Saturday, 14 March 2009

Favourite books - part 2.

Christmas 1976 I opened my 'big' present to reveal a green plastic banana board with narrow roller skate trucks and red wheels. Other small presents scattered beneath the fairy lights and glowing pine needles contained the safety gear, a bright yellow helmet and a crude elasticated set of pads.

An old photo of this momentous childhood memory exists in one of my parents photograph albums. I can just about remember doing 180 degree kick turns on the sloped driveway, lying down on my back and whizzing downhill, 'coffin' style, or looking on in horror as the ball bearings trickled out of the wheels and onto the rough tarmac.

In 'The Answer is Never', Jocko Wayland charts the skateboard's history, from crude toy with clay wheels in the 1960's, through to the huge global industry that it has become today. Part document of skateboardings evolution, from the search and destroy antics of the Z-Boys, a bunch of renegade surf rats who patrolled the dirty water breaks of Venice and Santa Monica(Dogtown), to the mass media frenzy of the X games, and part personal journey from the wilds of Colorado, where Weyland began riding a wooden half pipe with only the birds and animals for company, to the 33 year old attempting to jump a set of steps on the streets of New York.

I suppose for me it was a guaranteed interesting read, but because skateboarding has helped mold and change popular culture in so many ways, be that in music, design, art, sport or fashion, there is much to enjoy in this book for everyone.

A lot of heart has gone into putting this book together, and Weyland's passion and understanding for the subject matter breaths through every page. Even if you never step on a skateboard or attempt to paddle into a breaking wave, you can always connect with the reckless immediacy of youth and dream of what it must be like to fly, to break the bonds of gravity and exist completely in the briefest of moments. No history, no future, just water, air and concrete.

I still ride today, even at the age of 41, kick turning back and forth on the concrete quarter pipe at the local skate park, where my young son puts me to shame as he 'drops in', launching himself down a six foot wall of sloping concrete. I can only marvel at such fearlessness and accept what these old unforgiving bones refuse to do.

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