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How-to Parenting

How to skate like a dad

Years ago, someone accused me of being a hipster. I told them, I don’t even really care about music, so how could I be a hipster? They replied, that’s the most hipster answer!

Could it be the same for skateboarding, where my natural lack of style is in fact its own style? Hi, I’m Sam, and I’m a sk8r dad.

I’ve identified as a skate dad since I began skateboarding last summer, and when I skate with others it’s with my little “sk8r dadz” crew. But it wasn’t until I saw a blogger roasting the fad of “dad tricks” that it clicked for me that this is truly a style. Here’s a representative excerpt:

Dadness already had been stoked to a near-inferno by the widespread re-adoption of loose-fit, faded denim jeans, sometimes with a sensible cuff-roll well suited to low-impact cycling or safely depressing the pedals of a used minivan.

The Rise of the Noseslide Shove It Heralds the Age of Dad Tricks

Ouch! I certainly wear loose-fit faded jeans to cycle and drive a minivan. One quibble: I’d argue that rolling up your pant cuffs is trying too hard. It’s more dad style to have a chain guard and/or just get grease on your pants. But yeah, this has my number.

Well, if “dad tricks” is a style, I am its paragon. I appreciate the effort by these skaters to do dad tricks, but they’re too young, too talented, too far removed to know real dad skating. Here’s my insider take on being a sk8r dad.

At 38 I’m the youngest dad in my crew. And the most able-bodied: the others have bad knees or bad backs injured decades ago. This limitation is a key constraint that defines dad tricks. Which leads us to dress. Yes, loose pants are good, but most of all it’s about safety gear.

Dress: wear as much padding as possible. At a minimum, wrist guards, elbow pads, knee pads, helmet, and – the secret that new inductees learn when they join a sk8r dadz crew – padded shorts. Recommended once by a sk8r dad’s doctor to protect hips and now passed around via word of mouth (thanks, Dave-O!).

Additional safety gear is fine. If it’s cold, wear gloves. If you’re trying shove its, wear your old soccer shin guards. Your actual shirt, shorts, whatever? Those don’t matter. Just wear whatever you’d wear if you weren’t skating.

Shoes: high tops to protect your ankles. In my sk8r dadz clique we all wear Vans Sk8-Hi Pros, the most generic option. An outsider might think sk8r dadz would skate in regular street shoes, but no, they don’t. Safety first.

Gear: the design/shape/size of your deck doesn’t matter. Could be a popsicle or cruiser. The most important gear is wheels. Sk8r dadz have a big soft set for riding streets and a regular hard set for the skatepark/plaza spot. You could even have a different board set up for each. But if you only have one set of wheels, it’s the soft cruisers. Otherwise you’re gonna wipe out on a pebble and you’re too old for that.

Also, the noise that 101a wheels make on a city street draws too many stares. We’re not ashamed to be skating, but we don’t seek the spotlight either.

Hours: sk8r dadz are crepuscular. There are two primary times that sk8r dadz go out.

Before work: hit the skatepark before 9am. It will be free of talented, faster younger people. They are in school or, if older, don’t have that dad energy needed to wake up early to skate. And it will be nice and cool for your morning workout.

After kids are in bed: skate around 9pm, on a street near your home. Good lighting is essential. Or put your dad privilege to use and skate a store parking lot or downtown spot that has emptied out for the day. Compared to a teen, you can get away with skating more places and not get hassled.

Don’t skate on the weekends during the day. Spend time with your kids or fix the dishwasher. An exception, of course, for skating with your kids.

Dad trick progression: I must set the record straight here. I see how for regular skate culture, a noseslide shove it out (the subject of the aforementioned blog post) is a dad trick. It’s the easiest slide + trick out combo I can imagine. But as a sk8r dad, I’m only watching those clips and fantasizing, not actually doing it. At best, it’s a young person’s homage to dad style.

At a skatepark, dads are most likely to be found skating the bowl or pool and/or standing around it talking to each other. I mostly skate in the street, though, not at the skatepark, so my perspective on dad skating is skewed toward flatground.

Forget the noseslide shove it, that’s for a 22-year-old. Here are some actual dad tricks, in learning progression order. For each, do it the easiest way possible (in parentheses).

  • Revert (frontside)
  • Curb drop
  • Slappy 50-50 grind (ride up right where the curb rises up from the ground)
  • Slappy nose stall (sk8r dadz proudly text the group about little learns like this. Also share progress toward a trick, even if you’re not close to landing it yet)
  • Basic mini ramp tricks like rock-to-fakie and stalls
  • Shuvit / pop shuvit (only fakie)
  • Varial flip (the holy grail of dad tricks)

I hesitated about listing varial flips, because they’re too difficult, flashy, and dangerous for a true sk8r dad, who is sensible and avoids the risk of landing primo.

But they are validated as dad tricks from all sides. Externally: mainstream skating considers varial flips to be extremely uncool and very dad-ish (search “why does everyone hate varial flips”). And internally: they are my dream trick. I love them for the symmetry of the foot extensions and the fact that they look almost as cool as tre flips while still seeming within my (distant) reach. Enjoy this ultra-slow-mo look at varial flips. I thought I loved varial flips because I’m a hipster, but now I understand that it’s because I’m a sk8r dad.

Better sk8r dadz should feel free to do other tricks, of course. If you can kickflip, great. I, for one, now have a decent ollie. I can reliably get over a jump rope and less-consistently clear bigger things. And I’m proud of that! But it’s not a dad trick.

That’s my dispatch from the land of sk8r dadz. Let me know what I missed. I see sk8r momz at the park before work sometimes and they seem to have their own rad thing going but I can’t speak for it.

If you see a guy in glasses wearing street clothes, slathered in pads, trying to fakie pop shuvit on a gentle downhill so I don’t have to push switch, that’s me. Say hi!

A dad wearing a lot of pads to the skatepark
Sk8r dad in action, landing a fakie pop shuvit before work. The bike helmet is a bit much but it was what I had.

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