Its about open spaces. Its about flat surfaces. Its about grades that seem to go on forever. Its about overcoming obstacles. Its about freedom. Its about making do with what youve got to work with. Its about taking yourself to the next level. Its about learning to fly with just your body to make it happen.
Its street sports.
I remember playing street football for years. Running around parked cars, using light poles as defenders. Getting out of the way until traffic clears. Sweating, getting gritty, stepping on glass or falling to get one of the worst street burns possible. Its sports with no referees, with balls that are scuffed and scarred and patched and taped. Where the rules go to who can argue the loudest and longest. Where you play until its too dark to see.
Then there was that summer of glorious freedom. I worked the midnight shift at a restaurant. Between 4 a.m. when the bar crowd went home, and 6 a.m. when the early risers started in for breakfast, we could go out on Six Mile Road and play any game we wanted with minimal molestation from cars. Baseball, football, soccer, even basketball (with a soccer ball and a milk crate tied to a light pole) took place under the lights supplied by the city. The kind of lights wed never play under in big stadiums with big crowds watching and screaming.
You dont need a crowd; the game is the thing.
The same goes for skating. Or skateboarding. Or bicycling. Anything on wheels.
You push, you roll, you feel the freedom of effortless movement. You feel the wind in your hair, pushing against your face. You lean and turn. Your body is a sail, a rudder. Your body is a coiled muscle ready to spring and leap, taking the wheels with you into a short soaring airborne with just yourself and your energy to create the lift.
The bottom line is that the street has been the space of choice for those who have nowhere else to go. Traditionally, it has been city folks who needed to find a place to play. Sure, there were playgrounds and sports fields, but there were never enough of them. Nor were they necessarily handy. The street right there on your block holds infinite possibilities.
And traffic? Sure you have to move out of the way once in a while. But traffic is something that better watch out for you when you are deep into the game. When youre making your move with the ball. Going up for the dunk. Theres no traffic. Theres just the game.
And for skateboarders and in-line skaters, initially, the street was the only place to go. No place else had the wide-open vistas, the smooth terrain, the challenge of obstacles. Now they have places for extreme skateboarding, sure. They can be fun, but those places dont take you anywhere. OK, you go up, then down, then up again, and down. Which is fine if youre training for competition, but theres little variety after a while.
Street sports have their own ways, their own places. Their own variations based on the terrain. They make laws to try to keep you out. But they cant do it. Not for long. Not where there is a slope just begging for wheels. Just begging for you to bend and crouch to navigate the turns, fly over the obstacles.
In-line skaters must take the streets. In groups or solo, the street is your venue, your yellow brick road to the city. Rolling, whizzing, avoiding traffic. Helmeted, padded, the body most vulnerable, still you must skate like never before.
Street sports exist because there are streets. And we are there to conquer them.
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