The Skateboard Moms' Blog

A Blog by Women Skaters, for People Everywhere.

How This Mom Survived the Kennedy Center Snake Sessions September 16, 2015

Patti at the Kennedy Center

by Patti Hurst

I’ve always passed on the really intense bowl sessions. If I know it will be a snake session – where two or more skaters try to claim the next run by dropping in at the same time – I stay home. When a session heats up, I sit down, pop open a can of beer, and watch the show. Snake sessions can be dangerous and, as a mom with a full-time job, I can’t afford to be seriously injured.

When the Kennedy Center sponsored the Finding a Line event here in Washington DC, we all knew it would be 10 straight days of snake sessions. The enormous front plaza of the Center was transformed into a skatepark. There was a custom-built, 4-foot, wooden bowl with pool coping! Music acts performed at the bowl’s edge while very experienced skaters charged the bowl day and night. Most of the time, there were dozens on deck fighting for runs. These sessions were the most intense I’ve ever seen. It was common to see three and four people skating the small bowl at once.

On my first day there, I watched from the deck as (mostly young male) skaters dropped in on each other, and frequently collided. My heart raced and my breath quickened as I imagined colliding too. I considered unpadding and watching from the sidelines. That wouldn’t have been so bad; it was a great show, and the music was fabulous.

But I wanted to skate that bowl! And I wanted to get over my fear of snake sessions. It wasn’t pretty, but I survived! In fact, I skated there several days in a row without serious injury. And, I learned a few strategies for reducing risk during a snake session:

  1. It’s always a good idea to pad up and wear a helmet, but it’s especially smart during a snake session, when you can just about count on collisions.
  2. Before you step up to the coping, learn the lines of the people skating with you. I watched until I knew where each skater was likely to go and what tricks each would likely miss. This information allowed me to predict when a run was likely to end, and where. It gave me a few precious seconds to prepare to start mine.
  3. Wait until a skater misses a trick on the far side of the bowl. If the run ends near you, your path is blocked until that skater exits the bowl and, by that time, it’s too late. The people on the far end of the bowl have already claimed the run.
  4. The instant a skater on the far side of the bowl misses his or her trick, shove your board up to coping with your foot. If you wait until the skater is out of the bowl, it’s too late. If you set your board on the coping any other way, it’s probably too late. As you are shoving your board to coping, quickly scan the coping to see who else has a board on. Watch out for people rolling in as well. Then, make a judgment about whether you can safely drop in without hitting those skaters head on.
  5. When you decide to go, don’t hesitate. Put your head down and go. Once in, look to see who else is in with you.
  6. Many people choose to take a line straight across the bowl, as if it were a miniramp. This minimizes the chance that you will hit another skater as you drop in. You can continue with a carve line from the next wall once the question of who has that run is settled.
  7. From there, adjust your line as needed to navigate around the other skater(s). It helps to have solid front and backside skills, and a few basic lip tricks, like axle stall and rock-fakie, so you have options. Don’t expect to ride your best. The key goal for any newcomer to this kind of session is to stay on your board.
  8. Some people will exit when they realize you’re in the bowl with them, some won’t. It’s up to you to decide whether to keep skating with the people who dropped in with you.
  9. If you do keep skating, read the line(s) of the other skater(s) in the bowl. If a skater is going high for a lip trick, you go low. When you miss your trick, get out fast! If you can’t get out fast, get your board and move out of the way of oncoming skaters until the coast is clear to get out.
  10. Accept the fact that collisions will happen. Get low and try to avoid direct impact. With luck, no one will get served.

Of course you don’t have to skate a snake session if you don’t want to. If you’re not feeling it, there’s no shame in sitting it out. And you probably shouldn’t skate a snake session until you have solid bowl skills and feel very comfortable at large, mellow, sessions. If you do decide to take a run, pat yourself on the back when the session is over! You’ve just survived your first snake session!


… so, that’s why i decided to start skateboarding. January 28, 2009


i watched shaun white win his gold medal on the halfpipe at the winter olympics in nagano. he looked like he was having so much fun!  he was always laughing and joking around, even during the stiffest competition of his life.

i was 39, and i was tired. i had spent my whole life working 60-80 hours a week, volunteering in my off time, and raising a kid. i rarely laughed, and i yelled at my 6-year-old daughter more than i wanted to admit. i wanted to have more fun, and be silly like the Flying Tomato! i thought about learning to snowboard, but there’s no snow here. then i saw shaun do a mctwist on a skateboard, and that’s all it took! i wanted to know what it was like to fly in the air like that. i knew i’d have to work hard. i figured it would take about a year to learn to skate like shaun white. 

one day, i asked my dad to take care of my daughter, and drove to the local skate shop. i parked the car and took a deep breath. i prepared myself for ridicule. i didn’t know anyone who skated, and i was sure there were no adult skaters in my area. i walked in and told the 17-year-old street skater behind the counter that i wanted to learn to skate ramps and bowls. i had no idea what to buy, i had never set foot on a skateboard. the store clerk stared at me for a good minute (or what seemed like it), and then went to work. he showed me different boards, trucks and wheels. he explained the virtues of each, and let me choose after narrowing the selection down to two or three. an hour later, i had a really nice first setup. he suggested that i buy a helmet and some pads, as well as some special shoes. i thought all of that might be unnecessary, but followed his advice anyway. the store owner rang me up. he said that i’ll fall a lot at first, and that most women prefer longboarding.

i took my shiny new board home, and stood on it for the first time in the living room, on the carpet. i fell almost immediately, and my dad laughed. my wrists hurt! i laughed too.

see? it was already working. 

in the last three years, my job has been on autopilot, i’ve quit most of my volunteer work, and i’ve suffered more injuries than i have in all my other years put together, all the direct result of skating. it makes me sad sometimes when i think of what’s gone, but i can’t say that i regret any of it. for the first time, i’m being true to myself. i’ve laughed more, learned more and loved more than i have in all my other years put together. and i don’t yell at my daughter anymore.


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