Believing in heroes

February 26, 2017

As a kid, I had lots of heroes. They started out from the super variety like Batman or Spiderman and as I grew older, they morphed into sports heroes. Posters of superstar baseball, hockey, basketball and football players lined my childhood bedroom walls and their images filled many a sports card three-ring binder on my bookshelf.

Thrasher magazine cover, May 1984Thrasher magazine, May 1984 issue

When my friends and I started skateboarding in 1984, we discovered Thrasher magazine. Within its pages were a whole new set of heroes for me to look up to and model my personal style and interests after. I quickly forgot about traditional ball sports and absorbed myself in this new counter culture - skate culture - for the next 25+ years. When I started snowboarding in 1986, I followed the same pattern.

After graduating from university, I moved to Whistler, BC to snowboard full-time. It was here, where many of the heroes lived that I began to see them in a completely different light: while they were still amazing snowboarders, some were pretty messed up. It was shocking.

They tried to maintain the image we saw in videos and magazines, but most were scared, lost and confused. They drank heavily, did drugs and partied a lot. I recall seeing my heroes - riders who did incredible tricks and dominated video parts - getting in fights, throwing up outside bars and passing out face-down on the pavement, night after night.

These guys, whom the industry put on a pedestal for kids like me to worship were really just kids themselves. They were no longer my heroes; I only felt sad for them. I no longer believed in them as heroes, I just saw them as people.

I think it's reasonable for children to have heroes. It's natural to look up to someone else and follow their lead as you try to figure out who you are and what you're meant to do with your life.

It was this loss of innocence and my newly gained awareness of reality that made for a hard transition into adulthood. To go from believing to knowing can be jarring. I'm not ready for our kids to cross that bridge yet.

There's a wondrous beauty in belief. We all should strive to hang onto that state for as long as we can.