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Fine is Worth It
Skateboarding has been a very bright light in some of the darkest times of my life. Growing up the only child of two parents who divorced when I was six, skating was the only outlet that pulled me out of the turmoil I was trapped in and gave me a healthy escape when things were rocky or simply didn’t make any sense.
Skating made my tiny world tangibly expansive. It made things feel possible in a place where I was constantly surrounded by people who didn’t want to see any possibilities. It even gave me friends and a sense of belonging and it helped me challenge myself. It made me want to set goals every single day. It’s what pulled me out of bed each morning, excited. Even after 22 years, that’s still what it does.
Drugs tend to seem like such an easy escape, but they aren’t. I’ve had my fair share of experiences with them and I truly believe they almost ruined my mental health forever.
At 31, I woke up in a room feeling like a total failure. Everything on paper looked great. I had a fresh new degree, still working, still skating. But I was walking the line with alcoholism, smoking cigarettes and I’d been smoking weed off and on for years. That’s the thing about drugs. Everything is fine until it’s not.
When and if you do wake up in a place that is not fine, the only thing to do is to seek help. It doesn’t necessarily have to be with medication, although there is nothing wrong with that route. I think what made the biggest difference for me is that I was willing to reach out to others and find healthy relationships and people that truly supported me when things were really difficult. We truly ARE meant to be our brother’s keeper. We are meant to be here to cooperate with, care for and help one another, and that alone pulls us closer to an ideal world that is bearable to live in.
I worked every Saturday for a year with a homeopathic doctor that was like a second father to me. I met an actress that became a guardian angel and one of the best friends I could have ever asked for. I found a church that cared enough to take the time and invest in me and help me push past the mistakes I’d made and help me become a better person. I worked hard, and it hurt. But I learned so much about myself We are all so incredibly valuable. We all have such enormous purpose that we, many times, just don’t understand or don’t want to accept. But it’s the only way out. It’s an every day process and it’s something that doesn’t just get handed to you overnight.
You have to work toward it every day. You will truly have to WANT to quit. It will be hard at first. But it will just hit you one day if you and the people that love and support you keep working through it, that you will all of a sudden be . . . Fine. And let me tell you. Fine is WORTH IT.
Snap and Release
Zachary F. Gerberick
I remember a dragon. Its scales garish shades of green and yellow. A burst of cartooned flames spewing from its flared nostrils. The graphic was second-rate at best, printed onto a cheap Walmart board. But what the hell did I care? I rose a magnifying glass to the sun and concentrated its light into a needle-like beam and ceremoniously burnt my name into the deck, branding it as my own, my first. As a nine-year-old boy I couldn’t possibly fathom what all a simple piece of wood with four plastic wheels would later mean to me, how throughout the next six years of my life it would evolve into an extension of my body, a pathway to new friends and fresh perspectives, a method of catharsis in which I could gather all of my anxious energy—the same energy that I would ten years later attempt to escape from via more destructive means—and do something creative, something worthy with it.
Even as an adolescent there was always a lot going on in my head, and the older I got the more my mind seemed to turn on me. Stresses. Ruminations. Fears. I believe one of the reasons I was so active when I was younger was because I was constantly seeking an escape from all that noise, and for a long time nothing worked better than skateboarding. Whenever I stepped on a board everything else would fall to the wayside. Why? Because it’s impossible to worry about your life when you’re skating. If you don’t put every fragment of focus into your feet, your legs, into the pop and the flick, well then you’re probably going to eat shit. That’s what skateboarding did for me at the time: it temporarily removed me from myself, and I cherished it. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize all of this at the time. Perhaps I was too young, too naïve to comprehend just how much skateboarding offered me, and because of this I never gave it the respect it deserved. Ultimately, I strayed.
It was during my first year of high school when I lost interest in skating and gained interest in other things. Things like partying. Like drugs. I’d begun to substitute the emotional and mental release skateboarding presented with the cheap, artificial release of drugs. I guess I found it easier to take a pill than to ravage my body trying to kickflip a five-stair or front board some flat rail. But I was wrong. My using started off slow at first—as it almost always does—but it wasn’t long before things became problematic, and it wasn’t much longer after that before I found myself caught in full-blown addiction. It reached a point where, like skateboarding, drugs had become all I cared about. It was just supposed to be fun. It was just supposed to be a way to provide my mind with an enjoyable reprieve. But that’s not how it works. It can be such a vicious cycle and we see it now more than ever with the current opioid epidemic, which is why programs like HYPED are so vital. By the time I was eighteen I was already shooting dope, completely lost, completely afraid, slowly stripping myself of who I was, who I had been.
