13 Apr 2019

Max Olijnyk: why I love skateboarding

From Saturday Morning, 10:40 am on 13 April 2019

To 'look' like a skater is still a badge of honour even for a "grey-haired dad with a bad knee", says writer and skateboarder Max Olijnyk.

Skateboarder and writer Max Olijnyk

Skateboarder and writer Max Olijnyk Photo: maxolijnyk.com

"Skateboarders look different again, they're wearing quite big clothes … I look silly in it now … I look a bit like a clown."

Now in his 40s, Max grew up in a tiny South Australian town where no-one else rode a skateboard. He picked up his first board at age 12.

When he first showed his physicist father a video of an ollie (the skateboard trick where you levitate a board off the ground), he said "that's not possible".

"But then he watched it in slow motion and said 'oh, it's a fulcrum. You hit the back off the tail of the board on the ground, scrape your front foot up sideways and that levels it out so you're effectively sticking the board to your feet and jumping."

Max Olijnyk, backside tailslide, Northcote skatepark, Melbourne.

Max Olijnyk, backside tailslide, Northcote skatepark, Melbourne. Photo: Tristan Strong

Max now lives in Wellington with his New Zealand-born partner Rosie and their four-year-old son Fred.

Last year he completed a Masters in Creative Writing at Victoria University in which he started a novel about a skateboarder in his early 40s who moves from Australia to NZ.

Historically, skateboarding culture has been very American and very male-dominated but the sport is now a lot more international and inclusive, he says.

Yet it can be hard to find places to skate in Wellington and, because of the climate, many skate parks are in poor repair without a nearby tap or public toilet.

As a result, skateboarders can feel disrespected and therefore less inclined to respect these spaces themselves, he says.

His favorite spot to skate – in Wellington and the whole world – is Treetops, a DIY space on a hill above Newtown.

"The skaters have started bringing obstacles up there. It's self-regulated. The council looks the other way because they can use it as a carpark if they need to."

The Wellington Skateboarding Association crowdfunded to buy obstacles for Treetops and holds an annual skate jam there.

Max Olijynk's work has appeared in The Age, The Blackmail, Broadsheet, The Guardian, Smith Journal and Vice, and his first book, Some Stories, was released in 2016.

He is appearing at Featherston Booktown in early May - details here

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