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 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 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 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.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

How to Roll into a HoHo...and Other Things I Need to Learn in Skateboard Parenting 101

The twitter-fest on Friday night resulted in the following conversation between me (@parentlounge) and Eric Henning (@ericcycles):

me:  Sk8terdude is floating on the clouds after meeting @mikevallely - thanks for taking the time for a young fan!

@ericcycles:  met Mike in 89? Savannah Slammah.  He taught me how to roll into a Ho Ho.  He was just as cool to a young fan then.

me: a Mom, do I really want to know what "roll into a HoHo" means?  (I'll look on YouTube!)

@ericcycles:  grin. A Ho Ho was a hand stand with board on your feet.  Roll in means ride into without stepping.  All upper body.  I was 19.

After spending a few quick moments on YouTube and on google, I knew what a HoHo looked like in action.  And I continued our twit-versation.

me:  [HoHo] was listed as top 10 worst tricks!  I don't think Sk8terdude is quite ready for a ho ho (of either kind!)...

The exchange got me thinking about all the things I didn't know about skateboarding (like hoho), the things I had already learned (eric:  I did know what roll in meant!), and the things I still wanted/needed to learn.  And THAT got me thinking about Skateboard Parenting 101:  a class that would teach parents of beginner (or not) skateboarders all the things they need to know as well as things their kids would like them to know about skateboarding.

My list of questions and topics is below.  Some of these are things I've already learned along the way, some are things I'm still learning.  In either case, feel free to post an answer in the comments section.  Or, if you are still learning, feel free to post a question!

Equipment and Accessories

1.  What should I look for when buying a skateboard (especially for a beginner)?
          a.  how do I know what length/width is a good "fit"?
          b.  why are different skateboards different shapes?
          c.  what's all this talk about trucks, wheels, bearings, and bushings?

2.  What is the average cost to get a beginner started with a decent skateboard?

3.  How do I make sure my child's helmet is fitted properly and why should or shouldn't my child just use his/her bicycle helmet?

4.  Does my beginner skateboarder need wristguards and elbow and knee pads, even if they aren't required where s/he skates?  How do I know when it's "safe" for him/her to stop using them?  (personal question for the crowd:  Sk8terdude says he needs to talk off his wristguards so he can learn to do "grabs"...really??)

5.  How often can I expect to replace equipment - or how long should decent skateboards/wheels/trucks/etc. last?  (Otherwise known as:  how much am I going to be spending per season on my child's latest obsession???)

6.  Are all types of grip tape created equally?

7.  Does my skateboarder need "skate shoes"?  (Yet another corollary to how much is this going to cost???)  And if you tell me s/he needs skate shoes, you'd better be prepared to explain how they differ from every other pair of sneakers on the market!

8.  The local skateshop sells a "skate tool."  Do we need one of those, too?  Who can teach my skateboarder how to use it properly?

9.  I take my bicycle to the bike shop each year to get checked over before the season begins - does skateboarding have an equivalent "check up"?

10.  Besides a skateboard, helmet, and pads, what should a skateboarder take to the skatepark?  (water bottle, etc.)

Skateboarding terms every parent should be able to define and/or differentiate in order to have a basic conversation with the skateboarding child

11.  skating regular vs. skating goofy (or mongo, or any other words that mean the same)

12.  frontside vs. backside (for turns, since, apparently, it's not the same for grinds)

13.  olley vs. nolley (spelling?)

14.  ramp, quarter-pipe, half-pipe

15.  kick flip vs. heel flip

16.  roll in vs. drop in (hey, I know that one!)

17.  180, 360, etc.  (I know those, too)

18.  rail, bench, pyramid, funbox, a-frame, spine, bowl (okay, basically:  give me labeled pictures of all the elements in a park, please!)

19.  fakie, axle-stall, grind, nosegrind, etc. (see, now we're reaching the outer limits of my personal knowledge, so I'm probably putting a bunch of words in this category that don't actually go together...)

20.  street vs. vert....and anything else?

Skateboarding Culture

21.  I'm not even sure how to formulate a question here.  I think it's something about the image of skateboarding in the media, how young skaters are treated (that's a site-specific question - some skateparks are friendlier to beginners than others), etc.  Feel free to expand this section!

Things Skateboarders Wish Their Parents Knew (or not) - otherwise known as the sentences you want your child to finish:

21.  I don't want you hanging out at the park while I'm skating because...

22.  I need to borrow the camera/video or I need my own because...

23.  Just because I like to skate, doesn't mean I'm automatically going to....

Is Skateboarding a Viable Career Option

24.  What does it take to get sponsored (and what does that mean)?

25.  What can I expect if my skateboarder wants to start competing regularly?

26.  Are there skate programs that help skateboarders develop their talent (e.g. camps, teams, etc.)?

27.  If my skateboarder is serious, how do I evaluate the competency of a teacher/program/etc?  (After all, just because someone is a good skater, it doesn't mean s/he is necessarily a good skate TEACHER...)

28.  Who are the current top skateboarders in our local region?  Professionally?


29.  What's the name and number of the local orthopedist? (lol...I keep the ortho's number on speed dial on my cell phone, but none of Sk8terdude's broken arms have been skateboarding accidents)

30.  open question and answer period

Saturday, March 12, 2011

When Skateboarding and Hockey Collide

It was a big night for Sk8terdude, and I'll start with the highlight:

Sk8terdude got to meet Mike Vallely!

Now for the backstory, and I'll start at the beginning...

Once upon a time, apparently, Mike V wanted to be a pro hockey player, but he grew up to be a pro skateboarder.  In the meantime, a sports marketing executive named Herm Sorcher decided to reintroduce hockey to Danbury, Connecticut in the form of The Danbury Whalers.  A match made in heaven (or maybe the backroom of a dusty bar?) was born and in June, 2010, we learned that Mike V would be trying out for the team.

