Thursday, December 29, 2011

I'm So Blue (as in COLD...not sad!)

If you've been paying attention, you may have noticed that it's been several months, one hurricane, and one freak October snowstorm since I last posted on this blog.

There are several reasons for my absence.

First, the Streetleague Skateboarding competition was AWESOME!  So awesome, in fact, that I had tons I wanted to say about it and a gazillion photos to post.  But Hurricane Irene arrived and our power went out (along with most of the Northeast), and by the time our power was restored, I couldn't recreate the post I had been planning.  Then, after an unexpected one week delay, school began, and suddenly I was too busy (and too tired) to write.  And one thing led to another, and I fell out of the habit, and suddenly this blog was in serious need of updating...

And then Sk8terdude took a tumble on the last run of a beautiful blue sky morning at Jennings Beach and suddenly we were out of skating for a few weeks while he nursed a broken thumb...and before he could fully recover from the thumb, he fell going UP the stairs at our house...and broke a toe...and he broke it in such a way that he couldn't put weight on it, which meant yet another cast, and crutches, and by the time we were done (last week), he had been out of skating for three entire months.

So I haven't had much to say...until today.

It's holiday time and school is out of session and I promised Sk8terdude he could get back into the parks with some serious board time.  But with Vertigo and Haven both out of business, Connecticut in the cold weather is not exactly a skater's paradise.  So Sk8terdad took him over to 2nd Nature the other day for a few hours and then I packed up and made the trip to New Jersey for two days of indoor skating.  (Why New Jersey?  Free lodging courtesy of Sk8tergrandma!)

Yesterday I spent 3 1/2 hours at Shields Skatepark in Flemington, New Jersey.  With approximately 18,000 square feet of space, the park was a great place for an extended session - for Sk8terdude.  For me, not so much.

The "parent lounge" (and I use the term VERY loosely) consisted of a few tables and some metal folding chairs just outside the fence that keeps the skaters separated from the skateshop, hallway, bathrooms, etc.  Since the space isn't separated, it's maintained at the same temperature as the rest of the park which, yesterday, was just barely above 50 degrees fahrenheit.

If you've never spent a few hours sitting on a cold metal chair in that temperature, without a coat, hat, or gloves, well, I don't recommend you try it.  Even the mom who DID have a hat and gloves left to drive over to Wal-Mart (conveniently around the corner) so she could buy warmer socks.  For the first time in my life, I truly understood the phrase "catch a chill."

It took HOURS for me to thaw.  Seriously.  And that was after riding in a car for 45 minutes with the heat cranked all the way up to 75 and the heat seater on high and several more hours in the house with the heat at a normal temperature and at least an hour in bed under two blankets and a comforter.

And just when I thought I had finally defrosted, we arrived - today - at our second destination:  GardenSk8.

This is our second trip to GardenSk8, but our first since they expanded, adding a second section which Sk8terdude assures me is "sick!"  Last time we were here it was during a horrible ice storm, but we took refuge up the road, visiting Sk8tercousins who live nearby.  Today I thought I would just unpack the laptop, settle into the sofa, and get some work done.

Yeah, right.

Because once again I am freezing my you-know-what off...

My nose is running, I can no longer feel my toes (and I am wearing a thick pair of socks), and in between sentences I have to put on a pair of gloves and wait until my fingers are warm enough to keep typing.

I asked the guy (owner? manager?? dude hanging out in the office???) - only sort of joking - if they didn't have a space heater or something they could rent out to the frozen parents suffering on the sofas.  And he seriously thought I was out of my mind.

Okay, I understand that they can't afford to heat the entire warehouse to a comfortable temperature for sitting around and, even if they could, it would be too warm for the sweaty skaters.

But here's what I don't understand.  In order to survive, all skateparks have to hope that new generations of kids learn to skate.  And until those kids are old enough to drive, the skateparks have to depend on parents willing to drive them.  And for those of us who need to wait while our kids are skating (either because we live too far away or because our kids are too young to be dropped off and left on their own), we would appreciate just a little consideration!

I'd be much more likely to stay longer, visit more often, and spend more money at a park that at least pretended to care about my comfort.  A simple space heater would do the trick (and at this rate I might invest in my own and bring it with me in the future)...even a blanket would be nice....

Is it too much to ask?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Skateboarding Shutdown

Okay, technically, skateboarding has not been shut down. But in the aftermath of Hurrican Irene, we have no power, no water, and no easy Internet access. I'm preserving I-phone usage for important texts and updates on local conditions (like the welcome news that the nearest Starbucks re-opened this morning). Once power is fully restored I will post photos and an update from our trip to see the Streetleague finals in New Jersey.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Stupid Is as Stupid Does!

I was enjoying my last few days of kid-free summer.  No worries.  No hanging out in parent lounges.  Sk8terdad and I stopped at the mall and he ran inside to pick something up.  Knowing he would be right out (the item he needed was in the first store inside the door), I waited in the car, thinking I could relax for a few minutes.

Suddenly I heard a loud rumble and some shouts - and I saw this:


It's dumb stunts like this that give skateboarders a bad reputation.  Seriously.  This video (with apologies for the quality, but there's only so much you can do in a parking garage) was taken in the middle of a very busy afternoon at the local mall.

These two idiots raced down all the levels of the garage, over and over.  (I shot the video the second time they rolled by.)  The turns are tight and blind for drivers.  And I would point out that they aren't even wearing helmets but, really, a helmet won't matter much when they get hit by a car.

Where is mall security???  And what were these two drinking when they decided this was a good idea?

Yes, I called security.

I hope Sk8terdude is never dumb enough to try something like this but, if he is, I hope there's a mom (or someone) in the parking lot who cares enough to take action.

Sometimes it's not enough to "lounge."

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Virtual Parent Lounge

Sk8terdad and I have been in a virtual parent lounge for the last few weeks and we've been - well - lounging around.  Sk8terdude and OlderBrother are both at sleepaway camp, so we've been keeping an eye on them via the internet, where camp photos are posted each day for our viewing pleasure.

It's a parent lounge of a different sort...and we couldn't be enjoying it more if we tried.  For starters, I'm sure I haven't stepped foot in the kitchen since the boys left.  And if either of the boys has a rough moment - trouble with a friend, a minor injury, etc. - by the time we know about it, typically it has long since been resolved, since they are not the most prolific letter writers and "news" tends to arrive about a week after it happens.  And although the camp allows them to email home once a week, OlderBrother has only availed himself of the opportunity two or three times since the end of June, and Sk8terdude claims to have sent two emails, neither of which actually arrived in my inbox (he probably typed the address wrong).

We do know that Sk8terdude switched out his deck on the first day, after his luggage spent an hour or so sitting out in the rain while they assigned bunks.  He claims the grip tape was ruined.  Hmmm....and apparently his old deck is now hanging up in the skate shack for decoration.

The camp does have a small skate park, which is where OlderBrother originally learned to skate.  And any day now we expect to see photos from the annual camp skate competition.  We won't be at all surprised if Sk8terdude is the camp skate counselor some day.  In the meantime, we couldn't be happier lounging at home, watching the two of them enjoy their summer.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Get a Grip

Sk8terdude's latest board is starting to chip at the tail, and since he's heading to sleepaway camp for the next month, I figured he might need a replacement board.  But the cost of new boards is getting prohibitive, so I finally went ahead and ordered a bunch of blank decks online in order to save some money.

The decks (buy five, get one free) arrived today.  We ordered medium concave 7-ply Canadian maple American-made boards.  I don't know how to tell if these are really 7-ply or Canadian or made in the USA, but I guess I'll take their word for it.

