Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Skateboarding Algebra

Back in the day, the names of skateboarding tricks were quite simple: Boneless, Tail grab, Egg-plant, Ollie, No-comply, Board-slide, etc. Today, however, when tricks are becoming increasingly technical and complex, a new shorthand language has emerged to signify tricks being performed. For instance:

270 cab to bs lipslide to bs tailslide bs kickflip out;
fs flip fakie 50-50 to 270 fs cab out;
switch flip to fakie manual to big spin out;
switch bs crooks to fakie big flip out,;
nollie flip bs tailslide to bs kickflip out;
(Note: these are real trick sequences!)

Now we need to appreciate just how condensed these sequences really are. Even one individual trick is really quite complex. Take for instance the Front side (fs) flip. This trick involves: 1. an Ollie  2. a flip of the board with one's front foot (Kickflip); and 3. a 180 degree turn in the air in the direction of one's front foot. Considering that each part of a trick sequence can be broken down in this manner - and further, if necessary - a sequence contains a remarkably large amount of information in condensed form.

The need for such shorthand is quite obvious. If magazine writers were required to explicate each trick it would take up an enormous amount of space and time. Shorthand also provides elegant and clear depiction for the reader. However, this advantage applies to the reader who has been initiated into the craft. With his knowledge of the tricks, their names and their abbreviations, he can translate the pithy sequences into moving images within his imagination. The uninitiated, however, would be completely bamboozled by the language. Thus its advantage of ease and efficiency of communication is disadvantageous to the non-skater.

 To some degree, we can compare such shorthand to musical notion. One with knowledge of musical tones and their notations can 'hear' the music within their mind when reading a score. However, they must have additional skill to actually play the piece on an instrument for others to hear. Similarly, a skater may know how to decode skate shorthand into mental imagery, but it is an entirely different matter to perform the sequences on a board for others to see...

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