On the evening of the 11th of August the world found out that one of its true heroes had passed away; the great Robin Williams had died after taking his own life aged 63. Like everyone else on this tiny spinning planet I was pretty shocked and saddened to hear that one of my favourite entertainers, actors and genuine comedy Gods had checked out early from this arbitrary holiday camp we call life. I looked back on that evening after the dust had settled and I realised, without even knowing what we were doing, that five of my mates and I had paid the ultimate tribute to the great man that very night. I had booked out the entire North Berwick skate park and invited this motley crew of Lost Boys along for one last adventure to celebrate my 30th birthday. Laughs were had, beers were drank, there was a hell of a lot of mightily impressive skating and most significantly of all we all found some sort of happy thought in amongst all the daily bullshit; for three hours we were young again.
A couple of months back there was an article written in The Telegraph called “How old is too old to Skateboard”. The man responsible for this critical, narrow minded and judgmental tirade is called Lee Coan. He says, amongst other things that older skaters look ridiculous. He was swiftly put into his place by self-confessed Skategeezer Michael Brooke. Brooke rubbishes what is basically just Coan’s hate fuelled opinion with his own more, fun loving life loving opinion. The fact that The Telegraph seem to have nothing better to print than peoples differing opinions on what is essentially a pastime speaks volumes about the state of the press these days. However, both articles are worth a read if like me you care about everything and anything remotely skateboard related. If you can’t be arsed-and why should you be, it’s all just meaningless rhetoric anyways- never fear cause here’s the Bone-Yard stand point on this meaningless rhetoric.
I believe whatever it is, in this shambles we call life, which puts a smile on your face, makes you feel content, helps you through the day or otherwise alleviates the pain of being alive, you should grab with both hands and never let go. Now, before you go upstairs and systematically slaughter your annoying neighbours let me add a simple caveat; as long as what you’re getting your kicks from isn’t doing anyone else any hurt or harm we are all good in the hood. And Skateboarding is certainly one of those things.
I have enjoyed Skateboarding, as I have mentioned numerous times before, since I was around 15. My friends and I had a small but dedicated crew and we would scavenge the rural landscapes of Royal Deeside in search of anything to session. This lasted for about three years until we went our separate ways to the worlds of Universities. I valiantly attempted to Skate on for my first year of University but other things of a less productive nature started to take hold. By second year I hardly went out on my board and then as the years passed my deck went to other people and further and further into the store cupboard of life.
Cut to 10 years later. I’ve just recently turned 30 and I’ve been shredding about like a man possessed any chance I can get for the past 18 months now. And guess what, it’s been better, infinitely better than when I was younger! I don’t have that horrible crippling self-consciousness I used to have. I’m trying more things (within the small remit of my skill set) and I have progressed to a better standard of skating than when I was a younger, fitter human. Although it does keep me fit too. Two hours at Sokto (Saughton Skate Park) blasting about, getting a good sweat on is a much more enjoyable way of keeping fit than pumping it up with the Pure Gym monkeys.
There is basically too much going for Skateboarding for Lee Coan to say that you can be too old to take part in it. It strengthens the body and the mind. Whenever I feel myself floating into that unwelcome swamp of depression-which we all, from time to time, will find ourselves- I go for a skate. By committing yourself to a single notion, by giving yourself the luxury of having only one thing to think about for just a fragment of your week or even day, your mind will focus in on that one thing and cleanse itself of all the bullshit that is getting in its way and making you feel so down. Now imagine if this one thing wasn’t drawing interconnecting circles on a notepad but instead thrashing around your local park on a skateboard. Nothing against the interconnecting circles thing, that is unbelievable addictive in its own right.
The age old reason for humans stepping on a skateboard is that it’s fun. There’s nothing more complex or philosophical than that really. It’s a great way to spend a couple of hours, whether it’s on your own before you head into the office or surrounded by all your friends, late at night under the pale artificial glow of the floodlights, sharing laughs and beers. Coan even points out in his article that he might feel the way he does towards the older skater because he is jealous of the fun they are having.
Fun, joy and other such positives are exactly what seem to be lacking in the world weary life of old Lee Coan. In his article he uses words like “utter distain”, “hate”, “jealousy” and “disgust”. Let me remind you that this poor chap is writing about skateboarding here, not a raging overseas war fuelled by money and ignorance in which innocents are dying and atrocities are being committed on the daily. Just skateboarding. Ok, not just skateboarding but the fact that men- and he uses the word Dads a lot here too- who are of an older persuasion have the audacity to ride one of these things.
Now, I’m going to be a Dad very soon and I know of plenty of skaters who have kids. I see no difference between fathers teaching their kids how to play football or any other establishment sponsored sports and a father teaching their kids to drop in for the first time. Be it Football, skateboarding or starting a fire, it’s just the same passing down of information, skills and passions which parents have been doing with their children since the dawn of time. All of these things shape the person your offspring will grow up to be.
