Getting Back into Skateboarding

Getting back into skateboarding as an adult can be very intimidating, but also incredibly fun.

The endless journey to learn to skateboard again

Disparate Youth

Chris: started at age 12, and stopped skateboarding consistently around 1990, when I was getting more serious with snowboarding. At that point, most of my friends weren’t skateboarding and we didn’t have skate parks where I lived. I believe I became more of a “fan of skateboarding” than a “skateboarder.” To this day, I love watching skateboarding on TV, contests and in videos. Back when I was skating, I mainly skated street, launch ramps, ditches and some small pools; I really wish I would have kept skating, but I didn’t…so here we are today.

Dave: started skating at age 13; my parents bought me a Variflex board for Christmas. It opened a whole new world for me. Skateboarding consumed me for the next 6 years.  As life became more complicated, I skated less and less.  Sound familiar?  I still skated here and there over the years.  My oldest son skated for about a year when he was in middle school.  I rode a fair amount then but typically just a few times a year.  My youngest boy wanted to skateboard at a young age, so I put him on a board at 4 years old.  The more he got into it, the more I did as well. I never realized how much I missed and needed skateboarding in my life. It’s also been a great bonding activity for my son and me to share.  It’s amazing to watch him progress, and now and then I pull an old trick and blow his mind.

You get better with age, right? Not really…but that’s no reason to not keep trying stuff.

Chris: I stepped on a board from time to time in my 20s and early 30s and remembered how fun it was to push around, but that was it. It wasn’t until my late 30s and now almost mid-40s that I got the drive and determination to learn to skate again. The skateboard scene in Colorado is amazing, and I feel lucky that I have some incredible skate parks within a short driving distance.  Good access helps immensely in getting back on a skateboard.

I’ve found the real challenge in skateboarding is myself. I do believe it to be true if you don’t really want to learn to skateboard again, and you don’t give skateboarding 100 percent, well, you might as well just stay a fan of skateboarding. At this age, you’re really just battling yourself. You’ll never have the flexibility, balance, quick recovery, or time that you had for skateboarding when you were younger, but you can still enjoy skateboarding. Don’t worry about the 12 – 25-year-old kids that are incredible skateboarders at your park; that will never be us. Just focus on yourself and what feels good to you. If you put in the time, skateboarding at this age can be rewarding and amazingly fun. It might be painful sometimes (or a lot of the time). It will take a lot of time and effort to learn and relearn skateboarding tricks.  I’ve found that my love of the sport and the feeling I can get from riding my skateboard, helps me know anything is possible. I’ve seen vast improvements in my balance, core strength, agility, and overall lower body strength from skateboarding, and it’s way more fun, to me, than using the elliptical machine at the gym any day! It’s also motivated me to work harder in regaining flexibility and strength at the gym so I can keep skateboarding for years to come.

Dave:  With the emergence of the modern skate park, you will have no shortage of place to go.  Most towns have a skate park, or there is one close by.  Every time we travel I look to see if there is a park.  We’ve been to some amazing ones, and some terrible ones, but it’s all skateboarding.  When I first started going with my son, I was intimidated and just watched a lot.  But I have found the younger skaters are super supportive and think it’s killer to see an old ass man still skating.  There is quite an appreciation for the history of skateboarding as well.  It’s pretty cool to be able to share stories with young rippers.

Dave Van Etten frontside airOther things that will help you, get your ass in shape.  When I really started again I was 230lbs at 6’0”.  I’m now more like 190, which has made a huge difference for me.  Not only will it help your balance and endurance for your return to action sports but also it will help prevent injuries.  I personally go to the gym almost daily and to yoga several days a week.

Lessons learned, gear, and what’s helped us get back into skateboarding

Chris: I’ve been snowboarding constantly for the past 30 years, and I’m sure that has given me a bit of an advantage in getting back into skateboarding when I did, at the age of around 40. Still it wasn’t easy; boards and equipment have changed so much. I really didn’t know where to start. I struggled. I read that you should get a deck that’s around 7.75 inches across and 52mm wheels for the type of skateboarding I wanted to get into, but that just didn’t work out too well for me. I even had a 9-year-old kid tell me that my board looked too small for me, sigh… I became an internet student of skateboard decks, trucks, bearings and wheels. I researched as much as I could about what I should be riding and what the best brands are, and it all boiled down to I had no idea. I probably still really don’t have it down, but I’m learning, and I have a great friend who rips at skateboarding who has helped me immensely in the past year. In the beginning, I went through about six different skateboard set ups; my wife definitely raised an eyebrow or two at how much stuff I was buying. I also purchased pads and a helmet, which my wife was very appreciative of, as was I. I started off on the lower end of the scale on skateboard setups and really that’s the best advice I can give. The exceptions are shoes, pads and helmets; I’d suggest getting a good set of wrist guards, knee and elbow pads, socks with shin protection (Footprint Insoles has some great ones when they are available), and a good helmet. You’ll be happy you did when you fall, and you will indeed fall and fall and fall a lot! Find a good pair of skate shoes that have some good insoles or cushioning. I found that my heels hurt like hell after trying to relearn how to ollie for days on end; a good skate shoe will make a world of difference and shin protection will too. I’ll list the products I use (and Dave will too) and have reviewed here on Old Guys Rip Too that I’ve found work for me.

