high performance longboarding

Joe Rickabaugh is a high performance longboarder, too. What of it. Photo: Jerry Jaramillo

The Inertia

Like a married father of four who makes excuses for late night market runs, then spends the stolen time lurking in truck stop restrooms, I’ve been living a lie. “Gotta grab some milk,” I shout on my way out the door. Then it’s straight to the proverbial glory hole. Crouching in the shadows, heart beating wildly. Hoping against hope I don’t run into someone I know. Secretly yearning for the day I will.

I’m trapped in a web of dishonesty and dissembling. I’ve long lacked the confidence to face my own proclivities.

I knew others might look down on me, so I hid who I was. I couldn’t handle the judgment, the thinly veiled contempt. The knowledge I’d be a subject of derision. “Yeah, he’s one of those…”

 What will my father think?

Life is a journey. A series of struggles. A never-ending quest to discover one’s self, to come to terms with our flaws and desires. To find the strength to stand up for who we are, deep down inside.

It’s time I accept what I am. Shout it loud and proud.

The desire was always there. As a ‘tween, a teen, into adulthood. I’d watch others on rockered out low-volume planks bottom turn into trim. Find a steep section, then lay it on a rail. I’d yearn to follow in their footsteps, but always end up in the safety of the herd. Bobbing chest deep in the lineup, hopping endlessly over fat sections. Frustration piled upon frustration as I sought to surf the way I was told I should. Fly away airs never landed, turns all too often bogged.

The occasional moment of brilliance, deep bottom turn into full might gouge, would trick me into thinking I was on the right path. That I could wipe away what was wrong with me if only I spent enough time on the struggle. That I could be normal.

It took a near-death experience to force me to recognize what I am. A lengthy recuperation, muscular atrophy. A shameful amount of weight packed onto my ass and neck and midriff. Weak and jiggly. After decades of surfing, I was back to the drawing board. Muscle memory, but no muscle. Unintentionally cultivated mass turned my tiny chips into things I could not ride, rather than things I’d rather not. I couldn’t do a push-up, much less explode to my feet and land in a balanced stance.

I hopped on a log, moved back to the shoulder. Battled for scraps with beginners. Humiliating, frustrating. Why do people start surfing in the first place? This isn’t fun at all.

Slowly but surely my body repaired itself. The waistline approached trim, arms filled out and regained their strength. After an eternity, I started having fun again.

Upper body strength rebuilt, I went to blow the dust off my shortboards. Get back in that groove. Then I stopped and asked myself: “Why?”

“You’ll never be twenty again,” I ranted at the mirror. “You know this won’t be fun. You haven’t tried to do an air in years. Not since that botched landing made your knee scream and scared you senseless. You’re 6’ 2″, over two hundred pounds. You’ll be forty, like, tomorrow. Why bother being another old guy who rides a shortboard poorly? Submit to who you truly are. Ride something bigger well.”

I succumbed to my deepest desire, wrapped my arms around a love that dare not speak its name. I adore my high-performance longboard, and ain’t no one gonna get between us.

Long and thin and narrow, as much rocker as my shaper can jam into a blank. Low-volume, tapered rails, thruster setup.

Longboarding is easier, there’s no shame in that. I know a buried rail on a log doesn’t look nearly as good as it feels. But I’m a thirty-six-year-old married man. I suspect that’s my general story going forward.

I’m the same person I’ve always been. Maybe slightly more honest. Maybe a little happier. Definitely no better. Not more open minded.

I ride a high-performance longboard.

 I still think retro single fins suck. Those things are for fucking kooks.


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