Skateboarding is no different; it has many valuable qualities which will help a child grow up to be a strong and well adjusted human being. It teaches resilience, patience, courage, focus, determination, self awareness, team spirit and most importantly tolerance. Tolerance I hear you say! Yes, tolerance. You must be able to tolerate your failings in order to learn from then and eventually land the trick which eludes you. You must tolerate pain which is a certainty and get up and try again. You must tolerate other skaters or extreme sports enthusiasts who will get in your way and ruin a trick. You must tolerate people who judge you for doing something you believe in, who look at you with hatred, who don’t understand you and yet don’t bother to ask questions in order to understand you. You must tolerate people who cast aspersions on you, who pigeon hole you and vilify you due to the way you look and their own ignorance. Pretty heavy stuff. And I am still just talking about skateboarding here, not some war fuelled by money and ignorance, just skateboarding. But what hope have we as the human species of tackling the ever growing threat of war and terrorism with anything other than hatred, fear and ignorance if in ever day life people like Lee Coan and newspapers like The Telegraph print articles which attack things that others believe in with their narrow-minded, elitist opinion.
Skateboarding is something to believe in. For some people it is as important as religion. The skate park is their church, their mosque, their sanctuary. It’s where they find peace of mind and strength for the soul. Just like religion, or anything you choose to believe in it doesn’t matter how old you are to have it in your life. It is a universal passion which will be with you for as long as you want it to be. Santa Clause is something to believe in too, when we are young we believe in him whole heartedly but this fades as we grow older. Does Lee Coan refuse to create the belief of Christmas, of Santa Clause in his children’s hearts because he himself has grown too old to believe in it; a grown man pretending that Santa Clause is real to his kids? That would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it?
Judging people on how the look and on what they do to achieve happiness in this life is fundamentally not a healthy or constructively positive thing to do. It breeds hate, a contempt in which this world is drowning. Mr Coan needs to do himself a favour and sit down and watch the classic Robin Williams film; Hook. He needs to rediscover his happy thought. He needs to find joy in his soul. Becoming old enough to have a mortgage and haemorrhoids has obviously been a rough ride for Coan. He needs to realise that the brief and ultimately pointless period of time which we are allotted on this spinning orb of coincidence, is better off spent grabbing life by the scuff of the neck, smiling and laughing loudly and proudly with friends and family rather than silently hating, judging and belittling other people and their way of lives. To quote Mr Williams at the end of Hook, “to live, to live would be an awfully big adventure.”
Age is a mere measurement of your time spent on this planet. I’d rather be eighty-eight and still skating, enjoying myself and enjoying life with my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren rather than the Lee Coan alternative of bottled up inner angst and hatred toward others. That doesn’t sound like very much fun at all. What disappoints me most about all of this is that Coan admits he was a skater when he was younger, “When I was about 11 years old skateboarding was my everything. I broke bones for my cause, stole money to buy trucks, and slammed my face so hard into a half pipe I thought I could see through time.” He obviously once knew of what I’m talking about here in this article. Once upon a time he knew what joy was, where you could find it and how easy it was to embrace. Unfortunately he has forgotten all of that. He has grown up. And not in a good way.
As fellow skate-geezer Michael Brookes observed, there is one man who summed it up best. The original spark, the late Jay Adams:
“You didn’t quit skateboarding because you got old; you got old because you quit skateboarding.”
You get old because you quit skateboarding, and along with it you develop the harmful traits that come with being what is deemed to be a conventional adult in our modern society; something which, in my opinion needs to change. A conventional adult will judge others, will hate before understanding and will follow blindly the path most travelled, the path laid out before them by the powers that be, the establishment, and the puppet masters. It is they who have written the rules of the game. And we just play along. But we needn’t do so, the rules are not written in stone. We can easily re-write the way the game is played. We just need to start small and day by day build up a new ideology in which we can all live in a world built from love, compassion and respect. Not hatred, greed and fear. We all need to change, to work on the positives, the love and the respect we owe each other as members of the human race. We need to stop people from thinking someone is ridiculous and hating them for doing something they believe in and start getting people to want to understand others and tolerate them or even better enjoy their differences and learn from them. It can start with something as small as not spiting hatred and judgement on a man or father merely because they enjoy skateboarding.
Lee Coan may have written his article thinking it would be a light hearted pop culture piece but he could have quite easily taken a minute and thought about where his article was coming from. Would it do any good in this life? Would it effect change for the better? Would it, at the end of the day make him feel any better? Or was it coming from somewhere within him which is unsatisfied and beaten down, disillusioned and disenfranchised with the world in which he lives his life? He seems lost, not so much a lost boy but rather a lost man. I feel Mr Coan needs to shut down his laptop, look out his old deck from the dusty recesses of the old store cupboard of life, head down to his local park and once again learn to fly. Bangarang!