i started skateboarding.

I bought a skateboard last week.

Let’s talk about how this all got started…

Quarantine has been a really interesting time to think about the life we want to live afterwards.

I’ve been getting a lot of takeout from my local spots, and since that’s the only times I’m outside all week, these sessions feel exhausting in a way life never did before. It is definitely taking me longer to walk half a mile now than it did in January.

There’s no grocery stores within a few blocks of me, and I just really wanted to be able to move within a 2-3 mile radius of my apartment without a car. Then, life would be perfect. I could stop by the grocery store quickly if I just needed mushrooms tomorrow.

I keep fantasizing about a time when I’m back outside going to dinner with friends 3x a week like I used to. That feels like a fantasy now — was I ever really that popular? I wanted to go there, put my mode of transportation in a backpack, and walk with them a bit after without my mode of transportation getting in the way.

But specifically, a lot of people I know are looking at cars closer than ever before. I agree. I think we need transportation that isn’t public. I can’t drive though, so I was looking into electric scooters and electric skateboards in order to fulfill that “last mile commute.” Maybe I should live a little further from public transport and get a last mile commute vehicle to go to the bus or train stop.

I didn’t think it was possible for me, though. Maybe a scooter, but how would I transport it? I always fear people stealing scooters. I really just want something relatively small, but that helps me go further than 1 mile. I really can’t walk more than 1 mile at a time.

Then last month… I started working out again.

Specifically, I started jumping rope. This meant that for the first time in years, It’s a fairly low impact cardio sport that doesn’t hurt me at all. This is the first time I tried something like this in a decade.

Skateboarding around suddenly became a bit more of a viable option.

This obsession all started and continued via YouTube. First, I subscribed to a bunch of electric skateboard review channels. Slowly, it morphed into manual skateboards. I learned I wanted a mid-size cruiser board to just go around the city. I’d watch skateboard advice videos for hours a day… I just got obsessed.

First, I just wanted an electric skateboard. However, a good entry-level board is about $700. I talked to my mom about it, and she said to just get a normal skateboard first. If you like it, then get an electric skateboard.

How cool would it be to just kick & push my way over to Lake Merritt, sit on a bench and read for an hour, then come home? That’d be the coolest thing ever.

I looked around, and she was right. I was expecting to spend about $100 on starter skateboard gear — just a used board, helmet, and knee pads.

I looked for a few days last week and I couldn’t find anything viable for around $60. Factoring in the cost of transportation to meet people was also a problem. BART rides themselves cost $10. At that point, I should just buy something cheaper and new…

I saw that Z-Flex was a brand that was recommended around for ~$100. I bit the bullet and bought their cheapest cruiser board. That was the 32″ Chisel. It was $80 on sale, full price is $120.

I was scared of getting a “bigger” board because it’s harder to turn, but I thought it should still be small enough that I shouldn’t run into major issues.

I also grabbed a helmet and pads on eBay. I decided to use my old workout shoes because it wouldn’t make that big of a difference when I was starting.

It’s important to note that I thought there was a 50% chance that I’d immediately hate it. It’s hard to overstate how out of the box skateboarding is for me. I’ve basically never ridden on a board before.

I used to ride a fixed-gear bicycle, but the reality of the size and speed made me really uncomfortable. I didn’t feel in control, and it felt like it worked against me a lot. I’d nearly been doored several times. It was a scary experience overall. I liked it… I wanted to love it… I just didn’t.

That was a huge financial drain too, I think my family spent $600 on my bike and gear. It was worth it for what it gave me at the time, but $600 is basically an electric skateboard amount of money.

Balancing on a skateboard sounds very difficult and riding on sidewalks even sounds absolutely terrifying. My body might immediately and viscerally nope, or I might reach an early plateau once I’m on the sidewalks and decide it feels too dangerous. I wanted to spend as little money as possible with the very high likelihood that I would not continue.

The skateboard arrived on Sunday.

how’s it been?

I’ve been out for 3 sessions. It’s been a weird time in Bay Area weather which complicates things a little bit, but I’m trying to go for ~30 minutes after work most days. I want to at least keep trying for a month before I give up.

I’ve just been going to a nearby parking lot and practicing. My helmet actually hasn’t arrived yet (it is this Saturday) and my pads have no ETA so… I’ve been pretty unsafe so far. It’s definitely scarier to ride without a helmet or pads. Specifically the helmet. I refuse to go outside of the parking lot until I get that.

It was an almost immediate yes for me. It’s too soon to tell because I haven’t progressed to the point where I can actually truly ride, but the learning curve is one of the most satisfying things I’ve experienced.

Within one hour of riding, I was able to get the stance, cruise at walking speeds, push myself off, etc..

At the end of day 3, I’m starting to learn how to turn, I’m practicing kicking and pushing, I’m working on how to deal with inclines, and my stance is really solid.

It’s different than anything else I’ve ever done. It might actually be the best hobby I’ve ever pursued.

There’s something magical about it…

  1. I get to go outside in beautiful Oakland, something I’ve lamented missing all summer due to quarantine.
  2. I get a workout — not a huge workout, but enough that it feels good.
  3. I get a stress-relieving hobby.

It’s a 3-for-1 deal.

