this, my personal issues aren’t the focus of this column—many skaters face their own forms of being broken off, and regardless the specific issue, it alters your life and your mind in complex ways.
Skateboarding gives purpose and stoke for me and many others, but with skating’s removal from your life the levels of stoke are highly reduced. Personally, I’m socially removed from almost everything but skating—without a skateboard that gets me socializing with other riders, I really just sit alone in my own mind. It creates the realization that a piece of wood can be capable of removing us from society, and can transform us into totally different people. Especially in high school, where almost everything is designed to revolve around social events, groups, and activities. But skateboarding isn’t made that way—it connects you with other skaters, but isn’t something all the “cool kids” in school go out to do on the weekends. It’s not like a movie, or a party, or whatever else normal kids do—being absorbed with skating has led me to not even know these things. Skateboarding—in its purest form—is a medium of social disobedience and removal, but when it’s taken from you, what is there?
It feels like a breakup. The type often seen in television, movies, and through those in real life. I am the girl weeping in the corner, who was just told “it’s time to move on” or “I think we need to take a break”—but it’s my board that I’ve lost. I do not socialize outside of the skate scene. I choose not to. I don’t chase after every pretty girl passing by. I don’t make unnecessary conversation. I sit silently with earbuds in and shut my eyes and meditate—while others surrounding me talk and talk and talk. Without the ability to be removed by a board, I realize how much I truly am an outsider, that there’s a whole other world moving past me. And although I see what I’m missing, being forced to sit through it repulses me. It only makes me feel the need for a board so much more—to get out, and skate, and never look back.
Even with this, when I’m not in such a setting I still notice a shift in my personal state of mind. With a skateboard in my hands at all times, I was always scouting for the next spot, the next session, the next event. Whatever I was going to skate next, and how I was going to skate it was on my mind. But POOF! All of the sudden my body became incapable of riding. All of this vanished. I can’t say what being broken off does for all—as many skaters are different than me—but in my experience it slowed down my whole life. Instead of popping over that section of sidewalk, I walk past it at half the speed—it causes me to notice things in a different way, a non skateboarding way. For me, my mind thinks in rhythms, patterns, shadows, highlights—elements I’ve learned from art classes. Without a board I walk by slowly—I stop and look down at a flower, and take notice of the shadows brought forth by the pedals, and the lines of the plant, and the balance of it all. Although I know many “standard people” don’t do this in the modern world it has brought me a sense of appreciation for the natural world around me—the world around all of us.
Despite this appreciation, the loss of skating in my life has also brought on a form of depression. I’m not talking about depression as a mental disorder, but as something I feel is natural for our minds. Our lives are cycles, and in order to have the greatest moments of happiness and achievement, we must also have the worst moments of sorrow and depression. Normally this will happen on a mild scale—one day a new trick is landed, “the shot” is captured, but the next day all goes wrong and that crap feeling kicks in. But with no skating, there’s no chance to learn that new trick, skate that new spot, or hit that new feature. When you’re broken off all you can do is watch and wait. Sure, I still scroll through skating on Instagram and comment “hell yeah!” and “killin’ it!” to spread the stoke, but without the ability to ride my board the stoke can’t really flow back to me in the same way. Those who have and still are suffering from the wrath of being broken know what I mean. It’s so close to you, yet so far. Like a benched sports player, you watch from the sidelines but have little involvement. You yearn for the feeling of rolling once again, but know it will take time. . .
I could go on so much further and into more detail, and write until I have a book, but I feel these are the largest effects on me personally from being broken and may relate to many who have faced something similar. With this, I know few of my readers are actually in this situation right now, but many know what I speak of. So do what you can. Go out and shred the gnar, get barreled, land that new trick. Do it for all of us who are broken—who want to see you do it because we can’t.
– Jake Grove