I bought a longboard before I could talk myself out of it. It wasn’t a sensible decision. I noticed my backpack had straps to hold a skateboard, and I remembered that I’ve wanted to skate for a long time. It’s always the same story with these things. I’m walking along and I see something, like someone cruising along on a skateboard, and I stop dead in my tracks to watch. My heart soars a little bit. I want to try it so much that it almost hurts. Then that ever-present voice starts whispering in my ear – “Come on. Be sensible. You can’t do that – you’d just fall. You’d just make a fool of yourself. That’s not for you. Let’s be realistic.” My heart drops. I obediently start trudging forward again, in a straight line, sensibly. The skater is already out of sight.
Things have changed lately, though. Sometimes there’s another voice – a tiny whisper of rebellion. It says “realistic” is an excuse to avoid trying, and “sensible” is a lie designed to keep me in my safe but depressing comfort zone. It asks me what I’m more afraid of, deep down – falling over, or always being the one watching and wishing that was me? So this time, when I realised how sensible it would be to forget about longboards and all that nonsense, I got one.
This kind of makes it sound like I bought a longboard because the voices told me to, doesn’t it?
I took it to the park, feeling like everyone was staring at me in my bright red helmet, plucked up my courage, got on the board, and stumbled off instantly. “Told you so,” said that insidious voice. “What were you thinking? You look stupid. What a waste of money.” So I got back on.
The next several lunchtimes were spent plucking up my courage, getting on, moving slightly, and stumbling off. I stopped focussing on how stupid I looked. The intervals between stumbles grew longer. I learned that I could actually make the board turn. I started to attempt tiny little slopes, panicking partway down and jumping off. It was kind of like a montage, only slower, taking place over several different periods of time with lots of space in between, and sadly lacking in motivational background music.
I got to the usual panic point on my tiny slope one day, and something strange happened. Instead of involuntarily stiffening up, I relaxed. All my doubts fell away. I was moving fast, I was in control, and I was not afraid. I was riding, and I was happy. The nagging voice was silent.
I’ve started making tentative attempts to skate with other people. It took a few weeks to get the nerve up to try the Sunday Slalom Skateboarding School, where an incredibly good skater with all the patience in the world has already taught me to stand properly and increased my confidence massively. Slalom basically involves going around cones. It turns out that my massive beast of a board isn’t so great for that, but I’ve been able to borrow one to play with both times I’ve gone along. My next step is to attempt the Saturday morning beginner slide sessions at Crystal Palace. If they’re as nice as the slalom people, I think it’ll be okay.
I love my longboard. I can’t do any tricks, and I’m not very fast, but I love trundling along on it. I love the feeling of balancing, and turning, and dodging around things in the way – but there’s something else too. That voice that’s always telling me I’ll fail, that I’m going to fall, that I can’t do it gets a little bit quieter and more tentative every time – and the rebellious whisper gets a little bit louder. That feels pretty damn good.