Skateboarding is his Passion
Ever had a passion in your life that was a constant? Even if you become distracted by life’s happenings, you somehow find your way back to it, every time… as though it’s your obsession? Maybe a loss or a gain, or a quiet day of contemplation brings it all back to you, and once again you tear out the walls of your life to make room for your obsession.
For my son James, skateboarding has been his constant.
“I had a big, Ninja Turtles 80s-style board when I was really little,” James says, “like age 5 or 6 years old, but I’d only sit on my butt and roll. Later, I put together a “Frankenstein” from old boards, trucks and wheels my friends gave me.”
James remembers the weekend at Southlake Mall when he was in an arcade playing Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter II, and his sister Jaime tapped him on the shoulder.
“I turned around and y’all surprised me with a K-B Toys skateboard with plastic trucks, and although it didn’t roll very fast, it was perfect for learning beginner tricks. I learned a few tricks and developed more board control and started going down big hills and driveways and stuff. I’ve been hooked ever since.”
James is turning 33 in November and has yet to let go of his dream.
“I love everything about skateboarding,” James says. “It feels so free, it keeps me in shape, allows me to interact with our environment, and doesn’t have coaches or rules like other sports. I can learn as many tricks as my body will allow, and skating keeps me disciplined.”
James says I always told him to follow his dreams (for years I had a bumper sticker on the back of my forest green Caprice Classic that said “Follow Your Bliss”), so he took my advice grew up wanting to do what he loves and getting paid for it.
Like most people pursuing a passion, James has had plenty of reasons to give up. It’s hard. Staying focused can be difficult. Friends drop out of the skateboarding world and move on. Making a living to pay the bills is paramount to pursuing dreams. Oh, but wait, James eschews a traditional career so he can remain free to skate. That means he goes without a lot of things, which most people go to work everyday to afford; a place of his own and/or a new car. He rents a bedroom from a friend and drives a 2007 Prius. He doesn’t get paid for skateboarding… but he does receive boards, clothes, shoes, etc., from his sponsors.
Even though money is tight, James won’t skimp on healthy food; keeping his body perfectly tuned is his main aim. And he drinks lots and lots of water (I’m his mother, I have to stay on him about something other than reminding him to not destroy public or personal property in his pursuit of skateboarding perfection!).
“I’m a human before I’m a skateboarder,” James says, “and I respect my body, mind and soul so they can take me to my highest potential/calling. I feel as healthy and talented as ever, like a seasoned veteran, but with a youthful approach.”
He pushed himself as a teenager and into his 20s, and allowed his skating career to evolve organically, letting things happen naturally. While in middle school, James became sponsored by Ruin, a new skate shop in Sandy Springs. He spent a lot of time with his friends hanging out at the shop, learning from others and skating in the shopping center. He has remained friends with Ian, the shop owner, ever since.
“I have so many sponsors now,” James says, “sponsors I used to wish for. They came through because I never gave up on working hard… with a smile.“
As a kid, James was always on his skateboard, even in the house. He stood on the board while watching TV and would work on flipping the board. Sometimes I tolerated it, sometimes the thought of oil from the trucks getting on the carpet was a bit too much.
If James wasn’t physically on his board, he would pull out his finger board and ride his two fingers on the miniature replica, mimicking all types of flips. If we were in the car, his fingers would ride the board all over the dash, languidly, which is James’ style. On the dinner table, he’d stack up a few books to resemble a skate park and he’d ride the fingerboard over the books.
From the age of 10 onward, James would sketch out his tricks in cells, like a storyboard for a movie. He would watch tapes (before everything went digital) and write out the sequence of his tricks. He hung out with skate fanatics like himself, guys from his schools who were good at photography or video, and they’d find locations all over Atlanta (and later cities up and down the east coast, and then San Francisco) to shoot “footy.” Again, James would detail out the sequence of his moves in sketches. He ate, slept and drank skating; the definite of obsession.
Inspired by originality, James is drawn to people whose spirit shines true in what they do, those who express themselves from the heart, with positivity.
