Throughout the late '80s and early '90s, two groups of skateboarders existed on Earth and the only commonality between the two was the fact they'd grown up inspired by the Back to the Future series.
The first group took to the wheeled plank with the tenacity of a blindfolded traffic controller - grazing skin and dislocating bone until they mastered what many saw as a counter-intuitive mode of physical exertion.
These kids (or kids at heart) would eventually be seen weaving between pedestrians and cars as if competing in Olympic-level slalom, while simultaneously twiddling with a Rubik’s Cube or plaiting the fiery hair of a plastic troll.
You’d see these kids in local parks, grinding and flipping into what should be oblivion, then nailing either a perfect landing or face-planting their way to the next trick attempt.
On the feet of Marty McFly, we salute thee.
The second group, of which I was a then-reluctant (but am now a proud) member, tried their toes at legitimate skating, and either quickly threw in the board or failed their way into quitting.
We may not have boasted the confident grace of Johnny McDoubleOllie, we may not have been able to use the word "radical" with anything resembling conviction, we may not have scared the living neon out of '80s senior citizens, but by Tony Hawk’s ageless soul, we had one thing: the skatewing. And the skatewing had us at "training flaps".
Oh, you don’t remember the skatewing? Unsurprising, considering even Google has attempted to wipe the mutated skateboard from its storage devices. Heck, Wikipedia won’t dedicate a page to it and LinkedIn refuses to add the riding of one as a professional pursuit. No matter. Those few of us courageous veterans will never, ever forget.
The gloriously clunky contraption was invented by Ben Lexcen, the Australian yachtsman whose affinity for winged transportation saw his innovative keel design on Australia II earn him the first non-American America’s Cup in 132 years.
Resembling something that’d be at home in The Warriors (1979), Lexcen’s invention was a sweet riff on the boring ol’ conventional skateboard. Instead of standing on the even keel of four lowly under-wheels, you had the option of bending down and grabbing hold of one of two handy, handle-perched flaps, each with their own under-wheel.
Yes, some might call the design illogical or even dangerous; some might cite the object’s obsolescence as indicative of a failure of sorts. But these contrarians never rolled along a flat suburban street for roughly three metres before slowing to a stop then capsizing due to a core forced into imbalance. These folks obviously lacked the mental dexterity to imagine themselves flying alongside John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John on their way to post-graduation heaven.
Ben Lexcen, by Doc Brown’s widening eyes, we salute thee.
While, as noted above, skatewings aren’t sold at your local K-Mart, they’ve become quite the pricey vintage collectible, especially if in mint condition. Not that you can even begin to put a price on such a legacy.
We skatewingers, however brief our tenures, were masters of our half-blocks of cracked pavement. We went forward (slowly) in the full partial knowledge we’d probably fall (slowly) onto our wary cheeks.
And in those few years the skatewing was available, we believed without equivocation that we might, one day, fly.
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