Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Zen on a skateboard

My personal ode to these masters of the road

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So who are these diehards that cruise our streets and sidewalks, and why do I find myself in awe?

I drive these same byways on four and two wheels, and marvel at the skill and endurance it must take to balance on a board while dodging cracks and divots big enough to swallow an average skateboard wheel. From my brief contact (from a distance), skateboarding seems to be a mostly male obsession, with no regard for potential broken bones and bloody palms as riders pitch off concrete curbs and onto gravel.

But they're out there, even in mid-November, and dressed for it -- toque and backpack and layers of skater fashion (which, of course, does not exist...). Helmets? Only for wimps, no doubt.

Are they all willing to be out and about at the risk of the weather as well as every other motorist who would rather not have to share the road?

In Winnipeg, there are skater haters, but I am not one of them.

I never could master the balance and push necessary to move forward as though the wind was at my back and every road a smooth straight downhill stretch... leading to somewhere I have to be, eventually.

Obviously these guys are masters of time management (maybe they don't even own a watch) or have a cosmic/zen view of the world where only the board and the street matter, and every important thing in life fits in the backpack.

The blessing, of course, is that they have no fear of losing the board to a thief -- so no lock required! After all, who would want a used one? Not as sexy as a Trek bicycle, for example.

But what always fills me with wonder is the easy push and glide that seems to allow steady progress in all spaces, often full of people to be avoided. They move so easily, if you look away you may miss their quickly dissolving, almost ghost-like form (always slender statues with ear bud headphones).

Some are young newbies, and others veterans of the streets -- with tats, no doubt -- but they are almost always alone. Where do they live? Where are they going? Why skate instead of walk, bus, bike or drive? Are they eco-warriors trying to save the planet?

It's amazing that we see them and never seem know where they live; almost homeless, I suppose -- but to be admired all the same.

If you really care, show up at one of these skateboard parks and watch the challenges and tricky failures:

-- Chornick Park: One of the oldest skate parks in Canada

-- Happyland Park: Or you can play disc golf here

-- St. Vital Skate Park: 2003, this is for the pros

-- Victoria Jason Park: Beginners and intermediate skaters

-- Sargent Park Skatepark: Beginners and intermediate skaters

-- Michael Komenda Memorial Skatepark: Beginners and intermediate skaters

-- Skatepark West: Features for all skill levels

-- Fort Garry Skatepark: Built in the fall of 2008

-- Red River Skatepark: Built in the fall of 2008 at The Forks

 

Don't let the fact these parks are empty at night or all winter (and worth more than all the bike paths in the city) bother you. That's not the skaters' fault, but rather a monument to the power of persuasion.

Now if we could just figure how to make all our streets so smooth!

 

Tom Hardern is trying not to retire, so he keeps busy as a part-time shuttle driver, and enjoys taking photos. He also has a well-documented passion for cinnamon buns; See his Facebook page at http://wfp.to/8mn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 24, 2013 A1

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