After the overdose. After the stints in rehab. After losing most of my friends, my health, myself, I eventually found sobriety. It was a long and difficult process, and if there’s anything I feel the need to say about it, it’s that there’s plenty ways of getting help, but you have to reach out. And you have to want it. I got to that point and made the changes I needed to, and before I knew it something strange happened. I woke up one morning wanting to skate again. It was almost instantaneous, as though the moment all the drugs had left my body the urge to get back on a board returned. Of course there was a massive hole in me now that the drugs were gone, and I needed something to fill it in with. So I hit 471 down to Galaxie Skateshop and bought a brand new complete. After being out of the game for years I no longer possessed the skills I once had, but that was OK with me. Because I had a board again. I had my life again.
These days it’s hard for me to get out as much as I used to. I’m busy. I find excuses. I enjoy other outlets whenever I’m feeling stuck in my head, such as writing. Maybe I’m not the skate rat I used to be, but this I can tell you: when I do go out, when my friends and I thread our way through the city as the sun ticks below the horizon, as the session is winding down and my body’s sore and my shirt grimy, and every push I take a part of me disappears, and then another, and another, until all that’s left are the parts that matter…damn if I don’t feel just like I did when I got that first board. Over twenty years and I can still feel it. That excitement. That release. As real and true as anything I’ve ever known.
Read an interview with Zach and his short story “The Man from Lowville” here:
On Skateboarding & Relationships
Like many reading this, for as long as I can remember skateboarding has always been it. No matter what my mood or responsibilities were I could go skate and forget about them instantly. Skateboarding has never been about being cool for me or getting girls, and that’s why I would like to share my story of my first and only girlfriend.
I grew up a small kid always shortest and skinniest in my class. I would try for girls like my friends, but always found myself too awkward or shy to actually talk to them or get them to be interested in me. When I got to college, I was a virgin and none of my friends were. I felt like that one awkward friend, I had only kissed one girl in high school. I downloaded Tinder, the dating app, and through freshman year of college, still found myself too awkward to meet up with anyone I matched with. Sophomore year I had matched with this girl who was into the exact same things as me. Everything was perfect so we started dating fairly fast. When we first started dating, I had just gone through my first ACL surgery and was in a rough place mentally, because I couldn’t do the one thing I had loved my entire life, skateboard.
I was excited at first, because I had someone to spend time with who I thought truly cared for me. But, I saw less and less of my friends, some of my friends who were girls were no longer allowed to be my friends. She would message my female friends threatening to beat them up or hurt them if they talked to me. She became the only one I would see all day every day. She became dependent on me. She started to hack my social media accounts and steal my phone to un-add friends I had added. Every good moment we had was ruined by some comment she would make pertaining to me going to cheat on her or another girl, even though she was the only girl I had ever even been with and only girl I wanted at the time. When I could skate again, any time I wanted to go skate, a huge fight would break out. She would hit me and try and break into my house if I asked her to leave. The cops were called by my neighbor one time because she would not leave my house and was beating on my front door and throwing tables around outside. I stood inside my house petrified that I was going to be arrested when I didn’t even do anything but ask her to leave my house. Fights when she would slap me hard in the face occurred frequently and she broke things at my house when she didn’t get her way. I had done everything for her, I drove her on many road trips and even took her to LA.
All my friends had been telling me that what she was doing to me was unhealthy and that I needed to end it. It wasn’t easy. Many, many times we would break up and get back together. I was afraid to be alone. Until she hacked all of my social media for a final time. I had finally had enough after a year of constant emotional abuse. I had lost a large amount of friends and by this time we had been dating for over a year. I finally broke up with her. The following weeks I was berated with messages from her telling me I was “going to have to wait another 20 years to meet someone else because I was so ugly,” and that my ”only personality traits were complaining about a torn ACL and skateboarding.” I Tried many times to be civil and a friend to her, which I don’t think is truly possible or a good idea after all she has put me through. About a month after I had broke up with her, I tore my ACL for a second time skating. For a long time I was broken, how could my first and only girlfriend leave such a sour taste of love in my mouth? How could skateboarding hurt me so much when I have nothing but love for it? How could this girl ever say she loved me when she’s wiling and able to go out of her way to say these things? I’ve learned that no matter how much you love something it can hurt you. Real love is supporting your partner and constantly reassuring them you love them for who they are; the minute you try to change anyone the slightest, it’s not love.
Today I am a better version of myself, I do not seek validation or self-respect from a significant other. I now do things for my own validation and self-respect and have become more social with friends again. I am not cut off as I once was. I thank skateboarding and perhaps the misfortunes that have come with skateboarding for giving me the strength to rebound from this toxic relationship.
No Wrong Way to Run
When I was seven years old my parents were split and my dad lived with his girlfriend (a relative of billy Joel to some degree). They lived in one of those vast low income housing complexes in Centerville. One day the neighborhood kids were all skating and I did a hippy jump on someone’s board and got hooked. Christmas Day came and I got my first board — that was 2007.