At first glance, Sk8terdude seemed to like the feel of the board and the cut.  He thinks he will get a lot of "pop" with the medium concave.

Of course, wearing socks and olleying on the carpet might not be the best test...

Although the decks can be ordered with grip tape, we decided we would wait and have them gripped once they arrived.  For those of you unfamiliar with skateboarding, the grip tape is the sandpaper-like surface that is added to the deck so that skaters' feet don't slip when they are skating.

At some point, every skater needs to learn to put his/her own grip tape on a board, but since the process includes using a razor to cut the excess tape off the sides, I haven't been anxious to let Sk8terdude do it himself.  (We are already experts at broken bones....I don't really want to add stitches to our repertoire - particularly when he's supposed to leave for camp in a few days.)
But at some point every skating parent needs to let go.  So despite my concern, and with a nod to Free Range Parenting, I decided it was time to give it a try.  And since it was already late in the day, we drove to the nearest skate shop.  New Canaan/Ridgefield Ski and Sport recently moved their Ridgefield store to the former Rugged Bear building on Route 7.  I purchased the grip tape and asked if they would supervise Sk8terdude while he put the grip tape on the board.

We purchased Jessup grip tape, which is sold in individual strips.  After peeling away the backing to expose the adhesive, Sk8terdude positioned the tape onto the deck.  He came close to needing a do-over...as you can see in this photo, the tape is positioned all the way up against one edge.  (Usually people center the deck under the tape.)  Fortunately, he got the tape just far enough that it was okay.

He smoothed down the tape, releasing all the air bubbles, and proceeded to the next step:  running the shaft of a screwdriver all the way around the edge of the board in order to crease the grip tape where it would need to be trimmed.

This process was harder than it sounds. Sk8terdude needed to apply a lot of pressure on the screwdriver to get the crease and to break through the grip tape.  Once that was done, it was time for the cutting.  Now I have to say that in all the times I've seen this done, every person in every skate shop has used a razor blade.  Free range or not, a razor blade sounded like a bad idea to me.  So out of my bag I pulled the box cutter.  [What?  Doesn't everyone carry a box cutter???  Okay.  I admit I brought the box cutter with me, figuring that it would be safer for him to use - since it has a handle - than a regular razor blade.]  Ken (the guy who was helping us at the shop) showed Sk8terdude how to hold down the board with one hand and slice through the grip tape with the other.  There were two women working in the shop.  Clearly both moms themselves, they said out loud what I was shouting in my head:  "CUT AWAY FROM YOUR BODY!"  Apparently, that isn't so easy when cutting grip tape, and since Ken is lefthanded and Sk8terdude is righthanded, the demonstration was a little complicated, too!

They worked together:



And then Sk8terdude finished on his own:

No blood...no stitches...  I'd call that a success!

Is he too young for a box cutter???  I'm still not certain.  I did end the day with a stern reminder that despite his success, he still does NOT have my permission to use the box cutter without adult supervision.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Future Skatepark....continued

Remember my post from May about the two guys building a skatepark in the woods in Milford, Pennsylvania (if not, you can read it here)...  This past weekend we were in Milford, so I dropped them an email asking for an update.

Joe wrote back to say that they are moving along, and he sent me this link so that we could see the progress.  It's pretty amazing, isn't it?  When they originally told me they were building it in the woods, I didn't quite realize that they really meant IN THE WOODS!  And no joke about the bears in the area.  Sk8terdude and OlderBrother go to overnight camp nearby and we've seen bears on the camp property.

We were glad to hear and see the progress, but Sk8terdude was bummed that nothing is ready to skate...yet.  So, Kelley Bros:  we're ready when you are!

(Don't forget - the guys are still looking for donations of old equipment they can salvage for the skating surface.  Let them know if you have any leads.)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Born to Teach

And so Sk8terdude's first week as a "teacher" comes to an end, and by all accounts it was a huge success!

As I mentioned in a previous post, this week Sk8terdude was one of the "teachers" at the Pee-Wee Ramp Camp (for new skaters ages 4-7) at S.P.I.R.I.T. in Ridgefield.  Too young to be hired for real, he was offered the opportunity to be a volunteer helper.  I have to admit, I was a little worried that after a short time he might decide to stop helping and just go skate.  But it turns out he more than rose to the occasion.

On day one, Sk8terdude came home after the three hour camp and announced that he started the day by showing new kids the park, then worked one-on-one with a boy who had a little more experience than the others.  He told us that at the end of the session he gave the boy a sticker for working so hard and he announced that "all the kids left with smiles on their faces."  He was very proud to come home wearing his new staff shirt:


When we arrived this afternoon to pick him up after the third (and final) day of Pee-Wee Camp, we heard nothing but rave reviews of his performance.  Apparently he showed a real gift for knowing which kids needed help at any given time and he remained focused and engaged with them the entire time.  The camp gave Sk8terdude a ribbon that said "Special Helper" to thank him for his hard work and he helped distribute the ribbons and certificates to each of the campers.

They wrapped up the program with the traditional water balloon fight.  Soaking wet and smiling from ear to ear, Sk8terdude left for the day.  He'll return next week as a camper in the regular program, proud to know that he helped a new group of kids learn to skate.

Monday, July 4, 2011

1st Visit to 2nd Nature on the 4th of July (wish I could think of a 3rd)

Happy Independence Day!

Question:  What parent wouldn't want to spend this national holiday driving an hour to an industrial park in Peekskill, New York so his/her child could try out a new indoor skatepark?

Answer:  Apparently a lot of them....since there is almost no one here.

This morning we picked up one of Sk8terdude's friends and headed west to Peekskill for our first visit to the new 2nd Nature Skatepark.  This new facility opened about three weeks ago, and the two boys were given a coupon for a free session when they competed in Ridgefield last month.  So we figured a free indoor skate session (read:  air conditioning for the parents) didn't sound like a bad deal on a hot and humid summer day.

We arrived to find the infamous Burton at the front desk.  You all remember Burton, right?  He's the dude who failed to show for our friend's son's birthday party at the beginning of June (when he had been hired to run the party and give lessons) and then showed up late to the competition last month at S.P.I.R.I.T.

He's actually a pretty nice guy...but with the new park still partly under construction (well, not the skating part, just the shop and "lounge" is still a work in progress), he's got his hands full.  It took us almost forty minutes and three phone calls to the parent shop in Mamaroneck before I was up and running on the internet (hey, parents, free wi-fi but you have to guess how to get online, lol) and now Burton is in the back, unpacking boxes and occasionally interrupting our peace and quiet with the sounds of drilling, hammering, and general construction.

I'll give them a break on the "parent lounge" - such as it is - with the hope that the next time I return it will actually be a lounge.  Today it's a folding table, two folding chairs, and a "couch" which previously did business as the back seat of someone's van, complete with seatbelts, in case you've had too much gatorade and need to be held down so you don't slide onto the floor.

But even the shop isn't fully functional.  Sk8terdude needs yet another pair of skate shoes - the most recent pair is now sporting matching holes on the bottom of each heel - but they don't stock anything here below size 6.5, and Sk8terdude is a 5.5 at best.

Of course the important question, for the boys, is whether or not the park was worth the trip.

It's smaller than I thought it would be - about 5000 square feet - and with the bay door open to the outside, it's quite toasty in there (not that the kids seem to mind).  Upstairs is a mini-ramp room.  Eventually they plan to finish a party room with a park lookout, add a cafe, and more.  But for now it's still a bare bones operation.  A little bigger than Eastern Pulse but not as big as Greenside or Haven, it will keep them busy today for sure and will be worth a return trip, but I can't imagine we would make the trip here regularly enough to warrant a season pass.

