Ask most people to picture a skater, and their mind’s eye will probably conjure up a stylishly scruffy 20-something – sporting cool scars, speaking cryptic slang, carrying an air of rebellious energy about them.
But right now there’s a new, altogether more understated breed of skater hitting the nation’s ramps, bowls and pavements – albeit when nobody’s around to see them.
They skate slower and less aggressively than the millennials, and they’re less daring when it comes to tricks, if they do tricks at all. But they love the sound of polyurethane on concrete as much as the kids half their age – they’re the ‘born-again’ middle-aged skateboarder.
So, Juan, how long you been back into skating?
“Since about 2010.”
And what got you back into it?
“Well, I’m a lecturer at a college, and obviously we get a really long summer break. I’d been thinking about taking up skating again for a while, and one summer I just thought, ‘That’s what I’m gonna do with all this spare time.’
“I’d got into running as part of an effort to get fitter, and I wanted something else to compliment that – and skateboarding is good exercise, it’s a fun way to keep active.
“My brother had two skateboards, so at first I just borrowed one of those, just to see how things went – because, y’know, I hadn’t skated since maybe 1983.”
And was it ‘like riding a bike’?
“Hahaa, nooo. Not really. To begin with, I was rubbish. But the more I did it, the more I improved, and the old form started coming back. But truthfully, I was always below average anyway, back in the ’70s and ’80s – my mates were always better than me.
I’d go before anyone was up, so nobody would see me skating really badly
“Anyway, ’cause it was the school holidays, all the kids were off, so I’d go down to the two bowls in Finsbury Park before anyone was up, so that nobody would see me skating really badly, or completely failing.
“Eventually I met a couple of other people around my age who were doing the same as me – getting down there early in the morning. So we kind of formed this… well, ‘crew’ is probably the wrong word, but soon there were three or four of us who’d meet up there every Saturday morning. And unless it’s raining, I’m there every Saturday – even all through the winter.
“And it’s great. I love it. You get down there, skate for two or three hours, feel fantastic afterwards, and you’ve still got the whole day ahead of you.”
So are you down there busting out tre flips?
“Nah, I don’t do tricks. I was never into them. I go down to Finsbury Park, there are two bowls there, and all I do is carve. I’ve got nothing to prove, y’know? Plus it reminds me of being back in Venezuela, where I grew up, and surfing and body-boarding there.
“Thing is, as you get older, you do get a bit more fearful. I’m scared of breaking an arm now, so I wear knee and elbow pads.”
Any advice for people tempted to get back into skating?
“Do it. Honestly, just do it. Get some protection, and get a decent board. Back when I was a kid, I had a pretty cheap and crap board, but now I’m older, I’ve got a job, I can afford to spend a bit of money on one.
Don’t worry about what people are going to say. You’ve got nothing to prove
“I’d also say, don’t worry about what people are going to say. You’ve got nothing to prove. And I’m definitely not the only dad out there doing it. There are loads – and not just here in London. Back in Venezuela, I’ve got friends my age who never stopped skating. They’re still at it – and they’re all way better than me now, obviously!
“The main thing about skating is, it’s fun. It’s all about getting those endorphins going and putting a smile back on your face.”