What skateboarding teaches us about failing towards taking flight
Skateboarding is a breeze to pick up and get a hang of—or so one would think after witnessing Margielyn Didal coast her way to victory at the 2018 Asian Games.
Didal’s win bagged not only the Philippines’ 4th Gold Medal from the Asiad, but also an entire recreational park for Cebu City’s skaters. In a Facebook post, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña credits the champion for its inception. “Soon, people like you will finally have a place that is safe, free from traffic, and able to call your own” he said, addressing her.
Meanwhile in Manila, Vans Philippines gathered the sport’s athletes and enthusiasts alike at its annual House of Vans event, where skateboarders such as Didal were able to have a place to call their own.
Last October 20, 2018, the Metrotent Convention Center became a haven of art, music, action sports, and street culture, the four pillars that define the House of Vans. The man responsible for pioneering skateboarding as we know it, Tony Alva, was in attendance, too.
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Upon entering the event, I was greeted with music being blasted: “If I ruled the world/Imagine that” as it went on. A good number of the skateboard-wielding attendees got around the area kicking and coasting through the crowds with ease under the sweltering heat. With all their scrapes and bruises, it seemed like these kids really did rule the world.
When asked about what skateboarding meant to the legend that is Tony Alva in his youth, he answered with one word: freedom. And by the looks of it, the same applies for the young skateboarders of today. More specifically, it seems like skateboarding bestowed the freedom to fail upon anyone who took part.
At the ramps, the youth were given a space where it was perfectly fine to fall…and to keep falling. It was never a spectacle of any scale when they did. It was just something that happened. A skater falls flat on his behind and the next person who glides past him lends a helping hand. That’s just the way things went. What’s interesting about this is that it’s not that skateboarders don’t fear falling; it’s just that they’ve learned how to do it with grace.
In a sport where you’d have to fly through the air on a piece of wood and four wheels, it’s no surprise that failing would be an integral part of it all. In order to land a trick, you’d have to keep getting it wrong until you finally get it right…over and over again.
“Skateboarders are very determined to fall, to get back up and to do it again,” said Tony Alva when asked about the most promising quality in today’s young crop of skateboarders. “The determination that skateboarders have with skateboarding can also be applied to life. When you fall and you make a mistake, you have to get up and try again.” His 45 years of skateboarding can be heard in the calm cadence of his voice, as his words glided smoothly yet earnestly with complete sureness.
True enough, determined the skateboarders were. The ramps set up at the House of VANS could only accommodate a couple skaters at a time and so the emcee who set out to hype up the athletes and onlookers ended up having to temper their thrill instead, as each batch of skaters had trouble getting themselves out of the trance of landing their next trick. Once they were able to force themselves out of the ramps, the boarders remained resolute and just skated their way back to the back of the line, waiting for it to be their turn to try and take flight once again.
I suppose having to line up and go in batches to chase their high was just a minor inconvenience for the skateboarders. Any other skateboarding day would consist of having to look for any rail or stair free of any guard who would chase them out of their playground. Even Margielyn Didal mentioned having to run from the authorities all while she was training for the most prestigious skateboarding competition in the world.
Though the nonconforming quality of skateboarding could also be part of its appeal. As again, where else is failing as welcome as it is in skate culture? In today’s age where you can find out the right way to do almost anything with just a simple search, it’s refreshing to see young people who are still comfortable with getting things all wrong.
Skateboarders might be rebels, but not without a cause—as their cause seems to be to let the world know that when you fall, all you have to do is to get back up, then soon enough you’ll be able to see yourself fly.
Words Danielle Francisco
Photography Kyle Areño
Art Alexandra Lara