Tuesday, September 10, 2013

'Face to Face' skateboarding I

Recently, I returned to skate Prahran after almost 6 months and found myself failing to land many of the tricks that I casually land at my home park, St Kilda. It was as if I enthusiastically faced the park, interested to connect with it, but had it turn its back toward me. Soon into the session, however, I realised that the reverse was true: I had my back toward the park.
 Generally, we make sense of new events or objects in two ways:
 a) we draw on memories of similar past experiences or relevant information;
 b) we distinguish between our memories and the present experience.

 For example, when I arrived at Prahran, I immediately started to see the similarities between it and St Kilda. As a result, I skated its mini ramp, quarter pipe, and hip in pretty much the same way that I skate the St Kilda counterparts. After a while, however, I began to identify more and more differences between the two parks: size, surface texture, coping width, transition gradient, etc. This allowed me to fine tune my skating to the parameters of Prahran.   
          These two methods are akin to the face and back respectively. When one draws exclusively on similarities one only gains a relatively superficial view of  a park, seeing it primarily as a shadow of other parks one has skated. It's as though one faces the other, more frequented, parks while having his back toward the current one. In contrast, when one focuses on differences, one gains a more accurate perception of the current park, and really enters into it, viewing it face to face.

The irony is that one seems to feel more motivated and confident to skate a park when focusing on its similarities to other parks one's accustomed. In contrast, when one begins focusing on differences, confidence and excitement levels tend to wane. Hence it appears that the former relates to the face and the latter, the back. In truth however, this difference is on account of two facts:

  • 1. The perception of similarities between things comes quite spontaneously and effortlessly. Differences, however, usually need to be teased out through conscious effort. People are naturally inclined to lose some motivation when they discover that effort and work is needed to succeed.

  • 2. Similarities offer an often illusory sense of confidence. Differences, however, sap confidence levels as they reveal that one may still lack the skills to effectively skate the present park.
This explains why I initially felt as though I was facing the park while it had its back toward me. I mistook the excitement and false confidence based primarily on similarities to be a sign that I'm doing my best to be in sync with the park. Ultimately, however, its only when one puts in the extra effort to differentiate that one can adapt one's skating to the new park and ultimately come into a real close range - face to face- relationship with it - something every skater, I believe, wants...