You've got to roll with it
When Adrian Yahvah moved to Hong Kong four years ago, he thought it was time to hang up his skateboard once and for all. But a chance trip to Morrison Hill skate park in Wan Chai within weeks of arriving reignited his lifelong passion that began at age nine.
'Being back on my board made me realise I needed skateboarding more than ever to manage stress, release some energy and stay away from Hong Kong's many vices,' says the 33-year-old American.
Skateboarding is not just a favourite pastime; it is an important part of Yahvah's identity. As a child, he was 'that skinny kid that never got picked on a sports team'. But after talking his dad into buying him a skateboard, he found his niche.
Yahvah is also grateful to the sport for adding an extra dimension to his personality and teaching him not to judge a book by its cover.
While he may be a fearless skateboarder who's had his fair share of injuries, paradoxically, his other passion is sports injury prevention and management. He is a certified athletic therapist at The Body Group in Central.
The art of healing is in Yahvah's blood; his mother and grandmother are both masseurs. Growing up in a small town in Montana in the western United States, he would assist in his family's massage clinic. He later went on to refine his skills with a master's in exercise science.
An opportunity to move to Hong Kong - 350 times smaller but with six times as many people as his home state - pushed Yahvah out of a comfort zone beyond even the challenges of skateboarding. 'Although the move was daunting, I didn't want to miss the opportunity to see the world,' he says.
What is it that you like about skateboarding?
The fact that I can look at architecture, stairs or a pavement that has been altered by a tree and dream up ways I can skate it; there are endless possibilities. I can see beauty in the concrete of the world and have a lot of fun in it. There is also the thrill factor of doing something that you probably shouldn't be doing, and hiding from security guards.
What are the cons of skateboarding?
Skateboarding is injurious and also quite expensive. If you're skating a lot, you're going through a board every other week ( about HK$550) - and that's just the deck. You're always wearing your gear out as you're doing tricks. You're tearing things up, including yourself. But that's all part of the fun.
How does your career affect your approach to such a high-risk sport?
It has taught me to appreciate the body and how long it takes to heal, but also how well it heals. Sometimes when I look at a jump I think, 'If I break a collarbone I'm going to be out for six weeks,' which would affect my clients and my income. But sometimes I feel like pushing the envelope and I have racked up a few injuries over the years. In retrospect, I've probably been a bit more cautious but I think I've also been lucky to avoid any big injuries.
Has getting older made you a better skateboarder?
I think I'm as good, if not better, than I ever was. I've been lifting a lot of weights and am a lot stronger. Even if it's just a simple kickflip, I can make it look pretty good because I've been doing it for 24 years. I can still take a good slam and walk away from it, which is just as important as landing tricks in skateboarding; it's important to be comfortable with busting yourself.
If you could choose, would go back and be a jock instead of a skateboarder?
I can't say I'd go back and change anything. Skateboarding has broadened my horizons much more than any other sports could have done.
What's your best trick and what's a trick you're still trying to nail?
My best trick is a fakie kickflip. It's where you're rolling backwards, flicking the board, catching it mid-air and then landing while continuing to roll backwards. It sounds a lot more impressive than it probably is, but it's not about complexity, it's about how smooth you can make it look. A backside tailslide, on the other hand, I've never landed clean. It's where you approach an obstacle (like a pole, or a ledge), turn your back towards it, slap the tail of the board on the obstacle, and slide down it. This trick has always eluded me; it's quite frustrating. If I ever manage that, I think I'll go out and buy myself a big steak.
Will you ever stop skateboarding?
All good things must come to an end. There may be a day that I walk away. Hopefully, it will be to something that is equally fulfilling, but I haven't found that yet. Maybe when I nail that backside tailslide I'll feel good and can walk away from it. Or a handplant - that would be pretty sweet.