Self-confessed ‘skategeezer’ Michael Brooke responds to the idea that skateboarding should be for kids only.
In 1975, at the age of eleven, I took my first ride on a skateboard. The feeling of flow and freedom has never left me.
I turn fifty this August and I am proud to say it’s skateboarding that’s kept me happy, balanced and filled with energy. Last week, Lee Coan caused a minor outrage in the skateboarding community by arguing that ‘skategeezers’ (middle aged men on skateboards) are on the rise.
In fact, we skategeezers have been here for a while. And we aren’t going anywhere. The misconception that skateboarding is only for kids haunts me everywhere I go. Skategeezers often have had to deal with disdainful looks and comments. We hear it from parents, spouses (and former spouses), pedestrians and motorists. How can something that brings us so much joy cause such pique?
Thankfully, most skategeezers are too busy having a great time skating to really worry about what others think. Maybe we’ve developed a tough skin over the years. Put it this way: if you have to question why we are drawn to what you perceive is a “toy” then you’ll probably never really understand why we skate. In the spirit of bridge building, let me explain my side of the divide. Skateboarding brings an immense amount of pleasure to a huge number of older skaters.
I’ve met thousands of skaters from all types of backgrounds. No matter where we go, we are welcomed by fellow skaters. We share stories and scars. We are a community who celebrate life and share a passion for riding that can be as intense as we want. Some skategeezers are content to go from point A to point B. Others enjoy the rush of bombing down hills.
We don’t really care what you ride or what you look like. We’re just happy to be riding and enjoying the experience on our own terms. Remember Rodney Mullen, the childhood hero of so many skateboarders during their youth?
Well, I’m pleased to inform you that he’s still out there pushing the limits of what can be achieved. Rodney also gives TED Talks and works with the Smithsonian Institution, but I’ll save that for another time. Part of the joy of being a skategeezer is sharing the joy of skateboarding with our kids, nieces, nephews, and – yes- grandchildren. We don’t do this to be cool, we do this for the pure thrill it generates. A lot of skategeezers also volunteer to run competitions in their communities. They are happy to give back and help the next generation. What I’m getting at is this: we’re just happy to ride.
Just like men who grow up making model railways, flying remote control planes, or playing PlayStation, skategeezers continue to find enjoyment in the hobby of their youth. I don’t begrudge those other folks their form of entertainment. Please don’t begrudge me of mine. Maybe the root of all this is that Lee is jealous that skategeezers are enjoying themselves so much.
Maybe he yearns to ride a board again. Jay Adams, a skate legend from Dogtown, said it best: “You didn’t quit skateboarding because you got old, you got old because you quit skateboarding.”
So on behalf of skategeezers everywhere, Lee, let me offer you a truce: let’s put down our prejudices, pick up a board, and go for a ride. We’ll have fun. I promise.