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What I learned on my Philippines downhill skateboarding adventure

As some of you may know, I just came back from a two-week skate trip in the Philippines. It was certainly an eye-opener on many things, but especially skating … cause that’s what I went to do there …

What I learned on my Philippines skate trip

My main goal for the trip

My main goal for my Philippines trip was to just get out there, have fun, observe, and maybe see what I could learn from other experienced riders. 

I didn’t go there with any explicitly competitive goals – I didn’t go to be the fastest rider down the hill, or even to be the “greatest/best” version of my skate self. 

I went in with this mentality because I didn’t want to get hurt trying to “big d*ck” the whole thing. I didn’t want to fly halfway around the world, only to be unable to skate because I was being a try-hard and got myself injured.

However, in the back of my mind, I did feel I could skate at my best with the equipment I went with IF I wanted to. 

I seriously did feel I could be competitive (at some level), or skate incredibly well with the stuff I had. Even though it wasn’t necessarily suited to allow me to do that comfortably, I thought my skills could make up for any shortfall …

I had fun – goal accomplished

Good news first. My goal to have fun was accomplished. I went out there and had a blast. The trip was successful. Full stop … but not really.

I couldn’t help but feel like I left some things on the table. 

Because I didn’t go with the stuff that would allow me to excel, and because I went with some lower-quality/poorer performing parts, I felt like I didn’t perform as well as I could have … My competitive spirit felt unsatisfied as I left.

If you’re gonna compete, bring your A-game

Now, with the setup, I went with (my Ronin/Rhino setup), I could skate fairly well, but I did feel there was that 5-10% of performance that was missing.

Don’t get me wrong, that setup is amazing, and works well for many riders, but doesn’t suit my style in some cases. 

Bring a setup that suits your style

My Ronin/Rhino setup is amazing, however, it does have some shortfalls.

But first, why am I riding it? Well, it allows me to properly mix downhill and freeride on it. I don’t have to go with two setups for either, I can just take one and have the best of both worlds. 

freeriding ronins whilst on my philippines downhill skateboarding adventure

But in terms of skating my best, they don’t suit the style of skating that allows me to skate super well. 

So if I wanted to set a steaming downhill run, or a sexy freeride run, and truly leave everything on the table, I would pick different tools for the job.

In what ways did the Ronins not suit me?

Ronins are stable, but they’re not exceptionally turny. (Especially with my 45/20 configuration, maybe it’s better with 45/25? I don’t know).

When it comes to some tight corners, they struggle to grip and steer around them without scrubbing. You need to make up for this by choosing your lines exceptionally well. 

And when it comes to tuck leaning, you have to lean a lot more off the board to get them to turn well or do what you want.

Finally, they don’t steer as much during the slide. You need to choose where you slide a lot more carefully.

But with Slalom downhill trucks like Rogues or Smokies, you have a much easier time steering in all scenarios. They do have their own disadvantages, but steering isn’t one of them.

I know there are skaters who absolutely kill it on Ronin trucks out there and are able to compete at the highest level with them. But, I am not one of those skaters. I simply haven’t fully adapted them, nor have the skill to make the most out of them in all scenarios.

How the shortfalls manifested

On the first track, Siquijor, I had trouble tuck-leaning. This was because the road was pretty rough.

If the road was smoother, it would be no problem. But because I had to lean off the board a lot more to steer in the tuck lean, every bump/wave I hit shifted my weight significantly more. 

I felt if I had a Smokies or Rogues, I could have tuck leaned over the bumps and remained in tuck a lot more comfortably. 

If I had Rogues or Smokies, I felt I would had a better qualifying time, and they would have allowed me to get used to the track a lot quicker because I wouldn’t have been figuring out where the smoother lines were.

But if I did have a lot more time to get used to the road, I think I could have still skated well on the Ronins.

I felt the same when we later skated Oslob … but other equipment I went with also held me.

Moral of the story

If you want to drop the mic, bring the stuff that allows you to do that.

Bring what allows you to skate super well, even if you may not enjoy it because it’s about the result at the end of the day.

If you want to leave everything on the table, you gotta make some sacrifices.

What else held me back?

My pucks kept catching 

My pucks kept catching at Oslob, where the second event was being held.

