Longboarding for Peace

Long boarding provides me with a great sense of mental clarity (much cheaper than therapy). It’s the one moment in time where my brain actually shuts up for two seconds and I’m not thinking about a million things at once.  Being hung up on the mundane activities of day to day life, I tend to over think everything, and I mean everything.  Pondering where I am going with life.  When I am riding with music in my ears, I feel that I am one with the world.  I become so focused on not falling that that’s the only thought going on inside my head: Do. Not. Fall.

My best friend’s sister turned me onto long boarding.  She used it primarily as a means of transportation to get everywhere down in Florida.  I remember starting out borrowing her board as we went around the gazebo downtown.  After that, I was hooked and immediately went online to purchase my first board.  I found it on Amazon for only sixty bucks; it was made of plywood with cheap trucks, small wheels, and crappy bearings.  But it was mine and I took it with me everywhere. 

I started boarding in mid March; it was cold and no one was around downtown.  The emptiness made me feel lonely but I appreciated the serenity.  Long boarding saved me in ways I never expected it could; it saved me from the heartache that ripped my self esteem to pieces. Being the type of person who always needed someone else to complete me and never knowing how to stand on my own; being single for the first time in a long time, I was left feeling utterly alone and helpless; so, I boarded.

I boarded because I didn’t know what else to do with myself.  I wanted to use. I wanted to tune in and drop out to the rest of the world like I had done not too long ago. I wanted to sleep forever thinking that maybe with time I would wake up and not feel the sting of rejection. Unfortunately, the only way to get through pain is to deal with it, and no amount of mind erasures could fix that.  I long boarded because I needed something to do with my time.  Being in a dark headspace was both liberating and dangerous.  I did not care if I fell down and hurt myself, at least it would distract me from the emotional hell my brain was putting me through.

My friend needed an escape too because he had just had a falling out with his best friend.  We were both hurting, so we clung to each other and our long boards to distract one another from the emotional struggle we were fighting on the inside.  Long boarding was what really bonded us together and we would go out and seek different routes to challenge ourselves.  

The day of the destruction of my first board was the event that lead me to my true board, the one that I still own today.  I remember that day because it was finally getting warmer out.  My friend had a downhill route he wanted to show me, so we set out.  I had recently put giant pink sticky wheels on my board and Reds super racing bearings, and I had no idea the speed I could get up with them.  I watched my friend bomb the hill by the library but I didn’t expect to see him wipe out as hard as he did.  He tore open the calf on his left leg and was bleeding profusely but like a trooper he stood up, grabbed his board and said, “Well, that was unexpected, but shit, I guess we still have to keep going.”  We continued to ride towards downtown Northport.  The downward slope of the hill was too much for me to handle.  I was not yet experienced enough to know how to stop abruptly, so I did what anyone else in my situation would do: I bailed.  I jumped/fell off my board and watched with horror as my board drifted out into the middle of the road.  The first car drove right past and missed it but I was still in too much shock to run out into the middle of the road to retrieve it.  A second car went by but the front tires just missed running it over; for a split second I had hope that it would be fine.  And then BAM, the back tire ran it over snapping the truck in half and the frame itself into splinters. 

I choked out a scream and my friend ran out to rescue my broken board.  He picked it up and ran back over asking me if I was alright but I was too shocked to even speak.  All of a sudden, we see the Jeep that ran over my board start to back up.  I thought to myself, “Maybe she’ll apologize, offer to pay for a new one, or at least see if I was alright.”  Fat chance.  The woman started yelling at us saying that I had no right to have my board out in the road.  In my mind I was screaming at her, “Who the hell do you think you are?  It was an accident and you’re making the whole thing worse.” 

Thankfully, the telepathy that exists between two good friends works wonders in a crisis.  My friend took all my thoughts and voiced them for me, “Did you even think to apologize?  Or ask if she was okay?  She fell and it was not her fault.”  It was no use; the woman continued her pointless mean accusations, “Well it shouldn’t have been in the road.  What the hell were you kids thinking?  You could have damaged my car.”  My friend shoots back saying, “Just leave, just fucking go, you’re being a bitch.”  The woman, feeling so entitled to yell at us, gasped and threatened to call the cops.  My friend (now my hero) says, “Let’s go Kerry, fuck this lady!” and with my head down I follow as she keeps yelling at us from her car saying how she’s going to call the police.  My friend screams back, “Good!  Call the police!  I would love to tell them that what really happened here is that you, a driver, were not looking and did not even attempt to avoid the board but instead drove right over it and then started harassing us for something that was an accident.”  She never called the police.

I was devastated; I felt as though I had lost a friend.  We decided to take the pieces of my shattered friend to the ‘Board Doctor’ at Heli Sport in Huntington.  The doctor took one look at it and said it was hopeless.  He then showed me a series of used boards.  He brought out a fiberglass board that he described as “indestructible;” a car could run it over and it would not even dent.  I was sold.  No sooner did I pay for it that immediately hit the streets of Huntington.  Not realizing how much speed my new board could take, I fell off again and, history repeating itself, it launched into the middle of the intersection.  This time I took action.  I ran out into the middle of the street saying, “You can hit me, I have health insurance!  But I just bought this board!”  My friend watching from afar saw just how much dedication I had to this new sport. 

Long boarding has taught me much on the philosophy of life.  It taught me about the art of falling, how to deal with physical pain and move past it.  It taught me about eating your fears in order to obtain, for just a split second, the feeling of ecstasy that adrenaline junkies try to achieve. 

Even after one of my worst falls that took place on my 24th birthday, after a full day of drinking and partying, around 2 AM I decided it would be a great idea to go and bomb this hill in my neighborhood.  All my friends protested but, being wasted, I said, “It’s okay, I got my helmet on, I’m straight.”  I set out with my friend and all I remember in that moment was flying high and suddenly I was on the ground in excruciating pain.  I limped back to my house and all my friends laughed at me for being such a dumbass.  I ended up in Huntington Hospital that morning.  It turns out I sprained my right arm pretty badly, in addition to tearing a few ligaments.  Because it was my right arm, as a writer and artist I struggled with being useless for a few weeks. 

My wrist clicks now and I will feel forever tormented with the consequences of my actions, but that’s not enough to make me stop boarding.  Long boarding is now such a part of me that if I go a day or two without boarding, I just don’t feel right. 

One day when my friend and I were at our local beach boarding in the parking lot, we went into the woods and saw a picnic bench covered in graffiti.  On that very table is where we saw the words “Long boarding for Peace,” and an idea was born.  My friend decided right then and there that he wanted to help people.  He wanted to bring all local long boarders together to raise money for people who had no health insurance and other noble causes.  We want to build a community of long boarders and bring long boarding to teens and young adults as a positive and healthy alternative to the destructive things out there. 

For young people like me, it is all too easy to get sucked into a world of drugs and regrets.  Long boarding has helped save me from that, and it’s helped give me a reason to live again.  I want to share this story to everyone who has ever felt lost and alone.  Go outside, grab a long board and I can promise that you won’t feel that way as long as you can feel the wind on your face, the sun in your eyes, and music in your ears.  It’s surfing on air. The closest feeling to flying you’ll ever get.  Image

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