Hello, welcome to the Everyday Language podcast from Akita, Japan, I’m Mark. This episode is part 2 of a chat I had with Noah about skateboarding. This one is a bit longer, around 30 minutes long in total. In it, Noah waxes lyrical about his love of skating, tells us about skateboard culture and how skateboarding can keep you lean.
Mark: I haven’t got first hand experience, I hardly ever see any skaters out there, like down at Omono Gawa (Omono River / 雄物川) there’s…under a bridge, there’s an area, um…
Mark: Yeah there’s like, it’s just like an empty car park or something.
Noah: I seen a skater in uh, that one park, near your neighbourhood, between your neighbourhood and AEON mall.
Mark: Yeah the…
Noah: Yeah, I was skateboarding around there and one guy came at night time, and then of course in the city at Senshu Park I always see at night, you know is this one little paved strip between the two ponds (hmm), so I pretty much avoid it because I don’t want to like be competing with, with anybody you know.
Mark: There’s like some legendary skate films…
Noah: But the first skate, actually uh, I was talking about this the other day, with somebody, the first skateboard video I got was called future primitive, it was from the
Bones Brigade or Powell Peralta videos from the 1980’s and Future Primitive was
the second video it was, it’s a classic, it’s like the second big-name video, a skateboard video to come out, and I, traded something for that video, I think I traded like a skateboard for that
video, like a skateboard deck (right, yeah), you know, a used one and that was like in the eighth grade, when I was 13.
Mark: Mmm, skateboard culture, what’s it, what’s it like in Hawaii?
Noah: Pretty big.
Noah: Because, yeah it’s, it’s sunny all year round, so, in the city there’s like three or four main skate parks, but now, uh, there’s a lot of ditches, you know, these, these aqueducts and paved areas to, you know to lead the rainwater out to the sea, you know, when there’s a lot of rain, so uh, people graffiti all over those banks, and, uh, they skate them too,
in fact, my friend has a company called “ditch life”, I used to have this sticker somewhere, I don’t know where I put them, uh actually, yeah “ditch life”, that’s my friend’s company because they always skateboard in these ditches (oh nice!) real classic style, they are most of them do they always ride like that the 1980’s style like, boards, you know with the big wheels going through these ditches,
and, yeah it’s not about…for them it’s not about big tricks even though they ride with some really good skaters, it’s more about just trying to find places, you know out in the middle of nowhere, you know with friends, and just to ride around take like really cool photographs in a very old vintage style, but er,
Mark: You told me there’s a right kind of smooth, and like, that’s what we were searching for when we went out.
Noah: Oh, that’s right.
Mark: So, what’s the right kind of smooth?
Noah: The right kind of smooth has to deal with the surface…for skateboarding, because as I mentioned, you know, if you’re riding like a trick board or freestyle skateboard, like a
smaller board, then, uh, your wheels are probably smaller, and they’re probably a little more firm, so you need a smoother softer, a smoother pavement, let’s say, a smoother pavement, so you look for parking lots, where it’s like the surface is pretty smooth, you can go faster, you
can control your speed, you don’t have to worry about loose, actually, that’s not true,
but, I was gonna say you don’t have to worry about cracks, and things like that as much to – especially, as a beginner you want like the smoothest place you can find, you want, yeah at the place, at the parking lot, that, yeah I took you to the second one, that parking lot is where I skate the most because it’s the most smooth, recently that there’s a lot of loose rocks all over there, so, uh yeah I just try to kick them out of the way you know and try to find a small area to skate around, but um.
Mark: No one ever told you to get out of there?
Noah: Nobody ever told me, um I think that they know me by now, like they see me in there’s that guy like making noise, but I feel like there must be other people skateboarding there
as well from time to time (hmm), it’s like the only parking lot in the city that’s almost always half empty, you know…
…like, why is skateboarding like a useful activity instead of like ba—basketball?
Or jogging? You know why don’t you answer that one? Like why do you, you have a longboard, but why not just like you were playing a lot of indoor futsal, and stuff like that when you came here, but um (yeah) can you think of like, maybe reasons why like skateboarding would be kind of an activity, an option other than just conventional sports?
