Picking up longboarding as a grown-up

I love it when our toddlers are just enjoying themselves on the playground, but it often ends up with me getting bored after a while. Sometimes I sit down to read a book, but then the one-year-old likes to use me as a jungle gym.

So I bought a longboard! Now I have something to do while being a good role model, being active and all. That was my thinking at least. Every time the kids see me getting the board out, they want it for themselves. Despite that, I managed to get some time practicing. I’m a total beginner, closer to 40 than to 14 years old, and want to share some of my experiences doing that.

It’s never too late to learn new motor skills

I enjoy learning, but it has been eight years since I learned a new sport. Because of that time gap, I’m now very conscious of the learning process.

I’m aware of how the board initially felt like like a threat to me. And that now, bit by bit, it starts to feel like an extension of my body. Like my shoes, or my bicycle when I ride it.

I’m also aware of the fear that creeps up when I start to lose control. Because I’ve learned to windsurf, wave surf and snowboard before, I know to not freak out, but lean onto my front foot and steer with my shoulders.

And I’m aware of how much I don’t want to make a fool of myself in front of my neighbors. Teenage me would be embarrassed of the stuff I do now. But it’s been so long ago since my teenage ego complained, that it’s easy for grownup me to tell it to shut up and have fun instead.

Yes, it’s so much fun to learn this kind of thing! Somehow, I thought I’m too old to learn stuff like longboarding. They say young kids learn much faster. That when you’re older, you should improve that what you’ve learned and get really good at it. But awareness of the learning process itself is something I lacked before. I now recognize the feelings I had at when I was younger (“I can’t do this, but I want to”) and change them to something positive (“I can’t do this yet, but I will if I keep on practicing”).

Note to 60 year-old self: learn something completely new! You’ll love it! Also: training balance skills is essential to grow old without breaking bones all the time.

Don’t say something difficult is not for you just because of that

As a kid, I felt safe on inline skates, but skateboards and longboards always felt wiggly wobbly dangerous. I wasn’t exactly good at sports and I figured I just didn’t have the balance skills for boards. I always was a bit envious of those fearless skaters with their tricks though.

Two weeks ago, the salesclerk told me to step on some of their boards to get a feel for them. I had read that it’s good to try different boards before buying one. So I carefully stepped on one. It felt just like half a life ago, when I last tried to longboard. I had to try real hard not fall off of it. I have no clue what the differences were between the boards. That’s how much of a beginner I am.

With the advice I got from some Youtube videos, I found it not too hard to get rolling and make a turns. That’s all I can do for now (except for the accidental seconds long manual/wheelie I did), but I’m working on kickturns and other basic moves. That’s way beyond what I expected two weeks ago!

Skaters will point out that longboarding is not the same as skateboarding. In fact, I choose a longboard over a traditional skateboard because they’re more stable. But as I can learn longboarding, I’m sure I could learn to do the same on a smaller board too.

Youtube is great for learning

I’m (sidenote: I assume I don’t have to go into how Youtube’s business is based on getting people to watch as many ads as possible, luring them in to watching more and more videos through recommendations that contain more and more extreme videos, radicalizing jihadists and white supremacists alike and destroying democracy as a side effect. ) of Youtube. But it’s great for learning longboarding! In the videos I can see what people do while they talk about it, see how they move their arms and feet and how they maintain balance. I can see things I can only dream of and get the basic instructions that I need.

We all know these ‘Youtube didn’t exist when I was a kid’ stories. But the variety and quality of videos on a topic like this didn’t exist even five years ago. Ratings and view counts make it easy to find high quality content—regardless of production quality. There’s not just the stereotypical skater dudes, but I’ve seen videos from all kinds of people from different countries sharing useful stuff. Amazingly, even the comments are friendly, positive and useful. That’s all especially nice because the stereotypical skater dudes that I met have (sidenote: Like in the shop where I didn’t buy my board: “Well if you don’t want to spend € 400… Here’s a cheap board we have for children. I can’t tell you if it’s any good though.” ) been inviting to newbies.

Skater culture still exists, but it’s optional

About those stereotypical skaters: the 90s skate counter culture with baggy jeans, punk rock and graffiti/cartoon aesthetic is still alive. When I was a teenager, skating meant being a skater, because obviously with tight pants you can’t move freely and you had to do the other things too, otherwise it didn’t feel right. By the looks of it, you can still live that life, but you can also not do that and still have a good time with a board and some friends.

Ah yes, friends: apart from with my toddlers, longboarding has been a solo activity for me, so let me know if you want to practice with me in Berlin!

Update from spring 2021

My being a good role model was more successful than I wanted—my children now want my longboard every time I take it outside. Now I’m getting them their own boards.