"Half Pipe" by Greg Shewchuk

Half Pipe

A boy stands on the edge of a ramp. He is a child, really. 11 years old. It has taken him these years to grow from infancy, to learn to move, to make his way to the top of this massive curved structure. His body is just learning to express its desire for action and communion. His skin is soft and clear, his eyes wild, a determined look on his face, yet still innocent.

He leans forward and drops in. His legs unweight as he plummets in the perfect path of gravity. Nothing restrains his descent. He is 12 now, 13, his adolescence flying by as his wheels lightly grace the surface of the ramp. His eyes water, there is a trace of wisdom in the corner of his glare. He has shed his anxiety, his fear of the darkness, as he falls.

The ramp curves beneath him. Now he is a teenager, his attitude is changing. His style is more pronounced and there is a singular aggression in his stance. His strong legs absorb the increasing impact, his hands trailing at a perfect angle, like a painter holding a brush. He looks forward, no longer unsure of his footing, ready for the eventuality of his committed plunge. The ground rises up to meet him, embroiling him in a battle with light and sound. He is 18, 19, he has come of age, he is in his 20’s, a young man, fierce and intent.

His path straightens. He skates across the flatbottom at full speed. He stands upright, confronting the wind. His eyes take in the expanse of his surroundings, yet remain focused on his path. Time moves so quickly. He is 25 now, 30, releasing himself from his adolescent naivetĂ©, letting go of his judgments and arrogance. The past streams behind him and he wonders how he can have come so far. He feels lucky to be alive, blessed to have seen so much of life’s kaleidoscope.

He is 40 years old. He approaches the oncoming wall at the same breakneck speed. The monolith rises above him and he bends his tiring knees, looking up, absorbing the shift in movement and feeling the wind pushed from his chest. His arms, knotted with muscle and pocked with scars, coordinate to pump his way up the wall like a bird in flight. He knows the answers now, he has freed himself from his misconceptions, he prays for the grace to keep moving, to keep breathing.

He shoots up the transition, a man in his 50’s, 60’s, his skin becoming thin and pale, his eyes retreating in space yet shining bright in luster. His regrets have faded, he has made his peace. His yellowing teeth revealed through a smile, his old legs pushing through the soles of his feet with a familiar assuredness. This is what he has always done, yet it feels as new now as when he was a child.

A 70 year old man reaches the vertical plane of the ramp, casting away the anchors of inertia, set free into the wind. His skateboard takes flight, his wizened frame delicately connected as they rocket into empty space. Rising into the sunlight. He is 80 now, 90, his bones frail but his heart still pumping blood, his thoughts lilting and simple, as if they never meant anything at all. He reaches the apex of his aerial at the age of 100, a centenarian, complete.

Having made the great ascent, he releases himself from his bodily form as his crude mass diminishes into dust and his essence releases into the ether.

He is 1000 years old now, having dissolved into the air and the clouds. He rolls above the earth, observing the movements and inhabitants with an impartial radiance.

100,000 years old. He is the light from the stars, reflecting off the planets and moons through the emptiness of space.

Now he is one million. He has absorbed the deepest, darkest secrets of the cosmos. The half pipe is gone. He is gone.

-GMS, 4/16/2009

Categories: "Advanced Standing" skateboarding column by Greg Shewchuk | Tags: | 1 Comment

About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2023: I publish an email newsletter called LANDLINE = https://jaybabcock.substack.com Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca.

One thought on “"Half Pipe" by Greg Shewchuk

  1. Simply amazing! I really dig Greg Shewchuks articles, as a life long skateboarder I can relate to what he writes about, I like how he connects skateboarding with eastern mysticism , something I having been thinking about for a while but haven’t been able to put into words, But Greg expresses that point eloquently. I have read zen in the art of archery and i find these articles more enlightening than that book, so Greg has my vote for him to get a book deal and write a book called zen in the art of skateboarding.

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