Inner Thrash 21#12
by John McGuire
Skateboarding has a unique relationship with myth and legend. There will always be an ongoing debate about where skating officially originated, and where the first ollie occurred, and who did it–all these uncertainties and questions are part of its allure. A mysterious past lends to the outlaw nature and forbidden attraction that is skateboarding–an activity where the lines and parameters are constantly being pushed and someone is always ready to break new ground.
There’re also certain undeniable truths and consequences. Whether we like to admit it or not, skateboarding is inherently dangerous. No matter how experienced or versed we are, even the most basic tricks lie at the mercy of the unknown. When we take these risks, we’re toying with the delicate balances of land or slam. However, risk assessment and calculated execution is one of skateboarding’s alluring qualities. The thrill-seeking addiction keeps us pushing our limitations. Sure, practice gives us an undeniable advantage, an upper hand, or an added level of confidence. But the thing that should not be is always lurking, The Slam.
The Slam is as old as the activity of skateboarding, but its exact age and place of origin is unknown. What is known is that wherever skateboarding is happening, The Slam’s lurking in the shadows. It waits ominously underneath handrails, in the murky bowels of pool drains just below the funbox, or in the old timbers of vert ramps. It makes no distinctions and is an equal-opportunity destroyer. At a casual manual session, it lies in wait, using its shape-shifting morphing powers, taking on the form of an unsuspecting pebble or a harmless crack. To mention its name is a hex on a session, but to deny its presence is an equal curse.
There are countless miles of digital tape that capture slams and mishaps, and yet like Sasquatch or an ephemeral ghost, The Slam has never been accurately caught on tape. Its skin must emit a low-level magnetic pulse that renders cameras unable to capture its ghastly and horrific appearance. Many scientists and skate historians have agreed on its existence, yet they have failed to actually capture its appearance. Like modern culture’s fascination with aliens, the existence of The Slam is shrouded in skepticism and mystery. But this is a very real threat. Skaters are constantly falling prey to its savage appetite. With no end in sight, the only protection against The Slam is education and awareness. By spreading greater understanding, we may be able to predict or postpone its insatiable feeding habits.
As skateboarders, you are never far from the grasp of The Slam’s gnashing, clawed, suction-cup tentacles. It’s told in age-old lore that it has 100 eyes to stay alert and is constantly aware of your every move. Endowed with a sixth sense that allows it to predict and anticipate your every impulse, The Slam’s other powers include, teleportation, telekinesis, and its signature power–the gruesome breath of fifteen high school math teachers. Its immeasurable ability to instill fear and snack on confidence is unequaled. In the animal kingdom, it is the alpha predator, making sharks and ravenous Kodiaks tremble in its wake. Freddy Kreuger and Candyman pale in comparison, making them look like Carrot Top or SpongeBob. Like the polar bear, its sense of smell reaches for miles, and will relentlessly stalk prey for days. It’s always one step ahead while always one moment behind, just outside your peripheral vision.
The Slam eludes your waking vision but haunts your dreams and wreaks havoc on the subconscious. It’s riding shotgun on the way to the spot, the last one to get in the car, and never antes up for gas money. The Slam’s inexplicable signature stench rivals thee mysterious Loki, Norse god of mischief. While you’re gearing up to get down, it’s focusing boards, breaking kingpins, loosening the axel nuts, and peeling griptape. To deny it or not believe at all is like inviting The Slam to a game of SKATE in an Iraqi minefield. Sure, it has a favorite signature move–it feeds on a steady diet of sprained ankles and shinners. But The Slam’s really looking for a hearty feast of fractures or sacks on rails. It’s the unexplainable stench you smell moments before the crotch-splitting, gender-bender slam on the handrail. The split second of indecision, when you throw your board away, is its gaping maw opening for the kill.
You can always pick out the fallen fellows who’ve crossed paths with “the thing that should not be”–they have the sprained-ankle limp, the cast, and an impressive portfolio of scars and scabs that permanently adorn their bodies like tattoos. Prey of the vicious encounters are just like shark-attack victims–they fear returning to the water, never truly feeling safe again. The idea of going back to the handrail or gap where you met the unmentionable is unnerving. But to not reattempt is letting it win.
I recently had a ferocious and terrifying encounter with The Slam. A routine rail slide went awry, and it sprung into action like a coiled viper, chomping into my kneecap with its venom-soaked incisors and fracturing my knee into five pieces. Now in the aftermath of its reign of terror, I’ve been sidelined for the past eight months and have taken it upon myself to shed light on this dark cloud. My obsession and commitment to unraveling the mystery has led to many dead ends and fruitless inquiries, yet its wrath shows no sign of relenting, reaffirming that my quest is indeed required.
It’s a very sensitive subject, and I was apprehensive even writing about The Slam. Maybe by understanding more about its nature, diet, and habitat, we can learn to keep it at bay. What’s known is that no matter how difficult tricks become, or how big or safe skateboarding becomes, The Slam will always be there. As prepared and aware as we are, we will always be at the mercy of it. Don’t let it win. Fight its poison-tipped attacks by taking every precaution and keeping skateboarding as fun as possible. And maybe, just maybe, we can keep it away for just one more session. Be aware.
Here are four helpful steps to keep The Slam down:
S–Safety first. Jiminy Cricket’s mantra could not be more applicable. Take the necessary precautions whenever possible.
L–Look, listen, learn. Learn its feeding habits, its smell, and its modus operandi. Remember, the higher the difficulty level of the trick, the greater chance it’s gonna be up in that piece.
A–Access the area, look for clues. It really likes janky setups. Rusty-nailed funboxes with PVC coping and protruding wood screws and nails; cracked-up, gravel run-ups; and filthy landings are its favorite lairs.
M–Make your trick. This one is a no-brainer. Sometimes you’re better off sticking it than throwing it away.
Follow these simple helpful hints and you can prevent another tragedy.