Sk8terdude just popped his head out for a sip of water and, as he raced back inside, called out over his shoulder, "This is so fun!"  So there you have it - the official reviews are in


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

One Thing Leads to Another

Wednesday.  S.P.I.R.I.T. Ramp Camp Day 3.

Here's the "one thing..."


And here's "another."
















At this rate, it's going to be a long (and expensive) summer...


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ready, Set, Skate!

Missed me?

Between rainy days, end-of-school-year commitments, and two out-of-town weekends in a row, we've had a slow stretch in terms of skateboarding.  But yesterday was anything but slow.  The long-awaited competition at S.P.I.R.I.T. finally arrived!

Eager to help out, Sk8terdude and I were there early as volunteers.  He moved tables (okay, he HELPED move tables), squeegeed the standing water in the park, and stayed out of trouble while I helped set up the registration table.  Although the day started out gloomy and gray, by the time we had everything ready to go, the clouds were clearing.  I was thankful I had packed sunscreen in the car - and I was wishing I had also packed bugspray.  (Thanks, Linda, for bringing some with you for me to use!)

Like every other competition we've ever been to, this one failed to start on time...since the guy from 2nd Nature Skate Shop had a birthday party to run in Rye and he was behind schedule.  (Which is pretty ironic, considering our experience a few weeks ago, when the SAME guy failed to show up at all for our friend's son's birthday party.  You can read about that here.)  Eventually, the guys at S.P.I.R.I.T. decided to start without 2nd Nature and the competition was underway (and eventually he did show up).

Three hours later, Sk8terdude was the proud winner of a tee-shirt, some stickers, a 2nd Nature DVD, and a pass good for a visit to the new indoor skatepark 2nd Nature just opened in Peekskill, having taken third place in his division.  (Yes, I have video of his two competition runs.  And, no, I'm not posting the video here.  I forgot that if I was taping I had to keep quiet!  But family and friends can email me if they want to see it....)

Tomorrow the skateboarding really ramps up (hah!).  Sk8terdude will be in ramp camp for a week.  The following week he'll be volunteer staff at the pee-wee camp (for kids ages 4-7).  He is SO excited about the opportunity to teach - not to mention the staff tee shirt!  The week after that he has another five days of ramp camp...and then there's a week of sports camp before he heads to overnight camp for a month.

While he gears up for three straight weeks of skateboarding, I'm gearing up to be his driver.  Back and forth to the skatepark...with the price of gas these days, I'm glad it's only five miles away!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Some New Trucks, a New Skatepark, and a Bunch of New Skateboarding Parents

We've been busy.

Sk8terdude likes to skate his trucks really loose.  So loose, in fact, that this week the Thunder Hollow trucks fell off his board a few times and, eventually, it became clear that he would need to replace them.  There just wasn't enough thread left on the bolt to anchor them to the board.  (Or something like that...)

I was in Greenwich on Thursday, so I stopped in at Capsule Boardshop for a quick fix and in the process I got a mini "trucks" lesson.  For those of you who don't skate, the trucks are the hardware under the skateboard that hold the wheels.  They come in different sizes, which are determined either by the length of the axle OR by the length of the hanger (the shorter piece encasing the axle).  And some companies report size in inches and others in millimeters, so it's important to know what you are looking for when you shop for trucks.  For example, a 129 mm Indy truck is approximately equal to a 5" Venture.

Since Sk8terdude is skating on an 8.5" board right now, he needs trucks that bring the wheels close to the edge of the board.  For 8" and higher width boards, 139 mm trucks are the most popular size, so he is now sporting a new set of 139 mm Indies.  Fortunately, his wheels still have some life in them, so the damage to my wallet was less than I anticipated.

Despite an unexpected detour through the back country of Greenwich, I did make it home in time for Sk8terdude to break in the new trucks at S.P.I.R.I.T.. where they are gearing up for the big contest on June 25th (raindate 26th).  Details should be posted on their website any day now...

On Friday I was in a parent lounge of a different sort...watching Sk8terdude earn his purple belt in karate.  He worked hard this spring to qualify for the test.  We celebrated that evening and he's still grinning from ear to ear.

Saturday found us driving down to Rye, New York, where Sk8terdude had been invited to a birthday party at the Rye Skatepark.  It's a small park, perfect for the mostly-beginners party.  It was our first time at Rye and, if we lived in town, I suppose we would be there regularly, but it did give me a renewed appreciation for our "local" park in Ridgefield, which is larger and nicer, as far as I'm concerned.

The birthday boy, a family friend a few years younger than Sk8terdude, has taken lessons through 2nd Nature, and the 2nd Nature guys were supposed to give lessons at the party.  Unfortunately, due to a scheduling misunderstanding, the party started, the kids were ready to learn to skate (there were a bunch who had never been on a skateboard before), and there were no instructors in sight.

We corralled the parents of the newbies and Sk8terdude showed the boys how to push and glide on the flat surface.  We had them practice that for awhile, then moved them onto the ramp with the least slope (off the funbox), with Sk8terdude and the parents holding their hands as they tried rolling downhill.  Fortunately, the kids all had a great time.  Eventually 2nd Nature sent a friend of a friend over to help out - although he arrived at the same time as the pizza, so guess what won out?  He was terrific - and patient - and worked with some of the boys after they enjoyed a slice.

Some of the parents (and the birthday boy's grandparents) were a bit nervous about skateboarding as a sport.  Mostly they are concerned about injury.  Since our trip to Kona I can no longer say that Sk8terdude has never broken a bone skateboarding but, hey, it was only a pinky!

None of these parents think twice about buying their child a bicycle, but consider these statistics from Safe Kids USA


They also note:

For all ages, bicycle crashes follow only to riding animals as the leading cause of serious injury due to sports/recreational activity.

How many parents who don't want their children to skateboard think nothing of signing them up for horseback riding lessons?

Don't get me wrong - I'm NOT saying skateboarding carries no risk.  But if you make sure your child wears correct protective equipment, skates only in supervised skateparks, and learns proper techniques, you can reduce the risk of serious injury.

After our trip to Rye?  Sk8terdude was back to S.P.I.R.I.T. for more skating....

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Board Slides and Big Strides

Sk8terdude is picking up new skills faster than I can pick up the new terminology!

Today he came home from the skatepark and announced that he had "homework."  He needs to practice his boardslides (a new addition to his repertoire) and he needs to practice "pushing switch."

For those of you who don't speak skateboard, a boardslide means he is olleying - jumping his board up onto a rail - and sliding along the rail on the bottom of the skateboard deck with the sets of wheels on either side.  "Switch" means that he is skating with his opposite foot forward.  Usually he skates with his left foot forward and uses his right to push on the ground.  When he skates "switch" he is skating "goofy" with his right foot forward.  When he is "pushing switch" he has his right foot forward and he's using his left foot to push on the ground to gain momentum.

He also dropped in switch today on the two-foot quarterpipe.

Watching skateboarding on television recently (I think it was the Streetleague Seattle competition, but I'm not positive), I heard a commentator say that soon we won't be referring to switch tricks.  They predict that in the near future all pro skaters will be able to skate their tricks in both directions.

Or something like that.

As I mentioned, I'm having enough trouble keeping up with the big strides Sk8terdude is making as a skateboarder.  Also keeping up with advancements in the field might be more than I can handle...

Friday, May 27, 2011

Cast Off...Competition On!

