“How come no one told us?” I’ve heard shrilly put forward.
Look … you can be brutal, you can be harsh, you can be a total dick. But don’t pretend you don’t know and please don’t ask things like this.
Because nobody shouldn’t have to tell us—not openly, anyway.
But it’s clear that skateboarding is struggling through a communication breakdown (drive me insane!). One held in such high regard as to claim the noble titles traditional, historical, sacred, and so we continue to secretly point to unwritten rules, heads bow and shake behind backs, and the ancient arts of the social shun and societal banishment are practiced with more bravado than ever. It’s no wonder that people push with their front foot, do late flips and late shove-its, and aspire to collect sponsors and win the big one. Oh, and poop-grab boneless ones—it’s no wonder people do poop-grab boneless ones.
As we’ve seen in other more subtle cultures, a whispered oral tradition can be the most pure of any, intimately spelling out a rich path of valuable lessons and good form. But as the loud world crowds around and we’re sold on shiny objects, firewater, and the attraction of stinky piles of monetary droppings, the soft voice of our own humble customs is drowned out.
While skateboarding’s decades-long approach has been laughably awesome in the face of the big time, the rest of the world has learned to dodge our misdirectional dirty-bomb ballet, and now, in fact, loves skateboarding’s awkward dance more than it does baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet—ironically because it’s so difficult for them to learn the steps.
And for whatever reason, our stupid, defensive selves have stopped the whispering, stopped the stylish passing of the chalice, stopped passing on the wisdom-infused parables, and instead have clenched up our collective sphincter.
“That shit’s stupid,” we yell at the television.
“That shit’s lame,” we mutter as the jocks purchase our cultivated nerdiness from the mall.
“That’s fucked!” we shout as we stand back and watch skateboarding get moved around like a piece on a board game by players who have bought their way in. Then we struggle and ask, “How’d all this happen? How come no one told us?”
They did, dude. They did tell us.
The same people who told you to kickflip by scraping the side of your shoe off the front of your board, the same people who told you not to put your tail out on the coping while someone else was skating, the same people who told you not to worry about what place you got in a contest, or who suggested that all the broken bones and torn ligaments and hippers and swellbows were worth it.
They did tell us.
And however subtlety we want to play it, now is the time for us to start leading us through this minefield. Take the money; I don’t care. Take the endorsements, take the fame, but use them as something more than a car payment. Use them to subsidize your chance to preserve the unwritten traditions of a leadership based on being brutal or being harsh or being a total dick. Or you could try being cool. I’ve heard that can produce great results, too.
But don’t pretend you don’t have any kind of responsibility to pass on your knowledge. And don’t pretend that just because you were never given a book of rules or sat down and made to memorize an ancient tablet of manners and etiquette that no one told you anything about anything.
Reluctant leaders, jokers, examples, assholes—skaters need other skaters.
Don’t pretend you don’t know.