Boarding is back, older and wiser. Nick Morgan goes to Brighton to grab some radical air
I picked the skateboard up and turned it over lovingly in my hands. I remembered my first board as a kid, a thin plastic affair with narrow trucks and rock-hard wheels. This was different, it was much wider with softer wheels. More stable, more forgiving and somehow more adult.
“Skateboarding started to get popular again last summer, and this year has become really big,” says Jez Lee of the Brighton-based Small Planet Surfshop. “We get a lot of thirtysomethings coming in and we put together set-ups that are right for them. I’m 32 and weigh over 13 stone, so I don’t bounce like I used to and I don’t want to ride a kid’s board.”
The learning curve on a skateboard – providing you’ve got reasonable balance – is fast and relatively pain-free. The first basic move (after scooting in a straight line) is the tick-tack, where you lift the front of the board (putting weight on the kick-tail) then move it to the left, rest it down then repeat to the right. This drives the board forward.
Once you can tick-tack, you can extend the arc out to a 90-degree turn, and then push it further to a 180. After that you can progress to the skateboard park.
I met Voi Smith at The Level in Brighton. He’s a competition boarder who has been teaching for the past two years. As we exchanged hellos I saw a blur of gravity-defying activity around us. Kids pushing back on their kick-tails, then leaping into the air like spring-loaded cats. Smith pointed, “That,” he said “is an ollie.” Another boarder was jumping in the air and flipping his board into a horizontal spin then landing back on it smoothly, “And that,” he said, “is a kick-flip.”
I realised right then that all of these tricks were for people with more time, skill and patience than I had to offer at a weekend. I looked towards the end of the park, at two ramps pushed against each other to form a U-shape. I said, “I want to smoke that half-pipe.”