Sk8terdude had his cast removed today.  Hooray!  Of course, since he's been skating the entire time, despite the cast, it isn't a big difference in terms of his activity level, but we are happy to have that stinky, dirty thing gone from his body AND our home.

Now he has both hands completely free again, so he is practicing grabs in anticipation of the June 25th contest coming up at the Graham Dickinson S.P.I.R.I.T. Skate Park.  Complete details will be available next week (I promise!), but in the meantime, mark your calendars.

The competition will include beginner, intermediate, and advance levels for both in-line skating and skateboarding with prizes for first, second, and third place winners in each category.

Raindate is June 26th...but let's hope it's not necessary.

Spread the word and head over to SPIRIT for some practice time at the park.  Tell them Sk8terdude sent you!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Future Skatepark Hopes to Go Green

I was in Milford, Pennsylvania on Monday, where I happened to meet twins Joe and Sam Kelley, who are attempting to build a skatepark in an otherwise skate-deprived land.  (Trust me.  Last summer we took Sk8terdude to the skatepark in Port Jervis, NY when we were heading to see OlderBrother on Visiting Day at camp.  Let's just say that a few ramps and a fun box in an empty parking lot do not a skatepark make...)

The Kelleys have begged and borrowed their way to most of what they need for this park, including land (thanks to a family member).  They hope to bring the Reduce! Reuse! Recycle! motto to skateboarding (and hope to keep the project light on the wallet) and to that end they are searching high and low for skateparks who are replacing equipment so that they can refurbish and reuse old ramps, etc. rather than purchase everything new.

According to the young men, the most critical missing piece is Skatelite or alternative products with which they can resurface the donated items.

So...if you or someone you know is retiring anything they could use, and if you are located even remotely in this part of the county (recently they drove to Indiana to haul away ramps), give them a holler.

And be sure to tell them Sk8terdude (or his mom) sent you.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Chipped Tail and Pretty in Pink

For most of today we had good weather in Connecticut, which meant Sk8terdude was back at S.P.I.R.I.T. despite his still-broken finger.  About 90 minutes into his session, he called home to say that he "landed hard and chipped the tail" and needed me to drive back with a replacement deck.



Um...it's only been three weeks since we purchased the last deck...and that one replaced another one that was only a month old.  Can you hear the giant sucking sound in my piggy bank?

So although I'm glad I bought two decks at once from Enclave Skate Shop (since it meant I didn't have to go shopping for a new deck today), I'm beginning to think it would be easier and cheaper to start chopping down all the maple trees in the backyard to make our own.  (LOL - I'm sure Sk8terdude would just LOVE that idea!!)

I am seriously considering buying him blank decks in bulk and using those instead, an idea that one of the skatepark monitors tossed out while (very kindly - thanks, George!) attaching Sk8terdude's trucks and wheels to the replacement deck.

What do you think?  Have any of you tried this?  Any suggestions for reliable sources?  There are a bunch of online resources, but how do I know if the quality will be any good?  (On the other hand, at approximately $10 per blank deck, it might be worth the risk even if they aren't so great...)

By this point in the afternoon, the clouds were rolling in and the skies were threatening a major thunderstorm (oh yeah, The Weather Channel was predicting one, too), so I decided to hang out at the park in case the rain began and Sk8terdude needed to beat a speedy retreat in order to keep his cast dry.

We used to use the Pro-Cel Waterproof Cast Liner material made by Gore Industries (of Gore-Tex fame), which made having a cast significantly easier for all of us.  Sk8terdude went to Florida twice with waterproof casts:  once to Disneyworld, where it made water rides and the hotel pool possible, and once to visit his Florida grandparents, where he was even able to go snorkeling in the ocean.  Unfortunately, Gore has discontinued the product line (maybe we were their best customers?  we were certainly their biggest fans!!), so this cast means rain is a problem.

While I was hanging out in my "personal parent lounge" (yeah, the car), another mom arrived with her two kids.  Although they live in NYC they have a weekend/summer home up here, so we know them from the town beach as well as the skatepark.  The daughter, V, was sporting this skateboard:


I was really delighted to see the hot pink grip tape!  I'm not personally into pink, but clearly she is, and she couldn't have been more excited to have something different on her skateboard.  Unlike the barriers to entry I talked about with the women at Kona Skate Park, this was clearly an effort on the part of some savvy marketing executive to encourage more girls to skate.

Or so I thought.

Turns out that as soon as the boys in the store saw V getting pink tape on her board, they all started clamoring for the same color!  And a quick google search showed me that more than one company makes pink grip tape, so clearly it's in demand by more than just the handful of girls who skate.

I wonder if Sk8terdude will jump on the bandwagon and demand a hot pink cast next time he needs one?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sidelined

It's raining in Connecticut, and according to the gurus at weather.com, the rain is going to continue for the next five or six days.  Add to that the nasty cold/cough/fever that Sk8terdude is suddenly sporting, and it looks like he is sidelined this week.  Maybe this is a sign that he shouldn't have been skating with the broken finger?

Fortunately, we have plenty of skateboard-related activities to keep us busy:
  • Streetleague Seattle is still on the TiVo so we can watch it over and over and over and...but for those of you who didn't see it/tape it/save it, it's also available online
  • Tony Hawk Ride (the one with the "skateboard") for the Wii
  • Tony Hawk's Underground 1 and 2 (the ones without the "skateboard")
  • Tony Hawk's Proving Ground for the XBox
  • Picture F**ing Perfect - a DVD featuring local skateboarders, including Sk8terdude's current teacher, Paul Hintz (Sorry, guys, I can't link to your info because this blog is coded for G-rated content only.  If you had named your video something else it would have been okay, but...)
But mostly Sk8terdude is spending time thinking about an upcoming skate competition that has just been announced at S.P.I.R.I.T. in Ridgefield, Connecticut.  I'll be posting complete information as soon as it is available.  In the meantime, save the date - Saturday, June 25th - and plan on joining us for a terrific afternoon!

Monday, May 9, 2011

It's Official - a Salter 2 fracture

We pulled into the orthopedist's office five minutes before they opened this morning. Since we are "frequent flyers" here, they double-booked us into an appointment and got Sk8terdude an x-ray. Not surprisingly, he has a salter 2 fracture, meaning he broke the bone and the break turned and went into the growth plate.

This is what the bruising and swelling looked like this morning.  He's getting a bright green cast and then I'll drop him off at school.  Good news:  the cast will come off four days before the first skateboard competition of the season.

He took this photo on his way to school:

How bad is it that we've already started repeating cast colors???

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Best Mom in the Whole World

I must admit that I wasn't thinking about Mother's Day when I scheduled our Jacksonville trip, but it turns out that returning home the day before the holiday was a really great choice.  This week I was officially named "Best Mom in the Whole World" by Sk8terdude.  (Fortunately for me, he was the only child voting).  I've had more hugs, kisses, and thank yous from him over the last few days than I've had in the last few months (maybe even years).  So I can't say I was surprised when my morning started with Sk8terdude willingly getting in the car with Sk8terdad to run some Mother's Day errands, including picking out a card, buying a basket of pastries/muffins from my favorite local bakery, and getting my daily dose of Starbucks.

I am, however, more than a little surprised by how my day is ending:  Sk8terdude and I are sitting together watching Street League Seattle.  After watching the first half hour, we set the DVR so we could go out to dinner, then returned to watch the end.  By itself, that's not so surprising.  What is surprising is that apparently I've learned a few things along the way that I never thought I would know OR care about.

