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Opening of House of Vans in London sees middle-aged men get back on their boards

No sooner than a leading golf retailer confirmed this week that the well-worn cliché, ‘Cycling is the new golf,’ is being reflected in its performance comes a claim that ‘Skateboarding is the new cycling’, with growing numbers of middle-aged men turning – and often, returning – to four small wheels for their recreation.

Speaking to Retail Week about its new flagship store in the City of London, American Golf head of marketing Daniel Gathercole pointed out that according to a survey from the Golf Foundation, 400,000 people in Britain have given up golf in the last three years.

Instead of – to paraphrase Mark Twain – spoiling a good walk, instead many of them are having a good bike ride, with Gathercole attributing the fall in large part to the number of people taking up cycling, encouraged by marketing campaigns from media firms such as Sky.

He acknowledges that it is a “tough time” to attempt to sell the latest high-end clubs to people also tempted by top-of-the range bikes – and given the rise in cycling among City types in particular, and the number of bike shops that have opened in recent years, the store is perhaps, as Retail Week puts it, “swimming against the sporting tide.”

But there’s a new kid on the block, and it’s one that according to the Telegraph’s Harry Wallop could replace cycling as the sport of choice among middle aged men – skateboarding.

The management of House of Vans, the 30,000 square foot underground skateboard and BMX park recently opened at Waterloo in London by the US-based skater clothing and footwear firm, say that a third of the 15,000 users of the facility in its first fortnight are aged 30 or over.

Media consultant Grant Feller told the Telegraph: “Skating is almost the perfect metaphor for a midlife crisis – it is mildly dangerous, it is fun and it is bound to end with humiliation and a bruised ego.

“A midlife crisis is all about discovering the things you missed out on in your youth, which used to be fast cars and having more sex. But maybe, for the latest generation, it is skating.”

Wallop says: “The ultimate sport for teenage rebels has morphed into the new cycling, which is now often taken up by MAMILs (middle aged men in Lycra) – all the gear and no idea.

There’s no need for such an acronym for middle-aged skateboarders, though opinion is divided on what the correct term for them is; Wallop says they refer to themselves as “skater geezers,” while over at The Times, another description is used.

One skateboarder at House of Vans, 47-year-old Andrew Paddison, tpld the newspaper’s Lucy Holden: “Old gits like me are called ‘middle-aged shredders’.”

He continued: “The skateboarder Jay Adams said you didn’t quit skateboarding because you got old, you got old because you quit skateboarding. It makes you feel young, it’s such a buzz.”

Another, 52-year-old Des McDaid, added. “There are loads of old people skating now. It keeps me fit, it’s great cardio and it gives you a huge amount of energy. All my friends do it.”

Jeremy de Malliard, from Vans, told The Times: “We’re seeing guys revisit the sport they loved as a kid. It’s a huge cultural shift from 20 years ago.

“Mainstream popularity has thrust it back into the consciousness of people who started skating when it was counter-cultural and it’s allowed the scene to grow up,” he added.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

23 comments

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kitkat [312 posts] 1 year ago
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Only problem with this theory is when you're 13-20 you bounce quite well. It won't take many slams for a 30+ to realise skating is a young man's game

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John_the_Monkey [436 posts] 1 year ago
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Back when I was rock climbing, a pal of mine gave up climbing ("Too dangerous") and started skateboarding instead.

He broke both his ankles within a fortnight.

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Binky [116 posts] 1 year ago
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Tarmac isn't as soft as it used to be  20

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joemmo [1145 posts] 1 year ago
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Better to stick to surf sports if you like going sideways in your middle years. Water is a more forgiving surface on the whole.

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notfastenough [3661 posts] 1 year ago
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I overheard a conversation in the gym at the weekend, where a guy was comparing his golf with his cycling - basically saying that no matter how much he practised his golf, unless he could afford masses of time and lessons from a pro, then he struggled to really improve. This contrasted with his cycling, where if he put time in, he got faster/better, and if he didn't, he slipped backwards. Admittedly, this is comparing technique with fitness (and perhaps the technique for cycling is a bit too subtle for him currently), but I can at least see why he might then think that cycling is more rewarding.

As for skating, why should your age be a barrier to going back to what you used to love?

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DoctorDee [9 posts] 1 year ago
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Personally... I never stopped skating. But there ain't a snowball's chance in hell it's the new cycling. You have to work twice as hard to be half as good.

Anyone can put on Lycra and pootle round country lanes and enjoy it - but a dilettante skateboarder is gonna be bruises and road rash in no time.

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s_lim [166 posts] 1 year ago
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OMFG.

I can justify telling the wife I'm going out with the cycling club for a few hours, or the odd race; when her and the kids come out to cheer. I can't really see that being applicable to skateboarding.

Note: at 11, I could kickflip and olly with the best of them.

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truffy [653 posts] 1 year ago
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John_the_Monkey wrote:

Back when I was rock climbing, a pal of mine gave up climbing ("Too dangerous") and started skateboarding instead.

He broke both his ankles within a fortnight.

I felt bad for 'liking' this post!  3

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Maggers [55 posts] 1 year ago
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Hopefully it'll mean quiter roads around Surrey and Kent for my early morning rides. I'm all for it.

