Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, August 24, 2001

Skateboarding: No crime, just good time

By Laurie Arakaki
Advertiser Staff writer

Skateboarding is not a crime.

Twenty-five years after last trying out her luck on a skateboard, Laurie Arakaki set out to see what she's missed in the sport.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

And it is not a crime to learn to skate at the age of 33. At least not yet.

So here I am, standing in a skateboard shop thinking of the last skateboard I fell off of — a bright-yellow, plastic, mini surfboard with a flat, flipped-up tail. Twenty-five years later, I'm ready to try again. Cowabunga!

Getting board

The best part about picking up a new sport is buying the stuff needed to get started. The skateboards hanging on the store wall are large planks of wood painted with different pictures and logos, each slightly different in size and curves. But these new-fangled skateboards lack a certain something. They lack ... wheels.

There are two ways to equip yourself for skateboarding. You can buy the complete meal, a skateboard that's already put together. (These can usually be found in any sports or toy store.) Or you can go ala carte, selecting the deck, wheels, trucks and bearings. What my kid-in-a-candystore eyes are gazing upon are only the decks. They still need wheels and the hardware. Cool!

But how do you choose the right skateboard to kickflip around?

Don't look at the cool graphic when picking a deck, warns Rebecca Noda, owner of Lazy Bonez Skateboard Shop. "It's not about the graphic," Noda says. "It's about the size and shape."

She determines a good board by the height, weight, skill level and shoe size of the rider. "For a beginner, maybe a little bit wider board for balance," Noda suggests. "But the best way to feel it is to take it and stand on it."

As for the wheels, "Beginners should stick with middle of the road," Noda says, "a wheel that's not too big or too small."

Choosing the trucks (the metal fixtures that connect the wheels to the deck) depends on the size of the deck.

"Trucks are all pretty much standard," she says. "They have trucks that are more expensive than the others, but they're usually overrated. There's nothing really different."

There are all types of bearings. Some are better quality than others, but for beginners, Noda doesn't recommend getting top of the line.

"The bearings go only as fast as you push it," she says.

Beginners (kids or adults) should also consider safety equipment such as helmets, knee, wrist and elbow pads.

Say what?

Caballerial, fakie, crooked grind. Huh?

Is it a ripper? A poser? Or perhaps just someone getting ready to bail (without a serious injury).

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

Knowing the terminology is important to learning any sport. It's no different with skateboarding. Besides who wouldn't want to learn words like ollie, mongo foot and McTwist? That's just part of the fun of skateboarding. Here's a short list of basic skateboarding lingo. It may not make you a ripper (see below), but it will guide you through the rest of this story.

Ollie: A jump performed by tapping the tail of the board on the ground.

Kickflip: A variation of the ollie in which the skater kicks the board into a spin before landing back on the board.

Grind: Scraping one or both axles on a curb, railing or other surface.

Fakie: Skating backward. The skater is standing in the normal stance, but the board is moving backward.

Mongo foot: A style of pushing. The back foot is on the board, and the skater pushes off with the front foot.

Goofy foot: Riding with the right foot forward.

Caballerial: A 360 degree turn performed on a ramp while riding fakie. (Named after skater Steve Caballero.)

McTwist: A 540 degree turn performed on a ramp. Named after Mike McGill.

Half pipe: A U-shaped ramp of any size, usually with a flat section in the middle

Vert ramp: A half-pipe with steep sides that are perfectly vertical near the top.

Bail: To fall or kicking your board away to a hopefully painless landing.

Old school: Used to describe a trick or skater that is representative of an older, nearly outdated style.

Ripper: A really good skater.

Poser: Someone who poses as a skateboarder, or anyone who tries to be something they're not.

Not so easy rider

Finding a place to ride is one of the most challenging parts of skateboarding. Everywhere signs forbid skateboarding. There are some skating parks, but what beginning skater is going to risk harm and humiliation by trying to ride verts? Not me. I decide to humiliate myself in empty parking lots and on (Shhh! Don't tell anyone.) tennis courts after the lights go out.

When I step on my board and start riding around, a voice in my head says, "Must have balance Daniel-san." Yes, balance is important, but somehow taking advice from Pat Morita's character Mr. Miyagi from "The Karate Kid" doesn't seem to be the best way to learn to skate. He never showed Ralph Macchio how to bail before slamming into lamp post when rolling out of control.

Patience is also key. "You're not going to pick it up overnight," Noda says. "And kids today, they get all stressed, because they can't do a certain trick, but I tell them, 'Just go out and have fun.' "

There are how-to videos that show the basics and give tips and advice, but it helps to have friends who skate.

"I have a friend who taught me some stuff," says Jordan Gartner, a 10-year-old Hawai'i Kai skater. Gartner started skating six months ago and rides about an hour a day outside his home. He and his friends also ride the half pipe in Koko Head.

Well, I'm not quite ready for the half pipe. After riding around a few times, I discovered that I'm an old school, mongo, goofy foot who can't do an olllie or a kickflip. But at least I'm not a poser, and more importantly, I'm having fun.