In addition to knowing who Rob Dyrdek is (and, fyi, being incredibly impressed by him), I can recognize and correctly identify many of the skaters in the competition (Nyjah Huston, Chaz Ortiz, Shane O'Neill, Ryan Sheckler, Chris Cole, and, now, Billy Marks).  And I can finally identify the difference between an ollie and a nollie (which might have happened sooner if someone had told me before now that nollie = nose + ollie).

The biggest surprise of all is how much I'm enjoying watching!  I love the format of the Street League competitions.  Unlike a jam session, this format allows me to watch each skater and really understand what tricks each skater is attempting.  And having it on DVR means I can rewind and watch a trick a second time if I need to.  There are still nuances that escape me.  For example, if two skaters do the same trick, and they both land it, I can't necessarily tell if one did it better than another.  Are there subtle differences in balance and style that I can't see?  Maybe...but I have a little more than three months until we attend the August finals in New Jersey, and I'm determined to know a little more by the time we get to the Prudential Center.  After all, I won't be able to hear the color commentary when we're sitting in the stands!

Watching (and enjoying) a skateboarding competition is a Mother's Day activity I could never have predicted once upon a time - before kids, and before Sk8terdude became a skateboarder - but now I can't imagine not sharing this with him.  And if supporting his interest in skateboarding is what it takes to be the "Best Mom in the Whole World," then I'm okay with that.  In fact, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Kona Post Script: Footprints and Memories

There's a saying about protecting the environment that says "Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but memories."

We didn't leave many footprints at Kona, although Sk8terdude probably left a little blood here and there, thanks to some minor scrapes.

We did take home many terrific memories...and what seems to be a broken finger:

He jammed the pinky around 2 pm on Friday while riding down the high side of the pink bowl.  Good parent that I am, I told him to suck it up and keep skating.  After all, it wasn't going to hurt LESS if he was sitting in the hotel with nothing to do... We flew to Jacksonville so he could skate at Kona, and he was going to skate at Kona no matter what!  Besides, it's not like he skates ON his pinky...

All in all, a fabulous few days in Florida - and on the flight home we started planning next year's skate trip.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Sk8terdude at Kona, continued

Although we had torrential downpours at our hotel this morning, the pavement at Kona stayed dry!  Thank you to everyone who put in a good word for us with Mother Nature (or whomever).

We were in the parking lot by 12:45 p.m., with our fingers crossed.  The doors opened at 1 p.m. and Sk8terdude hit the park running (skating)...  Since we were the first and only ones there, I ventured out into the park to shoot some video and some photos (before skateboards started flying every which way).

Here he is on the famous Kona snake run.  (Look for his start way up high near the red fence in the background!)


And here he is standing at the bottom of the 14 foot half-pipe.  As big as it looks in the photo, it's even more impressive in person.  He's outside contemplating dropping in right now, but I can't watch, so I'm inside waiting to hear whether or not he conquers it.


Kona Skate Park overview part 1

Technology glitch solved!!!  Here's the other part of Kona Skate Park:


Now you see why I said this place is HUGE!

Kona Skate Park overview part 2

Where's Kona Skate Park overview part 1?  Still stuck in technical-glitch-land!

In the meantime, here's part of the park:




It's raining on and off this morning.  I have my fingers crossed that Sk8terdude will be able to skate at Kona again this afternoon.  If you have any pull with Mother Nature, now would be the time to use it on our behalf...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Kona - The Parent Lounge

We're back at Kona today. The sun is out and, for Jacksonville in May, it's delightfully cool - about 75 degrees Fahrenheit - and there's a light breeze. Perfect for me!


Sk8terdude was here as soon as the doors opened at 1 p.m. He took a one hour private lesson with Grady, a local teen who's been skating here for about seven years.

While he was skating, I was at my favorite parent lounge: one of the many Starbucks which populate the Jacksonville landscape. (Is it just me, or does everyone think Jacksonville is just one giant strip mall?) Many thanks to L. (my friend B's sister) who took an hour out of her busy parenting life to meet me for some conversation and some passion tea lemonade.


When L. headed out to pick up her kids at school, I returned to Kona, where I'm currently blogging from the parent lounge (pictured here).




When they said the parent lounge consisted of a few booths in the skate shop, they weren't kidding! Fortunately, Erin and Amber, the two young women behind the counter, have been both friendly AND informative.



Erin tells me that the skate park covers approximately 1.5 acres, although the property totals about 6 acres. Open since 1977, it is the oldest continuously operating commercial park in the United States (maybe the world?). Over the years they've hosted everything from the Tony Hawk Pro-Tour to the first-ever vert ramp contest in skateboard history.



I asked Erin and Amber if they are also skateboarders. Both admitted that although they used to skate, they've mostly given up the sport. We had an interesting conversation about the barriers to entry for women in skateboarding, including the fact that the male-dominated park can be intimidating to women (especially young women) trying to learn. Kona does host "Ladies Night" on Monday evenings, when women can skate free, and there's a discount every day for women who want to skate at the park.



According to Amber, Kona also broke ground by hiring women to work in the skate shop. And although she acknowledges the sexist undertones of the decision (after all, cute girls behind the counter might lead to additional business from hormonal teen boys!), she also says she loves putting the boards together. With a lot of friends who skate here regularly, Amber says the job is fun, even when she works six-day weeks (in the summer) and long hours (during contests).



Apparently there are some young girls who skate here (although I've only seen two so far) and I'm told there are some skating moms, too...but not THIS mom!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Kona Skate Park - First Impressions

Well let's start with big...as in enormous...as in GINORMOUS (a word I might have heard from Sk8terdude today if Kona weren't so large that I couldn't see him half the time, much less hear him)... The skatepark covers so much area, in fact, that I needed to pan the camera from two separate angles in order to video the entire thing.


Now for some annoying technological reason that is beyond my sleep-deprived brain to comprehend, I haven't been able to get those videos onto this post, so hang in there and I promise to post them...somehow...eventually, so you can see for yourselves. In the meantime, you'll just have to take my word for it. (Or go online and search YouTube for some Kona videos. I'm sure there are a gazillion of them.)


We pulled into the parking lot a little after 5 p.m. Since it's Jacksonville in May, the sun was still shining, the sky was bright blue, and the temperature was just under 80 degrees fahrenheit. I don't think we made it to the check in desk before I was bitten by the first mosquito. (note to self: buy bug spray along with sunscreen tomorrow a.m.!)


I filled out the waiver while Sk8terdude watched the REQUIRED Kona orientation video, which explained park rules (helmets...call your moves...yell "loose board" if your board gets away from you, etc.), and showed him which areas of the park were for beginners and which were for advanced skaters. I have to say I was really glad to see the video (I mean, I was glad that it existed and that Sk8terdude had to watch it). The park is really intimidating to newcomers and the video helped explain a lot. I love that Kona takes skateboarding safety seriously.



While he was watching, I was paying - or not paying - for him to skate. During a quick look at their website during our planning stages, I noticed that kids can skate free for five consecutive days if they have all As and Bs on their report cards. Luckily for me, Sk8terdude's most recent progress report qualified him for free skating, as well as a discount ($5 instead of $7) on the one-time registration fee. I brought a copy of the report card with me and took advantage of the opportunity to save the cost of entry for our three days here.


The park was busier than I would have expected on midweek after 5 p.m., but the bigger surprise to me was the number of parents (fathers) skating with their kids. Kona has a "parents skate free with paid admission for children" policy - but I promise that's not enough to get ME on a skateboard! It was great to see, however, and one dad gets a big shout-out and thank you. He called in his two kids and their two friends and introduced them all to Sk8terdude and, within minutes, Sk8terdude was skating with a pack of "new best friends." Later, as we were leaving, the dad said he would be out of town tomorrow, but he would make sure his daughter drove the boys over after school to skate with Sk8terdude again. Talk about a warm welcome!


