Everyone should have a list of things they want to do before they kick the bucket. It may seem morbid, but death is an inevitability. It's often when facing our end when we feel most alive.
As extreme sports athletes, we probably know this better than anyone. Skaters are not immune from growing complacent. When we do, our lives can sometimes fall short of fulfilling.
That's where the bucket list comes in. It keeps things in perspective. It's a constant reminder that the meaning of life is simply to make sure your life has meaning. That may be something completely different for you than it it's me, so feel free to add/remove from this list as necessary, but as far as a basic outline goes, this is what I think the "longboarding" portion of your bucket list should look like. This list is everything you need to be able to look back at your time spent on a board and think "Wow, I really kicked some tail".
1) Skate Your Dream Spot
Something popped in your head when you read the title of this section...I don't know what it is for you exactly, but you need to make the pilgrimage one day. It may be somewhere majestic and beautiful like the Swiss Alps...or a classic spot filled with nostalgia like Love Park. Either way it's inspired you in some way.
You've seen countless videos of your favorite pros tearing it up and heard stories of its greatness. The gnarly hairpins, the intense speeds, the breathtaking views..everything about it calls out your name. You've searched your home town for something similar and spent hours practicing tricks you know would kill in that spot. You literally dream about it sometimes. That's all good and well...but you're going to have actually go there one day for it to be worth it. Make the time in your life, save some money, do it for you...it's where you need to be. Skate your dream spot at least once in your life, it'll be worth it.
2) Go Fast
This is another one that's personal to you. I have no minimum or maximum speed to suggest. You don't have to break the land speed record, you don't even have to buy precisions (though it might help). All you have to do is go fast. You'll know when you've done it.
Get out there and fly. Photo from IDF.
There's a point (different for everyone) where the speed itself becomes exhilarating. It requires no tricks, no slides, nor taking a sharp turn. Speed alone is enough to get your blood pumping. That's what you need to experience. When you have you'll probably get used to it and want to go faster. In reality, this one may never get crossed off the list... but that's the nature of skating: Constant progression.
3) Run From the Cops
I'm not saying blow a spot and make a fool of yourself. If you're in a local neighborhood and the police show up to politely ask you to leave, don't be that kook who runs or mouths off. That guy is an idiot and makes us all look bad. That being said, it is important to remember that skating, at its core, is a form of rebellion.
You aren't a true skater until you've had a run in with the law. Photo from Skateboard Cop.
It's not a team sport, we don't have dedicated fields for it and you can't join your high schools longboard team. Which is cool. In fact that is kind of what drew most of us to it in the first place. Embrace the outlaw inside you. You know there's a sick skate spot near you that's just automatic trouble, be it a graveyard, state park, construction site, even a police station. I'm not saying get arrested, I'm not even saying get caught doing it (that was just a catchy title). I'm just saying break the law and add a little thrill to your life. Be a rebellious skater. It's what we do.
4) Skate With a Personal Idol
We're all individuals here. You'll never skate quite like your favorite pro and you shouldn't want to. You might not realize it, but they're never going to skate quite like you either. That's one of the coolest things about the sport: it's so free form. Everyone has their own style.
Admire them, but realize this sport is all about individual style. Photo from Rodney Mullen.
However, by that same token you can learn a lot from hanging out with different skaters (especially ones better than you are). And that guy you idolize? He's definitely one of them. I hope most of us get to take a run with our hero's one day, even if they skate nothing like you. You could be a downhill skater shedding a ditch with Brad Edwards, or a straight flat ground dancer bombing a hill with Cliff Coleman. It doesn't matter, they all have some wisdom they can share.
5) Learn to Freaking Ollie
You heard me: learn to ollie. It's not a hard trick. It's the first one most skateboarders learn. I'm tired of seeing kids who can rip apart a giant hill get tripped up by a tiny little curb.
It's so easy to forget the roots. Photo from Nollie Skateboarding.
It doesn't even have to be an ollie, a no-comply works just as well. Maybe you don't have a kick to work with, then learn to boneless. Even an early grab will get you down a curb. That's the saddest is when you see a longboarder roll up to the edge of the sidewalk, get off their board, then pick it up just to step down the curb and get back on. Sure, a lot of those kids are just frat-bro cruiser types (and there's really nothing we can do about them), but way too many of them are expert thrashers that just never put in the time to learn the most basic of tricks. It's shameful and you need to fix it before you croak.