Up until this point, Sk8terdude wasn't much of a hockey fan, but he certainly wanted to go see a pro skateboarder take the ice..  Sk8terdad, on the other hand, is the consummate hockey fan - specifically a fan of the still-alive-in-his-heart Hartford Whalers.  So he certainly wanted to go see the "Green" skate and to hear Brass Bonanza reverberate throughout a hockey arena once again, even if the team included a skateboarder he didn't know much about beyond Paul Blart Mall Cop.

Together, Sk8terdude and Sk8terdad attended the first ever Danbury Whalers game on October 29, 2010.  Sk8terdad shelled out the money for a Vallely tee shirt for Sk8terdude (and a second one for OlderBrother, who was busy that night at a school event) and they looked forward to getting an autograph at the end of the game.

If you follow Mike V's career, you know what happened next.  He sat on the bench until the beginning of the third period.  Not five seconds into the period, he got his "Brass Bonanza" kicked by a player on the other team.  Unfortunately for Mike V (and for Sk8terdude), the fight was season-ending, as it resulted in a badly broken arm, and there were no autographs to be had that night....or any other night in the season.  Mike V was waived from the team a few days later.

Fast forward...Sk8terdad became a rabid Danbury Whalers fan.  (Am I the only one who thinks he secretly pretends he's still watching Hartford play???)  Sk8terdude and Older Brother became fans, too.  When the team made the playoffs, they were all excited, but Sk8terdude's excitement ramped up a few notches when he learned that Mike Vallely would be returning to Danbury to attend tonight's game.

After a series of tweets between me and Mike V, Sk8terdude had an invitation to come up to the suite to meet him between the 2nd and 3rd periods, and that brings us full circle to the beginning of this post.

Except for one thing...(or maybe two)...

I have to admit that one of the things I didn't always love about Sk8terdude's passion for skateboarding is the image I had of the skating community.  Let's face it, when the general public thinks about skateboarding, they don't exactly think wholesome, happy, family fun.  So I have had mixed feelings about Sk8terdude's choice of skateboarding idols over the years.  For example, I can't say I love the way Bam Margera treats his mother (although April seems to have a pretty good sense of humor about the whole thing), but Rob Dyrdek makes a mother proud (to my knowledge, he's never sawed the top off a Lamborghini).

As for Mike Vallely, my information about him was limited.  I knew he had really long hair in Mall Cop.  No judgement there, just data.  I knew he was sporting a lot of ink.  Some judgement there.  I don't love tattoos.  And, honestly, when he got himself kicked out of the hockey game only five seconds into his first appearance on the ice, we figured the whole thing had been one big publicity stunt.  In fact, for a while, Sk8terdad and I didn't really believe his arm had actually been broken in the fight.

Mike, I owe you an apology.  (Oops - guess I should have said that in person tonight.  Now I owe you TWO.)

First, he was under no obligation to invite us up for a photo in between periods.  There was an already-announced plan for autographs AFTER the game.  But I knew Sk8terdude would never be able to keep his eyes open that late AND wait in line, etc., so I tweeted in hopes of skipping the lines and making an early exit, and Mike V graciously obliged.

Second, Mike V not only posed for photos, he was incredibly generous with his time.  Sk8terdude was a little shy, and afraid to ask a question at first, but finally he launched into a conversation.  Mike V answered the first question and then another, and then some of mine, and he shared with us that he plans to return next season to play - as soon as his arm is completely healed.  He and Sk8terdude swapped broken bone stories.  (I definitely don't want Sk8terdude trying to match Vallely's 16 breaks...)  And although there were a few other people waiting, Mike V didn't rush us.

He was warm and encouraging of his eager young fan.  Sk8terdude will surely remember this evening for the rest of his life.

Thank you, Mike, for an incredible memory.

(Sk8terdad adds:  And, by the way, Danbury won in overtime to take a 2-1 series lead.  Go Whalers!)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Cost of Doing Business...

Sk8terdude was planning a return visit to Eastern Pulse, but a random spin of his skateboard wheels as we got into the car yesterday afternoon turned the weekend into an unexpected shopping trip - or trips.  As the wheels spun there was a definite sound-that-doesn't-belong moment...which raised an "uh-oh" from him and a groan from Sk8terdad, who was already picturing the damage to our wallets.

They started shopping - or trying to shop - at Ridgefield Ski and Sport, the lesser offspring of New Canaan Ski and Sport.  (Think I'm kidding?  The Ridgefield branch doesn't even get it's own website!).  Despite the hours posted online and on the front door, which promised they'd be open Saturdays from 10-6, the two Sk8termen found the lights off and the doors locked at 3:00 p.m....and Sk8terdude was NOT happy!

So, today, instead of a trip to Milford, Sk8terdude and Sk8terdad headed south to Utopia Skate Shop in Norwalk, Connecticut.  One skateboard checkup later, and Sk8terdad found himself paying $58 for new bearings, bushings, and wheels, including installation, with a warning that new trucks would be needed before the end of this season.  (Okay, technically he paid less, since we had a credit on our account, but that's what it would have been without the discount.)

Sk8terdude thinks the new wheels are "cool looking," and he sent me a photo to prove his point.  Should I be concerned that they're named Revolution Acid Trip wheels???

Or should I be more concerned that I actually think they're "cool looking," too?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Element Make It Count 2011 Greenside Post Script

The video from the Make It Count contest has been posted here.  Sk8terdude is not in it (we can't even find him in the background), but there's a glimpse of the window to the parent lounge in one shot and even if you can't see me behind the window, I know I was there!