Another These Three Things for this week. When it comes, it comes. I listen.
I have a skate crew. Yep, that’s right. At 46 years old I cannot overemphasize just how hilarious this seems to me. But nevertheless, I am part of a mighty skate crew that meets weekly to cheer each other on, offer pointers and just hang out and talk about cool shit. A member of our crew is a man named Leif. He’s tall and lean with a warm smile, wears a cycling hat while he skates and drives a 1982 teal colored Camaro. With T tops. So yeah, he wins.
This past weekend, my family and I cheered Leif on as he worked a bluntslide to backside 180 vert. Over and over again. For over an hour. Failing every single time. It’s a really hard trick and Leif has wisely given himself 2 years to master it. And he’s about halfway there. Skateboarding is change in small increments. Two years seems like a long time. But Leif knows it’s a drop in the bucket on a skateboard.
With each fail, we watched him build on the previous attempt. And then fail all over again. Until he couldn’t. He was tired. When he decided to take a break, my daughter and I sat with him sharing thoughts while my husband skated away taking the opportunity to work in the area Leif had just abandoned.
The interesting thing about the learning process in skateboarding is that you cannot always tell what your body is doing. It’s hard to know exactly where you are in time and space. We just guess and go on a feeling. And sometimes that feeling looks very different from what is actually there. Skateboarding mimics the artistic process in so many ways. Just how the artist drawing the human figure can draw what they see and know is there, sometimes making it up a little bit reads better. Sometimes what we see and what looks correct is only an interpretation of what is actually there.
Sharing tips about skateboarding tricks can take on a similar feel to that of an art critique. In this area I am trying to do this. I did this here. Does that look like too much? What about here? And here? More here? Less here? Am I even close? I can’t tell anymore.
When Leif was finished gathering our perspective he took an ender in a nearby wave bowl that my daughter has been trying to master for a while. The bowl is wide with a gradual entry ramp, then three large bumps that bring you deeper into the bowl, before an 8 foot tall wall to pop out. Ideally you pop out on your board, but it is one thing to pop out and land on your feet and another to pop out and land on your feet on top of a moving piece of plywood. My daughter is in the pop out and land on your feet stage and has been here for a long time.
Leif made it look so easy. Skateboarders are adept at this. In and out. On the board. Wow. My daughter got in position to go next and she did as she does. Popped out and landed on her feet with her skateboard in her hand. Leif asked if she wanted some pointers to which she said, “yes PLEASE.” And this is where it gets real interesting.
Here’s what Leif said,
“I’m not completely sure what I do, but here’s a best guess. The first two bumps will throw you off if you pay attention to them. Don’t gather your speed there or it will throw off your equilibrium. Just be there. Wait to pump until the last bump. Gather your speed here at the end, then push your back leg and pop out.”
My daughter listened, cocked her head and then got into position. And wouldn’t you know, there was an improvement. By paying no mind to the first two bumps and focusing her speed toward the end, she was in better position to pop out.
And immediately I wondered if this was true for everything. What if we trust at the beginning of something? When do we use our energy, talents, efforts? What if we wait and listen first? What if everything starts with a trust in both the endeavor and ourselves that we find an equilibrium?
And I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.
Was Leif talking about trust? Was the key to nailing the trick about trust and waiting to receive instead of pushing hard all the way through? Essentially what he and my daughter are now doing is conversing between their bodies and the environment. There is an optimal place to be in trust and an optimal place to give that final push to get out. Is that how things always work? I have so many questions.
And this is what skateboarding does.
An answer inevitably becomes another question.
As this idea swirled around my head this past week, I came upon two answers, or many more questions. An interview with Tony Hawk about the debut of his bio doc with Sam Jones, Until the Wheels Fall Off and an essay by author David Epstein about how his electric toothbrush made him a better public speaker. Both speak to the challenges of process and learning to find ways to foster trust that leads to knowing when to let expertise kick in. You can find Tony’s interview here and David’s newsletter essay here. Let me know what you think!