When I was 5 years old, the first wave of skateboarding came from America to Germany. Skateboards were weird, my parents didn’t understand and skateboards were expensive. They usually had plastic decks with super wide wheels. And most importantly, I wanted one so bad. Not that I had any idea on how to skate, but seeing the kids that had skateboards skating down the hills around the lake in our neighborhood (this was before we moved to the island). Anyway, a skateboard was not in the cards and so I had to ask the other kids whether I could try, too. I took to it like a fish to water. Not wild stuff with bowls and pipes, but more of the soul-surfing style, where you just go and float and carve and do a spin or just roll around on your rear truck, just because you can.
When we had moved two years later to the island, I made friends with a guys. who had a very handy granddad, who had a jigsaw. My parents had also a bunch of wood from an old closet that was left over from our move. I repurposed an old roller skate of mine, by separating it and hence I had two trucks. I found a piece of solid wood, cut it to length and after attaching my makeshift trucks I had my first skateboard. That’s when I fell in love with going across. The nice thing about the skating motion is that one can fall, chest or back forward, into every turn – there is so much excitement and freedom in that motion. A few years later I build my second skateboard. This time my buddy’s granddad’s jigsaw and my parents old closet enabled me to make a nice board with plenty of flex. I set the truck – this time from an old disco roller, again repurposed – to super soft, so that I could really carve like wave riding…in my mind I was going bottom-turn, cutback, bottom-turn, cutback, bottom-turn, cutback and so on – those were great Summer days. All this time I also played roller hockey and pond hockey (when the lakes froze in winter), but going across on my skateboard was always a place I felt comfortable, safe, just me…it was great.
Then came snowboarding in 1985, we were skiing in Italy and there was this kid, that just fell the mountain down on a Swingbo and on a snowboard. Well, you can image, that I had to make contact. 9 months later I built my first snowboard. Not a shred of an idea about laminating – this can’t be dangerous, I can laminate epoxy in our central heating area, despite a total lack of ventilation. Being an engineer in the making and wanting to be cutting edge, I added a 10cm wide 1m (my wallet didn’t support more) long pure carbon strip to the bottom, so that the board would be “grippier” on groomed slopes…or sol I told myself. In the depth of my subconscious, I just wanted to have a piece of carbon on my board. Again, every time I ride my snowboard I have this great feeling of being one with nature and of freedom and carelessness – especially as I get older, going across is my Peter Pan vehicle, I feel like the five-year old who asked the other kids whether he could ride their skateboard.
Then came graduate school in San Diego. I lived in Pacific Beach, just minutes on foot away from Tourmaline surf park. A friend of mine and I started wave riding on 8ft soft top boards. And again, there was this feeling of being one with the surroundings – me and nature back to the essentials.
Then there are the years in Minnesota, where my going across time shrunk down significantly. Although I bought another skateboard to go grocery shopping with, it just wasn’t the same. And the few times we went snowboarding didn’t fill the hole either. I started x-country skiing which is a great work-out and I have had many great experiences, the motion, too, is very fluid,but your whole body is facing in the direction you are moving – so, not quite the same.
Then came our move to Bangkok, where I started kiteboarding in December and that closed the circle for me. It unified all the good that comes from going across on a moving terrain, that is forgiving if you fall. Plus you have an insanely strong power source – wind – to add the great element of speed. How much better can it get. I don’t know, but I do know that I have had this feeling of being complete and carelessness and that’s worth a lot.
The result of last weekend, were three days on the water, four raw blisters on each hand and a raw blister on my left foot. Lessons learned: Saltwater burns like a bitch on open blisters. However, it doesn’t burn as much, if you just ignore it.
Take care and nourish that five-year old within you as often as you can.