Originally published in Sidewalk about 1999. This was a popular story that generated a lot of responses.
[DDET Krooked Krillas, or The Development of the Ollie ]
Standing at the far end of the narrow path stood Spectrum (real name Steven Trumble). He gripped his brand new board by the nose and tapped the tail nervously on the concrete slabs. Ahead of him lay a thirty or forty metre run-up, and then a massive set of twenty stairs. It would be the ollie of his life, sure to get him that sponsorship he so deserved.
At the bottom of the stairs crouched his best mate Re-Cycla (real name Richard Chiswick) holding a Hi-8 camera, and the rest of his skate posse, the Krooked Krillas.
Spectrum looked down at his board. The trucks gleamed from the light of the street lamps, and the wheel graphics were still in top condition. A couple of Krooked Krillas stickers were strategically placed on the deck, surrounding his latest tag which adorned the central area. A dope-ass masterpiece, it brought pride and adrenaline to his veins. After landing this ollie, he thought, I’m gonna spray that tag on every one of those twenty steps, like a street dog leaving a mark for the bitches.
He checked to ensure that his laces were undone. Check. Thinking that one trouser leg rolled up to the knee was now a bit too cliched, he adjusted one leg so that it was only a couple of turn ups more than the other. His secret hope being that the material might fly up his shin a good few inches more during the ollie, perhaps ‘accidentally’ reaching up to his knee.
Almost ready to start the run-up, he silently mouthed some lyrics from his favourite rap album.
Just becuz yo ready don’t mean I’m feelin’ randy,
Wait ten minutes bitches, I got reason to be dandy,
My five bucks don’t stretch to what yo offer for a man dear,
I think it’s time I rent a movie-that way I use my hand here!
Spectrum waited for the moment when the bass line would have kicked back in, and then he moved off. The tiles on the path were crooked, and made it difficult to gain speed. On the wall to the left he passed tags and graff from rival gangs. He noticed some of the better work, but quickly regained concentration as the steps began to loom. His slightly rolled up trouser leg felt heavy, banging against his shin, aggravating an old scab.
He could see the heads of his posse at the bottom of the steps now. As they peered up, he put on his dopest grimace, and began his pre-ollie affectations. His lips pursed and then pouted in a gangsta fashion, his arms adopted an unnatural swing with each push. Wrists and fingers contorted, halfway into the gang signs he so often used without even noticing. His confidence grew as he remembered who was the baddest skater, the wickedest tagger at the local bus station. It was himself, Spectrum, and now he was gonna be the first sponsored skater in their stupid little hick town. Just twenty steps lay between him and skate stardom. He would then save up and fly out to LA, sure to get noticed in no time at all.
He crouched, ready to spring at the edge of the rapidly approaching first step. He saw Re-Cycla with the camera, and he saw the glory in front of him, and with all the effort left in his body, he ollied as far as he could. Every muscle in his body was being used. Every vein pulsed the maximum amount of blood. His eyes focused through the sweat down to the landing spot at the bottom of the steps. It looked a long, long way away.
Steven Trumble stood at the top of the steps, and had a good look down all twenty of them, before turning around and skating off down the path which would be his run up. His board and shoes were pretty worn out, but he liked the look of them. They had been worn out from skating, so he didn’t perceive it to be a negative process, just a natural one. He thought to himself, why do some skaters moan about the condition of their decks? Steven knew he was poor and unsponsored, and so by accepting his situation so readily, he could find nothing in it to complain about.
He carved down the path to the starting point, about twenty metres away from the steps. All of his skating friends had gone home a while ago, and whilst he had enjoyed their session together, he felt truly at peace when skating alone at night. No one to judge, no opinions to clash, no distracting rivalry, or disagreements about where to skate next. Steven had been thinking about ollieing these steps for a little while, but he hadn’t mentioned it to anyone. It would have seemed like he was after some kind of attention, which was the opposite of the truth. He simply thought of ollieing the steps because he knew he could. He didn’t strive to ollie them, nor desire it particularly. He had allowed nature to have it’s way, and nature had chosen this evening to be the right time.
Reaching the twenty metre point, he stopped and picked up his board. An outsider would observe that he handled it with remarkable, even obsessive care. But Steven was simply cherishing the skateboard that would take him on his journey down the steps. He respected the board, and offered it deep devotion, knowing that repayment would be automatic, and in full.
He began his run-up slowly, taking the best route amongst the cracked paving slabs without being aware of it. Free of all emotions, he had entered a state of contemplation. He didn’t see the gigantic ollie ahead of him, but instead viewed the entire process from run-up to ollie and then landing as one flowing movement, more like the growth of a tree, or the transformation from rain to sleet to snow.
Later on, he would have little memory of these moments, because they were more than physical in nature. He truly existed as he skated down the path, and he always would exist in that way. How can you remember that which always takes place?
He had plenty of speed now, and prepared his body for the ollie by crouching slightly. This was the most tranquil moment. The edge of the steps were not a sharp edge, they were more like a slight change in the plane of his path. He ollied into a distinct space above the steps, his route to the bottom was clearly defined and easy to follow. His body remained relaxed, the combination of correct speed and technique not requiring any huge effort or strength.
It was certainly not rational to ollie down such a large set of steps, but it was undeniably natural. With a mind that remained clear of all thoughts of failure or injury, of college or work, he barely even noticed the landing, intent instead on the process as a whole. Simply aware that he was nearing the end of it now. His speed took him far down the landing path and out onto the empty street. Steering towards home, he enjoyed the dying ebbs of momentum before finally pushing once or twice more, looking forward to some food and rest. The only sound came from his wheels, but he was blissfully unaware. He briefly noticed some graffiti that had been sprayed on a wall by the street, and smiled for the first time since the ollie, knowing that he had entered another world now.
The previous world of the graffiti and the other skaters and his parents seemed ever so comical, ever so distant.