The folks at The Truck Stop Skate Park, Bend’s nonprofit indoor skatepark, call Tuesday nights from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. the “old guys’ session.”
You know, “old guys” as in 18 and older.
I personally wouldn’t classify someone who can’t legally drink a beer as an “old guy,” but skateboarding does seem to have some kind of invisible age cap, more so than, say, surfing or snowboarding.
So, by the time you reach my age (a whopping 41) you’ve been hearing for roughly half your life — usually from those who can’t skate — that you’re too old, suffer from Peter Pan Syndrome or you’re having a midlife crisis — just because you love to roll around on something that could be described as a toy.
Fortunately, “old guys’ session” aside, there isn’t a shred of ageism at Bend’s only indoor skatepark, a ramp-filled warehouse that includes, among other structures, a 7½- to 5-foot-deep wooden bowl, derivative of the concrete pools that launched vertical skateboarding back in the 1970s.
Your fellow skateboarders sympathize with you. They understand that skating is in your bones, even if your bones happen to make more popping and clacking noises than a board rolling down a sidewalk.
Even during all-ages sessions, a grown man might take turns alongside kids on scooters, launching into the foam pit, a practice ramp that launches riders up into the dusty air and the soft landing of hundreds of foam cubes.
Or they can take turns riding around the street course, full of quarter pipes and small ramps and rails for sliding, right alongside 16-year-olds hurling themselves around as only people who think they’re immortal dare.
In 2004, The Associated Press reported that there were more kids skateboarding than playing Little League baseball. All those kids have to grow up some time, but that doesn’t mean they have to retire from the board, at least not permanently.
Point being that after a prolonged absence, it’s never too late to get back on it. I recently skated with Brian O’Keefe and Tom Huston, two guys in their mid-30s who, until recently, hadn’t skated in 17 and 20 years, respectively.
O’Keefe, 35, had learned to skate in his childhood home of Ohio, but stopped at around 18. When I met him skating the park’s bowl around Christmas, it was just his third time back on board.
“I went to the Redmond skatepark for lunch” one day, explained O’Keefe, who owns Ripple Effect, a custom rock and water-feature business.
“I didn’t even skate that day. I went home and got my board, and then went back the next day.”
Last week was just his sixth time back skating, but he tries to ride at least once every few weeks. He’s recovered quite a few of his old moves, including a variety of grinds and rock-n-roll variations, which may mean nothing to you, but are the critical basics of ramp and bowl skating.
O’Keefe also carves around the bowl’s banked and curved walls quite well for a guy who stopped skating when he was a teenager.
Also skating last week was O’Keefe’s friend Tom Huston, 37, who lives in Bend and commutes to Vancouver, Wash., for his job as a firefighter. That night was only his second time skating after an estimated 20-year hiatus.
Standing at the top of the bowl, he explained that he started skating again after giving his nephew a skateboard as a birthday present.
“I came about two weeks ago. Dropped in right here, broke my wrist,” he said. He holds up his arm to show off the wrist guard he sports on his injured limb.
“And you’re back!” I said, half-impressed, half-shocked.
“Heck yeah. It was a great night,” Huston said. “But I’m very rusty.”
He’s not as rusty as you’d expect. Over the course of the night, he successfully drops into the bowl from the top of the deck, and zips all over the street course with the reckless abandon of someone half his age whose wrist is not broken.
Me, I’ve always skated, but after my wife and I had a few kids, skating dropped to a lowly spot on the priority list. I’d sometimes skate to the mailbox or drive to the outdoor Redmond Community Skatepark once or twice a summer. I’d go early in the morning — my theory being that I’d just be in the way — and leave before others showed up to skate. It was always boring and I’d leave feeling old.
Then, after helping a friend build a ramp in his yard two years ago, it finally hit me: The best part of skating, even back when I was 18 and had an 11½-foot high halfpipe in my yard, was just hanging out with friends, building and riding ramps.
As soon as I started skating again with other people, lo and behold, it was fun again.
I was reminded of this simple fact late into the two-hour old guys’ session. Three other, much younger skaters who had been skating that night took off, and Huston, O’Keefe and I had the park all to ourselves for the rest of the night.
We eventually wandered over to the smaller banks, rails and ramps of the street course and played around on the quarter pipes, trying old tricks and falling and laughing and getting back up again. We lost ourselves in play, just the way we had when we were kids.
If that’s a midlife crisis, I’ll take two, please.
The park is set up in a long warehouse, and the space is put to good use. The staff is cool and the pro shop is well-stocked should you decide a new set of wheels or trucks is vital to the enjoyment of your session. There’s also an upstairs viewing area.
More area skateparks
Other area skateparks include the following free, public skateparks:
• Madras Bike and Skatepark, corner of Southwest H and Marshall streets.
• Redmond Community Skatepark, 15th Street and Antler Avenue.
• Ponderosa Skate Park, 225 S.E. 15th St., Bend.
For a great map of all the skateparks peppering Oregon, visit www.skateoregon.com/ archive/map.
Central Oregon skaters are fortunate to have the concrete skateparks of Redmond and Madras, both designed and built by the renowned, Oregon-based Dreamland Skateparks, a company run by skaters who know what they’re doing.
Bend’s Ponderosa Skate Park is reportedly the oldest public concrete park in the state, but it’s far from the most functional. Bend Park & Recreation District has incorporated a skatepark expansion and improvement into its Ponderosa Park Master Plan.
Still, even as it is, Ponderosa can be fun to roll around on your lunch break — old guy or not.
What: The Truck Stop Skate Park
Where: 1307 N.E. First St., Bend
Cost: $8 for nonmembers; $5 for members ($45 annual membership fee); annual pass is $875
Contact: 541-647-2482 or www.thetruckstoplife.com