Mark: Well, it’s a different feeling just for like the sensation of going along, (yeah) it’s [a] kind of freedom, um, yeah, I like with football is kind of adversarial, you know you’re competing against someone, running is like, well to be honest, I really like running now, but er, I see it as skateboarding is just more, pure fun, more like (yeah) like see, you know, it’s not about trying to get faster, or, well for me not trying to do better each time, its something which is just, it feels good just as it is.
Noah: Yeah, yeah that’s the way I feel too, um, yeah for me, I, I like skateboarding, just because uh, actually, it’s all, to me skateboarding has been, like most, sports are just so like conventional, most sports are about like, being part of the team, being part of like, yeah, just you know,
everybody’s, just so acceptable, where one of the things I liked about skateboarding was its, oppositional sense of, you know sense of being, you know, you’re not allowed to skate,
you know in a lot of places, and, and police officers and property owners they don’t like skateboarders because they see them as destructive, and in fact, uh, there was a sticker campaign that went along that was really popular in the late 1980’s and then early 1990’s, it was called skateboarding is not a crime, and another thing about skateboarding was this was one of the first areas in which, uh, the reality video emerged, you know skate, filming skateboarding, you know, that was like, way before people were filming other sports with GoPro’s in fact
this comes from skateboarding, you know, and because you know people wanted to record what they were doing and the skate videos were really creative, in that sense, putting them together, adding stories, so it’s kind of landmark in the development of media and social media, um, yeah, and then it has created a style, you know, and um.
Mark: I mean, more in my mind, it’s related to hip hop and that kind of thing, than the way you’re kind of talking about that sounds like punk, as well, do you? Like does that…do you connect with any of those things? Like do you…
Noah: yeah, of course, it’s both. It’s hip hop and punk most of the kind of that was, was so great about the classic skate videos in the 411 videos of the early 1990’s like 411 was you know they had like different issues that would come out maybe every couple months, skate, they call each video an issue like, 411 issue 1, and so on but they, they always combine like hip-hop punk, alternative music, um, and so this was a kind of venue that wasn’t just one subculture, it was kind of like a mixture of subcultures of music and, and sports,
and in my opinion like skateboarding was probably one of the most positive influences on like keeping people away from other things, like drugs, and so on even though drugs may have been like a major part, skateboarding was also a kind of way of getting out of that,
Mark: Yeah I think you hear about it in a lot of people’s recoveries (mmm, you do). Like I met someone in the hospital (mmm) he was like, “yeah when I was a kid, I used to go skating all the time”, so I’m like “man why don’t you do it now?”, and he was like thirties, got loads of drug problems, and he said “I’d love to man, it was just…”, I mean, just talking about it seemed to, seem to, you know have cheered him up a bit,
Noah: Yeah, yeah.
Mark: So you think that’s a powerful thing,
Noah: Yeah, yeah, Vice News, er, Vice News has a kind of series, there, I mean the series is all about skateboarders, I can’t remember the name of the series, it’s slipping my mind right now, but they, they always cover these, these has-beens who got really involved in drugs, and basically it ended their career and now they’ve come back to…
…skateboarding as a way of kind of recovering, you know from their drugs, so one of the guys they did a series on, was, uh— what’s the guy from Jackass?
Mark: Oh, that guy, something O?
Noah: Oh not, not Steve O, another guy who was like, (inaudible) what is his name? Anyways I forget, yeah you’ll see it in the description below this video.
Mark: Yeah, we’ll put the links in, is it because it’s a rush like?
Noah: Skateboarding just allows you to get your energy out, I think maybe allow us especially people who are really good at it, can you imagine? Being really good at something and then use that as a kind of way to kind of build your confidence against other things such as like drugs, recovery, and so on, so I think that’s part of it, was to get people active and to get people involved in a process that can run parallel to the process of recovery,
so they could be, you know, okay like you know getting these tricks down again, “Wow, you know like I’m flying off a ramp, you know at high speed and I can do this, you know, if I can do this you know I should be able to do other things.”
