13 Oct 2017

I have tried a lot of alternative sports out there many of which are now considered mainstream or at least closer to mainstream than they used to be. But for me it all started as a kid with two primary past times, BMX/Biking and Open water stuff. Most of my childhood I spent late August until early June in a remote area of the Appalacian mountains in Pennsylvania. This afforded me a lot of time to play and try out a lot of different things. When I was a kid between around 12-15 or so I had a BMX bike which I did all sorts of interesting things on but mostly riding down dirt roads on mountainsides. Sometimes I would ride around strip mines after hours (against my Dads orders of course). I did and tried all sorts of other stuff such as:

  • Jumping off bridges into creeks and rivers
  • Climbing iced over shale cliffs (yes I actually did this)

Lots of tree climbing, hiking and free running (sometimes while being chased).

The Ocean and Cliffs

During the summers I would get shuttled up to Rhode Island where I learned to body surf and use cheap body boards. I still remember the first time I body surfed, in fact I vaguely recall the first time I saw the open ocean and the only thought that comes to mind is I'm all done now, this is it. Outside of the ocean I also hiked a lot at a local park known for having small scalable rock cliffs. Last and not least around 15 or so I began riding a ten speed all over the damn state. Speed started to become a thing.

Groundwork for Tomorrow

The pattern of my youth starkly resembles the pattern of my life, now, which is something along the lines of:

  • Do the things I am supposed to do to get by like earn and chores
  • Go do something fun like surf, skate or MTB (when I was young replace this with surf, rock scrabble, bike)
  • Downtime: geek out with tech

As an adult of course it is more complicated, especially that first bullet point. but the general idea is I laid the groundwork when I was really young. And I kept trying new things and seeing what crossed over, what didn't, what I liked and what I didn't like.

What Didn't Stick

DISCLAIMER: this is me, not you. The end game of this article is to show how all this stuff overlaps but I never would have gotten anywhere if I didn't try things.

Mountain Boarding
Probably one of the top most dangerous board riding past times I didn't so much have problems doing it, the issue was access and bindings. I thought, mistakenly, it would be easy to find tracks to mountain board. I was wrong. In a twenty square mile radius I found one place where I lived at the time. And I found the bindings severely restrictive. Another theme.
Free Running
I have a ton of respect for free runners, I saw some on Gorham mountain in Maine once going down a 45 degreee slope straight up. That takes a level of lunacy I never mustered. So why didn't it stick? Well a lot of board riders say this but: it requires two feet not being in sync. Sometimes I don't know how we walk. Plus I found as I am getting older I prefer burstable sports that utilize repeated features such as skating or spot bike riding.
I could rattle off a ton of reasons why I personally don't like snowboarding but the number one reason is access. Backcountry requires years of training (or you die: your choice) and a lot of equipment like a GPS locator. I also was not interested in urban snowboarding. All this left was parks and the cost for me personally was simply too much. So once again access.

Although I have never tried it, I have zero interest in anything involving engines. Another personal preference. For me personally it is all about effort to get wherever and access. I don't like being held up by details (see also: bullshit). Throw the gear in the back and just go. No lift tickets, no gasoline, no heavy survival gear (water and an insurance card are about all I like to pack).

The Cross Over

Surfing stuck for good. In my mid 30s I returned to skateboarding as something to do when the surf was flat (or I simply wasn't near any) and this is where cross over began to really sink in. As a guy approaching middle age I found my styles, which I am more interested in than actually doing things evolved in a strange pattern:

I Surf like skating
It is true, for the most part I end up going down the line then as I get near the end if it is a close out I try to bring the bottom of the board up into the opposing wave and either kickturn with the wave or float it and spin the board under my feet (often up to 180 degrees). I don't do huge power cutbacks and if I am given a tube it almost always blows up on me (I kind of just accept that now).
I skate more like surfing
I have dropped in, I can ollie, I have ground lnd hopped edges but at the end of the day I prefer hard carves and kickturns: the higher the better. I am not too picky about the feature either. A bank or transition will work I don't really care. This makes a lot of sense since I reentered skateboarding as a surrogate for surfing.

The most common element between the two is handling jumps. When I decide I am going to overfloat, that is blast onto a floater but jump off it ahead of the foam, I bear down aim and go. When I ledge jump I do the same thing. The difference is the landing.

Over time this oddball reversal of style has become more pronounced. I don't read into it. I don't analyze it and I don't bother assigning meaning. To me it is as natural as breathing. What I do find interesting is how one helps the other. Our body is a complex machine with things like muscle memory and nerve clusters. If we look at our bodies as a system then I can make the following statement: one sport informs the other. Let that bake awhile. On a level where I don't really think about it, one sport informs the other. So where does mountain biking fit? Well I discovered a few interesting things almost immediately:

  • I had to wear skate shoes so I could feel the pedals and
  • I had to wear skate shoes to manipulate the bike (especially on jumps)
  • Terrain bank carving feels significantly similar to skate carving
  • I am having a hard time dealing with mud ....
  • I prefer to wear skate jeans for their flex
  • Jumping off small ledges, popping wheelies and going over small obstacles came to me almost instantly. In fact over the few months I have been doing it I still haven't hung up.

I credit surfing and skateboarding with being able to pick it up so fast. It isn't like I remember my BMX days, that was a long time ago (like 30 years).

Keep Moving

It all relates. Yeah I am not a snowboarder but I like watching them because it is definitely similar to skating and surfing. It all crosses over and I say if you can drop the cash it is worth picking up one other crazy ass past time to start complimenting your skills warchest. The worst that can happen is you have to hoc the stuff that didn't work out.