Who and Why

locatinta.blogspot.com

I am Alex and I like imagining and understanding how a skateboard works. I also like thinking about and analyzing the political economy of the skate industry. It doesn’t matter what I studied, because what you will find in this website does not go any further than secondary education material: if you went to school until you were 17, you have been taught all of it. I’m not 17 any more, but I started skating again a few years ago and pretty soon I discovered LDP (during a trip to Barcelona in 2012-ish); it’s basically a type of mellow slalom, a cool-looking way to get your skateboard going without having to push. My focus is on (and my references come from) this sub-discipline.

I started participating in the online LDP community since around 2014. Soon after, I got annoyed by the way certain aspects of the equipment were represented and explained by “the experts” in the community, but also the industry itself; an industry which incidentally is not particularly obsessed with mathematical literacy. I realized that they can make claims that make no logical sense and still convince others (a symptom, I think, of the way the skateboarding culture and its norms in general were constructed and have evolved). When I voice dissent and attempt corrections, the skate lords double down on falsehoods and become aggressive, with confidence inversely proportional to the value of the content. Perhaps that’s my main motivation for writing this blog: to re-tell the theory the correct way, without the awkward online interactions.

What will you find in here? Mainly articles about how skateboards work. They are write-ups of math/logic problems that came about when I was trying to understand skateboards. Searching online, one soon realizes that public forums, but also professional skateboard websites, are full of misconceptions and persistent myths over these issues. My main goal with these texts is to set the record straight. This kind of articles is categorized under “Math.” In a similar vein but in a rather more empirical direction, I also wrote a few posts in which I try to investigate specific attributes of particular products. These posts are labeled “Data.” Finally, there’s a few texts where I try to understand and describe the inner workings of the skateboard community (labeled “Sociology“) and the skateboard industry (labeled “Political Economy“) as they look like to me. The former are more theoretical, while the latter generally contain more empirical observations. If you want an overview of all the posts, try the contents page.

My approach of this (as well as of any other) topic is simple:

• I believe we need rigorous proofs and airtight explanations. The simpler, the better (but never simpler than necessary). Without them, we shouldn’t trust even our own perceptions. The latter are influenced by peer pressure, placebo, “brain bugs” etc. And the manufacturers will provide what the community of consumers would buy without necessarily being able to justify its use either.

• This thing matters to me immensely because I really care about this sport and I also care deeply about the truth. And because we’re not talking politics (well, except for the political bit which will always remain debatable), or religion, or philosophy, but physical reality, the existence of one, distinct, universal, objective reality must be assumed.

• I do not disregard the power of deduction. In place of falsifiable, repeatable empirical experiments (which we lack), and also due to the happy fact that we are observing a very, very simple physical system (i.e., a skateboard and a rider), deductive reasoning is perfectly fit for the purpose of providing the evidence we need. I oppose the radical empiricism that underlies the rejection of logical reasoning in forums. So, dear reader, let’s not wait for elusive empirical data in complacent agnosticism. Let’s use our imagination and reason with rigor and consistency and prove our points.

• Similarly, I reject the fetishization of a form of the irreducible complexity argument, prevalent in forums, which wants to treat almost every logical question/problem in skateboarding as a question of collective experience (authority over which, of course, only senior community members have) and which views skateboards as a black box whose contents we will never have access to. On the contrary, I believe that secondary education, if applied with the rigor of the scientific method, is sufficient for giving answers to a decent part of the questions that arise. Mistakes will be made, questions will be left unanswered, but the effort won’t be fruitless.

• Particularly for the “math” content, I use secondary-school geometry, trigonometry and physics. I try to build my understanding piece by piece using basic logic. I have avoided adding formal proofs and equations in the posts (preferring natural language and images), but I might add them later. However, all of what I write is proven rigorously (unless stated otherwise). The math content in here, though rigorous, is not of academic level. I’m just trying to put in plain words basic concepts and facts about the skateboard, facts which anyone with basic education can verify or falsify.
For more advanced content, the reader might want to check out a relevant post, a “literature review” of sorts, that I’m updating continuously every time I find something interesting from the academia.

