I'm sure I'm not the only person on the planet who once wanted to be Avril Lavigne. Remember? It was 2002. She had a tie, Converse sneakers, studded bracelets, a sock on her arm, a skateboard. She inspired many a teenage dream. And since being a teenager is complicated, I believed emulating this beacon of punk-rock angst was the answer to questions I didn’t even know I had yet. But while I could buy the look and the skateboard, I couldn’t exactly buy the skills.
I tried. I really did, but I had no idea what to do with this oddly shaped piece of wood and the four small wheels attached to it. I also didn’t have anyone to teach me. No beanie-wearing older brother. No cool cousin (sorry, Ashley). And it’s not like you could take skateboarding classes. Skateboarding felt like this really exclusive sport where the skaters hung out with skaters who dated skaters who had children who skated and so on. In other words, I wasn’t welcome. And thus my skateboarding career was over and my Avril phase was finished.
Fast-forward 10-plus years and what do I discover but skateboarding classes in Brooklyn. If you’re thinking this a second shot at my teenage dream, you are correct. Ready to take on Skateyogi, I walk into Brooklyn Skate, a skate shop in Park Slope that's as cool as I remember the kids were in middle school. There are hoodies on the wall. There’s a drum set. There’s an indoor ramp. In other words, I am in one of my idol’s music videos.
Kevin, the owner, is immediately welcoming and starts telling me about the space. The drum set is from an event they had earlier in the week, and they’ll sometimes put a projector on the ramp and turn it into a theater. A couple of regulars walk in, Matt and Lindsay. Needless to say, Matt and Lindsay know what they’re doing. They are making these knee and elbow pads work. I, on the other hand, look like an aardvark. But they turn out to be incredibly friendly. And thankfully, there are two other first-timers in the group. We are now in it together.
I had asked Kevin earlier why yoga was involved in the name. He said he started going to yoga classes and wished he could teach skateboarding. His friend who was also his yoga instructor said, “Do it!” and started letting him teach the adults who came to her classes. And voila: Skateyogi was born.
To Kevin, yoga and skateboarding are very similar, both putting you into a "flow state." He explained how both are moving meditations and have in common this idea of "effortlessness that requires great effort."
Class begins and I'm wondering if I'll recognize the flow he feels. He ends up making the connection much more straightforward than I expected. At the start of class we do some stretches — some yoga inspired, some tai chi inspired. I'm still looking like an aardvark, but it's okay. After the Yogi part, we get to the Skate part. Now, here's the thing: Skateboarding is hard. Tony Hawk makes this stuff look easy. There is no PlayStation controller that will help me kick-flip. This is real life, and I soon come to terms with the fact that the X Games are not in my near future.
The space is small, but it is enough to tear down the biggest of egos. We are going across the ramp practicing different moves. I'm just trying not to fall on my face, while Matt is doing a move straight out of Lords of Dogtown. But everyone claps regardless and pounds their boards on the ground (this is skateboard etiquette for “YAASSSS”). I literally just roll four feet away and Kevin says, “Awesome job!” while Matt nods his head in agreement. I decide this is by far the most encouraging environment I’ve ever been in. If these people had been around when I was taking piano lessons 15 years earlier who knows where I would be.
Once we finish the groundwork, Kevin invites us to get on top of the ramp. What once looked small is now huge. We get 30 minutes till the next class arrives to practice on the ramp. We're all messing around; I fall a few more times and then decide my ego has had enough and call it a day. When the class is over we pass around high fives.
The second class starts to arrive: two adorable little girls and their fathers. Along with teaching adults, Kevin also teaches kids' classes as well as summer camp. During camps he’ll give the kids themes for the week, usually something STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) related, such as geometry or mechanics. I think it’s worth mentioning that he studied environmental engineering and got his master's from Harvard (in other words, you can trust him with the malleable minds of your children).
I wander around the room, grooving to the Latin music that you’d think wouldn’t fit, but is exactly what should be playing. Sadly, the class did not trigger another era of Avril for me, but it did spark a new interest in skateboarding, one void of stereotypes and intimidating teenagers. Kevin has created a judgment-free zone. As long as you check your ego at the door.
Skateyogi at Skate Brooklyn, 78 St. Mark's Pl., Park Slope. skateyogi.com
See schedules and sign up for classes online, or contact Kevin at email@example.com. Follow Skateyogi on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for updates.