Inspired by teen skateboarding sensation Sky Brown, Gayle heads to Kirkcaldy for a skateboarding lesson with coach Ross Fox.
Skateboarding is the essence of cool.
There’s the sport itself, which is laden with daredevil tricks, and then there’s the culture surrounding it — the music and the fashion.
In my teenage years, I idolised a bunch of skater-types who pulled off stunts in the streets of Aberdeen and who hung out at the Mudd Club (a legendary nightspot in the Granite City) dressed in baggy jeans, DC trainers, baseball caps and, often, chains slung from their jeans.
Yup, I was truly in awe.
I was never brave enough to have a go myself, fearing I’d be utterly useless and that I’d end up with a huge dent in my pride.
However, when skateboarding coach Ross Fox invited me along for a lesson in Kirkcaldy last week, I jumped at the chance.
My initial thought was still that I’d be truly terrible but I figured it would be a good laugh.
The thought of an impending lesson also gave me the chance to rifle through my wardrobe in search of some suitable “skater-ey” attire.
Alas, my oversized jeans, funky trainers and chains had long bitten the dust, but I tracked down a hoodie, some nerdish flat-soled shoes I’ve always hated, a pair of velour ankle-length Adidas trackie bottoms and a baseball cap. Sorted. Kind of.
I knew I’d be in good hands with Ross, who is Fife’s only coach accredited by Skateboard GB, the governing body for the sport.
And he didn’t give two hoots what I was wearing, although I had to initially lose the baseball cap and replace it with a helmet for safety reasons, plus I had to don knee pads and wrist guards.
Once I’d chosen a skateboard – a bright pink one – Ross taught me the essential skill of learning to fall.
“There’s an art to falling,” said the 31-year-old. “You need to learn how to fall safely to make sure you don’t injure yourself.”
I wasn’t looking forward to this at all; mocking up a potentially sore tumble goes against every instinct.
But with Ross’s encouragement, I was able to fall forwards onto my knees and wrists without any pain, and run up a ramp and throw myself down it without incurring any injuries. Result!
Next up was learning how to step on and off the board safely and without tipping it. It’s easier said than done and requires a lot of balance. You need to keep a bend in your knees rather than standing rigidly or, in Ross’s words, “like a Popsicle”.
Then it’s about pushing yourself along the ground without toppling.
I was pretty rickety and shaky-legged to start with but after a few attempts, I improved.
The “grand finale” of my lesson was riding the board on a mini ramp, about 4ft high.
Ross was hugely encouraging and supportive, hanging on to my arms to ensure I didn’t keel over and end up hospitalised. The more he helped me, the more my confidence built, and that’s what he was hoping for.
Heck, I was so buoyed up, I envisaged myself whizzing along and pulling off tricks like there was no tomorrow. But I was wise enough to realise it would be safer to leave the daring stuff for another day!
“That’s the goal, though — to have you ready and raring to go,” said Ross, grinning from ear to ear.
Ross, who’s been skateboarding since he was 12, gave up a high-flying career as a financial contractor to follow his dream of coaching.
“Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater video games inspired me to try skateboarding but I kept falling off,” he said. “I had a friend who could ollie (a trick where rider and board leap into the air). It was mind-blowing.
“I spent six months trying to ollie but it was hard because my friend barely knew how he did it and there was no YouTube to teach me.
“I messed up tricks so many times and learned through failures, so when I’m teaching, I find it easy to spot other people’s mistakes and help them to progress.”
Ironically, it was while Ross was injured that he decided to ditch his career in finance and train as a coach.
“I broke my toes riding in an 8ft bowl, and earlier in the year, I’d broken my tailbone leaping off a railing, so for a while I was just watching other folk, occasionally offering advice,” he said.
“Some told me I was really helping them; that I was clear and precise in teaching tricks. That got me thinking.”
Ross qualified as an accredited Skateboard GB coach this year and set up his website foxskatelessons.square.site
He offers one-to-one and group lessons, and teaches people of all ages and abilities.
“I know some people just jump on skateboards and hope for the best, but if you don’t understand where to put your feet, you can take a bad fall – that can really knock your confidence,” he pointed out.
“Taking lessons is a brilliant way of getting to grips with the sport and learning it safely.
“I get such happiness out of coaching. There’s a sense of escape when you’re skateboarding and it’s a brilliant workout.
“And it’s amazing when people nail tricks, or even just get their stance right. It’s such a buzz.”
Ross loves the freedom of the sport, and the sense of community and support afforded in the skate scene.
“You can pick up your board, ride along the streets, ride to the skate park, do some tricks, and enjoy being on your own or hanging out with friends,” he said.
“There’s a great community in Fife and across the country, and it’s fantastic to see skateboarding featuring in the Olympics.”
- Ross offers lessons at Unit 51 indoor skatepark (owned and run by Fife-based skate collective Don’t Comply Films) in Kirkcaldy’s Mitchelston Industrial Estate and various other locations. foxskatelessons.square.site; instagram.com/ross_skateboards/
- 13-year-old Sky Brown is Team GB’s youngest Olympic medallist and was named this year’s BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year.