So that may be a good technique you know just make people confident in themselves again strengthen their, you know, their own kind of individual perception.
Mark: Then you gonna replace, like if you’ve got an issue with drugs or alcohol, you’ve gotta, like if you stop it, you got to do something else with your time, again even if you broke up with a girl or you broke up with your partner, a boy, girl, boy whatever, (yeah) you know,
thinking cos this morning, I got some email from my friend, he’s like “I want to give up, there’s no point anymore”, I thought “what are you talking about man?” (yeah) You’ve gotta loads of stuff you like, you like music, you like doing this… building stuff.”
He was like “No, there’s no point it”, it’s about some girl, I was like “man…you know, you’ve lost something but you’ve got to replace it with something else”.
Noah: Yeah, yeah, yeah that’s I don’t know to me, it’s just such a waste you know like for people to kind of put all their chips on things I have nothing to do with themselves, you know it’s like we spend so much time and to me that’s, that’s like a kind of displacement of, of individual potential, like what people should think about also is like what are their own talents, what are they developing about themselves, you know,
And, um, yeah I mean that’s to me that’s kind of the problem, and potential of skateboarding as well, the problem is, many people see skateboarding, as kind of a young activity, something that kids do, you know something that belongs to youth, but in fact, like, any kind, and, and one of the reasons like, “oh when you feel like you get older you grow out of it.”
that’s because society at large doesn’t really see skateboarding, as like, you know, something that like 40 year-olds do in their free time, um, you know, so but to me I think it’s like, it’s, it’s perfect, you know, it’s like a mode of transportation, it’s a form of exercise, I mean it’s a kind of creative expression of, its creative expression that can be adapted to, to each individual.
Mark: Well that point I love, like when you’re, like full expression, that’s what I mean, like you know, you and I you’re not really into football, but when you’re running full pelt and you’re just in it, and you’re, like I love that feeling, yeah and when you’re in the middle of a dance, (yeah) and you’ve just like kind of lost yourself, yeah and then I think well skateboading has obviously got it, when you just wwwooooshhh…
Noah: oh yeah, yeah now I’m into football, like I used to play, I used to play that, you
know like, yeah, when I was young, it’s stuff like that, and um, yeah it’s just a feeling of like it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t have to be skateboarding it can be any activity but the reason I’m emphasizing skateboarding is because, it’s kind of looked at, as kind of like, rebellious activity, you know, getting kicked out of places and yeah it just gets identified with a whole subculture of, like a music, of punk ,of hip-hop, of fashion, you know like, it kind of, maybe of tattoos, of you know people who don’t really…
Mark: Isn’t it a bit zen? Like when you’re skateboarding, feeling at one with the board and that?
Noah: That’s exactly it, feeling at one with the landscape, which has been built, ironically, to keep people like you from expressing themselves, you know something? That’s what
skateboarding overcomes, skateboarding is like, you know people build benches, people build walls, for example people build guardrails, you know, all for, kind of making specific intentions to particular places, you know,
like this place should be used to go to walk up and down, this space should be used to, to, to direct people in this direction, but what skateboarding has managed to do, is show people that you can overcome those boundaries, like literally, and, yeah, it’s a feeling of like, it feels like, how can I say? Cathartic, it feels cathartic, and when you can like ollie over a barrier that wants you to go in a different way, or it feels cathartic, that instead of like walking down each step by step to get to the bottom, you can kind of like, you know ollie, like jump all over those steps, and, it’s something you can’t really do, um, on your own, like if you
jump from top to you’re gonna hit the bottom of the stairs with you know a lot of impact a
lot of force gonna hurt your knees but, but the skateboard it has that the motion is continuous, so it kind of cushions your, your landing.
Mark: Oh you got me thinking about parkour, that thing (mmm) d-did you get into that thing, this jumping around, off buildings??
