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How to Learn to Skateboard (aka, Fall on Your Ass With Grace)

When COVID-19 cleared Denver's streets of cars, one local writer faced an existential question: skate or die?

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In this series, called “The Pandemic Made Me Do It,” we ask our staffers, our freelance writers, and everyday Coloradans to tell us how—during what can sometimes feel like an inspiration-sucking global meltdown—they found the motivation and the tools to try something new, brush up on an old skill, or begin laying the groundwork for a long-term project. Send pitch ideas to spencer@5280.com. 

Procrastinator Profile
Name: Georgia Perry
Age: 33
Day job: Freelance writer
Says she wants to: Learn to skateboard

The Backstory

I have wanted to learn to skateboard since high school. Like a nun called to the flock, I just thought it looked really fun and cool.

It’s not like I didn’t try. I bought a used shortboard and spray-painted a cat face on the back of it. But, except for a few runs up and down the driveway at my buddy Elliot’s house, I never practiced much. Problem was: Practicing skateboarding inevitably involves falling down. You’re gonna fall when you start. You’re gonna fall later on, too, but you’re definitely gonna fall when you start. On your ass. In front of people. So you have to be comfortable looking stupid to learn how to skateboard.

I just couldn’t get over that. Despite being well-liked-enough in high school (lunch with the art weirdos, lacrosse practice after school, Saturday nights making out with the boyfriend I met in honors social studies), I had been super shy as a little girl and was teased and even bullied some. Most of the kids in my neighborhood were older than me. The memory of a boy next door yelling, “Are those training wheels?!” when I was learning to ride a bike as a 7-year-old still stung a decade later.

I held onto my board—with strong intent but no follow through—until my early 20s, at which point I forgot it when I moved out of some apartment. But I had a road bike, so I just stayed in my lane.

COVID-19 Made Me Do It

When lockdowns happened I watched the busy road outside my bedroom window clear up like the dead of night at four in the afternoon. With roads absent of cars, skateboarders were suddenly free to cruise down the middle of the road, kicking like wild horses and probably feeling like them too.

Stay-at-home orders had left me powerless and desperate. But those empty roads were a once in a lifetime (…HOPEFULLY?!?) cosmic invitation to freedom. I was either going to do the thing now or forever regret not doing the thing. Which is it going to be? Skate or die. Honestly.

From the teachings of various friends and sk8rs I d8d over the years I knew at least, like, where to put my feet and how to stop. So one night I borrowed my roommate’s cruiser board and rolled gingerly down our street a few blocks. The breeze felt good. I stretched my arms out and smiled.

After the Fall

Almost 20 years after the first time, I bought a used shortboard from a dude off Craigslist. In the spring, I usually went out in the evening, during the last hour of daylight, so my rides overlapped with the 8 p.m. howl. I loved cruising down different streets, taking in the aowoooooos, getting into back-and-forths with people on their porches and then just rolling on, feeling like the lone wolf that I am.

But still, like I said, falling is gonna happen. After a few nights of cruising around, I wiped out. My glasses—OH GOD, WHAT A NERD!—flew off my face as I fell forward. My phone—JESUS, WHY AM I A DUMB GIRL WHO HAS TO LISTEN TO DUMB GIRL MUSIC WHEN SHE SKATEBOARDS?—flew out of my pocket and skidded across the street. And I did this in front of a group of teenage girls getting ice cream.

All that happened was one of them asked me if I was okay. I was.

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