by Patti Hurst
“Are you having a contraction?” My obstetrician was peering at me through my splayed legs with a quizzical look on her face. “No,” I grunted in response. “Then why are you pushing?” she asked, with exasperation in her voice.
I had good reason to push, I thought to myself at the time. I had been in labor by that point for many hours, my first and only daughter was almost here, I was exhausted and I wanted her out of me! I thought that, by pushing as hard as I could, even when my body was not contracting, I could speed up her arrival. But, I was wrong. As any woman who has been through labor knows, no amount of pushing is going to help move things along without a strong uterine contraction.
“What does this have to do with skateboarding,” you ask?
It occurred to me as I was skating my home bowl tonight that learning to carve well is really all about learning to sense when it’s time to push, and when it’s time to hang on and enjoy the ride. Like a laboring mother, you have to time your effort precisely in order to achieve the flow every skater searches for during a run.
I’ve been skating bowls for seven years, and I like to think that I can carve fairly well, even if I don’t have a whole lot of tricks in my bag. I remember what it was like when I was first learning, when I was unable to read the terrain in front of me, and had no sense of when I needed to exert myself in order to nudge my board ahead of me and gain speed. I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere, no matter how hard I tried.
I see so many skaters, both men and women, who struggle to carve well. You’ve probably seen them too. It’s not for lack of trying. They thrash and swing their arms as they navigate the bowl, grunting and grimacing with the effort, coaxing their seemingly uncooperative skateboards to carry them forward. Some even look like they could be in labor themselves!
Learning to carve well is about backing off on all that effort. It’s about lightening up. It’s about reading the terrain in front of you. It’s about noticing when it’s useful to exert yourself, and when it’s not. It’s about learning to anticipate the next opportunity to gain speed. It’s about positioning yourself within that terrain to take full advantage of the next opportunity.
If I could go back to the day my daughter was born, I would tell myself to ease up a bit, to relax, to notice what my body was doing, naturally, to deliver. I would tell myself to go with the flow, just as I do now, every time I drop in on my skateboard.
Patti carving a bowl at the park in Arvada, Colorado.