My advanced planning paid off in a few other ways, but failed miserably in one really important one. When I called Kona last week to finalize details (and book a private skate lesson for tomorrow), I was careful to ask key questions.


Does Kona have a parent lounge?



They told me the parent lounge was an area in the skate shop with booths and tables.



Does Kona have free wi-fi in the parent lounge?



They told me the parent lounge does indeed have free wi-fi.


They neglected to tell me (but I was delighted to see) that there are also many areas outside where parents can watch the action. In addition to bleachers near the "street course," there are picnic tables on a deck overlooking the lower half of the park and, my personal favorite, picnic tables in a covered area up above the bowls. This is a view from down below:




And here's the best part: there is an electrical outlet up there and...MAYBE...the wi-fi signal will be strong enough for me to sit outside tomorrow and work (or blog, or waste time surfing the internet) while enjoying this beautiful weather.


As for my big research failure - it was a question I never thought to ask:


What about the bathrooms???

If you've been reading this blog from the beginning, I can already hear you snickering. (If not, you can read my very first post, which includes the bathroom saga, here.)

Well it turns out that the Kona bathrooms are currently being renovated. That's probably great news for local folks and future visitors. But for us, this week, the only options are the port-o-potties outside in the hot Florida sun or a trip down the road to anyplace with running water. I'm sure Sk8terdude won't care...but I will!

Is it Kona Skate Park or is it Heaven?

Sk8terdude negotiated his way straight here from the airport. No dinner. No hotel check-in. (No complaints.)

I'm not sure he's ever going to leave!

Can"t Wait to Skate!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Black and Blue but Better than Usual...Sk8terdude also pays the price of skateboarding!


Just for the record, we do NOT beat him with a baseball bat! These are the lumps, bumps, and scrapes that go hand in hand (shin in shin?) with skateboarding. Sk8terdude has been practicing some tricks that involve the board spinning around and, until he masters the tricks, most of the spinning ends with the board hitting his legs. In fact, his legs looked worse a few days ago, but I kept forgetting to take the picture.


Note to grandparents: stop freaking out. He's fine. And happy. And he sees these bruises as impressive testament to his perseverence.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Another Day, Another Dollar (or two, or three, or...)

You may remember that just under one month ago, Sk8terdude got a new skateboard.


Yesterday it looked like this:



For those of you who don't skate (or who can't make heads or tails of this photo), you're looking at what was the edge of the board near the tail. I was hoping the board would at least last through our trip to Kona Skatepark in Florida, but it isn't even going to make it onto the plane.

Instead, Sk8terdude will be rocking this new shop deck from our buddies at Enclave Skate Shop.



Yes, we took another drive to New Haven this morning to purchase TWO decks...one for Sk8terdude to skate on immediately (thanks, Ryan, for gripping the deck and transferring the trucks and wheels from the old board) and one for the next time he needs a new board. I figure it's more money I'm spending today, but with the way gas prices are going up and up and up, at least I won't have to drive back to New Haven to replace this board once it, too, suffers irreperable harm.

Since we were already at the shop, we also picked up a new Pro-Tec helmet. Sk8terdude pointed out the other day that he was still skating in the first helmet we ever bought him - almost five years ago - and not only was it getting a little small, it was also REALLY stinky!

On the way home we stopped at Jennings Beach so he could break in the new board (that's break IN...not break). We practically had the park to ourselves (surprisingly), so Sk8terdude spent about an hour there before I begged for a lunch break. As he was taking off his knee pads, the velcro strap finally gave up the ghost. He was already skating in an unmatched pair, since he'd worn out another strap on a different knee pad earlier in the week. So we stopped around the corner at Day One Skateshop in Fairfield to pick up a new set of elbow and knee pads. After all, these have to go in our luggage on Wednesday...and if you smelled the old set you'd know why a new set was a good investment.

After lunch? More skating, of course! Sk8terdude is currently in Ridgefield for another afternoon at S.P.I.R.I.T. He phoned home a few minutes ago to tell me they will be hosting a skate contest on May 25th. (Really??? On a school day? I'll bet he got that information wrong...)

So by 2 p.m. today I had paid for two decks, a new helmet, new knee and elbow pads, lunch at McDonald's, and more gallons of gas than I want to think about at over $4 per gallon! And before the day is over, I'm guessing I'll be on the hook for his entry fee into the contest at S.P.I.R.I.T.

How old do you need to be before you can (legally) get a job in Connecticut???

Sk8terdude better start looking for a way to finance this passion of his...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Road trip plans: Kona Skate Park, Jacksonville Florida

With spring break in our rear view mirror, it's time to set our sights on the next road trip. Sk8terdude and I are heading to Jacksonville, Florida next week for our (okay, his) long-awaited trip to Kona Skate Park.

I'm not sure exactly how or when this plan was originally hatched, but somehow we went from wishing he could go there, to thinking about going there, to buying plane tickets and, now, with the trip looming, I guess I'd better book a hotel and arrange for a rental car before it's too late!

I did phone ahead to ask about the parent lounge! I'm not a big sun-worshipper, so the thought of spending three days at a Florida skatepark isn't exactly my idea of heaven. The folks at Kona promise me there's an indoor lounge (ooh - I forgot to ask if it's air conditioned!) and free wi-fi, so I'll be working (and blogging) from Jacksonville.

The skatepark opens at 1:00 p.m. during the week, so we might hit the beach in the morning, or the hotel pool (note to self: pack lots of sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses), and I'm hoping to meet up with the sister of a good friend for lunch at least once while I'm there. (Otherwise I'm doomed to three straight days of nothing but skate-talk.)

The park offers private lessons. We're planning to have Sk8terdude take one lesson when we first arrive - if for no other reason than to have someone with him who knows the park well and can show him some of the ins and outs, including skating the famous snake runs.

In the meantime, I'm soliciting advice for restaurants, activities, etc. in the area. The last time I was in Jacksonville was in 1998. At that time, the city was mostly a chain of chains: Denny's, Applebees, TGIFridays, etc. on every corner and not a lot in the way of good ethnic food. (We found the only Thai restaurant at the time - in a strip mall on Atlantic Boulevard - and loved it, but beyond that Jacksonville was a culinary wasteland.)

Suggestions??? Please feel free to comment!

And don't forget to wish for perfect weather - which for me means a little overcast, slightly cooler than normal, and a light breeze. What are my chances?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Newtown Stair Set

Sk8terdude took an early morning trip to Dickinson Memorial Park in Newtown, Connecticut, for his first-ever trip to the skatepark there. It is a beautifully sunny day here, with very gusty winds. Sk8terdad spent most of his time in the car, but stepped out long enough to grab some photos of the park, along with this video of Sk8terdude landing the stair set.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Morning at Jennings Beach

Spring Break for Sk8terdude means extra time at the skatepark. Fortunately, Sk8terdad is also on Spring Break, so the two of them spent time yesterday morning at Jennings Beach. Sk8terdude is really going to miss this skatepark over the summer...too bad we don't have a Fairfield beach pass.






Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sk8terdude's 180 Transfer

Yesterday was raw, cold, and rainy...but before the rain started to fall, Sk8terdude was able to squeeze in a quick hour at S.P.I.R.I.T.  Many thanks to G. for catching this move on tape.  (Can I still say tape even if it's digital?)

