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I'm a dad who skateboards to find some sanity under quarantine

Commentary: I'm old, but now I skate to try to stay calm during this coronavirus crisis.

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I'm an old guy who skates again, because it's so much fun.

Brian Bennett/CNET

This pandemic has got me doing some crazy things. I made wine and brewed beer in my Instant Pot. I burned scores of logs testing multiple fire pits. I've consumed massive amounts of coffee and espresso for various other product roundups (to be fair, I usually do that). My newest activity is the most terrifying, yet it's also the most therapeutic. After a 20-year hiatus, I've returned to skateboarding.

As a middle-aged dad, that may sound both foolish and risky, but for me it makes perfect sense. In this time of increased uncertainty and anxiety, skateboarding is a balm. A quick skate is more than just good exercise. It helps me unplug and recharge, even if it's for just 30 minutes a day. Here's why.

Skating on the brain

It could be a midlife crisis, or simply the global crisis of a deadly viral pandemic. Whatever the reason, during this stressful time one topic kept bubbling up into my mind from my subconscious -- skateboarding. I'd find myself reminiscing about old skate videos I worshipped in my youth.

I distinctly remember watching certain videos over and over, almost wearing out each bootleg VHS cassette. Examples include H-Street Shackle Me Not and Powell Peralta's Public Domain. And who could forget Natas Kaupas in Santa Cruz Streets On Fire

One video in particular remains my favorite. That's the 1988 classic Sick Boys. Specifically the schoolyards segment still blows my mind to this day. It isn't just the tricks that stand out. It's the whole package: the music, the style and the relaxed attitude. It's freedom and fun on four polyurethane wheels. It's hard for me to imagine a better escape that's attainable in my own neighborhood.

Old guys should wear pads

To scratch the itch, I bought my first new skateboard in over 20 years. I went with the Tugboat Midnight Snek from Landyachtz. Not only is this board a relatively new release (2019), it also has that old-school shape I know and love.

While the Snek's fat fishtail deck felt familiar, there were a few things I hadn't accounted for. The first is the skateboard's height. Thanks to big 60mm Lil EZ's wheels and tall trucks, the Snek sits high above the ground. Unlike my old low-slung Dogtown Eric Dressen model paired with Independent trucks, the Snek's setup performs like a totally different animal.

It makes tight turns and deep carves, and it's super responsive. The Snek is also a slightly larger version of a Dinghy cruiser. Dinghies in general are designed to accelerate fast and roll smooth on bigger, softer wheels compared with traditional skateboards. The flip side of that is if your balancing skills aren't developed (or rusty), you're going to go down. That's what happened to me my first time out. I ate the pavement hard three times. One was definitely a balance and leg strength issue. The other two happened when I hit cracks in the asphalt. I wasn't wearing knee or elbow pads, or even a helmet. I strongly suggest both newbies and oldies wear some form of protective gear.

I dare to downhill

I have no desire to perform street tricks anymore. No sliding handrails, axle grinds or even ollies for me. I used to do some of that, but that ship has sailed. Instead I've been bombing the many big hills in my quiet suburban neighborhood. They're actually terrifying. Some are quite long and curved. They're a blast. 

One day soon I'd like to switch to a serious longboard that can handle extreme speed with more stability. After that I plan to learn technical slides, if my knees can take it, so I can predrift around tight corners and brake on command. I can't wait.

I'm passing the skateboarding torch to my son.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Just live and skate

To anyone out there who used to skate, if you've been itching to give it a shot again and you think your body can handle it, I have one message for you: Do it. I was on the fence too, and I was riddled with insecurities. I worried what the neighbors would think, or even random passersby. My fear was someone would make fun of the old guy. That hasn't been the case. In fact, it's been the opposite. People I've passed stare then smile, seemingly in awe at an older guy having so much fun.

More importantly, my 9-year-old kids love it. I can barely keep up with my bike-riding daughter. She has a skateboard but prefers her bike since on it she runs rings around me. My son, who I just taught to skate too, is right on my heels. He's now called dibs on my Midnight Snek if and when I transition to a longboard. Consider the torch passed. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.