Noah: Yeah, I know that, see that’s kind of, yeah, that’s kind of [a] similar thing you know, um, where in that sense, they’re trying to use the body to overcome the barriers, and they’re trying to show people the potential of the body, which we don’t know,
and that too, I think it’s kind of interesting, because it’s taking it’s moving away from team sports, into like a kind of individual expression, it’s like mixing dance, with uh, yeah it’s like skateboarding without a skateboard kind of, you know, but they’re a little bit crazy too.
Mark: Yeah, a bit crazy.
Noah: I seen a crazy documentary where they climbed this abandoned building in Bangkok, it’s ridiculous, and they’re just walking along places like, like 80 stories high, all walking along these, like god it’s just crazy, the edges of walls and…
Mark: Is that what Joe’s into? Like he was saying, he likes adrenaline [sports] (yeah) and, er, there was a thing in the paper about, what are those guys called like they fly, they put wings on (yeah, oh yeah) and jump off a mountain or something [wingsuit flying] (yeah and yeah) and er, people die a lot in that, in that one.
Noah: Yeah, yeah I think like that’s an entirely separate issue, you know, because I think skateboarding in general, is like, hasn’t really been about adrenaline, I mean, it’s overcoming
things but most of it has been like you, you, it also shows a lot of like the failures, like in many of the videos, that people have to get through to get to a certain place, like, uh, you know and I think like by the time they get to pro, it’s very calculated, like they know what they can and can’t do, and so on, um.
Mark: I like the hidden, hidden thing about it like, a lot of people from Brighton I heard made it quite, like their pro skaters now, living in LA or they, they got a kind of, it’s their job, where those people they would never get that advice in the careers office at school, like no one would ever say “go be skater”, that’s just stuff they’ve done in the own time.
Noah: See that’s, that’s why I wish I had been a guidance counsellor, because of course I, I don’t want to be a guidance counsellor, and I never will be one in fact, but it’s just ridiculous the kind of stuff, that they tell you, and your like, it, just because everybody can’t do something, people will tell you to do the thing that everybody seems to be able to do, it’s like ridiculous…
…like um, you know people should tell you that you could be a successful musician but you may have to suffer for 10 years, (mmm) I mean that’s the reality, you can be a successful actor or actress, but you may have to suffer for a little while, you can be a successful artist but you have to learn how to fail over, and over, and over, and I think like, like that I mean and it’s not that you should choose…
…a particular thing, it’s you should choose, what you’ve, you really, really love, I mean what you’re really willing to, kind of give, you know, to get something,
Mark: How’d you boil that down? Like, I’m, I’m thirty six now, and I’ve got like ten things I love doing…
Noah: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Mark: So how do you boil it down to one thing?
Noah: Yeah, yeah
Mark: That’s I mean I’ve got an order, I’ve got my preferences now, (yeah yeah) so I kind of reject stuff which is not…
Noah: Yeah, yeah, wait but you have like a great, kind of like skillset, for example that works within almost every economy, you know, within the medical industry and like you know with the good like academic background, and you know with a lot of experience you know working with patients and hospitals, and so on, so you’d have something already, and see that’s, that’s what I feel like too,
like I have so many different interests and I often feel, like I would like to do something outside of this, but sometimes I wish like, if I wasn’t doing like academic stuff (mmm), somebody had told me when I was 17 or 18 or like, you know, just you know, you love music why don’t you just pursue it? Now, realize you may have to fail for ten years, and nobody will be able to, but if you’re willing to like go through this then you can come out the other side like doing what you love.
because I totally think I could have done that, but uh, it was weird, it was like you know.
Mark: You’ve got the safety net, like yeah what my parents would say, go and get your education make sure you go to something to fall back on, and then, then you can do what you want.
Noah: Yeah, and that’s what most people, you know, you know, that I talk to in Asia say too, like they wanted to do this, like art school, or film school, but their parents almost like encouraged them that they had to find something technical first, so like, if you want to do art, you do architecture for example in Thailand.
Mark: Right, that’s what my friend is doing.
Noah: Yeah, yeah, which is great, cuz I think architectures, yeah, it’s fantastic, yeah it’s like yeah so if you’re into really creative stuff, architecture is a great field you know.
