In the film 180° South, Yvon Chouinard talks about how climbing is essentially a useless act: “You get to the top of a wall, there’s nothing up there. Lionel Terray, the great French climber called it ‘The conquistadors of the useless.’ Yeah, the end result is absolutely useless, but every time I travel, I learn something new and hopefully I get to be a better person.”
I love this observation about climbing, and I think it reflects the way I’ve always viewed skateboarding. In many ways, it is a useless act—but in the same way art is a useless act. In a culture which centers around work and pragmatics, doing something purely for the sake of enjoying it can be refreshing.
I started skateboarding back in elementary school. My uncle Kevin had grown up skating himself, and gave me a couple of his old boards right before I started middle school. I would spend hours skating around in the street, and eventually it became a primary activity with friends throughout high school. While many stereotypes of skateboarders exist in America, it might also be seen as an art form and as a craft. We were often kicked out of locations, or viewed as burn-outs with nothing to do. But I think my friends skated for the same reason I did. There is a beauty in carving down a hill or feeling the wind in your shirt. When I started college, skating eventually faded out of my life. In an attempt to find a few personal projects in the midst of the pandemic, I decided to reuse the trucks from my uncle’s old board, bought some new wheels, and shaped my own deck out of an old cabinet shelf.