Often influenced by people who have nothing to do with skateboarding, James wonders if that’s why he still has a fresh outlook and approach to skateboarding. He’s inspired by anyone who makes sacrifices to be true to themselves and humanity, because he believes we’re all one.
“I’m a fan of expansion and seeing the big picture, of people who push the boundaries of thoughts and feelings, who bring everyone with them to the next dimension and beyond. Bruce Lee. Salvador Dali. Helen Keller. Anne Frank. Malcolm X. Gandhi. And so many more, including fictional characters like Sonic the Hedgehog and characters from X-Men.”
James spent September of this year in Bordeaux, France, filming with Minuit and hanging with his good friend Yoan Taillandier, a renaissance man whose talents and skills reach beyond the norm. Yoan is the mastermind behind Minuit (French for “Midnight”), which has a distinct aesthetic of skateboard audio/visuals shot mainly at night. Minuit offers clothing and accessories under the Magenta brand.
As for his skate style, James may be a little ahead of his time. He strives for street-skate art. Don’t talk to him about half-pipes or Tony Hawke. Now, Chad Muska, a pro who rode for Shorty’s skateboard company in the 90s, was one of James’ favorites to watch. Muska is the reason James wore everything “Shorty’s” as a teenager.
“I feel like a meteor that’s going to crash into the skateboard world and change the chemistry of it all,” James says. “All I have to do is keep being me, staying true and working hard.”
Am I super proud of James? Absolutely. Do I get scared when I hear him talking about sleeping in his Prius as part of his super thrifty take on the world? You bet. And then I remember what a good soul he is, wise from trying and making things happen, and I don’t worry so much.
Currently, James is working on a video sponsored by Adidas and being filmed in Tennessee.
“I feel blessed to be able to still skate at my age and have supporters I respect. My best is yet to come, I love staying productive and always having skate videos, footage or magazine/web articles ready for release.”
I’m writing this blogpost as though James is just another subject of an article, rather than my own flesh and blood. The truth is, I sensed James before he was born. His face came to me in a dream when I was pregnant with him; I can still see his white hair and blue, blue eyes from the dream. I’m not a woo-woo kind of person, but when James was about 2, I had a premonition the doctor would find a medical condition in his tiny little body, and when the doctor shared his diagnosis, I wasn’t caught blind-sided (and James is fine). I’ve always felt that connection with James on a visceral level, and when we drum with our fingers on countertops or tabletops, we get into a groove of perfect timing on a physical level. It’s uncanny, like playing an instrument with yourself.
My sense of James started before he was born and continues to this day. I can feel him, who he is. I admire his tenacity in pursuing skateboarding as his all-out passion. I worry that I didn’t push him in other directions that might have brought him more life satisfaction. Like many mothers, I worry I did mostly wrong, and very little right, by my children.
I’m proud of James, the man he’s become, and I’ll always be proud of him, whether he hits the skateboard world like a meteor or not.
Spotlight interviews with James:
- https://minuitaudiovisual.com/james-coleman-spot-itw/: Note: Overall, this a fine interview. James does an excellent job talking about some of his projects, the interspersed video footage gives viewers a glimpse of James’ breadth as a skater and we gain insights into the many talented people who surround him. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t state this reminder: women are human beings, not objects for men’s entertainment.
James’ Current Sponsors
- Theories brand clothing, and Theories of Atlantis.
- Magenta skateboards.
- Reality Grip; hand-painted grip by Eric Staniford, my florida skate friend from way back who now lives in LA. He supplies me with Entitled Reality Grip, which features images of iconic and inspiring people.
- Broadcast wheels.
- Harvest roots ferments; a locally-produced kombucha company from the southeast.
- Westside Skateshop (Jon Montesi’s skateshop in Florida. I’ve ridden for them since I was a teenager. Jon still helps me out so much to this day. Thanks Jon!)
- Shaqueefa O.G.; Tampa squad/shirt company. (You’ve seen Ishod, Koston, and Grant Taylor wearing them for years.)
- Minuit audio visual-primo global nigh skating vids/clothing from the mind of my good friend and frenchman Yoan Taillandier.
- Supra Footwear-flow.