This is how I turned weakness into shocking victory– but first, understand this is a skateboard story that I wrote for everybody…
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about skateboarding. How I used to skateboard and the tricks that I used to practice and the time and effort that it took to do those tricks. Usually when I’m in bed trying to go to sleep, memories pop up and I start thinking about how much of my youth was spent skateboarding and learning new tricks. These thoughts start turning into introspective reflection. As I began to identify these key moments of intense failure and breakthrough, I start to see how much skateboarding impacted my life. There’s a clarity that’s starting to form with the connection between these events and how my character grew more defined and how my thinking has been shaped.
Here is one such moment.
I remember a local skate competition I had entered in my hometown in Sitka. There weren’t that many skateboarders, maybe around a dozen of us. For the most part, we all skated together at different times. We knew each others tricks quite well and would even try to teach other tricks that we were strong in. My strongest trick was the 360º kick-flip, or better known in the skateboard world as the“tré-flip.”
Ladies and gentlemen, the tré-flip.
We each had different skate styles; a posture, stance, foot position, arm position and trick execution (and of course clothes). I was never content with my style, but not many of us were, I don’t think…
The competition was held at our “skatepark” which was an empty lot with a mixture of aluminum ramps and wooden ramps. It wasn’t ideal, but it was the best we had. I spent a few summers and countless hours skating here. Sometimes I would even take naps on the ramps. Anyway, each of us was given a short amount time to do our best lines, a performance displaying consecutive tricks that a rider lands while utilizing different ramps and areas of the park.
As each skater started their line, even though we were diverse in what we all excelled at, we were all predictable in what we were going to do. I had to remember that even though we had performed these tricks in front of each other hundreds of times, it was still new to the spectators at the competition. A few skaters did step out after finishing their set lines. They tried things that they had never done before but not with the best results. Still, it was interesting to see people try to step out of their comfort zones and to see how the spirit of competition drew out creativity. During my run I was no exception, but my results were different.
I performed my line and did all the tricks that I was strong at. After landing each trick there was a growing confidence and momentum that drove me on to skate faster and jump higher. Adrenaline of course, but mostly excitement from my fellow skaters and a lively crowd that energized me to go 110%. I ended my run by kick-flipping off of a half pipe onto the pavement. I ended up winning the competition, but winning isn’t why I remember this day.
This was a milestone for me and here’s why.
As I saw everyone doing their best and pushing their limits, I knew that I needed to do the same. I didn’t know how or what that would look like. That’s right, the kick-flip was an improvisation. Here’s a secret: the kick-flip was my weakest trick. I purposely left that trick out of long lines because I was too inconsistent in landing them and in the off chance when I landed it, it looked terrible. It was always at a weird vertical angle instead of horizontal, or I landed crooked stopping my momentum, or worse, landed directly on the side of my skateboard onto my heels bruising them. I shutter at the thought of how terrible I was with kick-flips.
This is a proper kick-flip I only dreamed of doing.
I knew it was important to stand out from everyone else, so after I completed my line, without thinking I ran up onto the deck of this awkward aluminum half-pipe. It was 3 ft wide, 10 ft long and 6 ft high. I started at one end and only had room for one big push, which didn’t offer nearly enough speed as I liked. I didn’t even know what trick I was going to do but then quickly assessed mentally what would work best jumping off this drop. A pop shove it would have boosted me up an extra 18-20 inches, which I didn’t want a higher drop. A tré-flip while going this slow from this height was too unpredictable for me. A simple ollie was way too basic. By the time I got to the end I surprised myself by settling with a kick-flip.
My first attempt was terrible. The board flipped half way and got stuck under my feet and I fell with a crash. The fall wasn’t bad and I quickly got back up, ran and returned up to the half pipe deck. By this time my legs were weak and sore. I knew that my body and nerves only had one more shot at trying to stick this. I also realized how lame and self defeating it would be if I didn’t land this trick, particularly since this was in the middle of a contest. I had to filter through my frustration and confusion with why I chose to do this trick. I started picturing my ankle or leg breaking in my next attempt. I knew I needed to take control of my mind. Discipline set in as I mentally fought against these negative imaginations and emotions. I quieted my mind and resolved myself to doing the kick-flip again. Commitment was vital. I understand how dangerous it can be performing a high risk (what I thought was at the time) maneuver if you don’t have a solid dedication to it. I made a choice, commit to it in my mind, shut my emotions out, then– one push, one flip, one landing.
I shocked myself when I landed on my skateboard and rolled away! To say I was elated is an understatement. After all, I had never thought about doing that trick in the middle of a contest before, let alone off of a drop. I hadn’t even tried to ollie off of the bloody half pipe before! I felt like I had broken down a mental barrier and behind it, all these possibilities to try new tricks opened up. In that moment, as I heard cheers and saw my fellow skaters throwing their boards in to the air, I was experiencing a victory and it was an internal and shocking victory. A lot of the other skaters knew that a kick-flip wasn’t my forte and may have been wondering why I was even doing it. It was a big gamble. this wasn’t my forte either
Recalling this event makes it even more potent to my life today than it was then. The applications for this have since sprawled beyond the borders of skateboarding into my career and my life. I can see how this thought process has thrusted me forward to pursue outrageous dreams. This wasn’t just a simple event but a powerful catalyst of desiring breakthrough in the things that hold me back in life. It changes the way I look at fear and other weaknesses in myself: fear of risk, fear of pain, fear of making the wrong choice or indecision, double-mindedness, overthinking, unhealthy imagination, and self imposed limitations. This rediscovered well is one that I can draw from, things like: courage and boldness in the unknown, self control, a positive outlook, challenging my limits, integrity, risk and reward, and healthy competition.
From this experience, today I ask myself these questions that invoke an appetite for breakthrough and progression:
What limits am I putting on myself?
What are my limits based on?
What can I do to push against these barriers?
How will I know I’ve broken through?
I hope you enjoyed the read! This is the first in a series called “Skateboard Stories” that I will keep adding. If you think of someone that might be into these types of stories, please share! And before I forget, I sincerely thank you for stopping by and reading this!
Then there's this girl. A 7 year old, Japanese Princess of the Kick-Flip. Wow! Doing what I did, only better... and 9 years younger than I was.