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Simmo72 [583 posts] 1 year ago
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Cripes. Yes I fall off my bike now and again, and it smarts some. But if I was to take up skateboarding again I may as well go buy a bed in frimley park hospital to boot. A young mans sport and requires a lot of skill to be even vaguely competent.

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fukawitribe [1430 posts] 1 year ago
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DoctorDee wrote:

Anyone can put on Lycra and pootle round country lanes and enjoy it - but a dilettante skateboarder is gonna be bruises and road rash in no time.

Absolutely - can't bring myself to get rid of my last board, but I need to approach my next return better than the last one when it took very little time indeed. Attempting a manoeuvre I would have been leery about in my 'prime' (cough) after 12 years off and a night spent sitting and chatting with a few beers was not the brightest thing i've ever done....

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Gizmo_ [1332 posts] 1 year ago
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Skateboarding may be the new BMX or DH... but I don't see anyone giving up Lycra for dreadlocks and calling people 'gnarly'.

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Joeinpoole [439 posts] 1 year ago
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notfastenough wrote:

I overheard a conversation in the gym at the weekend, where a guy was comparing his golf with his cycling - basically saying that no matter how much he practised his golf, unless he could afford masses of time and lessons from a pro, then he struggled to really improve. This contrasted with his cycling, where if he put time in, he got faster/better, and if he didn't, he slipped backwards. Admittedly, this is comparing technique with fitness (and perhaps the technique for cycling is a bit too subtle for him currently), but I can at least see why he might then think that cycling is more rewarding.

It's difficult to compare golf and cycling. Golf is almost entirely skill-based whereas cycling is mainly strength and endurance. It's more difficult to measure a definite improvement in golf as lowering your handicap requires you to perform at your best over several competitions. A bit of bad luck can be the difference between a good and an average score too. Cycling will almost always reward directly the work you put into it ... but the gain is quickly lost if not maintained. An improvement in golf skills generally stays with the player once attained because it is really 'knowledge'.

Although I enjoy my cycling I do it almost entirely for aerobic fitness ... and because the endorphins make me feel good after a ride. At 55 I have no interest in doing cycling 'competitively'. Personally I find golf infinitely more rewarding because of the difficulty of playing the game, the variety of skills required, the social aspect and also the handicap system that allows players of different abilities to compete against each other. The satisfaction of playing an exceptional round can last for days afterwards. I don't really get that from beating my PB on a Strava segment as it just means I've got to work harder to maintain or beat it.

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stealfwayne [110 posts] 1 year ago
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Quite possibly it could become just that. Though I'm yet to see other MAMOS (middle-aged Men on Skateboards) in my local park. I tend skate on my long board around the park or for short errands.
All the skating of late has really improved calf strength and ankle movement. So my sprinting on the bike must have improved - it's like cross training to get a better output in your chosen sport..  4

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OldRidgeback [2554 posts] 1 year ago
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stealfwayne wrote:

Quite possibly it could become just that. Though I'm yet to see other MAMOS (middle-aged Men on Skateboards) in my local park. I tend skate on my long board around the park or for short errands.
All the skating of late has really improved calf strength and ankle movement. So my sprinting on the bike must have improved - it's like cross training to get a better output in your chosen sport..  4

Well there are plenty of older skateboarders with grey hair down at Stockwell Skatepark near where I live in S London. I go on my BMX as I don't board. My son usually rides his BMX but he has a board as well and takes it sometimes.

We aren't the only father/son duo going regularly either and talk often to the others - there are more father/son boarders than BMXers. There's one older boarder with a dodgy hip who walks with difficulty but when on his board, glides around with incredible and impressive grace.

Saturday and Sunday mornings are good times to be there as it's generally not too busy.

We haven't been to the House of Vans yet but it's not far either and has already been flagged in our household and is on the 'to do' list. You can expect me and my son there on our 20" BMXs and he might take his board or his microscooter as well.

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Karbon Kev [688 posts] 1 year ago
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good god I stopped skating after 21, it is a young man's game, after the broken bones a lot of people will give up I'm sure. This 'craze' won't catch hold, it will go away - again ..

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ronin [263 posts] 1 year ago
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I can remember when I was <20 at Birmingham Wheels skate park, and saw Steve Caballero do a McTwist (inverted 540 for the uninitiated)...

Closest most will get to that at middle age - a McDonalds McTwist  4

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bikebot [1628 posts] 1 year ago
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Golf of course is the new bowls.

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twowheeltoys [59 posts] 1 year ago
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At 45 had to give up the skateboards last year. Thankfully can still ride road bikes and my BMX (been following related thread for past fortnight). At least more forty somethings will look better in jeans and hoody than in ill-fitting lycra. The best thing about skateboards is that you can buy a good custom set-up for a couple of hundred quid, a decent custom BMX will likely start around a grand and anyone on this site knows how much a tasty bike costs.

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Beaufort [270 posts] 1 year ago
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New this, old that.

I've been cycling since the age of 7, trends mean nothing to any real cyclists on here. Tried Golf ten years ago, ended up hating other Golfers. Skateboarding too difficult, Inline Skating I love though.

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Beanspropulsion [3 posts] 1 year ago
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Yawn....

Fads give me the shits

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Beatnik69 [286 posts] 1 year ago
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Beanspropulsion wrote:

Yawn....

Fads give me the shits

The shits are the new skateboarding

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PhilRuss [351 posts] 1 year ago
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[[[[[ So, Bowls must be the new Tiddlywinks.