Cover Photo: A photograph of a man on a skateboard in mid-air, about to skate down the curve of a concrete bowl. He is wearing a helmet and wrist pads.
Photograph courtesy of the author

In Writing and Skating, It Hurts More Never to Try At All

Because I tolerated constant injury, I’m better than I ever was.

I started skating in fifth grade, in 1985, but only at age forty-four did I decide to get serious about it. People often call kids “fearless,” while adults are supposed to become risk-averse and brittle with age, but I have never skated so well in my life. Fear controlled me as a kid. I avoided big ramps because I didn’t want to get hurt. Skating street, I tried tricks like shove-its and kickflips, but my skills plateaued quickly because I didn’t push myself. Dabbling was easier than committing, but only persistent people improve at anything. By forty-four, I was still scared. I doubted myself. But I went for it. I’d been writing seriously for nearly twenty years, so I knew what it meant to be afraid of something but to do it anyway.

FinallyI’m going to get that big New York publisher money and quit my day job to write a book!

The New YorkerThe New Yorker



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Aaron Gilbreath has written essays for Harper's, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Kenyon Review, and The Dublin Review. His third book, The Heart of California: Exploring the San Joaquin Valley, was a finalist for the 2022 Oregon Book Award. His work has been nominated for a James Beard Award and named a notable in Best American Essays, Best American Travel Writing, and Best American Sports Writing. Check out his serialized book about the overlooked cult classic album from the 1990s, Deconstruction and his Alive in the Nineties music Substack.