6) Attend an Infamous Event
No, your local outlaw slide jam doesn't count. Though it doesn't necessarily have to be an official IDF sanctioned event either. You know the ones I'm talking about.
Get out of the slide jam comfort zone. Photo from Extreme Barcelona.
Maryhill is such an anticipated race that people have boards setup just for the event. Ditch Slap is so awesome and with the flood danger as such a lethal possibility, it has been condemned on the news. Whether it's catching air down the the epic grade of Steepcrest or the ridiculous hilarity of the cops trying to catch you with nets at Broadway Bomb, these events are so well known for a reason. It would be a shame if you didn't check out at least one before you kick the bucket (or at least stop kicking wood).
7) Build Your Own Longboard
When the modern popsicle deck was standardized and skateboarders stopped experimenting with different shapes and materials, longboarders picked right up where they left off. Since then, board construction has grown by leaps and bounds: CNC'd wheel wells, bacon concave, carbon fiber spines, foam and hollow cores...nearly anything you could want is possible.
Get personal with your skateboard. Photo from Silverfish Longboarding.
More and more longboards are becoming very personal endeavors. In this sport, pro decks aren't just custom graphics. They're designed from the ground up to be perfect for a skater's own style based on their exact specifications. Most skaters (even the really talented) won't ever reach the pro board level of success, but we all deserve to ride something that fits us like a glove and performs as well as we do. So build your own board, or have a friend do it, who cares? As long as it's yours.
8) Play KOTR
Yes, it's another skate trip. This time though, you're not headed to your dream spot. Instead, you're taking a car and filling it with sweaty skaters and gas station burrito farts. Why? Because you're headed on a road trip my friend!
What's important is the adventure. Photo from Thrasher Magazine.
If you're unfamiliar with Thrasher's "King of the Road" contest then get familiar. It's downright gnarly and basically a mix between a scavenger hunt and a game of skate. Both teams get a list of tasks to accomplish which are mostly skate related, but some, uh, are not so much. Competitors head out across the country to complete in as many as they can. If you don't have two teams worth of friends willing to traverse the open highways with you (or just lack the gas money for the extra car) then bragging rights can be forfeited in a one team version of the game. The competition is very much secondary, what's important is the adventure.
9) Make at Least One Video
So you and four friends rented a van and traveled across the country to skate Lombard Street with Sergio Yuppie on a homemade board? Not bad! I mean, you didn't have to do them all at once, but you're clearly not messing around. In fact, you must have gotten most of that epic journey on tape right? If you didn't, you're blowing it.
Do something different and creative. Red Dirt Media made this awesome Longboard Video Game.
Luckily, it's not too late. Make some clips of you and your friends at the local spot. Whether you spend all night on a sick edit or just five minutes on the rawest of runs, you should document your experience as a skater. Who cares if it's 60% falling, 30% goofing around, and just 10% nailing tricks? That's how most people skate anyway and the videos that are willing to admit that are often the most fun to watch. Something about your every day sessions makes it worthwhile for you. Why not share that with others? Or maybe it's not for anyone else. Trust me, one day you and your friends will be glad you put some of your best memories on film. If nothing else, do it for yourself.
10) Spread the Stoke
This may be the last item on the list, but it's also the most important. You could finish 1-9 and then some and you still won't feel as fulfilled as if you dabbled even a little in some stoke spreading. You could be the greatest skater alive and you'd still, by definition, lose that title the minute you croak. No one can live forever, but do you know what can and will? Skateboarding. You can be a part of that, it just takes a little selflessness.
Spread stoke that lives on. Photo from Shralpers Union.
You know this amazing sport has been good to you, maybe even helped you through some rough times. It's time to pass on some of that good will. Even if you don't ever hold that "best skater alive" title, you can make an even bigger impact just giving back to the local scene. You can teach a few groms how to shred, organize a local event, even give half your quiver away as the prizes. Who cares? You'll never ride all of them as much as they deserve anyway. The only way you'll never have to "hang up the wood" is if you give it away instead.
Everyone stops skating eventually, but no one will be remembered longer or more fondly than those who spread the stoke.
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Do the things you dream about. Photo from YouSpots Blog.