WORDS - Mark Shinn
INTRO - This is Mark Shinn's 25th column on the trot in this magazine, but he keeps coming up with something to chew over
I'm writing this sat in the riders' tent at the PKRA event in Tenerife, you might even say in the heat of the action. The event started about 20 minutes ago after a couple of days spent waiting. It's like some sort of twisted irony as Tenerife is renowned for being exceptionally windy throughout the summer months and, somewhat predictably, has served up a large portion of stillness and ridiculous humidity to welcome the competitors. I'm not a religious man, but the concept of a deity with a slightly twisted sense of humour, seems to be more plausible the more events you go to. Anyhow, I digress... it's been a while since I joined a PKRA event and I certainly don't feel any younger being at this one. For one incredibly stupid fleeting second I even considered entering the freestyle. Fortunately, from the corner of my eye I caught sight of a guy, who looked no older than 13, performing a trick that I have no idea as to what it was, but would surely have landed me in hospital in the unlikely event that I ever understood it enough to attempt it. This pulled me back to my senses just in time to stop me making a fool of myself. If you don't follow the PKRA freestyle videos then take a look at some; it's not about understanding the tricks, because you surely won't, and it's not about trying them yourselves, because I strongly advise you not to, but the sheer level of skill and dedication needed to perform them is breathtaking. I would suggest that the concerns of a few years ago, when people bemoaned the modern style of freestyle as being boring and unexciting to watch, were completely misplaced. A show the PKRA most definitely is, and the uneducated public on the beach that are watching are as impressed with what they're seeing today as the uneducated public on the beach were five years ago by riders doing board-offs. And even three years before that when the riders doing deadmans (or should that be deadmen? I'm never sure). I'm impressed and promise to stop calling my feeble attempts to learn tricks 'freestyle' any more. I think I'll call it knitting to make sure no one could possibly mistake the two things for being the same sport.
One slightly sour note here in Tenerife though is the news that Kevin Langeree flew home early from the previous event in Fuerteventura with what is suspected to be a ruptured ACL ligament. The levels of power the top riders are performing with means that accidents are going to happen and, when they do, injuries can be truly career threatening. Youri Zoon is only 21-years-old and has already had major knee surgery twice. I hope that the young riders out there are being well advised with the kind of offthe water preparations they should be taking to guard their well being. A little judicious time spent learning the proper warming up techniques and, strengthening the key muscle groups that protect vital joints, could soon make the difference between a 'here today and gone tomorrow' rider, lost to the sport through injury, and a long term professional. I wish Kevin and all the other athletes that have been injured in competition this year, a speedy recovery.
'Assume' is a bad word. It means to take for granted; something that is supposed to be the case without any specific proof being in evidence. I guess we're all guilty of it to some degree; some more than others. I've been messing around with kiteboards for a while now and, in general, always stick to the same basic principles because they've always worked up to now. Small changes here, small changes there and moving towards the set goal in small increments. A short while ago I got fed up with it and decided to do something radical. Instead of continuing with the small steps principal I decided to go to the other extreme and try to prove to myself what wouldn't work, then move backwards from there to arrive at something that would work. Fortunately for me (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it) the result was nothing at all like I expected. What I previously assumed to be exaggerated and beyond sense turned out better than acceptable and, bordering on, great. It makes no sense; it shouldn't work. In fact it can't work if our theories of the past are to be believed.
In reality it means that I've been wrong all along and, had I not assumed (erroneously as it turns out) to know the rules five years ago, I might have arrived at this point a lot sooner. The more I think about it the more frustrated with myself I become and the more I start to wonder what I really do know? What have I just assumed for no particular reason, other than it was easier to make an assumption and stop thinking about it further, than to continue on the path to discovery of the truth? I don't mean to get all ecclesiastical here, but it doesn't take a lot of encouragement to transfer this thought pattern into other areas. I wonder how many tricks I never learnt because I tried to learn them the same way as I'd learnt all the others, assuming that was the only way. In fact, I wonder now how many things I do everyday, not because it's the best way, but simply because it's the way I always did them and have assumed it to be the only way.
I'm going to change and I'm going to start right now by watching some more freestyle heats and get inspired as to what's possible. Of course I'm not going to attempt any of them at all because I've already proved I can't and the presence of proof means it's not an assumption at all.
Find more on Mark and his boards at: www.shinnworld.com
This column is in issue #47
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