My hearing came back to me first, my vision slowly followed. I recall the familiar scrape of kneepads against concrete and the slap of footsteps rushing towards me. A man - not a stranger, a fellow skater - dove into The Bowl with practiced ease and hurried to my side.
“Don’t stand up,” he told me. Panic shone through in his voice, despite his best efforts to remain calm. The cold of the concrete stuck to my face as he sat me up. And with sturdy hands gripping my shoulders, he examined me. “Yeah dude, you’re definitely concussed.”
I didn’t feel concussed, I felt fine. The sky-blue walls of The Bowl were spinning around me in double vision and for a moment I sat with unexpected calm.
I had seen the same just weeks before. Mike McGill, a true legend of skateboarding, had slipped out on a soaring backside air. He had smacked, face-first into the unforgiving walls. I remember watching in shock as he was stretchered away. A founding father of the shred was out for the count.
And now here I was, in a fit of hopped up over-confidence, trying the same thing. I should have known better.
Slowly, the creeping ache of impact began to set in. By the time I had retrieved my board and scrambled out atop the pool coping, the deep throbbing between my temples was unavoidable. I couldn’t focus, I couldn't think. The voices of concerned skaters, asking if I was alright, were being drowned out by pain. All I could do was shut my eyes, and hope to pass out.
My hearing came back to me first, my vision slowly followed.
I recall my own breaths, sucking in from an oxygen mask with fierce desperation. The hard fluorescence of the hospital lighting faded into vision and I remembered where I was. Surgery, two weeks from the day I broke my cheekbone in The Bowl.
“Your cheekbone had already set in the wrong place, so we had to re-break it to put the titanium plate and screws in. I don’t know, maybe you should get better at skateboarding.” The doctor smirked into his clipboard. I couldn’t hate him and I couldn’t blame him. I could just lay there, watching the nurse administer pain-killers into my drip and wait for relief.
The Bowl is a deceptive bitch. Its dainty blue coat and postcard surroundings blanket it with a sense of holiday fun and harmlessness. And granted, it is a lot of fun. But if not respected, if not understood, this concrete wave can be far from harmless. It is an icon of the skate world, a benchmark for skate mastery and it hurts like hell if you fall off.
I know I will return to The Bowl soon. I will come back with new appreciation and understanding of its ways. I will come back as testament to my love for skateboarding. I will take it a bit more seriously, and I will try my hardest not to stack it.
I guess it’s cool if do, though. Chicks dig scars.
By Will Blackburn