Just a few months ago, when the first person died of a mysterious new form of the coronavirus in China, we were still arguing over the pretentious poetics of Verso. But now, with over 173,000 confirmed cases and nearly 7,000 deaths attributed to that virus across the globe, we’ve been arguing over something else: What should skaters be doing during the pandemic?
COVID-19, the name given to this particular strain of coronavirus, is no normal flu, and drastic measures are being taken to stop its spread. The suddenly empty sidewalks and open schoolyards seem like a skater’s dream scenario (so much is obvious even to skater moms). But given all the uncertainty surrounding this virus and how contagious it seems to be, should we even be skating?
There’s a complicated ethical calculus necessary here and the math is pretty hard. To help make some sense out of the confusion, we rounded up some tips and resources so you can make the right decision for you and the people around you.
Dumbass Disclaimer: We at Jenkem are not medical professionals. In fact, we’re barely professionals. Still, we compiled this information to the best of our limited knowledge from the most trustworthy sources we could find. Talk to your doctor (if you have one), stay on top of the news, and always act out of an over-abundance of caution for the most vulnerable amongst us. The Godfathers of Skating’s lives depend on it.
IS IT OKAY TO GO SKATEBOARDING?
There isn’t a simple answer to the question of whether it’s okay to go skating, but if you wanted the hardline, most-responsible answer, it’d probably be: Hell no! However, for a lot of us that kind of cooped-up quarantine seems impossible, so let’s offer a more nuanced answer: Maybe, for a bit, if you’re healthy and careful.
Even if you’re feeling better than Tiago Lemos doing a switch backtail, you could still be an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19, unwittingly infecting everyone you come in contact with. Community spread is the silent killer. The smartest advice we’ve heard so far is to act not like you’re afraid of catching the ‘Rona, but like you already have it and are afraid of giving it to somebody else. If you absolutely must venture out to get a little sesh in, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
Wash your hands! And not just performatively like when you’re leaving the bar bathroom, really scrub them thoroughly and often. You should be washing those greasy paws as frequently as possible for at least 20 seconds, which is enough time for the soap to kill off the pathogens that carry the virus.
A good way to keep time is to recite Jason Dill’s rant from his Photosynthesis introduction, quote Forrest Edwards boasting about his big flip three times, or try to do that cool beatboxing bit from Stevie Williams’ The Reason part. This is a seemingly simple but absolutely pivotal practice, so get into the habit immediately.
You should also make sure to cut out any layback slides from your trick repertoire and refrain from Baker Makers when at all possible. Really, you just want to keep your hands as clean as possible, so touch as few surfaces as you can when you’re cruising. Gloves aren’t a bad idea; it’s the rare occasion where you can get away with the heinous short sleeve and gloves combo.
The second important thing to do: Stay away from others! From everything we know so far, something dubbed “social distancing” seems to be the most effective means of controlling this virus until we can figure out a vaccine. The Washington Post has a really good interactive article that illustrates how the contagion spreads with different levels of social distancing.
For skaters, social distancing means if you do go outside to skate, do it alone or with one or two regular friends that are also keeping their circles small. Try and maintain a good six feet of distance between you and your nearest homie. Instead of dapping up the dude that just landed an NBD, give them an approving head nod or do that thing where you smack your tail on the ground and go “yip” or “yeow!” Normally that’s pretty grommy behavior, but under the circumstances, it’s only responsible.
Filmers should probably refrain from filming fisheye unless they have one of those absurd extendo-handles for their GoPro. You can always shoot long lens Strobeck style if you want to get that up-close-and-personal feel without any of the risk of contagion.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the guy at the head of our country’s corona taskforce, told “Meet the Press” that “everybody has to get involved in distancing themselves socially. If you are in an area where there’s clear community spread, you have to be much, much more intense about how you do that.”
But if you don’t want to listen to that guy because he can’t kickflip or whatever, maybe you’ll listen to the good folks at Frog Skateboards, who cautioned online: “Let’s all do our part and stay away from each other and stop unnecessary outgoing activities that can put vulnerable people at risk!” If it’s good enough for Mango, it’s good enough for you too.
