Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The trouble With FUN

I've always loved that little clip from Speed Freaks where the late, great Jeff Phillips declares: "I skate for fun and that's it!. If I don't have fun you see me quit." Pretty good words to live by. "Phillips' Law", I like to call it. But If I am completely honest with myself, I have to admit that I have always had a tiny bit of reservation about that assertion.

I do “skate for fun”, but that is most definitely not “it”. When it comes to my relationship with skateboarding, "Fun" just doesn't cut it.

If someone asked me why I write, would I say because it is "fun". No. I get joy from it...sure, but creating something, fighting with each thought and trying forge it into words is an arduous, meticulous, maddening, exhausting process. It is often, unequivocally, not "fun" by anyone's definition of the word. I'm not sure I'm having fun typing these words right now. Does that make them less pure, less valuable? I write because I am compelled to, and because I believe I have something worth saying. Fun is there...occasionally, but I could never sum up writing, creating, as "fun".

Some people go to therapy. Maybe they need to banish a destructive habit. Maybe they need someone to tell them they are worth something, that things are not as bad as they seem. Maybe they just need it as an outlet to deal with the crushing madness of everyday life. But, is therapy “fun”.

Have you ever done something you weren't sure you could do? Something that tested your limits, something that made you re-define those limits altogether? Something you had to fight and sweat for, something that almost broke you? When it was over, the feeling of accomplishment was probably energizing, overwhelming. But would you ever say what you did was simply "fun"? If not, was it still worth doing?

Think of the people you love most in life. Do you love them because they are “fun”? If you really do love someone you've fought with them, you've been angry with them in a way you never thought possible. You may have done things for them you didn't want to, things you can't stand, out of love.  You may have struggled like you never have before just to make them happy. Were those moments "fun"? You don't marry someone just to have "fun". You don’t have a child just because it is “fun”. You love the people you do because they make you better, because they challenge you, because you know you can depend on them and you know you will always do your best for them. Fun is in there too, sure, but "fun”? That's just not enough to explain it.

Amusements are fun. Hobbies are fun. Is skateboarding an amusement? A hobby?

For  lot of us, even those who have no interest in being the best or getting sponsored, skateboarding is so much more than an amusement or hobby. So much more than "fun".

With today’s conflicts in the culture between the core and the corporate, the term "fun" has become both battle cry and bludgeon. Sometimes, the fun police can be as militant as the trick nazis, asserting that certain kinds of skating, and, by proxy, certain kinds of skaters are somehow impure because what they like to do is not "fun" enough.

It's a strange notion, since the term "fun" is as subjective as it is broad, and meaningless without context. But set aside even those semantic quibbles, and "fun" as great as it is, as vital as it is, is still too shallow a concept, too simple a term, to describe the complex, multifaceted relationship skaters have with their skateboards.

Jumping down a giant set of stairs over and over, battering yourself, taking hour after hour, to get one trick, That may not be your idea of fun. It may, strictly speaking, not  be all "fun" for the person doing it. But there are personal reasons to do something like that that are as pure and positive as “fun”, reasons that have nothing to do with dominance or the hope for fame, and those reasons should be respected, even if "fun" is not at the forefront.

Riding a skateboard for years and never setting foot in a bowl or on a ramp, hitting the same sorts of ledges every day, meticulously laying the groundwork for lines, flipping your board around a hundred times just to land it once, may not be your idea of fun...it may not, strictly, be purely fun to the kid doing it, but there may be other reasons he or she has the drive and compulsion to go through that struggle. Very pure reasons, very laudable and even admirable reasons. Skaters should respect that.

Self-fulfillment, personal growth, emotional well-being, the urge to create or challenge one’s self...these things are not always “fun”, but they are reasons why we skate. Good reasons. Positive reasons that make skating more than a sport or an art. Motivations that make this culture stronger.

Sure, there are lots of reasons not to skate. Don’t skate for money, or for fame, or to be better than anyone else. Keep “fun" at the foundation but don’t turn it into dogma. Fun is not the alpha and omega of why we do what we do, and it is certainly not enough to explain the connection skaters have to skating.

So, “skate for fun and that's it…” I don't know if I can totally back that. Skate for yourself, and that's it? Maybe.

How about this: Skate for love and that's it. If I lose the love, you'll see me quit. Yeah. That works for me.

I hope Jeff would understand where I'm coming from.


  1. If I could skate like Jeff did, I'm sure it would be 99% about having fun. As it is, I do have fun, but I think there are other reasons too.

  2. I'm liking this line of thought. Lately, I've been trying to actively push myself into expanding my skills. Getting more frontside things under my belt, getting comfortable on larger transitions, digging up my old street tricks back. In the midst of battling the trick, my aging body and my mind, I'll ask myself if I'm having fun. The answer I usually give myself is I'm paving the way to more fun. Now I think the "Because I love it" thing is closer to the truth.

  3. I'm with Bob, it's more of a compulsion than fun. I love to push myself up to my limits, and beyond. But when skateboarding ceases to be "fun", I don't see the point of doing it anymore.

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