I’ve never had a new year’s resolution. Though, over the past couple years I believe I have resolved to read more books. Never have been much of a reader. Then out of nowhere, maybe last year sometime, I had a spark of interest. Maybe it has something to do with reading the right books, interesting ones, that you want to read, instead of having school reading assignments shoved down your throat. To this day I still have anxiety over school, and it’s been twelve years since I’ve attended college. Attended mind you, not completed. The point of the matter is that I have read two books in particular this year that really, honestly, truly inspired me.
First, HAWK, occupation: skateboarder, by Tony Hawk

Second, THE MUTT, how to skateboard and not kill yourself, by Rodney Mullen

Growing up as a skater, I’ve been a fan of these two fellas for years and have seen their progression on videos and magazines all along. In 1987 and ’89 I even had the pleasure of meeting Rodney Mullen who was an incredibly kind and humble person.

Everyone knows who Tony Hawk is and every skater, at least, knows who Rodney Mullen is. Anyone can see skateboarding on tv these days and make the obvious observation that skaters (at least the guys seen on tv) are coordinated, talented and daring individuals. And I think that most people (non-skaters) can appreciate the talents of skateboarders. Though not everyone can appreciate and respect what skating has done for other alternative sports such as snowboarding, skiing, surfing and lo and behold, KAYAKING! That’s right, kayaking, just like other “extreme sports” in many ways follows in the footsteps of skating. For example, did you think that the blunt was a kayaking move? Well, yeah it is, but it was a skating trick long before. The shove-it, also a skateboard trick, and a much harder one than the kayaking version I might add. I think Bob McDonough invented the kayak version of the McTwist in the early nineties, well after Mike McGill invented the McTwist on a skateboard. And shamefully, the McNasty, which is not a skateboard trick at all, but the name is obviously biting on the McTwist. I think this is by far the coolest trick of the lot in a kayak but the McGayest name. One of the more simple tricks that is the foundation of most all skate tricks and, whether you realize or not, is also the foundation of most kayak tricks, the OLLIE.
I learned to ollie on my skateboard long before I kayaked. I never imagined I would do apply it to a water sport. My friend Chris Miller took this photo of me skating this summer in Salida CO doing an ollie backside 180 heel flip.

The physics of the kayak ollie are the same as that of a skateboard ollie and you may thank Mr Rodney Mullen for discovering the flat ground ollie on a skateboard in the late 1970s. It’s hard to believe, but true, that kayaking tricks which are done today trace back to a 1970s, Floridian, teenage skater, experimenting with tricks in his garage. Simply put, an ollie is a quick slap down on the tail of a board or boat followed by a forward weight shift, causing lift and AIR. Like in skating, most every trick in kayaking (not including cartwheel style tricks) is initiated with an ollie. You ollie into blunts, back blunts, panams, helixes, mcnastys, and sometimes loops.
Below is a video of skateboard ollies and kayak ollies. Watch how the board ollies compared to the boat. It’s doing the same thing to achieve air. The nose pops up then the weight of the rider shifts forward to bring up the tail.

The ollie thing is quite a tangent from my original point but shows how much skating has influenced kayaking. To get back to the books, I would highly recommend these two reads to any kayaker, especially those who aspire to be better, to compete, to go pro, to enjoy their sport, to push the limits, to have fun! There’s not much more inspiring to me than the fact that Tony Hawk, in his mid-30s, landed his first 900 spin, a trick he had been trying for thirteen years. That’s enough to make someone go crazy. Thirteen freakin’ years. HAWK is inspring in so many ways aside from the 900 story.

THE MUTT, by Rodney Mullen, talks about his upbringing and the struggles of being able to do what he loved most, skating, despite objections from his somewhat autocratic father. He describes his methods of learning and inventing moves by himself and becoming the best in the world. As well, he humbly describes the fortune of being sponsored at a very young age and eventually becoming one of skateboarding’s leading professionals, both as an athlete and a business person.

Both of these books really hit home for me, one, because I can relate as a skater, and two, I draw a parallel between their experiences and my own as industry professionals. I hope kayaking can one day have the successes that skateboarding has had in recent years. For sure it has shared the struggles that the skateboarding industry had during the ’80s and ’90s.

HAWK and The MUTT are available at most books stores and online.

Happy new year.

Spencer Cooke & Mason

Effort Inc.

One Response to “

  • Great post Spencer! Couldn’t have tied things together any better. You’re work is always good, but this one struck home for me. Thanks!

    JAH WILL

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