Words By Jay Riggio. I am sure Braydon Szafranski’s level of flair is substantial enough to eliminate the anxiety of skateboarding with total strangers. Frontside Flip. Photo: Broach

Skateboarding has, on countless occasions been described as something that is “truly free,” or some hippy dippy shit like that.  Well I got news for you Skynard, the only time I’m free is when I’m sleeping.  You see, I have a gnarly case of social anxiety.  Drop my ass in clear view of the public and you got yourself a goddamned lunatic on your hands.  My heart feels as if it will pop out of my chest any minute and the feeling of oncoming death is so strong, it’s hard to breath.  The following is an inside look at the various anxieties I fight off everyday as I attempt to lose myself in a skate mission. Perhaps this article will leave you feeling as if you are not alone, like therapy, or that Michael Jackson song.

Showing up to a spot filled with strangers can be as uncomfortable as a naked first date. But nothing feels worse than skating with someone that’s wearing the same gear as you.  For those who’s style of dress is pretty flare-less, stepping out of the house wearing a t-shirt and a pair of jeans is about as easy as an Andy Mac dis.  “Oh, you have the same black, zip up hoodie and black beanie on as me?  No problem, when the session gets heated, I’ll just take that badfella off and reveal my fresh white tee.”  Right?  No dice!  Some other bastid is rockin’ the same Hanes as you are.  And to make matters worse, the dude kinda looks like you too.  “Damn it! When will this eternal nightmare cease?” you say to yourself.  Well if you have yet to receive a straight answer from your psyche, I suggest skating in a silk cape with your initials bedazzled on the back. What’s more free than a cape flapping behind you as you make that front board down ten?  You are!

Snaking has to be the most shit awful variable in skateboarding.  Of course there is such thing as the intentional snake.  But more often than not, a snake is not premeditated and is simply a case of, “I want to do a trick and so do you.”  But being stuck in a “run down” where you and someone else are going at the same obstacle at the same time will make anyone feel like a shitbag, especially when it results in neither person executing the trick.  If it happens more than once, someone gets pissed and a thick air of tension is dropped like a giant sac of napalm from above, ruining the feel good vibe of any sesh.  Freedom my ass!  I’m going first, and after I finish my trick, I’m skating the fuck right away from this nervous environment.

This next one not only produces an anxiety reminiscent of a bad acid trip in a crowded elevator, it’s down right embarrassing.  My buddy Mike calls it the feared, “Friend Doppleganger.”  We all have a tendency to get giddy and goofy while skating especially when around close friends.  This contagious humor often escalates to the point of doing kooky tricks, exchanging inside jokes and singing lame songs to each other while waiting to hit up whatever you’re skating.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at a spot, turned to my friend and began singing, “Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs,” only to abruptly find out that it’s not my friend at all.  It’s some random dude that throws me a stare that speaks, “Who the fuck are you, and why are you singing that gay shit to me.”  ‘She Bangs, She Bangs, and I go crazy, she moves-she mooo………..’  “Oh, you’re not…………sorry dude.”  Fuck this shit.

And then there’s the famous ‘fear of consumption’ move.  Here in NYC, nobody has money, including myself.  So when you go to take a sip of your hard earned beverage or dip into the pack of smokes that you just scrounged up enough change to buy, you inevitably become hounded by blood thirsty beggars wanting a piece of your shit.  “No buddy, I don’t have an extra smoke and no I don’t want your greasy lips all over my soda.”  Shit, I’ve even showed up to spots with a slice of pizza and had random lurks ask me for a bite.  What the fuck!  This is a skatespot, not a fucking soup kitchen.

Then there’s the “I used to skate” dude.  You go out at night by yourself to skate some flat on a board you just set up, then out of the shadows emerges an off duty fireman who rushes you like a ravenous panther.  “Hey, I used to skate.  Can I try your board?” he says. With a department issued fog light still in hand, he begins to Tic-Tack all over the place like he was possessed.  And for the next 10 minutes or so, you watch in agony as he skids, turns, spins and halts to a stop on your crispy tail.  7 plys instantly are reduced to a pathetic, razor sharp edge.

Despite my anxiety that usually boils to the point of feeling like an M-80 has just gone off inside my chest, skating is still the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.  The truth is, anxiety is simply an element of seeking out true freedom.  So remember, when situations get weird, the awkward go skating.

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