I knocked myself out the other day. I was trying to drop in on a 13-foot vert ramp. I have no memory of what happened, and there’s no video. There’s only one picture of my unsuccessful drop, taken milliseconds after I put my front foot on the bolts. It’s clear from the photo that things had already gone terribly wrong.
Fortunately, it wasn’t serious. I have a mild concussion and I tore a muscle in my shoulder. I’m feeling better every day, and I’m already back on my skateboard.
I’ve been lucky. I’ve been skateboarding for almost five years now with only minor injuries. Wearing my helmet and pads helps keep injuries to a minimum. But injury is an unavoidable part of skateboarding. Everyone pays the piper sooner or later.
For me, it’s a worthwhile risk because I love to learn. It’s thrilling when a new skill finally reveals its secrets. But learning is a trial-and-error process. Nothing comes to me for free, and I have to experiment a lot. That means I fall a lot. It’s the price of understanding.
There are other reasons why I risk it. Skateboarding forces me to examine my own beliefs about what I’m capable of. I’m doing things today on a skateboard that I never thought I’d be able to do when I began. I’ve learned that the limits of my ability are governed chiefly by my own fears. When I can get past the fear, the possibilities seem endless.
I also enjoy challenging other people’s perceptions of what I’m capable of. The skater dudes’ faces light up when they see me grind pool coping for the first time. Their definition of “skater” has just expanded to include old ladies! I hope the moms and dads watching from the sidelines rethink their own abilities when they see me trying something new.
And there’s this: Injuries aren’t fun, but the process of coming back from an injury can be very rewarding. That’s when you find out what you’re really made of. It takes determination, patience, persistence and focus. Those traits are useful in all areas of life.
Truth is, I do lots of risky things in a day. If I wanted to be as cautious as possible, I’d stop driving. Being in a car is, by all accounts, the most dangerous thing a person can do. I’d also stop riding my bike, walking in snow and showering too.
Who am I kidding? I’d be bored (and smelly). And I’d be ashamed of letting my fear get the best of me.
Skateboarding makes me happy, and I feel most alive when I’m doing it. That’s reason enough to risk it.