I began skateboarding in 9th grade. One of my brothers bought me my first real board, and we would skate at the nearby elementary school parking lot. We had the Tony Hawk: Pro Skater demo that came free with a large, any-topping, Pizza Hut pizza, and fancied ourselves real f-ing thrashers.
One day, while rippin’ shiz up at Edison Elementary, my brother gets a great idea,
“Ok, I’m gonna get going on the swing, you toss me my board, I’ll jump off, and land. Easy.”
“Wait, throw you your board in the air?”
“No, while I’m swinging. It’ll be just like jumping off swings as a kid”
My brother seemed convinced that this was a great idea. At this point, I could’ve said a few different things, all pointing to how this was a dumb idea, and likely to cause some form of injury. After all, there were a lot of moving parts (literally) to this plan: my brother on the swing, my questionable aim with a skateboard, him being able to catch a skateboard on a swing, and his timing of the jump. I’m the younger brother, though and caution isn’t our M.O. as a general rule.
So we put the plan into motion. He gets on the swing and builds up speed.
Actually, let me pause him there and set the scene a little better. I say elementary school swing set, but erase the image you have right now of a modern elementary school play-ground. Take out the rubber padding on the ground, spread down some nice gravel, raise the top bar of the up to 10 feet, and give the swings some metal chains with just a touch of rust. There we go.
Okay, he’s maxing out, head popping up over the top rail, and gives me the signal to throw him the board. I toss the board to him as he’s reaching the bottom of the downward swing and he snatches it out of the air. He swings up, and jumps off.
He jumps off at the very top of his arc.
Do you remember jumping off of swings? It was a fun physics lesson. Imagine the swing chain straight up and down. That’s the 90 degree point. For maximum distance, a kid should jump off at 45 degrees. Since he jumped off at the 0 degree point, he had no forward momentum or vertical momentum. This wasn’t great for him.
I watched as my brother rotated forward, and spread his arms into a swan dive, and hit the ground. He hit it hard. I saw him bounce off of the gravel.
It was a while before my brother could breathe without feeling pain in his ribs, but the memory of seeing the house across the street in the space between my brother and the ground as he bounced tickles my ribs to this day.