Mark: Right, yeah, I heard the thing with there is, the money factor (mm-hmm) like the reality of, for some architects, for some practices, they’re like (yeah) they need to bring money in, just design what you can, do it really quick, (mm-hmm) and that’s that end, and then the other end is like, let’s do something beautiful! (yeah, yeah, yeah) where we care about it.
Noah: Yeah, yeah it’s great though, but I think they, they get this information though if they decide not to be an architect, they have all this information like you know what kind of materials go into buildings, like, if you want to be an installation artist, how do you put things together, they know things about scale, and in, and measurement thing
and you know a lot about like, (yep) architects who themselves were kind of like artists, they look at, you know, a lot of case studies, different cities, different models, different work so it’s even if you become a filmmaker, you know a lot about how to look at things, you know in terms of like dimensions and perspective, and so on, so yeah it’s great to,
it’s great to think about, like even if, you want to do something and you don’t see, like yourself being able to do it, what can you do that seems, that might be more practical, but yet could lead…
Mark: This is very guidance counsellor-ing!
Noah: Yeah, yeah.
Mark: You could be a good one.
Noah: Yeah, but I think I would want to tell them to yeah it’s weird. Yeah, I don’t know a lot
Mark: I love the thing that’s on George Monbiot’s website, his personal blog, er, he’s the journalist from The Guardian does quite critical investigations, blah, blah, blah, you know he’s got a careers advice page (yeah) and he’s like “yeah just do what you want to do, don’t sellout”, like if you, particularly for journalists, they say go, and work for a nice small regional [news]paper, and then do what they tell you to do. And he’s like, “don’t do that”, because you’ll get really far away from what you want to do, (yeah) from the writing that you want to do, (yeah) so even if no one cares about you
like just do that thing [which you are interested in], (mmm) then find other people who are doing your thing, they’re not getting paid anything, but then at least you’re getting together, you’re building knowledge about this thing [your interest] (yeah, yeah, yeah) and eventually one day people are going to come to you .
Noah: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Mark: But if you go off, and start saying “yes” to what, all these opportunities, which lead you away from your field, (yep) of journalism, by the time you’re, you know 30 [or] 40 [years old], you can’t go back, like, you don’t you don’t really know the thing you wanted to do, you’ve got a mortgage, you’ve kids, and that’s the end. Like, you’re not, you’ve kind of, well he says, yeah, be pure, be a purist.
Noah: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, I mean it’s easier said than done, you know, I mean, there are a lot of things that happen outside of the career that you choose that can direct you in one direction, or another you know it’s not just guidance counsellor, college and then career, it’s like, you know, what… what’s happening with your friends? Like where, where do you spend most of your time? Where do you live? What’s going on with your family? (Mmm)
And sometimes, like (yeah) all of this should be taken into account, as well, you know when you think, about like what you do, what you want to do, like (mm) today like a lot of people want to tell us like, we should choose something that’s based on our self-interests but do we? Is that even how it works? Do we always just pretty much choose what we want? Or are we balancing all these other things?
So that’s what I think, like people never tell us like, okay think about your surroundings, you know, think about like, what’s going on in your life…How does this seem to work? With like you know, what’s your background? What are your experiences?
Mark: This is that like, that umm, Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman.
Noah: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Mark: Your perceptions and well economic way of thinking, like how to make the optimal decision? (mm-hmm) do people make the best [decisions]? You’re probably not going to.
Noah: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Mark: That you at the time, is not objective. (yeah) Although it seems like that.
Noah: Yeah, maybe this would be a good way to segue back into skateboarding, no pun intended, segue, but in, in any sense, like a, this, their whole, this reminds me like, at, to the time when all that was going on talking to guidance counsellors, thinking about what I was going to do after college, thinking about like you know the, the, the kind of road, the track that you’re supposed to stay on, versus you know the things that you do to cope with that, you know what you’re doing with your friends what’s going on around you.
like a friend, used to tell me, he’d be like, you know the reason I love skateboarding so much, is ‘cause it’s what I do, and I don’t have to think about anything, you know, it’s like a space of freedom, like I can go off by myself, and like you know, I don’t have to think, I could just do it, and that’s what I think we, we forget about life in general,
part of what we’re doing is like we’re thinking our way through everything, but what skateboarding can be, is like, it’s like, a kind of like, just an expression and I think all, in, in our life like no matter what it is, can be skateboarding or anything else, we all need some kind of expression.
