Are they watching me? I know they aren’t going to judge me, but I still can’t go; something’s holding me back. Why does skating have to be so loud? Why do they turn around and stare at me? Could you not?
After 14 years of skating, I still have these thoughts, and I guess they’ll never fade away. I’d rather skate alone or with my significant other at some crusty parking lot than to go to a populated picture-perfect skatepark. Any spot where I’m alone is acceptable to me, a place where no one can hear me, look at me, or stare at me.
I know that no one will judge me, especially at a skatepark. Yet, I still hate to go to one if there are people that I don’t personally know. I always have this general feeling of disconnection with the people around me. It’s nearly impossible to describe, but I’m sure the ones of you that are familiar with this feeling know what I mean. It’s not that you dislike them; it just feels like something interpersonal is missing.
I can recall a few times when people asked me if I wanted to accompany them to check that new skatepark out, and when we arrived, it was packed. Not just do I not know anyone around me, but it’s also this weird combination of looking around (so I don’t run into people) and being unfamiliar with the obstacles. Then, I’ll usually go with the skatepark flow and do basic tricks; I struggle to push myself out of my comfort zone.
In 2016 and 2017, I filmed a lot of videos in one of my local skateparks. The main reason I hung out there was that I knew I’d be alone nine out of ten times. That skatepark was the opposite of what people would call a good one, but I didn’t care. It made me feel comfortable and like I belonged there. No one’s around that I’d disturb, and no one that bothers me.
Later in 2017, this town built another skatepark. It has a type of flow that beginners can get used to, mixed with advanced obstacles like a knee-high hubba. They set this park next to the central train station, and as you can guess now, that’s where it lost me. Too many people! They just walk around and watch the skating. I know it can be appealing to look at skateboarding, but I get anxious when people watch me skate. I’ve been to this park three times in my life and did a 50-50 grind down the hubba once (which I wish someone would’ve recorded). The only time I can ever see myself going there again would be during the morning hours of a weekday.
When it comes to street spots, it highly depends on who’s skating with me. I haven’t skated a street spot on my own in a while. If I find myself going out and street skating, it’s usually an empty parking lot on a Sunday. I feel uncomfortable when there are people around. Skating is loud, makes people turn around and look at you.
When I’m with one or two close people that I’ve known for a while or simply have good chemistry with, I can push myself to my physical and mental limits a bit easier. Then, my mind subconsciously registers the few people skating with me and dismisses the public human traffic.
I have skated one contest in my entire life. It taught me something in terms of coping with and perhaps profiting from this anxiety.
First off, there was a large (non-skater) crowd watching, approximately 150 people. We had a lot of time before the contest to warm up and do stuff. I didn’t skate during the warmup since, you guessed it, I felt anxious. I had no ambition to win or rank high in this contest. I spent the time of the warmup visualizing what I wanted to do in my run. Since doing technical stuff requires more concentration, thought, and warmup, I decided to do something big to make an impression. I decided to do a Boneless on the second biggest obstacle of the course. Not just because it is my favorite trick, it’s also one that I can do reliably on anything high.
I landed my 6 foot boneless on the second try, and I think the fact that so many people were staring at me made it easier than it would’ve been otherwise. Bailing out of it because I was too scared of landing just wasn’t an option. I had to commit right then and there. Maybe I could train myself to transform this anxious feeling into something I might benefit from. As of right now, this was the only occasion that I can remember in which I turned it into something positive.
Trying To Draw Connections
I’m not a city person. Whenever I’m in one, I usually feel stressed by my surroundings. It’s cool to go through one and see some famous tourist spots. But the people running all over, the cars, the noise; it gets to me, my brain, and my sanity. Maybe that characteristic of mine plays a role in this skateboarding anxiety.
I’ve never had a significant problem with standing in front of the class and doing a presentation. However, there is more to it when it comes to skateboarding, which I can’t pinpoint. Whenever people turn around because of the noise or whatever, I feel like I just became a live entertainer and a subject of criticism.
I’m okay with avoiding crowded parks and street spots. Writing this helped me reflect on the thoughts that crossed my mind throughout the years. I never understood what anxiety meant in any other aspect of life as I couldn’t relate to others’ experiences. However, when I first heard about skatepark anxiety and people who feel like me, I could label my feelings.
I hope that reading this helps you reflect on yourself or makes you more aware of what the people around you might deal with in their heads. I will try to avoid crowded parks and spots for the rest of my life. If I ever find myself in a situation where I can’t, I will just go big and hope that this anxious feeling helps me commit and make an impression.
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