In 2016, my brother took a gap year to live with me in Cape Town. Besides the parquet flooring, the massive wall that was covered in blackboard paint – we found it that way – and the wall-to-wall windows that gave us a full view of Table Mountain all lit up at night when Eskom still worked, there was another staple in the 74m² flat of dreams deferred: a longboard.
It lived close to the doorway, ready to be grabbed and cruised on.
I have no idea where my brother got the thing but it was and still seems to be an obligatory possession for anyone who moves to or lives in Cape Town. He had never skated before in his life. The “board bug”, so to speak, bit him when he started to make friends in the city. They all had one. And they were all good. I think that toddlers in Cape Town learn to skateboard or longboard or surf long before they learn to ride bicycles.
So there we were. Trying to find empty streets to perfect our balance while taking on this new, cool, very Cape Town hobby.
We never got any good at it. Not that I can recall. But to be fair, I’m not certain what makes one good at longboarding. Is it just the way you look on it? All cool and nonchalant and able to send messages while you wheel along? Is it that in-and-out vine thing that people are able to do while they bend their knees all the way down to the ground and snake around pedestrians? Is it the out-of-this-world alien courage some longboarders have that enables them to commute on these things in the middle of traffic without any fear of falling off, tripping over a rock or being hit by a car? Or are you only truly good if you can ride all the way down Kloof Street from the top of the mountain to Camps Bay while filming yourself on a selfie stick? I can’t say. But I will say this: I want to be cool, too. I have no idea if this is possible with my greying hair, my lack of balance and the fact that I look like a wonky seagull trying to drift along. But I will try, and so trying I am.
After a recent surgery, I could not participate in any hard exercise – like boxing, which I love, or playing tennis, which I love more, just in case I didn’t mention that before. But the doctor did recommend long walks to get the circulation going. And so I did.
It turns out I love walking, and now, even though I don’t have to because I can go to the gym, I still try to fit in a 4km to 6km walk every day. And every day, I see the boarders. And one day, I thought to myself, that bumped-up board is lying in our storeroom. I think it’s time I send my wife down to fish it out for me. (I don’t go into the storeroom. I have no idea what creatures lurk there and I am too afraid.) And so she did. And for about a month, the longboard leaned against our bedroom wall, until a week ago when I plucked up the courage to take it out for a spin.
So off I trudged to the emptiest parking lot at Saunders Rock. Except, it was a Sunday. And on Sundays, that parking lot is packed with back-to-back GTIs and all sorts of cool cars with cooler youngsters having boot parties.
On Tuesday, however, the lot was empty bar a few judgey gulls and me. I don’t know if people over 35 can take up longboarding as a new hobby. But people over 35 care about calories more than cruising and here’s what I learnt: a 30-minute embarrassing struggle on a piece of wood with wheels burns more calories than 30 minutes on a court and that’s cool enough for me. What is not cool, though, are the shin splints. Who knew? But on we push. DM168
This irreverent respite is brought to you by author, journalist and podcast producer Haji Mohamed Dawjee.
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.