Inspired, I decided to check up on the lives of my childhood, pool-riding heroes and see what they are up to, find out if they similarly contended. From my research I can tell you that, generally speaking, old skateboarders – the Z Boys from California’s infamous Dogtown crew or the gnarly Bones Brigade bunch – fall into one of two categories; Dead. Or really, really rich.
Poring over magazines in rainy Yorkshire, I idolised tanned and exotic, long-haired mavericks like Jay Adams, Shogo Kubo and Jeff Cahill – all about my age, all now no longer with us. The others? According to their biogs, each of them happy, healthy, “still ripping” (skating) and absolutely loaded.
Corkscrew-haired Tony Alva is a young and sunkissed 64-year-old and worth around $10 million. Pro turned kit and apparel tycoon Lance Mountain is in the same $10 million club. Maverick trickster Rodney Mullen, age 55? $30 million. Tony Hawk, 53, whose wealth stands at around $140 million, is vigorously anti-ageist. “You can learn to stand on a board and move slowly at almost any age with the right guidance… but learning tricks or riding ramps can be a lifetime pursuit.” After landing his spectacular “ollie 540”, for the last time back in March 2021, Hawk has now retired the signature move for ever. He landed his final 720 a few years earlier at the callow age of 52. “My willingness to slam unexpectedly into the flat bottom has waned greatly over the last decade.”
Spurred on by the recent surging interest in the sport, post-Olympics, middle aged men who who came of age during the heyday of skateboarding in the 1970s and early 1980s are now getting back on their boards… and inevitably filling up the hospital waiting rooms. A friend of mine – father of three, Range Rover driver in his mid-50s – recently visited a skate park in LA with his son and decided, perhaps emboldened by a beer or two, to take a chance on a vertically sided bowl. He seemed to drop in from the lip fairly elegantly, but then fell badly, ruptured his shoulder and dislocated his elbow. Skateboard-associated injuries to anterior cruciate ligaments – the knees – are particularly common amongst grey skaters. And take a lot longer to heal in 50-plus-year-old skeletons. So did I emerge from my first skate in 40 years unscathed? Almost.
After a gingerish start, my confidence grew with each run. I pushed off harder, rode a bit faster. Slalomed with increasing confidence. After a while, I attempted and almost pulled off a kick turn, and a short burst of tick-tacking. Then, trying a 180-degree spin, I slipped and fell. Right on my arse. A bunch of kids having a kickabout on the adjacent grass stifled their giggles. My bum was smarting. My pride hurt something rotten. The glass on my phone was cracked.
“Never too old to shred!” as we mid-life boarders like to say.