We’ve all heard the negative opinions many people hold about skateboarding: it won’t amount to anything; it’s a waste of time; there’s nothing you can learn from it. However, skateboarding can have an immensely positive impact on your life. Here are four personal experiences about how skateboarding changed and saved the lives of the skateboarders: from the amateurs to the pros.
At age 14, Derby Park skater Casey Helseth was living in Idaho when he was kicked out of his home. With few choices for success, he quickly went down a difficult path, committing acts of robbery and vandalism. Helseth slept in a hammock, got into drug sales, and at first, skateboarding was simply his means of transportation.
He ended up spending three years in prison as the result of his activities. But through it all, he always had skateboarding.
Helseth has also endured tragedy: when his girlfriend was murdered by his best friend’s father, police suspected him due to his criminal record. He began drinking.
“I’ve lived a life that nobody should ever live. What I’ve been through, no one should ever have to go through that. It was like… ‘bring it on….I’ll f**king handle it.’ It made me very strong inside.”
Skateboarding also helped Helseth grow and heal.
“Ever since I started skateboarding, I’ve been pushing my limits,” he says, describing how he focused his energy on skateboarding. In 1997, he got a neck tattoo reading 100% skateboarder to solidify his identity as just that – a commitment he works hard to live up to.
Now “retired,” Helseth leads a healthy, active, sober life. He wakes around 5 a.m. most days and enjoys outdoor activities such as fishing.
Thrasher’s 2012 Skater of the Year David Gonzalez had a rough life growing up in Colombia. He lived in a doorless house, sleeping five to a bed, and his father was into drugs and prostitution – but Gonzalez did receive the gift of a skateboard. When Gonzalez’s mother threw his father out, Gonzalez focused his energies on skateboarding.
Outside of the home, Gonzalez witnessed general violence and stabbings in the street.
He made the decision to quit school when he was young to focus his life on skateboarding. Gonzalez said his mother “let me quit school at twelve years old to only skate day and night. Nothing else mattered to me.”
Gonzalez moved to California when he was about eighteen, still insistent and inspired when it came to pursuing skateboarding as a career. WhenThrashernamed him Skater of the Year, it proved that Gonzalez’s persistent dedication to skateboarding had paid off, inspiring him to overcome a serious injury to get back on the board.
Buice discusses his life in high school and his earlier skating years circa 2007 – his emotional connection to the bleachers destroyed by an irresponsible student and the security guard who gave him and his friends a pass to skateboard at night.
He learned many life lessons from his early years with a skateboard:
“A lot of it had to do with progression and just pushing myself harder and harder to learn lots of tricks,” Bluice says. “There’s also a lot that can be said about getting up every time you fall.”
Buice’s life experience runs contrary to the negative stereotypes about skateboarders. Using skateboarding as fuel for improvement, he’s become known in car sportsmanship and as a filmmaker.
Skateboarder Michael Loranger describes what it’s like to free his mind when he’s skateboarding:
“The sound of four polyurethane wheels hitting the broken pavement, the feeling of the grip tape trying to hold my feet in place as I shift them ever so slightly to keep my balance. I ride down to the parking lot behind our house, barely lit by the street lights around it and with minor rocks strewn all over it.”
Through a bad breakup, serious anxiety, and finding a new home,Loranger steadily relied on the persistence required to improve his skateboarding.
In his illness, he found tumultuous unpredictability. In skateboarding, he found routine and clearheadedness.
Having a dedication to skateboarding creates a meaningful, personal connection when it comes to learning new skills. Has skateboarding ever helped you out of a difficult situation? Have you used it to refine your focus on other aspects of your life?
Let us know all about your experiences in the comments.