"You didn’t quit skateboarding because you got old, you got old because you quit skateboarding." Jay Adams
A new documentary called 'My Knees Hurt' tackles the topic of skateboarding through the representations of older skateboarders. Frequently any academic work or news report on skateboarding is framed by the notions of youth culture and sport. The pan-generational ludic element of skateboarding seems to be overlooked.
Last week I was at a skatepark talking to a visitor from Holland in his late twenties. He asked me how old I was, when I replied ‘thirty eight’ he said ‘wow, hope I am still skating when I am your age.’ He was already starting to worry about getting old and complained the he enjoyed smoking and drinking too much and was concerned that it would eventually take its toll on his ability to skate. It is an amusing juxtaposition that the tokens of rebellion, ‘smoking and drinking’, are regarded as something to compromise on in order to continue skateboarding.
It was surprising also to hear someone in their late twenties concerned about themselves still being able to skateboard as I have always felt that once you make it to adulthood, and you are still riding a skateboard, there is no difficulty in continuing. However, it is a comment that I have heard from the mouths of eleven year olds and teenagers alike, ‘I hope I still skate when’ I’m 40, when I am a dad, when I have a job etc. Generally, skateboarders don’t have a problem with age, and they see hope in the fact you can age and skate.
A recent article in The Telegraph newspaper provides a more cynical account of older skateboarders. Lee Coan writes…
Skating when you’re old enough to have a mortgage or haemorrhoids is not a good look. That said, I’m not sure if my utter disdain towards the gnarly hipster is born out of jealousy or disgust. Do I hate him because he’s an utter fool, or do I hate him because secretly I want to skateboard too?
Such is the general negativity from the writer that even the Telegraph has followed up with a more positive counter argument. However Coan’s article finally finishes with the conclusion that even ‘cool hipster dads’ will eventually fall off their boards. It is just such a comment which really highlights the division of thought. It is generally very well accepted that skateboarding is about falling off as much as it is about moving from A to B or pulling tricks. As Kelly, Pomerantz, and Currie note in their work on female skateboarders, ‘to skate is to know how to fall’ (2008, 116).