Skateboards, destiny and ukuleles

Inspiration is always out there, waiting to find you – usually in the most unlikely place. Sometimes, inspiration might even arrive carrying skateboards and ukuleles…

Gentle reader: What does early morning mean to you? It’s no secret that I get up ridiculously early. The older I get, the more my body clock seems to hate me, and the less my body and mind seem willing to permit me any semblance of sleeping in. Or even of sleeping until a time that any reasonable person might consider reasonable.

This past Wednesday morning (4 August 2021) started like any other. Early. Ridiculously so. Morning yoga done, it was time for a spot of breakfast before sunrise. I sat down with oats, orange juice and the day’s first espresso. Switching the TV on, I was happy to see that some Olympics 2020 skateboarding was just about to start. I’m no sports fan, but I’ve always liked watching skateboarding.*

What I had the privilege to see was surprising, delightful and inspiring.

Those who are about to skate salute you


“…and Bryce Wettstein’s got the ukulele out. If you ever wondered why skateboarding was different, let that be the best illustration.”

In the opening seconds, the BBC commentators sum up the lovely, unique atmosphere of this particular event. As the contestants for the imminent skateboarding women’s park final line up, one of their number serenades their fellow competitors with a ukulele.


A “Hail, Emperor, those who are about to die salute you” moment out of ancient Rome this is not. With their battered skateboards, colourful skatewear and beaming smiles (not to mention that ukulele), these are the most laid back Olympians one might imagine. Nerves are undoubtedly there. But you might never know it from their faces. “That’s the thing that should shine through from this competition – smiles all the way around,” the commentator notes.

These are elite, world-beating athletes. Olympians. Veritable superheroes, capable of skateboarding feats beyond the reach of nearly all humans. Each is about to take part in the event that might define their destiny. Yet they wear it so lightly. Relaxed, loose-limbed, beaming with smiles.

But what is most striking and most inspiring to me from this opening line-up (and from the subsequent skating) is the total absence of aggressive competitiveness. The world could do with a lot more of this spirit. The aggressive competitive urge can cost us dear, as I wrote in Always think about tomorrow:

“The need to win at all costs is arguably one of the most disruptive and destructive forces in this world. Pursuing short-term gain by any means necessary will always have bitter long-term consequences. Singular focus on victory can also create a toxic by-product: the division of people into winners and losers. Life should never be reduced to a game with winners and losers. It is so much more complex, so much more rich than that.”

In their attitude before, during and after this Olympic event, these women demonstrate a different approach to competition, one that I find inspiring. With their smiles, their skateboards and their ukuleles, these women step confidently yet lightly into the moment that might shape their destiny. Launching off the concrete ledge to join the competition, each displays purest joy in the moment. This extends to finding joy not only in their own achievements, but also in seeing their competitors succeed. They maintain the relaxed, positive and supportive air of bonhomie throughout. “Everyone’s so, so hyped on everyone else’s skating,” say the commentators. You can see this attitude in the supportive hugs rained down on Sky Brown by her competitors directly after her bronze-winning performance.

Success is relative


I am of course not the only person for whom the Olympics has inspired thoughts on the nature of competition, of winning and of losing these past few days. In a short video that is abundantly rich in wisdom, John Amaechi (author of The Promises of Giants) shares the following words:

“Success in almost all cases doesn’t require a body count. And that includes your own. I don’t understand what has happened when we look at the achievements of others. We seem to have forgotten a fundamental tenant of success. That it is relative. [… M]easuring everybody against where they are on the mountain is not a good summary of their ambition, their drive or their capability.”

Exactly. Success is relative. The need to win at all costs can be toxic. There is another way.

The sun will rise again tomorrow

Skateboard park, Ocean City, New Jersey LCCN2017712106

Watching the skateboarding this past Wednesday morning, I felt truly inspired. How these young Olympians behaved offered a tiny vision of how life can be. A smiling and supportive alternative to the aggressive competitive urge, but one which can nonetheless produce excellence. A different way to face destiny.

Breakfast done, I placed bowl and drinking vessels in the kitchen sink for later washing. At that moment, through the back windows of my house, I could see the brilliant first rays of sunshine begin to break over the forest to usher in that particular Wednesday, that particular moment in time.**

The sun will depart. But it will also rise again tomorrow.

Inspiration is always out there, waiting to find you. Life will occasionally appear dull, lacking in anything new. But the well of inspiration is always available to you. Inspiration is endlessly refreshing and restorative. You just have to be open to it.

Gentle reader: May today be nothing but kind to you and yours. And perhaps just the tiniest bit inspiring, too.



* And I’m definitely no skateboarder. My one attempt ever at skateboarding (way back when I was a teenager of the same age as some of those taking part in Olympics during August) resulted so instantly and so resoundingly in a fall followed by horrible knee pain that that was very much that for me and skateboarding. But that doesn’t mean that skateboarding can’t be enjoyed, or can’t prove inspiring. Here is the BBC’s YouTube video of some of the best moments from the event I watched.

** One moment in time during the Olympics inspiring me to believe that children just might be our future… Wait a minute, did Whitney Houston’s spirit somehow visit me and take over the writing of this post?

Exhibit A: One Moment In Time.

Exhibit B: Greatest Love Of All.


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