Words and Photos by Danielle Baker
Be more like a skateboarder–that's the latest life advice I have been given. Apparently I need to take a page from skate culture and learn how to not give a fuck. Mountain bikers are just too caring.
In an attempt to embrace these new words of wisdom and learn how to not give a fuck, I recently asked a friend who works in the skate industry to teach me.
He didn't show up, because, clearly, he doesn't give a fuck.
Left to my own devices I spent a day watching every skate movie I could get my hands on. The opening screen to Baker Has a Deathwish states, "This is just a promo video full of leftovers, hijinx, pot, actin a fool, and a bunch of other bullshit. Strictly for the diehard fans. Another cult classic brought to you from the degenerates of the skate industry.”
The following hour of vomiting, deck smashing, hard living and skateboarding drove the point home. Mountain bike movies lack this kind of fuck-it appeal; they feel more like Disney movies that need a dash of G.G. Allin. Our industry has worked hard to gain mass appeal, stopping just short of knocking on doors and handing out Bike magazines, and due to that we produce entertainment for the masses. We don't seem to give ourselves the luxury of never being sorry.
Mountain bike culture didn't develop the same way as the skate world. Skaters don't give a shit if you want to skate; mountain bikers not only want to introduce everyone to the sport, they’ll loan you their extra bike and spare helmet to make it even easier. We are people pleasers who are geek stoked on our sport. That's okay. It’s just that, doesn't everyone dream of having just a little bit more punk rock in their world? Don't we at least want to be identified with a culture that we can live vicariously through from our desk jobs?
I met my friend Brian at Outerbike this year. He didn't give a fuck. In my experience this rarely happens in our world of mountain biking. The first time we met I looked up from the registration table to find myself eye to eye with his third nipple. It was 7am and I couldn't quite tell whether or not he was drunk or still drunk. Being a fairly inappropriate and socially awkward person myself it was shocking when I found everything he said wrong. So very wrong. The kind of wrong that makes you cringe inside a little. His conversation topics ranged from hooker girlfriends to drunken antics to bodily fluids, each one making me giggle…and gag. The great thing was that Brian was a fantastic person; caring, generous and so much fun to be around. His ‘I don’t give a fuck’ attitude didn’t negate him having all the qualities of a caring person, he just doesn’t care if you see them all. The more time I spent with him the more I liked him.
Brian's skateboarder-esque attitude was so outside of our watered-down and glossy mountain bike culture that people didn't know how to deal with him. His attitude of uncaring, lack-of-concern-for-social-norms individuality was especially reflected in that fact that he didn't rock a kit that potentially cost more than my last semester of school. In fact his 'free hugs' t-shirt very likely was found. I watched as people interacted with him and were turned off by his disregard for their social practices. He stood out and every part of me wanted to be even 10 percent more like him. People around me found it easiest to assume he was a drunk and social degenerate. Maybe he is, maybe he's not, but to me there was something entirely admirable about someone who would rock a speedo and captain's hat at a small town bar.
I'm not a skateboarder but presented with this new advice I wanted to find a way for the 'I don't give a fuck' attitude to resonate more in my world. After going through my collection of New World Disorder movies and coming across nothing that rated over PG13 it was recommended to me to check out Shaun Palmer as a role model. I was hooked. I watched his section on Chain Smoke and immediately watched the documentary The Miserable Champion. Shaun Palmer didn't train, openly bragged about being drunk, and really and truly didn't give a fuck. Rather than the culture of the sport creating the attitude, Shaun brought the attitude to the sport. It gives me hope for the future of mountain biking, which I believe needs a punk rock star that is good enough to just not give a fuck. We also need fewer voice-overs. You know what I'm talking about.
In all of this cultural and social anthropology, I've realized that our culture, the culture of mountain biking, has not and will not project an attitude like skateboarders have. The only way to make a difference is to live it. We could all give a fuck a little less.