I was at the Thomaston Wal-Mart the other night, looking for a birthday present for our nine-year-old grandson, when I came across a couple of skateboards and a strange looking contraption on the floor in one of the aisles. It was triangular, with rounded corners, had two large foam pieces on the back corners, and a tiny steering bar on the front corner. At first I thought it was a sit down skate board – sit and steer with your feet. But the placement of the foam pieces didn’t match that idea.
When I got closer, I saw the label. It was a drifting skateboard! The picture on the label showed a youngster sitting on his knees (that’s what the foam pieces are for) and leaning forward and steering with his hands. The idea is to make the back end of the skateboard drift (slide) to the left or to the right, kind of like you see cars do in movies like “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.”
They say skateboarding first started in California back in the 1940’s and 1950’s when surfers wanted something to ride on the streets when the waves got too rough or it got too cold to surf. Skateboarding gradually moved eastward. I started skateboarding in about 1968 when I was 11. My friends and I would take our old metal skates and attach them to the bottom of pieces of wood, and roll down our streets, usually on our butts, steering by shifting our weight and using our feet as brakes. Then we started getting commercially made skateboards and learned to ride them standing up.
All it takes to ride a skateboard is a decent sense of balance and a knowledge of when to bail out (stop), and these days, protective gear. Back then, we had no protective gear other than our trusty blue jeans. (That may be what’s wrong with the world today. Everybody my age that is in charge today didn’t wear protective head gear when they were skateboarding and took a few too many knocks to the head!)
Our street in Decatur (Nelson Ferry Road) had a decent little hill that we learned on, then when we wanted to really test ourselves, we went over to the street next to us (Pinetree Street). It was about half a mile long. It was flat for about a quarter-mile, then descended down a curving hill for the next quarter-mile, ending at the intersection with Scott Boulevard, a four-lane, fairly busy street.
The wimpy way to go down the hill was to curve back and forth, kind of like snow skiers do. That way, you kept from building up too much speed by the time you hit the bottom and could easily curve around to stop.
The gutsy way was to go down it straight, with the only curve being following the road. The problem with that was you had built up too much speed by the time you got to the bottom to easily stop, and you had to bail out by running your board into the yard of the person living on the corner, or risk going out into Scott Blvd. and getting hit by a car. The challenge became being the one to get the closest to Scott Blvd. before bailing.
It was all fun and games until one day when Bobby went too far. He didn’t have time to bail into the yard, so he just jumped sideways off his board and fell rolling on the pavement. His skateboard, which was already moving pretty fast, got a little extra impetus by him pushing off when he jumped, and it sailed out into Scott Blvd. and got hit and totally obliterated by a passing car! Bobby went home all scratched and bruised and minus his skateboard. When his mom found out what happened, she let the rest of our moms know, and our skateboard daredevil days quickly came to an end.
Those memories came to mind when I saw that drifting skateboard at Wal-Mart. Going down a hill standing up and balancing on a skateboard was fun. The thought of intentionally trying to drift (slide) a skateboard left and right while going down a hill on your hands and knees is more than I would do or would want my grandkids to do. I skipped the drifting skateboard and got my grandson a Nerf gun (which is what he wanted, anyway).