We have been accumulating grime for over 50 years now. By we, I mean skateboarders, collectively. We all have our number; I’ve had the grime growing on me for 15 years now. Most of us started off clean, doing the usual things kids do. Somewhere along the line though, we ended up with a skateboard, through fate or fluke, we will never know. But that’s not important. What’s important is the build up of the grime.

At first, that skateboard is just another toy, lined up next to your bike and basket of balls. Over time, it grabs your attention more and more, and that’s when you get your base layer. The grime is a muddy concoction of situations, events, circumstances and encounters. Your skateboard takes you places, generally not scenic places, but places you wouldn’t have spent much time in otherwise: parking lots; alleyways; city squares; drainage ditches. Strange places that most just pass through or avoid all together. For some of your friends, this just isn’t for them; those ones head home to bathe the grime away and sanitize themselves, to prepare for reentry into the regular life. Maybe you ended up alone for a bit, or maybe you are alone right now, in these strange places. But trust me, it’s where you want to be. Your skin grows thicker from the solo slams, the dirty glances from passerby, and more conversations with drug addicts and cops than anyone should ever be subjected to, just because those are the only people coming around the places you frequent, the places with the painted curbs or banks to walls. It may be uncomfortable at times, but you’ll come out stronger from it.

Over time, those who’ve refused to let the grime wash off them start to congregate. They all took their lumps, came out on the other side, and maybe found some new friends that skateboard and share that weird outlook on life. It may have been hard times for them back then, and it may be hard times for you now, but get through it, and you can look back on it fondly. Make no mistake though; there is no prize for coming all this way. The grime continues to accumulate. You’ll still get those glances and condescending tones from others, and I’m hesitant to tell you, but it gets worse as you get older. To many, you shouldn’t have still been skateboarding when you were 17, let alone now that you are 27. That’s just weird to them. But skateboarding needs to stay grimey. You need to stay grimey. We have come to far to go soft and clean now. It’s still not bath time; we aren’t done playing. Contrary to how the mainstream media might portray us these days, we are still filthy. Maybe some hide it for the TV cameras, but rest assured it’s still there on anyone that skateboards. The grime you have accumulated in these years is worth more than any amount of sugar-water money you can imagine. Don’t wash it off. Ever.

Drew Merriman, Frontside Grind.

Words and photos by Jeff Thorburn

Originally published in Late Summer 2012