Picking a skateboard set up is really difficult. If you’re lucky to have a good skateboard shop near you that understands the needs of an older guy getting back into skateboarding, go there first and tell the shop employees that you’re starting out again. Describe the type of skateboarding you want to get back into, and if they try to put you on a 7.25 popsicle deck, walk… no RUN away as fast as you can and find another shop (just kidding, they’d never do that).

Chris skateboards over the last several years

Dave: Truly getting back into skateboarding was a challenge and will be for you too.  But we are here to help.  For me, skateboards changed a lot in the ’90s.  When I got back into it, I just was not comfortable on a popsicle deck. Go with what you know, because there are a ton of reissue and old school decks out now.  I bought a Black Label John Lucero, Independent Trucks, and Mini Logo wheels.  It just felt right to me to be on an old-school shape.  My tastes have changed over the years, and now I ride a pop deck.

One of the hardest things to get back is balance.  Buy a good set of pads and a good helmet; you just never know when you’re going to need them.  Better safe than sorry right?  There are a ton of options to choose from, in my personal experience…spend the extra money for a quality product.  S1 helmets are designed by a skater and one of the only helmets that is designed to take multiple impacts.  For knee, elbow and wrist guards, I prefer 187 Killer Pads, again designed by a skater who knows about protection and durability.  

Let’s do this together

Dave Van Etten ollieFriends are important in skateboarding. Even if it’s just the casual dude at the skate park that chats you up and rides with you, I think it’s important to have this be a social thing too. For example, when Dave travels and he knows there is a skate park near by, he’ll reach out over social media or in forums to see if there’s a local skater in the area. Sure, it’s great to focus and really work on skateboarding again, but it also helps when you have someone you can talk to about what you’re going through. And who knows, it might help your riding to see someone else ripping or learning at the park right along with you.  I’ve been very fortunate to have a group of old rippers to watch and inspire me to keep trying; my good friend Shawn has been skateboarding for over 20+ years (he just turned 40) and is an incredible skateboarder, person, and mentor who has helped me a ton with getting back into skateboarding.  I’m lucky to have him to ask questions about equipment, skateboards, and even some history of skateboarding.  Dave and his family are also a huge motivation for me to keep going. Dave and his son are pushing it every time they go skateboarding it seems, and that motivates me to keep trying to do more and get out there as often as I can.  He’s also a great friend to talk about skateboarding with! What I’m trying to say is that there’s a community in most areas now of older skateboarders who still rip, and plenty of folks who are getting back into it as well that you can reach out to, whether over social media, forums, or at your local skate park or shop. I believe community and skateboarding with others is very important in enjoying the journey back into skateboarding.

Final Thoughts

Getting back into skateboarding over 40 is tough, but for me it’s been worth it — the fun outweighs the pain, and I’m sure I will continue to skate for years to come.  Keep in mind it’s going to be a challenge, and there will be pain, bruises, and possibly some injuries. For me, it’s a part of the self-challenge to keep moving, stay young physically and at heart, and meet new people. I also find when you want to relax, there’s a solace in skateboarding that not only brings a sense of nostalgia, but also keep things new and, most importantly, fun.  It’s an incredible feeling to relearn how to grind, air or rock to fakie. It’s just something that keeps me going and grinning when I learn or relearn a trick. If you want to put in the time, I think you can too…but you really have to want it for yourself. If you feel the calling, then go for it!

We’d happy to answer any questions you might have leave a comment in this post or contact us.  We have shirts and stickers to help you represent the Old Guys. What are you waiting for…go skate!

Chris: products we have really come to enjoy for my skateboarding, some are linked to our reviews and others to the products.

Pads and Protection:
Boneless Pro Knee Pads
Pro Tec Elbow pads
Dakine wrist guards
Footprint crew painkiller shin/ankle guard socks

Helmet:
S1 Lifer Helmet

Skateboard Set Up (as of July 2017)
Pocket Pistols Pedro Barros Corner Pocket Width: 8.625 Length: 32.6 Wheel Base: 15.125 Mod Shovel Nose for all terrain skateboarding (deck is no longer available from Pocket Pistols Skateboards).

Independent trucks Axle width: 8.5″ Hanger width: 149mm
Bones SPF Clear wheels

Dave:

Pads and Protection:
187 Killer Pads
Footprint Painkiller socks

Helmet:
S1 Lifer Helmet

Skateboard Set Up (as of July 2017):
Powell-Peralta Flight Deck (8.5″)
Independent Trucks
Bones wheels 81’s
Bronson bearing

 

2 thoughts on “Getting Back into Skateboarding”

  1. With the 58mm SPF wheels, do you use risers? If so, what size risers and hardware?
    I’m in my mid-30s, and recently got back into skating after a long hiatus, when my daughter started to show some interest. however, the set ups that I used to use in my younger days are not really working for me as an old guy, i’m just trying to get some tips on what works for everyone else. Thanks, and I enjoyed the article!

    1. Thanks! Great question Roy, I use 1/8th inch risers (lucky or independent are my choices) and hardware 1&1/8th inch as well. I’ve found that works best for me with 58mm wheels.

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