BY JEFF BETTGER
I Love Skateboarding. Skateboarding is what gave me my love of art and, music. It was the first athletic thing I ever found that felt right to me. Skateboarding is done alone and together in community. Skateboarding is an art form, some kind of an extension of dance. Skateboarding taps into the most creative parts of your brain. With such a difficult balance between precision, and organic flow, between movement and standing still, you need to use your brain, and body together. You need to plan, but think on your toes, and move quicker than your thoughts, or else your calcium infused limbs will shatter against the gray flat man made rock like a baseball flying through a single pained window.
I first got a skateboard at the age of eleven, I rode it every day all day long. This is when I began appreciating art, design, and photography. The boards had amazing graphics, and the magazines were filled with beautiful images of guys flying in the air over the top of Masonite covered wood structures known as half pipes. You could see them sliding across curbs, and picnic tables. Transworld and Thrasher magazine had some of the best images I have ever seen. These images showed me how ordinary cement structures could be transformed and made into a playground. My entire world changed. Everything around me became new and exciting.
I began to think creatively like I never had in my life. Every object became skateable. Every day I obsessed over what new tricks and combos I could learn, and where I could skate next. Every parking lot became abused by our wood and metal slapping against the curbs, sidewalks, stairs, and walls. I consistency filled myself up with images from the skateboard magazines, videos, and watching my friends skate and learn new tricks. I would then pour myself out to my little gods of wood and concrete, by trying everything and anything over and over until I landed it. I was at the mercy these little gods. I couldn’t stop and yet I was only capable of what my body, the terrain, and my board were able to do. As soon as a new trick was learned I’d move on to the next trick or add a combo to the one I just learned. Skateboarding was sacred a means of worship. It was everything to me.
Since then the world has gotten bigger and so has my understanding of what and who gives life. I am no longer limited to only seeing this city and enjoying it through the lenses of a skateboarder. I now have many other labels people identify me with things like father, husband, pastor, musician, but skateboarder is still one that I love to hear. These are all things I do, but they don’t identify me. What Identifies me is the fact that I am human. You know made in the image and likeness of God himself. Being made in Gods image gives me value, worth, purpose, and meaning. This is what excites me these days, so now when I skateboard I think of the one who made everything and am thankful that I get to roll over concrete at speeds faster than I can run, with less exertion of energy.
This last year I broke my wrist twice riding a skateboard. Everybody assumes or suggests I stop skateboarding. At age thirty seven I find myself more determined than ever to keep skateboarding. It keeps me thinking in new ways, it helps me relax, and keeps me in shape. The combination of knowing that concrete will break you, and yet the flow of your wheels moving over this man made playground to the sound of polyurethane against masonry is so exhilarating even at my age it is always worthwhile. It is still a means of worship for me, and since I don’t get to do it as often as I’d like these days it is also a sacred event. The difference is the object of my worship.
God gave me a body to move and do things. I am going to use this body to enjoy this body and the God who made it. I’m going to use this body to ride a skateboard. I recommend watching the Bones Brigade documentary for a fuller understanding of how skateboarding changed the cultural landscape in the 1980’s and through the 1990’s. I go my first board in 1986, and I was never the same.
God gave me skateboarding, and skateboarding change my life.
Below is a video of the first time I broke my wrist.