Oslob is this long concrete road that has some sketchy sections that you have to cut into to be competitive or skate as well as you can.

On Oslob, I had these grippy black Nemo pucks and they just did not agree with the concrete. They just felt way too grippy on it and kept catching on cracks.

This really sucked. I thought I could manage them, but really I couldn’t. They affected my qualifying time on the first day, and I got a 1:22s run. On the 2nd day of quali I got a 1.08s run, but only because I was lent some slippier white Nemo pucks by Mayor D.

If I did get those pucks earlier I would have spent more time figuring out fast qualifying lines instead of trying to avoid the lines where my puck would catch.

Moral of the story – take the best pucks so that you’re not held back in case of anything. Don’t leave it to chance. 

My griptape wasn’t grippy

On the rougher roads my feet kept getting bumped out of the tuck. It was hard to really maintain a compact tuck as I would be shifted from it every few meters.

The Dark matter and Urethane burners brake sole combination wasn’t sticky enough for my back foot.

The worst part was I knew this was a problem before I went but I felt if it would come up I could deal with it … I couldn’t deal with it.

Next time I’m going to go back with the grippiest grip tape I can find and the stickiest brake soles. So I can set a hot quali lap and feel good about myself …

My wheels weren’t the grippiest

I went with great downhill skate wheels but I didn’t go with the wheels that would give me the competitive edge.

If I had wheels as grippy (in all environments) as what the top qualifiers had, I would certainly have scored a much better time in all the races.

Misc stuff …

I should have bought and taken leathers with me …

What I learned from other riders

They don’t need to “warm up”

A lot of these experienced guys don’t really “warm up”. They don’t do 3-4 warm runs like I do, or spend some time stretching, or doing hand drag carving to warm up the body and mind.

At most, they take 1 chill run, and then are ready to skate exceptionally well the next.

Why is this?

From what I observed, most of them are pretty flexible already. 

They don’t have to spend time getting the body loosey goosey. They can always squat well and tuck at (probably) their best without stretching or warming up. 

I believe they’re able to naturally do this off the jump. I didn’t see any of them really stretching after, or before the skate sessions. 

In order for me to skate my best, I need to have been doing fairly regular stretching and skating for loads of sessions before. And I need to warm up a bit during the given session. I can’t just fall out of bed and skate super well.

Another thing is their experience. Having skated so many roads, they have the confidence to go hardish on a new road. They don’t need too many runs to figure the road out. This was so impressive.

I reckon I could have developed the above skill, and I see that I am, I just don’t like going too hard on any new roads in case of anything … 

Any disadvantage to this?

I reckon since they don’t stretch or warm up, they could do be even better skaters than they already are. But IDK how much benefit it would bring them since they already skate soo well without it.

I didn’t see anyone fall, but I did see some sketchy stuff happen – like a lane break on a sketchy section in order to make it through. Going hardish on a new road does leave less room for error.

Ability to quickly adapt to other environments

I think I adapted to skating concrete decently but with some of the other homies they skated it really well without seemingly too much adjustment.

I definitely felt like I needed a longer adjustment period – but at the same time I was tweaking my setup when I was trying the concrete roads, so I can’t say accurately if I was getting used to the setup or the road.

They can always go hard

It’s like they can always skate super well. They’re a lot more comfortable and confident in their skills.

This is just a reflection of having spent more time in pushing their skills, or skating at a certain level until it has become second nature to them. And that level is high af.

Abuga and the legend Julz sherman

I definitely feel I could reach that level. It’s just the environment I’m in is very scary – I don’t feel safe maintaining that level of skating for an extended time … I feel like I may get run over again …

Moral of the story – Leave nothing on the table, take your best sh*t with you, leave Kenya

The moral of the story – if you want to compete and skate at your best you need to take the stuff that’s going to allow you to do that. You’re not going to have fun, you’re goal is to get results, no matter how uncomfortable, or unenjoyable it is, or how robotic it makes your skate style.

You need to be purposeful with your choices so they don’t hold you back when you’re trying to skate your best and get amazing results.

If I/you want to skate at a high level, move somewhere it is conducive. A place where traffic is more manageable and you have people around you that skate at a high level and you can support each other in doing so.

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