By: David Laing
On Sept. 8th, I attended the tenth annual Board Meeting, which took place in downtown Toronto. We are a large, fast-growing company, so we can’t afford to convene more than once a year. Board members came from near and far, in all shapes and sizes.Some were barely old enough to walk, and others looked like they might not be walking for much longer. Some required mild narcotics in order to pacify their contributions, while others ran perfectly well on just gravity and adrenaline. All came dressed in business attire. It was a board meeting after all.
We are longboarders, and this year, the streets of downtown Toronto beheld a proud company of over one thousand.
It begins as a sea of helmets, churning and bubbling in a park near Yonge and St. Clair. We are amateurs, so there is no commercialization. A lone opportunist floats in the swarm – a NOS truck crewed by two scantily clad nymphets, fishing energy-hungry skaters out of the throng and throwing them back into the crowd if they are under eighteen years of age.
A fountain-base is discovered, and a few drifters start to circle it, boldly displaying their steeziest moves. They draw the attention of the crowd, and this slowly grows into a maelstrom. I watch from the sidelines, marveling at how few collisions take place despite the chaos. In skill level, I am to these skaters as a house-cat is to a pride of lions. So I am quite content to sit back and whistle along with my friend, who is strumming an ukulele.
Eventually the whirlpool subsides and a short bearded man climbs up onto the fountainhead, megaphone in hand. He wears his helmet like a crown. We raise our boards in salute, and like a church assembly, we stand and sit as one. He reveals to us the plan for taking over the streets. The more audacious boarders are going to slowly roll out onto Yonge Street at the top of the hill to block the traffic. The more timid ones (like me) are going to take a gentle route down the side streets to get a good view. The dam is about to burst.
Like a waterfall, longboarders come hurtling down the hill at 40 km/h. The fastest ones lead the erosion, and the rest of us join in as sidewalk tributaries. My place is near the back, where the stream flows at a slow trickle. I roll along anxiously, trying not to collide with the children who are also at the tail end of the procession. I’m slowing down my friend, who has to keep waiting up for me. He’s more confident than I am, and while he rolls down the hill he’s still strumming along and singing.
He passes me his iPhone for a few minutes so that I can document the event. I’m shooting a video, trying to narrate as I go. I only last thirty seconds before causing a pile-up – I swerve sideways and three unsuspecting skaters find themselves as part of a human accordion.This is more than a sea of skaters enjoying the luxuries of a skate. In fact, it isn’t even about that. This entire meeting, from it’s inception to the point where we met and skated, some better than others, some not at all, was a statement of culture.
In this world, art is undeniable and more than that is the way it is embodied. We chose to embody it in motion. If I were to try to describe it, I would call it a moving cultural transformation. I would call it poetry in motion. To that degree, while we were cascading down the hill, I saw an old man on the sidewalk, tears streaming down his cheeks. He appeared to be overwhelmed by the courage of our company.
Perhaps it reminded him of his youth. More truthfully, though, it probably reminded him of a world I would never know. A world that was uncertain and strange. In a a few generations, everything he knew, he cherished, and was able to call his own had changed. Transformation was at every corner; sometimes for the better, other times for the worst. Disasters seemed immanent. Every day seemed like the end of days. But only through movement, whether it be a peaceful march against an army of tanks or a cry for equal rights on the streets of New York, did transformation take place. For it is through the unsettling of stagnancy, that change will stir,
Maybe longboarding is not exactly like that. Maybe it is. I’m not exactly sure and I don’t think I am supposed to. All I know is that after it all, I have found another community and they found me too and that means something. Or at least, it borderline does.