Zero to 30 in one year

Almost exactly one year ago, Suzi bought Jamison a cool book about building skateboards. Jamison and I read the book cover to cover and over and over and dreamed about which boards we were going to build. We researched the pros and cons of various construction techniques, deck shapes, truck mountings, and wheel sizes, shapes, and duros. In the end, we decided we’d get better boards for less money by just buying the decks already built. So we did.

I should mention that prior to this purchase, neither Jamison nor I had ridden skateboards or longboards enough to mention. The last time I’d stood on a skateboard, I fell so fast that the next thing I knew, I was on the ground, on my hip, wondering what had happened. I’m not sure why we thought buying longboards was a good idea.

In the evenings, Jamison and I “terrorized” the neighborhood wearing our “cool” reflective gear, practicing pushing. When we started, we had hoped we would get good enough for skateboarding to be easier than walking. Soon enough, it was.

When the weather got better, we lengthened our rides around the neighborhood and found a nearby hill. I learned the terror of riding faster than I could run without being able to stop or even slow down. Fortunately, I never fell at that stage.

After watching the pros at Maryhill Festival of Speed, we decided it was time to get a little more serious about going downhill. We found more local hills and tried Switchbacks. I watched videos about Coleman slides and toe-side slides. Around that time I lost track of how many times I’d fallen. And I learned what a “high side” is. And I learned what road rash is.

Yeah, whatever, falling wasn’t that bad. Probably worse than the pain was the embarrassment I suffered about a week later when Jamison and I went to Switchbacks to see the Bustin crew and demo some Bustin gear. I headed for the first left corner, started my Coleman slide, and the board hit something. It stopped, I didn’t, and over the board I flew. A tuck, a roll, and I came up laughing. Just to my left, walking up the hill, watching my “performance,” was the Bustin crew. Oops!

Jamison discovered the owner of Eastside Longboards taught a longboarding 101 course through PCC, so we signed up. The sessions were at Mt. Tabor, a local boarding haven which closes all its roads to cars on Wednesdays, when the class met.

Jamison and I quickly got better. I could slide hands down toe side and heel side without high siding, most of the time. The shutdown slide remained elusive.1And still does… I could tuck and slalom. Jamison could do everything I could do, plus. I like to credit his new downhill-specific longboard, but I know that’s not fair to Jamison’s skills. He’d spent a lot of time in the neighborhood practicing stand-up slides while I was practicing standing up.

The class ended and we re-upped for a second session. I missed half of the sessions, yet still improved.2nd I learned that some falls can hurt for a while. Jamison got even better. By the last class, Jamison was bombing down the hill from top to bottom without foot braking. I stared fear in the face and bombed the bottom third. I had so much fun, I did it two more times. By now, it was dark so the flashlights we’d zip-tied to our helmets came in handy. I’d also learned of a smartphone app that could map my run and tell me my max speed. I was hooked!

With my new-found confidence, I wanted to go again this weekend, but start higher up the hill at the halfway point.3On any day other than Wednesday cars park at the halfway point, but gates across the roads block cars from going above and below the halfway point, and block longboarders from easily bombing the whole hill. I wanted to see if I could go farther and faster. Turns out, I could.4So, not quite 30 mph, and, not quite one year, but this post’s title still works for me. :-)


In the past year, I have learned a lot:

  1. Spending time with Jamison doing something we both enjoy has been the best! We should have started this years ago.
  2. I expected longboarders to be an elite, snobby group of people. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I could tell story after story of really cool longboarders I’ve met who were nice and encouraging. For example, Andrei, far left in the picture at the top of this post. Nicest guy you could hope to meet, took pictures and video of Jamison and me, and I’ll soon be getting them in my inbox.
  3. Much of what holds you back in longboarding is fear. It’s not always justified. Truly, being able to relax and do what you’ve learned makes things go better. I’ll bet that lesson works for more than longboarding. ;-)

I’m looking forward to my next session at Mt. Tabor. Who wants to join me?

My first downhill slides

Last November, Jamison and I bought longboards. It’s been one of our best decisions ever. Jamison and I spend lots of fun time together, terrorizing the neighborhoods and riding to downtown Hillsboro.

I’m much more comfortable just pushing around the neighborhoods, staying on the relatively flat.1After all, I’m an old dude, and I haven’t really ridden skateboards or longboards before last year. Jamison is a lot more skilled and has learned how to slide, both standing up and with a slide glove on the ground. To enhance and use his skills, Jamison goes with friends to some nearby hills.

Today, Jamison went to Switchbacks with a neighbor. I stayed home — at least I did until Jamison called asking if I could bring him his spare car key. I figured his call was kismet. In addition to Jamison’s spare key, I packed my board, my skate tool, my pads, my homemade slide gloves, and my helmet.

My metric for when a hill is too fast is simple: if my board goes faster than I can run, I’m in trouble; there’s no way I can jump off my board without falling. Switchbacks is too fast to just ride so I had to try to slide the longboard, something I’d never done before.

After a few times down Switchbacks with multiple slides,2And not all of the slides on the board… ;-) I’m not as afraid. And thanks to the pads, I didn’t come home with too much damage.

I’m looking forward to the next time Jamison and I go to Switchbacks. :-)