One of the greatest things about traveling as a skater is the fact that I can bring my skates wherever I go. Even if I don't end up using them very much, it's always nice to know that they are there just in case I find that irresistible spot. The problem nowadays is deciding which set up to bring when I go away.
In the past when I only used aggressive skates, life was simple and choosing one set up for the road was a no brainer. But now, as I actively use 3 to 4 different styles of skates, the choice is much tougher and I usually end up bringing at least two. On my most recent skate adventure, I decided to challenge myself and only bring one set up for a two month road trip around North America.
My set up of choice was the SEBA TRIX 90, a carbon fiber shell with a semi low cuff, a solid metal frame, 90mm wheels, and NO SOULPLATE. This skate is fast, responsive, and extremely stable at high speeds, however, it's not the best set up for "real" tricks like jumps or grinds. As an aggressive skater for almost 20 years, going on a skate trip with this non aggressive set up might seem like a strange choice, but for me it was simply a natural progression. For the past year and a half, I have been using the SEBA FRA skate full time. I had them set up with a rockered 80mm frame and intuition liner which made this skate faster and more responsive than any other aggressive skate I ever tried. Earlier this summer I decided to try the Trix 90 as my fast commuter and distance skate. After a few sessions, I realized that this skate has a lot more to offer than what I initially thought and it quickly became my favorite set up.
Before going on this trip I was unsure why I liked them so much and what exactly they have to offer but I was very curious to find out. What better way to to find out than forcing myself to exclusively use them for the next 2 months. The first part of the journey was the annual Task Around tour. My friends and I drove from the Pacific to the Atlantic, passing through all of our 5 stores and skating whatever we could find in between. The other guys on tour, used bigger wheels as well, ranging from 72mm to 80mm. The fact that we were all using relatively big wheels, made this experience very different. For the first time in many years, I felt that we were doing something special. This time it was a different game, we had no rules to follow, no tricks to film, no skateparks to see. We had a clean slate to create a new experience.
We spent most of our days driving and skating down big hills on the highway and exploring the cities by skating through them at night. As much as I enjoyed this set up for downhill and fast city skating, the true highlight for me was using them at a slalom skating contest in Boston. For those of you that don't know a 90mm set up for slalom skaters is as awkward as an 80mm set up for aggressive. It's something that is used for fun but not really taken seriously on a professional level or during competition. Unfortunately this was the only set up I had and it was my first real attempt at cone skating on the 90s. As expected, the longer frame was much harder to maneuver through the cones which forced me to make wider and more drawn out turns. The additional height allowed me to lean in very far on my carves creating a very unique rhythm and flow that I have never experienced before. I didn't place very well in the contest but that didn't change the fact that this was one of my most memorable and unique experiences of skating in 20 years.
After the Task Around tour, I met up with my girlfriend in New York, where I spent the next 2 weeks exploring the city on my rocket boots. I used my skates almost everyday and I found New York to be the best urban city for experienced skaters. The wide streets, endless traffic and all the chaos takes skating to a whole new level. The ability to hang on to moving cars, maneuver trough crowds and predict traffic patterns, allowed me to be quicker, smoother and more intelligent than any other vehicle or pedestrian around me. During my stay, I found out about a 42k skate Marathon in Brooklyn and decided to put my skates and skills to the test. I completed the race in just over two hours, which isn't very fast but considering my limited racing experience and my non speed set up, I was very happy with my result. The skates performed very well and my feet were not tired or sore after the race. Despite my poor performance, I am glad that my set up allowed me to get a small taste of what speed and long distance skating has to offer.
After New York, my girlfriend and I headed back to Vancouver. Driving south to Florida, west to California, and then up the coast to Vancouver. On this part of the trip, I wasn't planing to do any skating at all unless off course, I found that irresistible spot. After days of driving there it was, a strange and awkward half pipe shaped structure in Slab City, California that I needed to skate. The spot and the setting were perfect, but my big wheels made the transition almost impossible to skate. After some life threatening attempts I managed to do a quick Fishbrain stall and my girlfriend captured the perfect picture. I was so happy that the picture turned out and the fact that I had the "wrong" set up made it so much better.
Looking back on my experiences, I have come to realize that there is no set-up that is perfect for every terrain and each skate has it's strengths and weakness. When I use the "wrong" set up, it forces me to skate differently and strengthen my technique to compensate for the weakness of my skates, ultimately allowing me to be more creative with the way I express my vision of skating.