Growing up I always felt alienated, and skating gave me something that I could do to express myself where no one could tell me I wasn’t fitting in. I tried sports and constantly failed and got mocked. In 5th grade all the kids in my class convinced me to play football with them. My teammate handed me the ball pointed and told me to run, I ran as fast as I could and “scored” — I turned around to everyone laughing because they had told me to run the wrong way. After skating for years I made friends who were like me who skated, and no one told me to run the wrong way.
Growing up my house was torn by substance abuse, both my parents are heavy drinkers and as a result of a plethora of physical ailments and being over prescribed my mom fell into heavy dependence on opiates, benzos and ambien.
I ran away constantly, lying to my parents and doing anything I could to stay away from the screaming the arguing and the sad state I’d see my parents in. Sometimes they’d ask me where I was, but other times I’d go through long periods of time where they wouldn’t even notice I was gone. It wasn’t always like this it came in waves where my parents would be great and then fall back into their patterns but once things get bad it becomes hard to enjoy them when they are good.
The DC skate plaza became my home people like Dave Ackles, Nick Daley and Chase Rosfeld and countless others were always there. I learned about art and music and made friends of all walks of life. Countless members of the community have given me shoes, clothes and boards when they saw what I had. I was constantly being hooked up just for the sake of skateboarding and community. I can’t speak for others but in my mind it seems like no one ever expected anything out of giving me or anyone else gear, except that when were in the position to give we would do the same.
Around 16 I fell into drinking — traumatic events and increasing anxiety led to just wanting to have fun, but that led me into being a drunk. After a year or two I began to drink the way I skated as a kid: everyday and often alone. It stopped being a social thing and just became what and who I was. I was confronted by some of my friends and I quit drinking. The next day I had a seizure.
I started drinking over the counter cough syrup to supplement my alcohol intake. I had already been snorting coke and eating pills when I could get them, often taking them from my mom. The drugs got harder and I skated less. I spiraled more and more things got darker and darker until I was once again confronted by a group of friends.
I’m now pretty much sober aside from pot. Everyday I’m confronted by the brain damage resulting from use. It’s hard for me to talk it’s hard for me to make decisions and my depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts were only aggregated by my substance abuse.
Life is not easy now and it hasn’t been for a very long time but I’m here to face it. All of the escaping I tried to do only led to me burning bridges, hurting myself and further alienating me from whoever I was around. I’m incredibly thankful for my friends who have helped me and held me accountable.
My skateboarding went through ups and downs with my addiction, but it was always there and it still remains the best escape I know. I think of all of the memories I cherish through skateboarding and never want to fall back into the cycle that keeps me away from living those experiences. Skateboarding taught me community, it gave me a place where I could be myself and it gave me people to look up to when I couldn’t look up to my parents.
With skateboarding there’s no wrong way to run.
Skateboarding Ruined My Life: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Wes Wyrick, 2019
Welcome back. Allow me to set the stage and place you in character. You’re 34 years old, you’re happily married and have four beautiful children. You’re driving down the highway with your wife and three of your kids in the car. Trying not to be late to a doctors appointment, you’re traveling at 70 mph. Out of the corner of your eye you spot what looks to be a perfect spot to skate. As your eyes lock on it, you drift slightly toward the other lane of traffic. Realizing this egregious mistake you quickly move back to the center of the lane, correcting your vehicular error. As you sheepishly explain why you had swerved the vehicle to the love of your life, your internal monologue screeches, “What the hell is the matter with you!? You’ve got precious cargo! Can you stop thinking about skateboarding!?”
Now, in regards to the aforementioned scenario, that actually happened. I’m usually an excellent driver and all my past passengers will attest that I usually drive under the speed limit and am very cautious behind the wheel. But skateboarding snuck in yet again. And I use that unsettling example as a way to highlight that skateboarding is more than what you do, it will make you who you are. For some, skateboarding consumes the most basic and rational portions of your mind. I have been blessed with the curse of loving skateboarding, and it has only strengthened its grip over the last 25 years.
Broken bones, dislocations, stitches, contusions, concussions, chronic pain and early onset arthritis. A small price to pay for the joy given to me by skateboarding. It gave me a drive that negated self preservation. It gave me goals that put my well being in second place. It showed me, that if you want something bad enough, you’ll do anything to get it. Including putting yourself second. I’ve shattered myself willing, I’ve forced myself off of my knees to stand upright, I’ve pushed the very fiber of what I’m made of to the breaking point. I’ve done so countless times, like so many others, for no other reason than landing on my board.
In summation to this chapter, skateboarding is one of the best and worst things that have happened to me. My love affair with skateboarding has touched every aspect of my life, both personal and professional. Some situations positively and others negatively. Yet, one constant remains, and that is that skateboarding is always on my mind.
