Lucas Baumann. Topsoul to ledge roll attempt on Oct. 29. Cedar Rapids.
(Lucas has done this trick before, but I wanted to shoot a photo of it.
The photos you’ll see in this article are the result of his injury at this spot.)

Words and injury photos by Lucas Baumann
Skating photo by Adam Morris

Why do I do it? I know why I rollerblade. It’s for the same reasons anyone else does: the adrenaline and thrill; the relationships and connection to a unique group; dissatisfaction with the world and a desire to see it in a new light; the satisfaction of achievement, which gives me confidence in my life; and because it gives me the opportunity for expression, creation and catharsis. The question I ask myself today is: Why do I do it the way that I do it?

Why don’t I know when to quit? In previous years, I could easily attribute this abuse to a desire for improving skills, and the fantasy that I might one day make a living doing it. However, after being a part of this culture for nearly a decade, those motivations have faded. I’m confident that I have found my life’s work through art, and that I have achieved a mastery of rollerblading where I feel there is little left for me to prove. These aspirations of getting better and getting known don’t seem to apply or explain my continued actions of abuse.

I want to first distinguish the difference between getting hurt and debilitating yourself. Getting hurt is when you are so mentally distracted by your physical state that you are unable to concentrate at the level rollerblading requires. Debilitating yourself is when you temporarily ruin your body so thoroughly that you are confident of its inability to mechanically function in the ways that rollerblading demands.

Under these definitions, I rarely get hurt, and there is something in me that is not easily convinced of debilitation. Over the years I have developed an understanding of how the body can compensate and how the mind can create magic, to result in unthinkable outcomes. Of course, my recent outcome was magical in a different way: Who knew my ass could get that huge?

Complete lack of restraint can result in two outcomes. One is that you continue, past all pain and past all signs that your body will not be able to perform the task, until you reach a point of complete and humbling defeat. Your mind and body tip over to a place where there is no hope, no rest a few minutes then try again, no smoke a cigarette, no one more try. The second outcome, however, is one that can expand your view of the world.

When you reach that point of disability and despair, it is possible to bypass that final and dramatic crack of mind and body. It is possible to reach a place where you become irrelevant. The exhaustion, pain, dehydration, disorientation, immobility, fear, and conditions are all present, but you are able to give yourself up to the time and place you are in. You are able to experience that there is no self, no division, that the world is your body. This is when the greatest rollerblading happens.

Once you have experienced both total defeat, and yourself as the world, you can begin to call upon it without the drama and pain. I saw Newton’s Logan Clark as the world this summer in Muscatine, and felt a sense of pride and relief. I also felt that I could then skate with him as an equal, that mentoring him could take a new shape, and that he could now teach me as well. It wasn’t easy for him, he had passed up an opportunity just weeks before, in Grinnell, and probably others before that. When he was finally able to forget himself, he was forever changed. This fall, in Iowa City, he may have reached total defeat as well. He didn’t know when to quit; it was another big step for him.

Even after this consideration, I still don’t feel like I can answer my question, why do I do it? I could make a list of the really great tricks I have done, and many would be preceded by a defeat, as I have mentioned. I could also talk about several cases parallel to the last two weeks: being forced to drive instead of bike, carrying a pillow with me everywhere I go, dancing with an ice bag down my pants, the unhealthy effects of medication, and the fear of blood clots and infection. Examples of the two outcomes I’ve talked about give me a context for the positive and negative effects of how I skate, but seem so equally weighted that I can’t pin down what to do with this information.

What more am I seeking? I feel like I’ve had to go through this process more times than most, in order to mentally compensate for a body which in many ways is not ideal for rollerblading. I think sometimes that I’m still trying to compensate further, that I’m not being honest in thinking that there is nothing to prove or that I have no desire to be an influential figure in rollerblading culture. I also think maybe I really do want to settle with the skills I’ve acquired, but am predisposed to, or have habitually practiced this Hulk-like transformation for so long that I can’t stop it.

Maybe since I still experience both the defeat and the magic, I am driven to a curiosity of just how far it can be pushed. A desire to find or expand the boundaries, develop an instinctual sense of these boundries, or discover that there is no boundary at all.


After skating on Oct. 29.


Later that night.


Oct. 31.


Nov. 2.


Nov. 4.


Nov. 16.


188 Responses to “Legacy of pain: An essay by Lucas Baumann”  

  1. 1 andrew gilpin

    holy good god! that is one sexy, huge, purple ass cheek!

  2. 2 Joshua Ray

    ouch

  3. 3 yagla

    Wow Lucas! This is a great article. I don’t know where to begin talking about how I feel about it, other than saying it is awesome! Next time we are in person it will make a wonderful discussion on rollerblading, pain and life!

    and BTW, nice ass! Your ass looks like a juicy plumb that I want to sink my teeth into.

  4. 4 DH

    Nicely done. Always good when you can combine metaphysics and rollerblading. I enjoyed reading it and tried not to get too exited about those fancy pictures, Yagla, I love plumbs too.

  5. 5 Collin Martin

    Lucas, you are amazing. Come skate sometime.

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