I often sit and reflect on how good we had it when we were younger, mostly when I look into my little sister’s soft eyes. We have never been of the upper class although I know I wouldn’t have classified us as lower, either . But looking back now, I realized we are, without a shadow of a doubt, in that lower level. A day came when I began taking out my emotions on seven horizontal layers of wood held together with glue; Wood made mobile by bearings pressed within wheels and metal trucks, and made awe-inspiring by my dedication. This was the day reality opened its palm and slapped me into the realization that everything isn’t as okay as it seems.
My roots were deeply embedded within the streets of Portland, which is where I was born and raised for twelve years of my life. I did not know what the term “eviction” meant, but I did remember the chilling shiver that the word sent down my spine when overheard in my parent’s “grown up” talks. Eventually, the word became real, and Portland was in the past.
I showed up to Vancouver a scared little fifth grader with absolutely no friends. I might as well have been wearing a dog collar with the words “New Kid” engraved on it. This was really upsetting to me, as I was well known in my former school by both students and teachers alike. Like a dog with my tail between my legs, I did not attempt to interact with many people, and no one really went out of their way to socialize with me. The tide had definitely turned when I moved here, and for the longest time it was hard to cope.
Slowly I left my shell behind as I met neighborhood kids, all of whom had a passion for skateboarding. All it took was for my friend to explain the concept of how tricks really work for me to be fixated on this barbed hook that is skating. The board’s sandpaper grip began to devour skate shoes of all brands, until the gaping holes screamed out “time to let me retire.”
Like the very first time you ever were beat up or even your first kiss, you never forget your first Ollie. I began to count how many times I could land it out of ten tries until it was 100% successful. The sun disappeared quickly that day, possibly because I spent most of the day looking down at my foot placement and monotonously making minute adjustments. I swear I dreamt of nothing but skateboarding that night, I awoke with exhausted legs as if I had really been skating all night.
I started to hang with the same skate group the rest of my skater friends did. We spent all day, just about every day, challenging each other to get better and better. Even in the rain, we found a way.
During the summer we grew so eager to skate that we cut into our sleep to be at Battle Ground Skate Park as early as 4:00 AM. We were the kings of the park—we got to practice any line we wanted without judging eyes and interrupting kids we referred to as “poseurs”.
If there ever was such a thing as having an escape from all life’s dirty laundry, skating is as close as it comes to me. No matter what everyone else has planned for their day, I can always rely on my board. Stress melts away as I spend countless hours battling with gravity and physics with multiple flip variations and gaps. Skating brings out every emotion—from the rapture that is pulling off a move, to the sadness when your board snaps. From pleasure when you really land something to the pain when you fail, and fall. Each of my snapped boards holds a story that is special to me—their various battle scars where vicious stings left their mark all serve as a reminder to never forget how I became who I am now.
Essay and Images by Sean Hauff