Michael Valliant, 46, of Easton has been skateboarding for most of his life, having started when he was 13. After skating throughout his teenage years and into his early 20s, he said he stopped when “life, jobs and kids happened,” but he stayed connected to his hobby by watching videos and reading as much as he could. At 35, he picked the hobby back up but found the sport had evolved, and so had he. Shore Monthly magazine recently sat down with Valliant to get his take on an old sport with a new place in his life.
Shore Monthly: What inspired you to pick up longboarding?
Valliant: “I guess that was my form of a mid-life crisis. I thought, ‘I need a skateboard,’ rather than a convertible or a motorcycle.
When I began skating, boards were about 10” by 30” and you become accustomed to using those parameters for skating and riding. What happened in between the time I began skating and the time I picked it back up when I was 35 is that boards got smaller because the tricks got really technical. Those smaller boards were fine, but it didn’t feel like when I was cruising around in my younger years.
Longboarding hadn’t really occurred to me until I spoke with Dr. Landy Cook. He always gets the coolest ideas for adventures and toys. I was able to get on one of his boards and as soon as I did, I was like, that, that’s what I miss … the feeling of being able to cruise and surf.”
SM: How have you been able to incorporate longboarding into your daily routine?
Valliant: “We had a sunrise skating group, much like a sunrise running group I was a part of in the past. You know, you’re a dad and you have to go to work, so you have to do it all beforehand. So, we’d be in the dark with headlamps on and skate from Easton to Oxford and back. By the time it was all said and done, it would be about 15 to 20 miles.
With that kind of skating, I would get on my board in Easton and my foot wouldn’t touch the ground until Oxford when we were turning around because you could just kind of surf to propel yourself.
We’ve also done the (Easton) Rails to Trails, the Kent Island Cross Trail, parts of Tuckahoe State Park.
It can be tough making the time to meet, because everyone’s schedule is different. You have a marine biologist from Horn Point, a guy who’s getting a solar installation company up and running and a pediatrician, so finding the time is difficult. Schedules are hard to work with sometimes, but we have had a good streak going meeting in the mornings at the Oxford Conservation Park.
For us, it’s always been an open invitation. It’s not exclusive by any stretch.”
SM: What draws your group to skateboarding now?
Valliant: “Being able to talk and hang out and skate; the social aspect is fun. The people I tend to gravitate toward, as a tribe, are the people who can come up with silly-sounding adventures and everybody’s in. We charge each other up. The idea being: to keep that kind of child-like wonder. There is also something individual about it, you can do it by yourself. I’m 46 and still love riding skateboards. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing and it’s cool to still be able to do it.
SM: How does incorporating it into your daily routine help to set the tone for the day?
Valliant: “When I first started, I was working at the (Chesapeake Bay) Maritime Museum and later Washington, D.C. It was a little difficult to skate to work then. But, when I took a job at the Oxford Community Center and lived in Oxford, I was able to do it then.
When you skate to work, it changes your whole mindset, your whole mentality. It sets the day up for fun because you think, ‘Wow, I just got to ride a skateboard to work; how cool is that?’
I keep a board in my car. It’s great to be able to grab my board, go out, cruise around a little, unwind and get my thoughts together before a Bible study at Christ Church Easton, where I work.”
SM: What appeals the most to you about longboarding?
Valliant: “I guess what initially appeals to me is that it can be done anywhere if you skate street.
That’s what still the appeals to me. That you don’t have to go to a skate park. If you’ve got a couple minutes, this really adds something to the day and makes you feel like a kid again. It’s always been fun to look at concrete parking lots and roads as more than just a means to get somewhere, but as a playground in and of itself.
This is something that’s fun. It doesn’t have to be exotic. It can be done anywhere. But, if you do travel, it’s not hard to pack a board to take along.
If you work at a desk — what you do for your job — you’re using your mind, but you’re leaving your body hanging. The chance to be outside, the chance to do something you can get lost in — the Zen of it — I’ve felt that since I was a teenager.”
Valliant’s Top 10 Longboarding Takeaways:
• It’s always smart to wear a helmet.
• You can start at any age. Skateboarding/longboarding in any form can be rekindling a passion from when you were younger, or it can be trying something new to change things up a little bit.
• Find a board that does what you want it to do.
• Think of the landscape around you as a canvas that you can paint and have fun on.
• If something is fun for you, you’ll keep coming back and you’ll make time to do it.
• Anyone who makes something all about the gear will run out of reasons to keep doing that thing. Having said that, invest in a board/gear that is functional for you.
• Find a safe place to skate.
• Don’t wait around until you have a bucket list of places to visit/skate. Start having fun with it now and skate as often as you are able.
• It doesn’t matter if you can make a living at it, if you find something you love to do, keep doing it.
• Get outside any chance you get.