I’ve been doing a lot of looking back lately, taking stock of the adventures and misadventures, the joys and trials of my 32 years, and after this prolonged stroll down memory lane, I concluded that if I could do it over, I would do it all the same – every minute of every day the same, right up through to today. Why? Because I am proud of who I am today, and I am the sum of all those experiences – all the wins, all the losses, and all the lessons learned. One story in particular sparked my memory and I enjoyed the recollection of it so much, I wanted to share it here for posterity’s sake. Enjoy.
I remember one day, about ten years ago, driving around Port Coquitlam with my good friend Andy, in his dusty blue Volvo station-wagon, looking for another hill to conquer on our longboards. Longboards, as the name suggests, are basically long skateboards designed for cruising, and we put them to good use during our university days. We’d go out riding as a break from homework, as a reward for completing homework, and more often than not, instead of homework. The exhilaration of speeding down a hill was addictive, and we were terminally hooked. As our skills improved, the need for speed intensified. Having first conquered the hills on campus, and soon after, all of Langley, we began expanding our search for bigger and better hills.
We found a potential site in a residential area, and drove the length of the street, past some young girls playing in their front yard, for a preview. The wide street curved to the right with a slight decline, then angled down steeply for about 75 meters before leveling off and straightening out for another 200 meters, the only issue was that the street ended in a cul-de-sac. Turning around at the bottom, we looked back up the hill.
“You think there’s enough room to stop?” Andy wondered.
“Well, I think we can do it. If we manage some hard carves on the straightaway, we should be able to slow down enough…” I was trying to convince us both, but it seemed logical.
“Should we do it?” Andy asked. The familiar, excited tone in his voice meant there was only one answer.
We drove back up the hill, past the girls still playing in their yard, and parked. We started our descent, but just as we began to pick up a little momentum, Andy skidded out slightly on a rock, and stopped to regain his balance. I continued past him and began to pick up speed. The two girls stopped what they were doing as I flew by, like Maverick buzzing the air tower. I glanced behind me and saw Andy a little ways back, following suit on his board. The gap between us increased as I hit the steep stretch and accelerated as fast as my board would allow.
I’ve never had an out of body experience, not even when I was at the hospital, but I imagine it must be something like how I felt cruising down the hill. My spirit was flying high, revelling in the rush of air and adrenaline. Meanwhile, my body was instinctively maneuvering the board and navigating the route. Consequently, my body was the first to notice that I was approaching the cul-de-sac much faster than I anticipated. My spirit quickly re-joined my body, and I distinctly remember having this internal discussion:
“Frick, I’m screwed…should I make some carves across the hill? No, I’ll get wicked wobbly-board and end up scattered across the street…what else?…I could drag my foot to slow down, but I’ll probably end up cartwheeling all the way down the hill…”
I was running out of options. A quick analysis concluded that hitting pavement would definitely result in cavernous scrapes on my knees, hands, and hips. At this speed, I could expect wounds on my butt, calves, and shoulders as well – I had to find a softer alternative.
“OK, where can I crash? Maybe I’ll aim for that driveway so I can roll on their yard. Hmmmm, I don’t know, I think the sidewalk transition will hurl me into that SUV parked there instead…all right, I’m running out of time, I’m just going to aim for those bushes at the back of the dead-end…all right, here we go!”
My board slammed into the curb and I shot into the bushes like a startled rabbit. Sticks scraped my limbs like barbed wire, and something opened a gash on my knee. Even so, aiming for the bushes was definitely the right move. I brushed bark mulch off my legs and looked up to see Andy barreling down, having the same mental conversation I just had. He sped into the cul-de-sac, and I expected him to let the curb hurl him into the bushes as well. Witnessing my board sail end-over-end in the air must have clouded his judgement, however, because he suddenly stepped off his board to try and run off the momentum. Like a panicked chimp, Andy scrambled across the remaining few meters of pavement before lunging into the bushes, narrowly missing a streetlight. I limped over to where he was last seen.
“Dude, you all right?”
Lying in shock on his back, Andy looked at me with eyes the size of hubcaps, trying to catch his breath. I helped him up to take stock of his wounds, the worst of which was a dark, fist-sized bruise on his inner thigh.
“Dude! How’d you get that?” I exclaimed, trying not to laugh too hard, just in case he was seriously hurt.
“I broke one of the bolt covers off the base of that streetlight, dude!”
“What?!?” I laughed again, “With your inner thigh?” I couldn’t believe it, but after scrounging around a little, Andy handed me the broken cover as evidence. We made our way back towards the car. Andy shuffled along understandably slow, I limped along at the same pace, with my shorts flipped up to avoid the blood leaking from my knee. We passed those little girls for the fourth time, and they glared at us disapprovingly, like we should have known better. Back in the car, we collapsed, like wounded soldiers returning from the front lines. We were battered, bruised, and bleeding, but we had survived – and that meant something.
I turned to Andy, “We dominated that hill, man.”
“Yeah, we did.” he groaned.