Tomek Jaźwiecki, who runs the Polish skate blog Skate Affair and has a graduate degree in epidemiology (the branch of medicine that deals specifically with controlling the spread of diseases), reminded me of another important point. Skateboarding injuries are and need to be the lowest current priority for healthcare providers. Hospitals and physicians are going to be overloaded with coronavirus concerns, to the point where they’re going to have to ration care. Experts are saying the U.S. will run out of beds and ventilators, so the last thing we need is you getting a concussion or ripping open your gooch trying something way outside of your skill level.
And from the skater’s POV, how much would it suck to have to home-heal a broken bone? So while it’s fun to push your boundaries, remember the consequences of getting hurt are higher than ever now. Take it easy and stay in your comfort zone, at least for a bit.
HOW LONG IS ALL OF THIS GOING TO LAST?
That all depends on how well we’re able to curb the spread, which itself depends on a maddening assortment of factors. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has asked everyone to cancel events with more than 50 people for at least eight weeks, and other experts recommend groups no larger than 10 convene in any one place, so you shouldn’t be squadding up like Gang Corp anytime soon.
In all likelihood, these kinds of measures are going to be needed for longer than we want to imagine. China and South Korea may have been able to manage the spread in only a couple of months, but with the relatively slow reaction by American officials and public, combined with our inadequate healthcare infrastructure, we may be in for a much longer haul, at least through the fall.
This means we’ll have to reconsider how we hold skate contests, how we celebrate Go Skateboarding Day, and how we party and date. Who knows what the future holds, but for now, the best we can do is look out for the most vulnerable–the immunocompromised and the old–as if they were ourselves.
WHAT IF I FEEL SICK?
Of course, if you develop symptoms–usually fever, dry cough, fatigue, and achy joints–you need to take extra care. Definitely don’t go outside, and definitely do quarantine yourself from as many pets and people as possible.
When should you seek medical care? Brooke Harsha, a certified registered nurse practitioner specializing in infectious diseases, told me that “if you have symptoms you wouldn’t have gone to your doctor about a month ago, don’t go now. This virus will let you know when you need to seek medical help, trust me.” Don’t be a tough guy and avoid taking care of yourself though. If you’re symptoms worsen over a few days, get in touch with your doctor if you’re lucky enough to have one (try Teladoc if you don’t) and see what they say.
WHERE CAN I KEEP UP?
Until our medical degrees come in from JenKem Tech, you can check out what some real deal doctors and scientists are doing and saying about the crisis at a number of reputable and regularly updated places:
WHAT CAN WE DO INSTEAD OF SKATING?
We’re working on a couple of things at Jenkem to keep you entertained while you’re home-bound, and until we’ve got those up, you can always dive deep into our archives and see what kind of unhinged stuff we were writing about almost a decade ago. If you’re already sick of us, try revisiting skate videos you haven’t watched in 10 years, trawling SLAP’s “Real Confessions” thread, dusting off that old console and finding all the secret tapes, or dialing in tre flips on your fingerboard.
There are a million things you can do while you’re quarantined, and you don’t even have to feel guilty about not working because, by staying home, you’re literally working on saving humankind!
HOW CAN I SUPPORT SKATE SHOPS?
It’s one thing to take care of our physical health, but another to take care of the health of our institutions. These are going to be tough times for skate shops, which already have a hard time surviving as is, so they’re going to need our support now more than ever.
Hit up your local’s web store if they have one or check out Parade World, the online marketplace of skater-owned shops. Now’s the perfect time to cop that wall hanger you’ve had your eye on since you’ll have plenty of time at home to look at it.
This is an unprecedented situation in our modern world and it’s going to take unprecedented measures to get it under control. The more responsible we act now, the fewer people will die from this and the quicker we can start living our lives like the B-roll in a Ty Evans production–it’s really that simple.