Skateboarding in middle age helps navigate depression, study finds 


CHANGE OF PACE

For 47-year-old Canadian Mark, returning to skateboarding after 20 years was a way to get his life back in order. 

After having a successful career as a lawyer he moved to Bali with his wife and teenage son and soon started skateboarding again. 

Riding on his board provided a sense of freedom and exhilaration and had enabled him to ‘plug in’ to an eclectic community in Bali. 

The sport was also a way for him to enjoy time with his children.

Many skateboarders had children who had either ignited or rekindled their parent’s passion for skateboarding and as a result altered the relationship they had with their boards and the skateboarding community.

NOSTALGIC JOY 

Chris, 41, from the US, said skateboarding provided a way to spend time with his son in a way he hadn’t encountered with his own father. 

It had given him solace and identity as a young teen when his parents broke up, and also an outlet while he served as a Marine granting him access to skateboard scenes in far off places like Japan.

His vocabulary when discussing skateboarding included the terms ‘joy’, ‘serenity’, ‘happiness’, and ‘feeling’.

Chris spoke about the personal space that skateboarding provided for him, a moment of calm away from the responsibilities of paying the bills and the constant worries of being a family man. 

DEPRESSION  

Two men, one in America and one in the UK, were both on anti-depressants, and found that skateboarding was an additional tool that helped them with their mental health.

Charles, who was 37, reflected on his dead-end job, his failing health, and his need for a creative outlet. 

He said: ‘skateboarding to me is pretty much everything. I can’t imagine my life without it’. 

He said skateboarding had saved him from doing ‘stupid things’ in his life, a way to do something other than continually partying.

This was a theme that was shared by 51 year-old Canadian Debbie. She spoke of a particularly dark time in her life when she broke up with her long-term girlfriend and was left heartbroken and with a high rent to cover on her own. 

At this time skateboarding, which she had not done for over a decade, became a source of joy and salvation. 

Debbie made T-shirts for herself and friends with the slogan ‘skateboarding saved my life’.

She said the community and activity of skateboarding provided a time and space where she knew she was ‘going to be happy.’ 

She reflects that because of her mental state ‘I could have turned to drugs or drinking’, but instead skateboarding filled her with happiness and provided a space where she felt unconditional acceptance.

Peter, a 45-year-old artist, held a clinical diagnosis for depression and anxiety.

Skateboarding to him was a ‘big tool for mental health’ as it delivered a release of endorphins and provides him with self-confidence. 

So important is skateboarding for his wellbeing, that days where work or rain prevented him from getting on his board result in him feeling depressed and lethargic.

SPIRITUALITY 

Several informants made allusions to religion or spirituality in some form, highlighting that skateboarding provided an outlet and source of communication to connect to ‘bigger issues.’ 

Matt from Kansas spoke about the fact that skateboarding was his religion and that while most of his community was in church on Sunday morning, he was out skateboarding, visiting local skateparks, or bombing down hills uninterrupted by the traffic of the working week. 

Another skateboarder regarded skateboarding as somewhat analogous to religion. 

He saw that like religious traditions skateboarding offered a space of worship, and a sense of calm concentration that he referred to as mediation. 

He saw that this was a fragile state and that if not respected such serenity would result in injury. 

Taking the comparison further he indicated that community was a large part of skateboarding and something that religions similarly seek to foster. 

He linked skateboarding with the human need to transcend, to search and push for more, and to aspire to leave the earth and reach for the heavens.  

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