For a few short years in the mid 70s the skateboard made a spectacular comeback among the kids of Ingle Farm. Overnight, it seemed, every second kid on the street was out on the footpath or in the road on a skateboard. It didn’t take me long to join them. Of course, in the Catt tradition, I had to ‘make-do’ with little more than a roller skate nailed to a piece of wood. No one laughed at me openly, but I imagined my friends giggling behind my back.
Still, I was out there with the rest of them, crowding the ramp in the local supermarket carpark, or hurtling up and down the many alleyways that linked the streets of our neighbourhood. We held impromptu competitions, performed acrobatics, raced each other the length of the carpark, until the security guards or police chased us away. My skateboard wasn’t the most agile and certainly didn’t look very cool, but it was light and fast, and I was able to keep up with best ‘boards in the street.
There were three main gangs in our district – the skinheads, the surfies and the rockers. Of those, it was the rockers who seemed the most threatening, with their check-flannel shirts and ripple-soled shoes. They hung out at a takeaway chicken shop on the main road, or gathered in the local shopping mall on a Thursday night when the shops opened late.
At the height of the skateboarding craze we decided to add a fourth gang to the equation – the boardies.
We imagined ourselves some kind of urban surfers, our long hair flowing in the breeze as we sped along on our ‘boards. There was talk of a gang t-shirt, a logo or emblem. I bought a necklace with a skateboard shaped pendant. We talked about fighting, and thought it would be cool to invent a new martial art combining kung-fu and the skateboard.
But despite our best efforts to create a ‘buzz’ about the new gang, the boardies failed to develop any kind of mystique or ‘cred’ among the local teenagers. At school one afternoon I turned conversation to gangs. Everyone reeled off the usual list – the skinheads, the surfies and the rockers. ‘What about the boardies?’ I asked, safe in the knowledge that no one present knew of my involvement in the fledgling gang. ‘I hear they’re pretty tough!’
‘The boardies! Isn’t that just Robbo and a few dickheads from around your way?’ replied Scott with a snort.
I shrugged and remained silent, turning a dark shade of scarlet. Maybe the world wasn’t quite ready for the boardies.
In any event, by the end of the summer, the skateboarding fad had passed, and everyone was moving onto better things – BMX bikes, video games etc. My own skateboarding career ended when I hit a piece of gravel at full speed. My skateboard stopped, but I kept moving, and ended up sliding for a couple of metres on my face. My front teeth were smashed, one of them ground down to a stub. I stumbled home to horrified parents with a mangled face and blood-soaked t-shirt.