Digital Drawings, 2019
Skateboarding Ruined My Life
Wesley Wyrick, 2019
Skateboarding ruined my life. At the age of 9, skateboarding grabbed ahold of me. It tore my baseball glove, soccer cleats, football helmet, and basketball from my hands. From the time skateboarding entered my life, it stole every afternoon, weekend and spare moment from me. Skateboarding robbed me of my identity and replaced it with a deep sense of belonging to something greater than myself. My circle of friends was shattered and built up again, but different from anything I knew before. Something I can only compare to brothers-in-arms. Skateboarding captivated my every thought. It changed the way I viewed the physical world around me. My mind twisted to manipulate the mundane structures of society into a canvass I was free to paint as I saw fit.
My appearance was a byproduct of skateboarding. Torn jeans, ripped shirts and scuffed shoes became my uniform. I was abused by skateboarding of my own volition. Much like Stockholm Syndrome, I felt that I could not leave my captor. Skateboarding forced me to push my body anything I could fathom. I was forced to endure pain, exhaustion, and mental strain. Skateboarding took from me everything I knew: it took my youth, it stole my innocence and destroyed me physically. I was stripped down to my most basic form. My life as I knew it, was ruined, never to be the same.
But skateboarding offered me an ultimatum, a deal of sorts. If I was willing to leave behind my old life and endure what skateboarding would ask of me then I would be given a new life. I was rebuilt, stronger, faster, tougher, sharper, and smarter. I was given outlook and insight few are afforded. I was welcomed into a community and given a rich culture to become a part of. I learned that failure is a part of growing and how to learn from my mistakes. I gained confidence and found out what I was really made of. Skateboarding ruined my life and gave me a new one, and for that I am eternally grateful.
“Hi Zach, and all you skateboarders out there…”
Shirlee Matthews, granny to many skateboarders.
A short story of a small town -- just 5000 people here in Kingsbridge in the county of Devon, England. A few years ago, our young skateboarders were being told to clear off from a lot of public spaces, even our town square and bandstand, which of course had great steps for jumping. We have narrow lanes all around us with few pavements, sidewalks to you. So with nowhere to skate, the kids got together and started raising money to buy or lease a bit of land to build a skatepark. This took three years, some of the fundraisers were as young as ten and the eldest sixteen. They packed groceries, washed cars, begged parents and maiden aunts until finally they had a decent amount to talk to the Town Council. After much haggling, they secured a tiny spot at the end of the car park, next to the estuary and to be fair, the council did help with fences and tarmac etc. This place was selected because of no nearby residents.
A few years later, with even more young skaters, it was too small, and impossible to improve skills with high enough jumps and space for turns. So of course some skaters, spilled out on the the square again, and shortly afterwards, the council found that space HAD to be found for yachtsman and the skaters were in the way, so three guesses who had to be moved to an unattractive car park up a steep hill. This didn’t happen as the young never moved there, but the Yachts are lining the quay nicely, and the young still have nowhere of their own that is exciting and will further their interest in what will be an Olympic sport next time I think.
Our story is typical of many places, or are things more enlightened in the States? We do have a good place to skate about 20 miles away, but no go for youngsters. How about Dayton? It’s wonderful exercise, and lifelong friendships are made helping each other up from spills. It’s cheap, it goes where you go, and the noise drives old ladies bananas, which is emotionally stimulating for them and a wonderful grumble to share.
Good luck with HYPED, keep up the love, and the wheels rolling!
David Shepherd, 2019
“Skateboarding has been foundational to where I am today. Starting with a cheap board from Walmart, my passion for skateboarding grew, even as scrapes or twisted ankles came. Finding a group of friends early in life was a key factor in who I became as an adult. Starting in middle school, my skateboard group began to form; we’d add new skater friends or see other friends turn away as we went into high school.
Skateboarding gave me a community to be a part of while giving me personal goals and challenges every time I stepped on my board. Without the friends I made from skateboarding, I would have never stuck with it. Without the positive friends I had, I could have easily turned to drugs, like my community and many people I grew up with have.
Unfortunately, Dayton is a hub for the opioid crisis in America. Many lives have been affected--those who are gone, and those who are still here. When I was in elementary school, the woods directly behind it were filled with used needles. As much as I wish I could imagine it getting better from then, I’ve only seen it get worse. Picking up my son midday and watching someone put a tourniquet on their arm before they shoot up on the sidewalk is the new reality.
Building a strong, safe, and caring space around a sport that offers personal challenges and endless friendships is what skateboarding offers to everyone, and right now, Dayton and the surrounding area could really use that.”
Calligraphy, Ink on Paper, 2019.
Poster for Hyped-sponsored event
Calligraphy, ink on paper, 2019