A Simple Tale on Self Actualization and Personal Autonomy

By Ari Chamasmany


I drew a lot of my influence from longboard surfing, which I was into long before I started skateboarding. When there weren’t waves, surf buddies and I would push around the parking lots down by the beach on our longboards, practicing cross-steps and the like. Naturally I gravitated towards tricks that would link together well, contributing to a more surfy, flowy style. It wasn’t until after I got into downhill skateboarding, that I started experimenting with combining steps and slides, attempting to adapt what I could to an incline oriented environment.


Downhill or dancing? Two sides to the same coin. I’m definitely of the camp that believes that skateboarding is skateboarding, regardless as to the shape or way you choose to ride it. The more adept you are at interacting with your skateboard, the easier it is to convey your inherent creative expression through the medium. The focus should always be about the personal experience; taking care to guide and develop a style all your own, but also making the effort to understand and appreciate what’s already out there. Draw influence from the basics, but then put in the time to make them your own. Downhill or dancing?  Skateboarding.


The first major event where I got to interface with the community was at the Santa Gnarbara Slidejam in 2011. It was exciting to connect with everyone during that era because downhill skateboarding still felt relatively unknown. There was a buzz, a joy in meeting other characters that were just as passionate about it as you were. A feeling of exhilaration from knowing where you stack up against others in the scene. I think it existed more so then than it does now. It was a time to be noticed, and the community was small and motivated enough to respond.


We met the Loaded crew entirely by chance, at the top of Boeing parking garage, as our small motley bunch of five were scouting things to skate around the airport. I distinctly remember Tai Nakayama’s dark blue Scion Xb with a giant yellow Orangatang decal on the back window, pulling up on the opposite side of the garage with a group of other cars. As everyone exited the cars and started skating, We recognized Adam Colton, Adam Stokowski, and Kyle Chin from their YouTube videos. Adam Colton was actually the first to skate across the garage to make contact with us. I had been doing cross-steps, and he skated over and said, “Hey there, you should give one of these a shot”, and kicked over a blank deck of what would later become the Bhangra. We spent the evening skating with their crew, they found out about our weekly Gel Lab skate nights, and not long after, I was a Loaded Ambassador.


When we first got rolling, there wasn’t much of a community in our area. People were absolutely skating within their circles, but there wasn’t as much cohesion between the different groups. So I started a weekly skate meetup and opened it up to anyone who wanted to join, creating a weekly flier and posting it to social media. Initially it was 5 of us, but not long after, the session had grown to 10 to 15 weekly attendees. The repetition of the session taking place week in and week out, fostered the beginnings of what would late turn into The Gel Lab weekly shred sessions; a community in and of itself.

Currently, The Gel Lab shred sessions average between 20 to 30+ weekly attendees, and has become a beacon for the Los Angeles incline oriented skate scene over the course of its now 15 year lifespan.


A large part of skateboarding, is about getting destroyed. Through your ritualistic self destruction, do you learn. You learn resilience, you learn finesse, you learn that getting broke off comes with its rewards. Sometimes it makes you stop and think about why you do it, sometimes, for some, it becomes the understanding of what is enough, what feels right, where you draw the line.

How big of a role does skateboarding play in your life? I have crashed while skateboarding more times than I can remember, but through each of those crashes I’ve learned about myself. I’ve learned that the feeling of it all is worth what I risk to do it. I’ve learned that sometimes, true love is painful.


I recall it being an evening, on a weekend, and there were five of us. A dangerous combination of boredom and adolescence, we had decided to take our skateboards down a series of steep neighborhood roadways situated in the hills of Thousand Oaks, California. It would be the first time I would experience what it was like to go really fast.

The feeling, the adrenaline, was like nothing I had known prior. This was before we knew anything about proper form, or how to slow down, it was simply a “drop-in, and hang on” mindset. The defining moment for me that evening came with the realization and understanding of the choice that is downhill skateboarding; experience, or be destroyed.


I acquired my first longboard while working at a PlayItAgain Sporting Goods store in Agoura Hills, California in the Summer of 2004. The concept behind the store was that you brought in your used sporting equipment and we would either buy it, or resell it for you.

It had been a sleepy afternoon (as it had been most days working there), when a hazy-lookin’ dude in a nappy knitted hoodie stumbled into the store and attempted to sell us his Sector 9 Bamboo Jay Bay Pin Tail. Our boss, a grumpy old jock who smelled of cigarettes and a bad divorce, expressed loudly; “Skateboards are just a toy!”, and promptly told the dude to “buy something, or get lost!”.

After a small string of expletives, the dude with the board marched out the door and out into the parking lot. Seeing an opportunity, I immediately requested to go on my break and caught up with the guy as he steamed across the parking lot towards his car. It cost me all but forty dollars for a piece of wood that would later become a cherished vehicle to a lifelong journey of self discovery and personal understanding.


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