Whether it’s the dance you do on the football field, on the pitch, you know or whether, it’s you know, you know skateboarding, or whether it’s, you know, improvisational dance, or jazz, or music or something, (singing yeah), yeah, we, yeah that needs to be a part of everything, there’s the part where we think through things, but,
Mark: Well it’s about joy? isn’t it?
Noah: Yeah, yeah, yeah you need
Mark: Yeah light.
Noah: Yeah and for you, you know you’re probably thinking, okay what, will I, what kind of activities will I introduce to my children? You know, when they’re going through school and so that that too is kind of interesting, you know,
Noah: Haha! As, as a space for their own expression, like to kind of guide them to, you know what they want to become you know.
Mark: Yeah, it’s interesting, what is gonna happen, like I don’t know what’s gonna happen,
but (yeah) we’ll find out.
Noah: Yeah, yeah, yeah I say teach them to skateboard, you know, take them to the skate park.
Mark: He’s interested in it.
Noah: Learn how to be great through them you know, as they progress, you progress too.
Mark: Yeah, yeah he’s interested, in I’ve hidden the board for the minute, cause we’re don’t want him to do it in the house (yeah, yeah) but we’ll take him out, yeah, Satoko is interested too (yeah, yeah) she likes the balance aspect.
Noah: Yeah, yeah
Mark: I think, think because it’s got something to do with your waist, she loves that kind of (mmm) bit like, she likes salsa,
Noah: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Mark: Hips and all that.
Noah: It’s totally like, yeah just turning the skateboard, like if you could just learn, how to like, you know, how you just like turn it? Like shssh– (yeah) you seen people do that? Like that in itself like you can kind of feel like the hip motion you see skateboarders all the time,
like you know they’re just all, like, kind of, a lot of like, kind of like, lean in the abdominal area because of that balance, you know, so it doesn’t matter if you’re good, if you do something like that just all the time, it just, yeah it’s great, you know, and that’s why I think just finding your own way to use a skateboard, you know.
Mark: Let’s go out again soon.
Noah: Yeah, yeah, yeah, for sure, let’s do that, and uh, for all you listeners, yes, see you in an empty parking lot, hopefully sometime.
Mark: In Akita downtown,
Noah: Yeah, downtown Akita, yeah represent.
Mark: Nice one Noah,
Noah: Nice one.
Ok that’s it for this one, if you have enjoyed it or have any skateboard related questions please let me know.
Expressions and vocabulary
Waxes lyrical – to talk highly enthusiastically about something
First hand experience – a phrase that means – to see with my own eyes.
Aqueduct – a bridge like structure that carries a water conduit or canal across a valley or over a river.
Futsal – a type of indoor football (usually) with 5 players on each side.
GoPro – The name of a type of action camera used to film sports like surfing, skateboarding.
Put all their chips – to put all your hopes on something; like the idiom- to put all your eggs in one basket
Mental health recovery – an idea that a person does not simply become cured of mental illness, but that coming back from a mental illness is a process of recovery, where a person discovers and makes their own individual steps b ack to their new self.
Running full pelt – running full speed
How do you boil that down? – how do you make preferences?
Zen – read more on the zen Wikipedia page
Cathartic – to have a big release of emotion and energy and experience a sense of deep relief.
Parkour – an activity where people try to overcome obstacles (mental and physical) in the landscape going over, under, through, on top of barriers that conventionally stand in the way.
Read more about Parkour here
Segue -any smooth, uninterrupted transition from one thing to another.
Intro music – Flying Down the Freeway by Genx Beats（ゲンクスビーツ） (Creative Commons)
From 09:20 – The Almighty by John Frusciante (Creative Commons)
Outro Music – The Grey by Genx Beats (Creative Commons)
Skateboarding (part 1)