Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The 'Elements' of skateboarding

Fire, air, water, and earth are the building blocks of our world. They are also the building blocks of skateboarding.


Fire is hot, rises, and can be explosive. In skateboarding, fire is visible in the explosive power in the legs that launches a skater into the air. Fire relates largely to technical flatland tricks which require repeated explosive bursts of energy to jump off the earth and to flip the board in the desired manner.          


 Air is lightweight, subtle, and in a state of suspension. Air relates to the ability to glide and hover. It is conspicuous in Ollying stairs or gaps where one remains suspended in the air for some time. When jumping stairs, even small sets, their is a distinctive feeling that one is hovering. 


    Water flows downward as in rivers and streams. Water is also a lubricant. It finds expression in slides and grinds on ledges and hand rails where there is a distinct focus on reducing surface friction. (Skaters frequently apply wax to their boards or to rails/ledges in order to decrease friction levels.) It is particularly visible in slides down obstacles that are on an incline.


Earth is heavy, solid, stable, and relatively still. Earth is obvious in tricks that require acts of incredible stability, especially where the skateboard remains near the ground and travels little. Tricks with an old school freestyle flavour such as wheelies (manuals), footplants, and street plants are distinctively earthy.

However, every trick, irrespective of its predominant element, contains all the elements. Hence, in  ollying stairs, jumping parallels fire, gliding concerns air, descent relates to water, and landing pertains to earth.

Furthermore, each element presents a skater with a specific challenge. Fire, which typically initiates a trick, requires concerted effort and the ability to launch oneself in the right direction with the correct amount of force. In the air there is a sense of light-weightedness and decompression where the skater and board gravitate away from each other. In the water - like descent one experiences immense speed and a lack of control. This can be highly disorienting and fear inducing. Impact with the solid earth when landing can be severely painful and injurious.

In order to engage each element effectively, one should endeavour to tap into the opposite and counterbalancing element. Thus, when jumping (fire), one should project one's desired course of descent (water) to ensure one jumps with the required amount of force. In the air, one connects to the element of earth to maintain solidity and integrity. Upon descending (water), where there's least control - I.e. one must go with the flow - one draws on fire to keep oneself focused and in as much control as possible. Finally, on impact with the earth, one draws on air in order to land softly and gracefully.                      

In this manner, one traverses all the elements in every skateboarding trick and comes into intimate contact with the Creator's magnificent handy-works... 

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