What makes it really unique is that it’s not an achievement-based hobby. The extent of the skill cap I want to get with it is being able to ride around (obviously), ollie up curbs, and manual off of curbs. Remember that ollies are the first tricks skateboarders learn. I expect this learning curve to be about 3-6 months. It’s definitely a significant length of time, but it’s not a lifelong pursuit.

Once I’m able to cruise around comfortably, that’s the extent with which I want to be with my board. After that, it’s just riding around, listening to indie music, and just feeling the wind in my hair.

I haven’t had a hobby like that that doesn’t have some sort of tracking, measurement, or achievement at the end. A hobby that is literally just chilling is really different, and so vastly superior. It makes me want to throw away my reading goals and just ride around for hours.

I really hope I stick with this. I hope my body likes it. My brain thinks it’s the most awesome thing ever.

let’s talk about gear.

I went on a buying binge this past week. I kept finding the limits of what I have and wanted something quality to ensure that I gave myself the best chance for success. Let’s talk about each part.

board: z-flex 32″ chisel cruiser complete skateboard

I bought a complete, pre-made board because that seemed to be cheaper than buying a used board, ironically enough. Most used boards seemed to be like — $50, needs new trucks. Well, how much do trucks cost? Oh, $30. Pretty much every part on a skateboard seems to cost somewhere between $10-40.

I think that’s alright for the longer-term. I’m happy to replace something from wear. But for my best chance at the start, buying entirely new parts, possibly even if they’re lower-quality than the $30 trucks is fine.

I’m happy to have gone with a reputable brand and gotten a cruiser board. I knew 100% that I didn’t want a Walmart board. I went out of my way to get a quality mandolin when I was starting to learn that and I think it made a huge difference.

Good hardware makes learning hard things easier. It’s worth the cost.

This also quickly went back up to $120 in price after I bought it, so I’m happy that I bought it when I did.

helmet: retrospec cm-1 classic commuter helmet

I originally bought something for $10 on eBay. I got a message saying that they couldn’t ship it from China. Since I was already skating, I wanted something as fast as possible. While I was at it, I decided I should get something certified.

Helmets are generally useful to have, so why not? So, I got the cheapest thing on Amazon that was certified. This was about $25 at the time.

I got the orange color so I could be more visible at night. I would’ve preferred a bright green, but I’m really not picky.

pads: something cheap off of ebay

Unlike a helmet, I think pads are less essential for the long term. I generally think I want a good pair of knee pads, but I will want to stop wearing elbow and wrist pads as soon as I’m comfortable.

So, I wasn’t really ready to drop $40 (which is how much the cheapest quality set on Amazon costs). The problem is, since I got something from eBay, it’s probably going to come in late September. At that point, I will have been riding without pads for a while. I’m honestly not even sure if they’re going to fit. So much of the cheapest stuff is only made for kids.

I’m a fairly small adult, but still. It won’t offer too much protection.

I had hoped to buy my “quality” pads and helmet at a skate shop, but I couldn’t wait for the helmet. I hope that I can go to a skate shop by the time I buy real pads.

skate tool: zeato skate tool

This seemed a little premature, but for $7, I think having a skate tool around is a good deal. I just put it in my bag for safety.

shoes: straye ventura

I thought I didn’t need skate shoes this early.

I got deep into rabbit holes about ollieing (again, the only trick I want to learn) and foot braking (imo, the best way to brake) and I realized my Nike training shoes weren’t going to last very long on this board.

I happened to have an old pair of Keds around. There’s not a ton of grip on them and they were never meant for skating, but I stepped on my skateboard one morning with them and then stepped on them with the Nike’s… I realized I have no grip with the Nikes and I need to change to something else ASAP.

I spent a few days obsessing over finding a high-quality, women’s-fashionable vegan skate shoe with a removable insole. That’s a lot of requirements.

I had settled on getting Vans Slip-On Pro in monochromatic white because of the removable insole, but then found out the stuff that makes it “Pro” is suede. Luckily, I found these Vans rip-offs called Straye.

I looked at a few reviews — apparently they last 2x as long as Vans. So, they’re a higher quality shoe, and they’re $20 off at full-price. That’s awesome.

The black monochromatic slip-on shoe was 50% off when I looked. I wanted white, but that wasn’t worth spending 2x more. Black is fine. I got a skate shoe for around $30 including shipping. I hope and expect that it’ll last around 6 months. That seems like a fair deal to me.

The ETA on these is unknown for now. It’ll definitely be a few more weeks skating in the Nikes.

future gear

I’ve been watching so much YouTube about skateboarding. I know so much of the future gear I want.

Luckily, I have most of the basics down. Most of what I need is just accessories at this point.

Let’s just make a quick list of things I suspect I’ll need in the future:

  • Quality ($40-60) knee pads, elbow pads, and wrist guards
  • Shoe Goo ($5, extends the lifetime of a shoe)
  • Grip Gum ($5, cleans up the grip tape)
  • Footbrake sole ($15, can extend the life of a heavy footbreaking shoe by several months)
  • Replacement parts (wheels, bearings, etc..)

Pretty much just your typical sport replacement costs moving forward. Just like getting new strings or picks with my mandolin.

Overall, I’m really excited about this new hobby. I hope I stick with it. It’s simultaneously cheaper and more expensive than I suspected.

There’s a new category for skateboarding because I pre-emptively hope I’ll have more to say in the future.