How Skateboarding Helped My Intelligence

Posted in Logic, Sports, Thinking Critically on  | 4 minutes | 13 Comments →

This post was originally going to be titled "How Skateboarding Helped My Education," but by the end hopefully you'll see why education was swapped for intelligence. Though related, the two are not the same thing.

One way people learn things is by observation, which humans have been using to test claims long before science arrived on the scene. Science and its tools merely extend or accentuate our observational abilities, with the added bonus of providing a somewhat reliable filter for false claims. How does this relate to skateboarding?

Say somebody tells you there's a good ledge behind some building over in the industrial section of town. Whether they're correct depends on who makes the claim and what they mean by "good ledge." Not everybody goes by the same definition of "good ledge." To some people, only the smoothest, most perfect ledges are good. To others, only ledges above knee-high are good. Still others would say only ledges without security are good. We could sit around and quibble over what "good ledges" are all day long, but we know by experience and observation – we go to the spot and determine for ourselves whether it is in fact good, or not – and if it is in fact good, whether or not it's good all the time or just sometimes. The library ledges in SF could be considered good – but I don't consider them good until after 6:00pm Tuesday through Thursday; after 8:00pm Friday, Saturday and Monday; or after 5:00pm Sunday – after security's shift ends.

Skateboarders also learn early on about the dangers of painting things in broad strokes. Not every spot is a good spot. Some contests can be fun. Not every security guard talks down to kids who skate. Some cops don't have inferiority complexes influencing their aggressive behavior. Not every rail can be nutted. That sort of thing. The benefits should be obvious: the skateboarder learns to judge each instance of a phenomenon by its own merit, instead of simply presupposing that one thing will be like another similar thing, or that one thing will always be the same. Skateboarding can help protect against what is called the genetic fallacy in schools of logic.

All this, and we haven't even touched other kinds of intelligence yet. Skateboarding encourages non-linear thinking and boosts creative intelligence through the roof. Things most people disregard as having essentially zero worth – a curb, a hole in the sidewalk, or a pile of trash as examples – are completely different and occasionally valuable things to the skateboarder. Like art, skateboarding encourages one to develop alternative ways of looking at and interpreting the value of one's physical environment.

What we're referring to here are some foundational principles of rationalism and logic: thinking outside of the box, avoiding broad judgments, testing claims, etc. It's funny to think of people who hate on skateboarding and decry it as negative, when like anything else what we do with skateboarding is up to us. That ten-year-old kid rolling down the street who "annoys" people is also out there testing claims, making observations, and developing a unique and personal approach to life. Heroes and haters may not realize their influence on the ten-year-old they just cussed out for skating a curb, or that they themselves are just another bit of data in some kid's (often negative) estimation of society.

Inasmuch as being healthy helps intelligence, here, too, we find the skateboarder at an advantage. Many people skate well into their 30's, 40's and even beyond. To contrast, a friend and myself recently remarked that many people in society who basically just work and eat haven't broken anything more than "mandatory P.E. sweat" in their entire lives. There's something to be said for a truly exhausting workout, and for the feelings of mental and physical progress that come from sustained discipline in any physical art. I've said it before and I'll say it again regardless of who thinks the comparison isn't quite right – skateboarding is like Budo, more specifically like Aikido. Skateboarding develops and sustains the body's physical intelligence: knowing how to properly absorb a fall is a beneficial trait whether one skates or not. Quick reflexes help whether you miss a varial-heel or somebody throws a bottle.

Intended only as an introduction, these are just a few of the ways in which skateboarding helps people increase different kinds of intelligence. If your parents ever gripe about skateboarding, try a few of these arguments out, and let me know what happens.


  1. What are your thoughts about the concepts described in Blink?

  2. nal


    “Takin’ gas in a bush takes a lot of nerve.”
    /Bonus points for identifying the above quote without goggling.

  3. Barry G.


    What is “goggling”?
    Just a stab in the dark without even googling: Barry Goldwater?

  4. Barry G


    After not “goggling” it appears to not be a quote but a song lyric:
    “Sidewalk Surfin'” – Jan and Dean
    Apparently NOT Barry Goldwater. Hey I’m dead, how can I be expected to remember what I said.

  5. nal


    We have a winner. It’s a lyric from “Sidewalk Surfin” the skateboarding anthem. Additional bonus points for correctly identifying Jan & Dean.

  6. cl


    I would have never gotten that, which is why I just sat back and listened. Always good to learn something new, especially about one’s one interests. My old neighbor would’ve gotten it quick. He’s in his forties and can still skate a pool better than 90% of the teenagers I’ve seen.

  7. nal


    Additional bonus points if someone can explain what “takin gas” refers to. Without googling.
    /Just an excuse to spell googling correctly.

  8. Barry G


    I give up. What does “takin gas” refer to?
    cl, you may want to take a peek at our mutual “friend’s” blog. I MAY have stirred the pot.

  9. nal


    “Takin’ gas” = wipeout. Both surfing terms.

  10. nal


    “Takin’ gas” = wipeout. Both surfing terms.

  11. cl


    If you’re talking about SI, it wouldn’t take much. I’ll have a looksie.
    My guess was that “Takin’ gas” referred to smokin’ weed!

  12. Greg Lang


    This could go on forever. What a great topic. I feel bad for you though. You allow comments and most comments need to be filtered through the golden rule. Unfortunately, the golden rule is forgotten whenever people get on the internet.

  13. cl


    Unfortunately, the golden rule is forgotten whenever people get on the internet.

    So true Greg, so true. Still, I got thick skin. Anyways, I had a feeling if you saw this article that you’d like it. I’m sure you can echo many of these ideas, as can all skateboarders.

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