It's Spring Break for many of the schools here in Connecticut, so Sk8terdude is hoping for good weather.  S.P.I.R.I.T. will be opening at noon every day (weather permitting).  Keep your fingers crossed!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sk8terdude's New Skate Mentor

Sk8terdude is taking lessons from Paul Hintz and loving every minute of it.  Here's a video of Paul skating at the now-defunct Vertigo Skate Park:


Sunday, April 10, 2011

"Mom, They Said the F-word!"

Before 11 a.m. today, Sk8terdude was back at Jennings Beach Skate Park.  It was cool and overcast, but that didn't keep the ten or so diehard skaters from their early morning session.  He had a fabulous time.  Many thanks to the two older skaters who told him he needed to get up more speed if he wanted to olley the box at the top of the ramp closer to the road side of the park.  By the end of our two hours there he had landed it more than once.


At some point I noticed a mom on the far side of the park.  She was standing by the fence with a young boy who appeared to be skating for the first time.  He tried getting on and off his board once or twice.  She tried holding his hand as he rolled down the first bump in the "hump run" around the back end of the park.  After watching awhile from the car, I sent Sk8terdude over to offer some help.


Together they walked back to where I was standing and we started chatting.  She started by saying that she needed to go buy her son knee and elbow pads (and he chimed in and said he needed "butt pads").  I saw that his helmet was too loose and suggested she adjust it to fit him.  Sk8terdude loosened his trucks (they were so tight that even Sk8terdude couldn't stay on his board), then showed him a spot in the park where there was a gentle slope so he could try just rolling down that section of the park until he got a better sense of balance.  Then Sk8terdude dropped into the bowl and left him to practice.


After a few tries, her son came back over to where we were waiting.  Referring to a group of teenagers who were skating together, he exclaimed in not-quite-a-stage-whisper, "Mom, they said the F-word!"


Over his helmet, the other mom and I exchanged an amused glance.


If you've been reading this blog regularly, you may recall that recently I was interviewed for an article about being the parent of a kid who skateboards, BMX bikes, etc.  One of the questions that the reporter asked was, "Are there any negative stereotypes that your son has encountered being involved in skateboarding?"  This f-word moment at Jennings Beach reminded me of her question.


People who hear that I have a skateboarding son sometimes ask me if I worry about "bad influences" at the skatepark.  And the truth is, I do sometimes worry about the image skateboarding has with the general public, how much that image reflects what really goes on at skateparks, and whether or not Sk8terdude is in any real danger hanging out there.  But "bad influences" are everywhere...if you're looking for them.  I hope that as parents, Sk8terdad and I have done our jobs and given our children a solid foundation and set of values so that they are not so easily influenced - at the skatepark, at school, at camp, and any other place where "bad influences" might exist.


And I have to admit, long before Sk8terdude ever set foot in a skatepark, he learned the f-word from OlderBrother who, in turn, learned it (in first grade, no less) from a classmate who lives down the street.


Where did the neighbor - also six years old at the time - learn the word?  From his mother!  So much for scary places with "bad influences."


I once heard a psychologist joke (or not joke), "If it isn't one thing, it's the mother."


I guess in this case, that was more than true!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sk8terdude at S.P.I.R.I.T.

Thanks to "Tall Paul" for shooting this video of Sk8terdude (and for the great laugh at the end!)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Perseverence

It was a mostly sunny weekend here in Connecticut, so Saturday and Sunday saw lots of skateboarding for Sk8terdude and his friends.  He even started out in shorts this [Sunday] afternoon (although I warned him that it was colder out than it looked).  Sure enough, by mid-afternoon he was asking me to bring long pants to the skatepark.  Normally I might have let him suffer the consequences of his decision - since it wasn't exactly frostbite weather - but I was heading back to the park anyway to pick him up midday for a quick haircut.  When I tried to snap a photo of him getting the back buzzed short, suggesting that I might post it here, he made it quite clear that I did not have his permission to do so.  I find it funny, actually, that he had such a vehement reaction to the idea of a back-of-the-head-haircut-photo since, on the way back to the park, he mentioned that his friends had taken some great photos and video of him today if I wanted to post those.

Skateboarding videos:  in
Haircutting photos:  out

A few weeks ago I posted a bunch of questions, some of which were answered by Tony on the Enclave Skate Shop (New Haven) blog (with installment 2 and more answers to follow soon).  This week the tables were turned when I had a chance to answer questions for a reporter who is writing an article about skateboarding, BMX biking, and parenting kids who participate in those sports.

She asked

[Okay.  This was where I stopped writing last night so we could go to dinner.  Now it's Monday morning.  OlderBrother has already left for school.  I have six minutes in between getting breakfast for Sk8terdude and getting into the shower.  Think I can finish????]

She asked questions geared mostly toward helping parents whose children were just starting out with skateboarding and BMX biking, and one of the questions really got me thinking:  "What lessons has your child learned from skateboarding that go beyond the actual sport?"

I think that skaterboarding has taught Sk8terdude the value of perseverence.  There's something about trying a trick over and over and over again and then finally nailing it that really drives home the "practice makes perfect" lesson in a very tangible way.  I'm not saying kids don't learn this in other sports, but there is a difference, in my opinion, between the return on investment in individual sports versus team sports (which are also important and also teach valuable lessons....) in terms of how it feels.

Sk8terdude and OlderBrother both play basketball.  Particularly for OlderBrother, whose team has had the best record two years running in our local league, there have been lessons learned about practice, about teamwork, about putting the good of the team before the glory of the individual, etc.  And sometimes the boys work on a specific play, for example, and practice it over and over, and then, when the play works during a game, they can see that their hard work paid off.  But I don't think they internalize personal success in the same way they do from their individual accomplishments.

Sk8terdude can see his skateboarding progress in very measurable ways.  For example, he knows that in the beginning he wasn't able to ollie but now he can.  And he went from being able to skate down the big launch ramp at S.P.I.R.I.T. and up the quarter pipe on the other side, to being able to land at the top of the quarter pipe, to being able to catch air at the top and continue down the ramp at the other side, to being able to do a 180 at the top:  specific steps that built on one another, which he was able to tackle with a little determination and a lot of bumps and bruises.

For Sk8terdude, this has been invaluable.

[Now if only I learned this lesson at an early age, I might still be looking for the cable so I could download the video from yesterday's session at the park.  Sadly, my determination to finish this post is being thwarted by my stronger desire to take a shower before I leave the house.  So those of you looking for video will have to...well...persevere...]

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sk8terdude's New Creature Board from Enclave Skate Shop in New Haven



I tried yesterday to post this photo of Sk8terdude's new deck but for some reason the photo wasn't showing up after I hit "publish post" even though it was visible in the blog editor.  Anyone out there know what I'm doing wrong all of a sudden???  (And I'm trying again today with the hope that the photo will be visible when I'm done....)

[Note to Sk8ter-Bubby:  yeah, it's a picture of a guy with a chain saw, but I'm fairly certain it's harmless...]

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Welcome to Spring: Skateboarders, Snow, Sand, and (Hockey) Skaters

It's been a busy start to spring.

We started with a surprise skate session early in the week, when Sk8terdude's normal Tuesday afterschool activity was canceled at the last moment.  Fortunately for him, we were just down the road from S.P.I.R.I.T. and, even more fortunately, Sk8terdad (who had the skateboard, helmet, and pads in his car) was able to meet us in the parking lot.

By Wednesday evening it was snowing here in Connecticut - again! - and Sk8terdude was convinced that the outdoor skate season, having just barely started, was going to be put on hold for another few weeks.

On Friday we managed to get in a second afternoon session, despite the cold, which kept me hunkered down in the car wishing for warmer weather.  I realize that they are working up a sweat in the skatepark, but don't these skaters notice that it's still winter in the air, even if it's spring on the calendar???

