If you’ve ridden a skateboard in your lifetime and tried to do anything beyond simply pushing the board across a smooth surface, you’ve certainly realized that it’s quite hard. Of course the road to mastery in any physical pursuit is littered with potholes of missteps and injuries, and typically a series of plateaus that can stretch out for miles on end.
But skateboarding: It’s just the freakin’ hardest. Landing a new trick for the very first time can take thousands upon thousands of attempts, each one putting one’s body at risk of certain impact with a hard surface. And then when you do land it, repeating that success might take another couple thousand attempts.
For 21-year-old skater Adrienna Crawford the trick that solidified in her mind that level of commitment, which is distinctive to skateboarding, was a frontside 180.
“We were skating this little DIY spot in a parking garage in Riverside. We just put two pieces of wood together over a little gap. I decided I had to land a 180 that day. I tried for hours. But I couldn’t quite get it,” Crawford tells me. Hundreds of attempts later, it still hadn’t clicked. So, after a brief respite, Crawford decided to simply try the maneuver on flat ground. She stuck it. First try. “Ever since then I just started 180-ing everything. It’s my favorite thing to do!”
These days, Crawford’s arsenal includes dozens of tricks far more technical and far riskier than a half rotation over a narrow gap. She’s a multifaceted skater, adapting a smooth, stylish approach on to skating streets and parks and everything in between. She’s been giving vert a go, lately, as well, kick turning high up on the Gator ramp extension at Kona Skate Park in Arlington. And, listening to her talk, she seems destined to go even bigger.
“My goal is to be able to do big airs [on the vert ramp],” she says. “I just want to skate anything and everything—transitions, vert, street. My favorite skaters are the ones who can do it all.”
It’s stiflingly hot day outside when I meet up with Crawford at Bold Bean in Jax Beach, prior to a skate session at Sunshine Park. She’s dressed in all black and her dark brown hair hangs out of a shallow cap. As we talk about skating, Crawford makes no attempt to curb her enthusiasm, beaming a wide smile and laughing in earnest just about every 20-30 seconds over the course of our half-hour conversation. Crawford’s passion for skating seems uncontainable. It’s all she wants to do, she tells me. And her obsession has led her to be considered one of the best young female skaters in Northeast Florida. Which is amazing considering just two years ago, Crawford didn’t even skate.
At 19, Crawford would ride a Nickel board up and down 1st Street here at the beach, pushing the board with her leading foot, or mongo (a cardinal sin in skateboarding). She’d watch her fiancé land technical flip tricks on the couple’s front porch and long to do similar maneuvers.
“He doesn’t give himself much credit, but he’s a really talented skater,” she says of her fiancé, Ryan Crawford, who she joyously describes as a “kind of old-school, crush a can on your forehead, kinda skater.”
With his encouragement, she threw the Nickel board away and got a more traditional deck. She started doing power slides and Ollies and started pushing with her back foot. “It was really weird and hard to get out of,” she says of kicking her mongo habit. “One day rolling up to the park, I just decided, I’m gonna learn how to not do this. It’s so ugly.”
She had to switch her stance completely, but it wasn’t long after that she was sticking that 180. And not much longer, still, before she was launching out of 8-foot transitions and locking into board slides on long handrails.
It goes without saying, she’s sacrificed her body at times for the sake of swift progression. Her right hip joint is visibly deformed from countless body-spackles on unforgiving surfaces. She’s fractured an elbow, and rolled her ankles more times than she can count. But she’s continued to push forward. Driven, it seems, by the sheer joy of the practice.
“I grew up playing just about every sport. I did soccer, basketball, baseball. I did it all. And my dad was the coach of everything,” she explains. “I stopped playing sports and my dad and I had a falling out. For years after that, I was missing something important in my life. It took me a while to find it, but skating filled that void.”
Today Crawford skates for a few sponsors, like SoCal skate shop, who hook her up with clothes from time to time. But she also skates to inspire others. She started the group Jax Lady Skaters—which she calls “a kind of motivational group”—as a way to encourage more women to come out and skate around northeast Florida. “When I started I only knew one female skater, my friend Lauren Dickerson, who moved away. Now, there’s a ton. Which is great, but I do notice that many are really scared to put themselves out there, or mess up in front of the boys. For me, I never think about anybody else but myself when I’m skating. So for the women, I just want them to get in that mindset, too. Be fearless. Don’t think about anybody else. Just charge it. Get out there.”
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Jax Lady Skaters meet up a few times each month at different skate spots around Jacksonville to hang out and push each other to do bigger and better tricks. No matter where they go, however, Crawford says the goal is to “take over the park.”
Meanwhile, even as she seeks to inspire others, Crawford’s working on video parts and looking for more substantial sponsors, while continuing to pursue progression in her own skating with a commitment that borders on religious fervor.
“It brings me faith,” she says of skateboarding. “It came to me at a really tough time. It gave me something to hold onto. I got on a board and gained a lot of confidence. I learned that I need something to get me moving—get the adrenaline pumping, get that fear going. I need that. I can’t drive my car too fast because it’s illegal. So, I’d rather just skate to my fullest.”