By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Attempt No. 28: Again he misses the landing, and shares a quick analysis with Nesser: "Just a little more under me, and I've got it."
Attempt No. 31: He misses the kickflip, his hands catching him as he falls forward on to the street.
Attempt No. 33: He misses the kickflip.
Attempt No. 34: He lands it, garnering an excited yelp from Nesser. As Peterson coasts back up the street, his hands stretch high above his head. His face tilts skyward, dominated by a smile ignited by joy and relief.
"All that work for five seconds," he says with a smirk. Were it not for his disarming self-awareness, it might be easy to dismiss Peterson as just another subsidized slacker who ought to stow his board and grow up already. But his excitement is infectious, charming onlookers with his unabashed delight in an art form that goes beyond sport or physical prowess.
The battery in the camera is dead, so the pair can't immediately review the shot. "I got it, dude," Nesser promises.
"I know you did, therefore I love you," Peterson says as they pack up the gear and head back toward Fobia. Peterson practically bounces down the street--all his stony determination has dissolved into boyish giddiness. "I'm so stoked I got that. It's all I could think about last night."
Seen through the eyes of a skateboarder, the world looks very, very different. Where non-skaters--"normal" people, as Peterson calls them--see a stairway, skaters see a platform to rocket off of or a rail to "grind" down; where normal folks see a bump in the sidewalk that needs to be fixed, skaters see a gap to ollie over. Walking or driving, their necks constantly swivel: "Dude, did you see that roof bump?" or "Check out that rail--it'd be a sick thing, man." Skating is what they think about. It is what they do, what they talk about, who they are.
Clint Peterson was 10 when he first stepped on a skateboard and rolled down the long paved driveway at his parents' Stillwater home. "Once I found skateboarding, it was perfect. It fit," says Peterson. "It's the only sport I had an interest in. But it's not a sport." Save the few months of each year when injury (broken wrist, broken arm, broken thumb, shin infection) prevents him from skating, he has done it whenever he could for more than half his life.
"If you're a skateboarder, you want to skate all the time," he explains, his voice low and languid, in a laid-back style suggestive of surfers and stoners. He pauses a moment, considering what he likes about skateboarding. Then he speaks slowly, as if the words are so comfortable inside him that they're reluctant to get up and leave his lips. "I dunno. Freedom. A feeling I don't think a lot of people get. Pushing yourself to do something you don't think you'll be able to do, and then doing it."
Even when he first started skating, Peterson's parents fully supported it. He was only 15 when his father, a local musician, was killed in a motorcycle accident. But his mother, Karen Kramer ("the coolest person I know," Peterson says), has always been a fan, even when she's gotten late-night calls from the emergency room--or the local jail.
"He's pretty independent. I had to let go of him when he was really young. He was just gone," Kramer muses. "I never even knew that he was a good skateboarder. You just support your kids in whatever they do."
In the early days, Kramer remembers, she'd drive her son into Minneapolis to skate, or to Shinders, the only place back then where they could find the latest skateboarding magazines. She even took him on a trip to California, where he gleefully rolled around the many skate parks. Today, both mother and son eagerly wait for next month's skateboarding publications to arrive. "He'll go through the magazines with me," she says. "'This is so and so,' or 'Remember when I told you about X?' He is doing something really hard and really cool. This is something that takes a lot more determination, a lot more courage than most jobs. He's decided he really wants something and he's working hard to do it. What more could you want?"
The life of a skateboarder is unhurried, and, consequently, unscheduled. It could be considered a purely hedonistic existence. Or it might be seen as a singular devotion to honing a craft. Either way, it's clear that skating is the essential part of life: Anything else--work, school, dating--places a distant second.
On a typical day, Slice (who was given his nickname by his buddies but sheepishly refuses to explain its significance) might wake up around noon in his mother's house. "I call my friends. See who wants to get gnarly. See who wants to do a trick, get hurt." They'll stop by Fobia to get the video camera, and then they'll head to a spot and skate until they get kicked off. Then they'll get something to eat ("I try and keep it healthy," he says. "And, like, not so expensive.") They may drive around town, head-banging to Rush or Yes on the car stereo. They watch skate videos, not to get specific ideas for tricks, but to "get stoked." Then they skate some more. The goal, Peterson explains, is "to do the craziest thing you can do. It's a lot more inspiring to me to watch people get that crazy."