Last night, I went to a movie, a movie about skateboarding, and the first thing I did when I got home was go into my young son’s room and touched his sleeping head while I pondered the idea of how to give him every opportunity I can to become the most exceptional human being possible. I have absolutely no idea how I’m going to do that, but I think, after watching that film, I am better equipped.
The movie is Bones Brigade, a documentary by Stacy Peralta about the famed Powell-Peralta skateboard team from the 1980s, featuring Steve Caballero, Tommy Guerrero, Tony Hawk, Lance Mountain, Mike McGill and Rodney Mullen, among others. Back when I was a young teen in the sprawling suburbs of Orange County, skateboarding was more than just a means to get around; we spent countless hours skating in drainage ditches, bombing asphalt hills or parking structures, or digging our way through the hillsides to find the elusive skate ramps.
I won’t say that I was ever very good at skateboarding. I could manage a drop-in and a couple of turns on a half-pipe, but I never caught air, and I could barely ollie off a curb, but I enjoyed it immensely and consider skateboarding a major factor in defining my character, personality and what I believed in.
All those memories came rushing back to me during the movie, and I was really enjoying myself, but something unexpected happened; things got emotional.
At many points in the movie, the guys talk about the stresses and demands put upon them as teenagers and young adults. Pressure to compete, pressure to win, pressure from friends, peers and family, all taking their toll.
There was also the stress of making a living and paying the bills. Back when the Bone Brigade first started, people didn’t make a living skateboarding. The rockstar millionaire empire than Tony Hawk built didn’t come until many, many years later, and there have been WAY more casualties of that system than there were successes.
They fought through a very dark period where it looked like the end of skateboarding forever, and emerged to become the most legendary skate team that ever existed, not to mention, Tony Hawk becoming the most widely known name in action sports ever. They made it through only on their desire to pursue a passion for the sport they loved. Skateboarding was their soul, a part of their being, and even if the contests went away and all the skate parks were tore down, they would still skate because the alternative was unthinkable.
At one point in the movie, Rodney Mullen makes a very astute observation about Stacy Peralta that really hit home with me. He said that Stacy was more of a big brother than a coach to these kids, but he was also very careful to not over-praise his team for their accomplishments for fear of them getting used to the idea that they were as magnificent as we all thought they were. Instead, he kept them humble and focused on their goals.
These six kids were blessed with an opportunity to be a part of something that will probably never happen again, at least in the world of action sports, and when you hear them recall their stories, you know they appreciate the opportunities and are grateful for them.
As I stood over my son’s bed, resting my hand in his, I wondered how I might help create a world of possibility for him without putting any undue stress upon him, or cause him to believe his britches are bigger than they really are. I don’t have that answer yet, but I do know, when the Bones Brigade video comes out on DVD, I’m buying it and putting that on infinite repeat for him, instead of Blues Clues.