There are hard truths in this world that prove themselves out over the course of time: kids grow up, things fall apart, sponsored tweens will land the 900 on a skatecamp vert ramp and graduate to a lucrative soft drink endorsement deal. Perennial kid Jason Adams underscores that first one recently in a sprawling, sometimes dark interview with Paradigm Magazine, in which he paints the rather bleak picture of confronting adult responsibilities as a kind of misfit toy set adrift from the island of misfit toys, partly thanks to the global economic collapse and also some general frustration with the cliquish nature of the skate biz.
He also, towards the end, gets around to challenging one of the most-flogged cliches to grace a TWS Pro Spotlight (or equivalent) — that old chestnut, “skateboarding saved my life.” There’s some hardscrabble substance black-hole stories where you’re inclined to take this as literally true, but there’s far more instances where you read a line like that and wonder well, would Skater X really have wound up in a burial plot had that Variflex not come into his life at just the right time, or would he instead have found a BMX bike, Magic the Gathering, a book on ventriloquism, gone off to pursue a liberal arts education at a public state university, gradually left off skating after moving off to land an entry-level job and secure a domestic lifestyle, etc.
In this interview, Jason Adams puts a pessimistic spin on the old phrase, wondering whether that lifelong muse, creative outlet and source of personal fulfillment may have left him with a body full of aches and a limited means with which to support his family, as the industry looks to cull pro ranks and veterans are expected to continue jumping through various hoops.
There are times I would have said skateboarding, or punk rock saved my life. To be honest, now I wonder if it saved my life, or ruined my life. It’s an inspiring thing and I think people make it out to be bigger than it was, but it’s no different than good art or good writing. If you think of it as a social clique, I would never jive with it, just like I didn’t jive with a lot of skaters all of the time. You can look at it two ways. It can be this beautiful inspiring thing that gives you hope. Or these things can be distractions, and that’s the negative way to look at it. I’m going back to life is shit … We need distractions. Is it a distraction, or a beautiful inspiring thing? To me it’s an inspiring thing, and it’s different to every person; it could be like their religion. It’s our religion basically and we can take it as seriously, or as lightly as we want to. It’s really dramatic to say it’s saving your life, or it could save your life. There’s a lot in that statement.
Jason Adams doesn’t come off as bitter in this interview, more circumspect and defiant and maybe tired. He talks about approaching life on his own terms and some consequences once you come out the other side a grown-up with heavy responsibilities. Another old skate-interview cliche he doesn’t challenge though is the one about the soul-crushing office job being just maybe slightly better than being boiled alive in hot lead, in spite of any fiscal antidotes to money problems, etc.
I remember being a kid watching my dad go to work and thinking, no fucking way dude, he’s a miserable man, I can tell. I’ll never be my father, I’ll never do that, I can’t do it.’ Sometimes I question whether it’s hurt me to go so against it. Maybe I should have just sucked it up. I’ll admit at my weak moments I do think that, but that’s just because I’ll be stressed. I’ll look at my kids and think they deserve better, but what does a bigger house mean? Everyone has weak moments; it’s whether you give into them.
Whenever I read the “rather die than work in an office” I used to think it was a bit rich for a pro skater to say, since they enjoy the talent to have the option, whereas the rest of us don’t have that luxury. It carries a little more weight when Jason Adams reiterates the point in this interview, though, since the way he describes it now his choices are more limited and his need to put food on the table a lot more real. His comments regarding disillusionment with the functions of the industry makes you wonder, though. Is working a white-collar job really the living hell it is sometimes described as? What are the most viable paths for transitioning out of the pro ranks as the autumn years approach? Should Jason Adams’ boards on Elephant also bear the nickname “the Adult”? Is this whole topic ‘too heavy for Transworld’?