Today we took a ride up to Enclave Skate Shop where we were well taken care of by Brendan, who couldn't have been nicer.  Many thanks to Tony (the man behind the tweets at @enclavenewhaven, with whom I've been conducting an online conversation), who called ahead to let Brendan know we would be stopping by.

Sk8terdude chose a new Creature board and Brendan transfered the trucks and wheels from his old one for us.  He also offered to teach Sk8terdude how to grip his own board, but between the razor blade and Sk8terdude's propensity for injury, I decided we weren't quite ready to tackle that on our own!

Heading home we decided on a detour to the skatepark at Jennings Beach in Fairfield.  We've heard a lot about it but had never been there before.  And it couldn't have been a better choice!

The skatepark is located to one side of the boat marina.  On this gloriously beautiful but windy day, the view from the parent lounge included a strip of sandy beach and a fleet of sailboats just offshore....so despite the fact that I was, once again, hiding in my car to escape the cold, at least today I was able to look out at Long Island Sound and imagine that it was summer...when I won't be able to go to this skatepark because between Memorial Day and Labor Day the parking lot is for beach permit holders only!

The concrete skatepark was designed by Breaking Ground and features a continuous flow, complete with bowl, half-pipe, stairset, ramps, and the "humps" (is that the technical term?).  Watching Sk8terdude's knees as he skated the "humps" reminded me of skiing moguls, which reminded me of winter, which made me feel even colder standing out in the wind...so after grabbing this very quick video, I bolted back into the car.



This evening we had one last taste of winter - with a quick trip back to the Danbury Ice Arena for an end-of-season party celebrating the Danbury Whalers and their amazing inaugural season.  A few weeks ago I blogged about our exciting meetup with former (and future?) Whaler and skateboarder extraordinaire Mike Vallely.  Tonight we finished the season with a trip to the Whalers' locker room, coming home with a trio of game-used sticks, signed by the team, which Sk8terdad had purchased earlier in the season as mementos for Sk8terdude, OlderBrother, and himself.

And tomorrow?  I suspect Sk8terdude will be back at S.P.I.R.I.T., skating up a storm (but hopefully NOT another snowstorm!).

Totals for the week?  Two trips to skate in Ridgefield, one new skate deck, one new skate park skated, one skating arena locker room visited...and one very tired parent desperately wishing for spring.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Catching Air at S.P.I.R.I.T.

It was a beautiful, sunny, chilly day today.  Many thanks to T for snapping this photo (since I didn't bother to take any).

Enclave Answers My Questions (Part 1)...and a Cautionary Tale about Helmets

Many thanks to Tony and Alex at Enclave Skate Shop in New Haven, who saw my skateboarding questions and decided they would step in and try to answer them all.  Their first installment is here, where they've done an amazing job with the first set of questions!

This should be required reading for all parents of new skateboarders...and maybe even not-so-new skateboarders.  With about four years of skateboarding behind us, I don't think of us as beginner parents, but we still have a lot to learn about the sport.

Safety is a big issue for me - as I hope it would be for any parent - and I was particularly glad that the Enclave guys tackled the helmet issue.  They write:

One of the biggest differences between a standard bicycle helmet and a skateboard helmet is durability. A bicycle helmet is designed to be replaced after an impact as the styrofoam and plastic is designed to crush to absorb heavy impacts. A skateboard helmet absorbs the impact in the plastic dome and soft fabric/foam inserts inside and can withstand hundreds of impacts without failing.

We have always had a skateboard helmet for Sk8terdude (and OlderBrother, when he was still skating), but it always amazes me when I go to the skatepark and I see parents strapping bike helmets on their kids...and 9 times out of 10 those bike helmets aren't fitted properly, either.  And it boggles my mind that the skateboarding industry and the insurance companies aren't pushing for more stringent safety measures, particularly when it comes to helmets.  (Although I suppose I shouldn't be surprised here in Connecticut, where helmets are also optional for motorcycle riders, which is even more mind-boggling to me.)

A study of the national trauma database confirms that "Skateboard-related injuries are associated with a high incidence of traumatic brain injury..."  Why would anyone want to risk permanent brain damage just so they could skate without a helmet?  For more information about skateboard helmet safety and standards, click here.

Even WITH a helmet, there are no guarantees.

In June, 2008, Sk8terdude went to the now-defunct Vertigo Skatepark for what was supposed to be a fun Saturday afternoon of skating.  Sk8terdad settled down in the parent lounge with a good book, but about ten minutes after they arrived, Sk8terdude returned to the parent lounge, crying and asking to go home.  He was hysterical, and asking for me, so Sk8terdad packed him into the car and phoned to let me know they were on their way back, saying that he wasn't sure what had happened.  I spoke to Sk8terdude briefly, but he was hard to understand through his tears, and he wasn't giving me much information, just repeating over and over that "it hurt."

I ran out to meet them in the driveway.  When the door opened, I saw that Sk8terdude had a rapidly developing black and blue mark on his face.  It looked like the edge of the skateboard might have hit him.  I took him inside, handed him an ice pack, and tried to figure out what happened.  As the conversation progressed, my concern increased.  Sk8terdude asked repeatedly where OlderBrother was (outside, playing football with a friend in the front yard).  Then he asked me what happened.  When I said that I wasn't sure, but that I thought that either he had fallen at the skatepark or the skateboard had hit him in the head, he asked me which skatepark.  It took a moment for me to register that he was serious.  He had no idea where he had been skating, and, as it turned out, what I thought was unwillingness to tell me what had happened was actually an inability to tell me - because he didn't remember how he had gotten hurt.

As it turned out, that wasn't all he didn't remember.

We took him to the emergency room.  The doctor started her assessment by asking Sk8terdude some simple questions, including the standard, "How old are you?"

Sk8terdude gave the wrong answer.

I was surprised (and now REALLY upset).  "Don't you remember that you just had a birthday?" I asked him.

It turned out he didn't remember his birthday, or the fact that to celebrate we had taken him to his very first Yankees game, or a whole host of other things.  In the end, it seemed that he had lost about six weeks worth of memories.

One CAT scan later and we were out of the ER with a confirmed diagnosis of a concussion, instructions to follow up with our pediatrician, a very black and blue face, and two very upset parents.

Over time, Sk8terdude has regained his memory of the baseball game, although he still doesn't know what really happened at Vertigo that day.  We know he was skating the big half-pipe at the time.  (There were no cameras at Vertigo, so there's no videotape to review.  We phoned the park when we were on the way to the hospital, since we knew any information about how the injury occurred would be helpful, but none of the kids skating that day saw him get hurt - or were willing to say that they saw it.)  To this day we don't know if the skateboard hit him or if he slipped and hit his head on the edge of the half-pipe, and I suppose we'll never know.

It was many weeks before he was allowed to skate again (doctor's orders...my orders might have kept him out longer).  And many months before I let Sk8terdad take him to the skatepark instead of me.  Yes, I know that was completely irrational.  The injury had absolutely nothing to do with which one of us was sitting in the parent lounge that day.  But for months I would watch him skate, instead of reading a book, etc., because somehow I felt like if I was actually watching, he couldn't, or wouldn't, get hurt...or at least if something did happen, I would be able to tell the doctors what had transpired.

Sk8terdude has long since recovered from that concussion.  Me...not so much.

I know that most parks don't require helmets for skaters over the age of 18 but I hope Sk8terdude NEVER skates without one.  I can't even let myself think about what would have happened that day if he hadn't been wearing his.

May this never happen to any of you.