• Particularly for the “sociology” content, I begin my analysis by distinguishing between a public/consumer group of actors and a professional/merchant-manufacturer group of actors. I find the relation between the two groups is such that the distinction holds and it is necessary to explain the persistence of certain trends. That said, there is a strong harmony and a resounding lack of conflict between the two groups (which are normally, in other contexts, more at odds with each other) in almost all the topics I probe.
And again, for proper academic content you might want to look elsewhere, though I invariably provide links to my sources.

So, this is what this blog is about: clarifying things without worrying about online spats, disgruntled stakeholders, gatekeepers, or other constraints. For whom and why do I do this? Just so that I make sure these things have been said. Somebody, sometime in the future might appreciate it. I, in the future, will surely also appreciate having a record of these thoughts, because my memory will eventually fade.

– July 7, 2019 (last edit: 23 April, 2021)

3 thoughts on “Who and Why

  1. I’m really glad I stumbled across your website. I haven’t read any articles yet besides this about me page, but I’m intrigued to read on. I found the page while trying to learn about truck geometry. I’ve been on my own nerdy voyage of learning about skateboarding too, although my goals and methods aren’t nearly as specific and developed as yours. I do agree it’s way too difficult to find reliable useful information, but I think one of the main factors is how difficult it is to convert verbal knowledge to kinesthetic knowledge, and vice versa. That is where the black box actually does exist, and where less precise answers that come from collective experience are actually superior to airtight reasoning when it comes to understanding skateboarding for the purpose of performing manuevers on a skateboard. Another factor relating to the irreducable complexity is that our ability to perceive and understand what’s happening in real time are limited. When you type on a keyboard you don’t consciously think about where every finger goes, but at one point you did have to do that. You could reduce the task of ‘typing this sentence in less than 30 seconds’ to a series of instructions explained by physics, but is reading those instructions going to help someone more than some typing lessons? Back in the late 90s I was learning skateboard tricks when my little brother wanted to learn. He was upset he couldn’t ollie, because it looked so easy for me and my friends. My dad is a physicist, so he thought he could explain it to him. I’m not sure if he talked about levers, rotational axis, feedback, friction, or whether his explanation was good or not because I wasn’t there, but most important was that he was supremely confident in his ability to solve the problem of ollieing with his physics knowledge. Well he squatted down and when he sprang up he popped the tail just barely, jumped in the air with both feet leaving the board, landed back on the board with both feet, and the board slipped out sending his his feet over his head, coming down to the earth on his elbow, which shattered. The one major topic that I think is mising from this website is the personal educational psychology of skateboarding. Perhaps you graze this topic in the sociology section, but I think understanding the processes that happen within an inidvidual that cause them to learn skateboarding is distinct and important from understanding the processes by which skate culture moves.

  2. First thing I want to do is congratulate you on the purpose and content of this website. It is very well written, explained, the logic deduction and physics are exemplary.
    I also stumbled on the website when trying to learn about trucs and understand better the skateboard physics model. This is brilliant content.
    As most people in the forums, I started skating when I was a small kid (penny criusers was what we had available..). Never was very impressed with tricks, liked turns and some speed. Later on I started surfing and snowboarding and board sports became one of my pleasures. I found the surfskates in 2007 and was hooked. A while ago, while teaching my young kids to surfskate, I restarted again and became again hooked on the carving/pumping in a skateboard.
    Then, I fould the LDP group on facebook, was excited with the “category”, but there was a lot of stuff that did not make sense of what was being said (and all the setups in the end turn to the same, that I personally do not like).
    Your approach to the stuff is refreshing and is the way I also like to understand things and actually experiment.
    Please keep up the excelent work!

    1. Thank you for your kind words! It means a lot to me. As I wrote above, I did this blog because “Somebody, sometime in the future might appreciate it.”
      I hope it spurs your interest and you also do some work on this stuff. I myself have a few questions I’d like to answer but can’t (I’ve tagged the relevant posts as unfinished, for future reference) and obviously there’s many more questions I haven’t even considered.
      Keep in touch!

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.