I have was honored recently by being chosen for a “Guest Blog” at Suite101 where I write about extreme sports (primarily skateboarding and BMX freestyle).
Feel free to read my blatherings about what extreme sports mean to me, what writing for Suite means for my writing career.
I was really psyched when I was asked to do this and I appreciate it very much!
Getting in Touch with Inspiration – Guest Blog Post by Extreme Sports Writer Leigh Roche
by Lima on April 28, 2011
This is a guest post by Extreme Sports Feature Writer Leigh Roche, who recently had the privilege of interviewing an Extreme Sports industry icon, Rob Dyers: the brain behind the Skate4Cancer initiative. In this guest blog post, Roche candidly shares her experiences as a freelance Extreme Sports writer and what it was like to reach out to one of her idols.
My own experience in Extreme Sports
“Move and the way will open” – Zen saying
I was a skateboarder in the mid-70s, living in the northeast US where there wasn’t a lot of skateboarding and girl skaters were even rarer. I followed skateboarding through its ebb and flow and I always kept up with what was going on over the years. Skating in the 70s and 80s had periods of popularity and bottoming out, but the 80s were interesting with the birth of the skate and BMX video. By the 90s, videos had become a full-fledged art form and it was really exciting, because the sports are so powerful visually.
When the X Games started in ‘95, that was the ultimate for a lot of people and it gave the sports real visibility. I became a fan of BMX freestyle, initially called bike street/stunt in what was the Extreme Games, and I’ve been following BMX since; I love its intensity. Many extreme sports events include music, charitable organizations, and a “festival” atmosphere – a community that’s the heart of the sports. If I could do anything in extreme sports I would love to try drift racing and if I wasn’t middle-aged and terrified to break any bones or have another concussion, I would definitely try BMX. Overall, I enjoy the moving meditation of the sports and I still skate, but no tricks since my last crashes about two years ago– one in a concrete bowl, the other into a huge pile of snow – in front of my kids, no less.
What extreme sports mean to me
Basically, once it’s something you do, it’s always a part of who you are. But the sports have a significance that is bigger than the individuals involved and it’s interesting how they came about culturally. The progression of extreme sports in the early and mid-90s was reflective of a whole paradigm shift going on culturally, socially, technologically, and creatively– it was unfolding with advances in equipment and in computer technology. Video was becoming more immediate and accessible; of course the growth of the internet figured in, too. So there were these cultural and technological changes emerging at the same time sports that pushed limits arose.
The sports’ progressively growing popularity has a lot to do with their less traditional structure, a focus on the individual, and the sports as expressions of freedom, athleticism and creativity– these elements within the sports resonate with people worldwide. It’s exciting that the sports have grown and now there are many places to ride, indoor and outdoor parks, countless venues and contests.
There’s not much trash-talking among the extreme sports crowd– there’s a degree of humility from competing against the biggest element: gravity. Every athlete knows that just one moment of bad timing can put them out temporarily or take them out of the sport for good. I like the egalitarian aspect of extreme sports, too. There are contests at grass-roots levels, like Red Bull Manny Mania and High Ollie, the Gatorade Free Flow, and pro events that open doors with amateur divisions, that help athletes get noticed, which is very cool. At events, spectators and riders are frequently in close proximity; kids can be right there next to pro competitors. That accessibility in the sports is also pretty cool, too.
When I’m watching or skating I don’t think of anything – it’s completely meditative and escapist. I don’t think about responsibilities, stress, or anything else; it’s so visually engaging. There is a ballet-like quality that I think is fascinating, considering how gritty and visceral the sports are.
How do I keep up with Extreme Sports events?
I follow various sports news sources on line: associations, magazines, and off-the- beaten path sources of information, too. I also subscribe to lots of extreme sports Facebook feeds and many sponsors and various media outlets send me press releases, too. There’s so much going on, it can be hard to keep up with and choose a focus, but that’s a great problem to have.
I print out blank calendar sheets and write in events to stay organized. I get drafts started in my “articles” section ahead of time and give them a title that includes the date as a placeholder, so when I see my drafts at a glance I’m reminded of what’s in the pipeline.
What’s my process of coming up with interview questions?
When I’m going to interview someone, I have a general starting point about what I already know and what I want to know about the person, which compelled me to try to get an interview in the first place! I come up with a few initial questions to break the ice so the person feels comfortable talking with me. After I ask those first questions, I have a feel for how receptive the person is and which questions I should ask and which to eliminate.
I try to take the point of view of fans with familiarity with the person and consider what they might want to ask, and I also consider the audience that might know nothing about the person and balance that out to formulate questions. I do research to get more ideas, too. I get my questions typed up, sit down and read them out loud to see how they flow within topics. I revise, repeat the process and then rehearse my questions while I time myself, so I will be efficient, since frequently there is a time limit to consider. When I’m interviewing someone, it’s a conversation, not an interrogation, so it’s got to be comfortable for me and for them.
The experience of emailing Rob Dyers
In January, I was doing some late night reading about various charitable organizations related to extreme sports. There’s lots of giving to the community and helping others, something I believe illustrates the good karma in the sports. That particular night I was getting caught up on Skate4Cancer, an organization I had some familiarity with, through the Vans Warped Tour. I decided to shoot an email over to Skate4Cancer to inquire about how to get an interview with Rob Dyers, Skate4Cancer’s founder. To my surprise, I received a reply from Rob Dyers himself signed with his trademark, “love, rob” and I spoke with him a few days later. It was an amazing experience; he’s so inspiring and has helped so many people, and it all started with him riding his skateboard. This is an example of the constructive and affirming part of extreme sports and it deserves attention– people on bikes or skateboards being positive, motivated people contributing to the community, helping others.
What writing for Suite101 means for me and my career
Writing for Suite101 gives me the opportunity to write about something I am passionate about! I get to bring extreme sports to a mainstream audience and I balance that with including content that fans want to know. Writing for Suite101 has opened a door for me to have exposure on an international level, which is phenomenal, since there are participants in extreme sports and fans worldwide. I get to network with interesting organizations and people and I’ve had opportunities to meet people in the sports and athletes, and also do some interviews, too.
I work from my home which is great, but it can be hard; sometimes it looks like I’m just hanging out on the computer. My family is awesome and really supportive. I know I drive them crazy when I’m working on something that I’m really “hyped” about and immersed in; they get sick of hearing about it! I’m generally pretty reserved but when I’m working on an especially exciting project or I’m at an event, I am not quiet, much to my family’s dismay, no doubt!
I have gratitude for my Outdoor & Recreation editor, Jill Browne, who has been fabulous, helpful and is very knowledgeable. I have a great respect for the athletes I get to write about. There are so many people involved in the sports that doing positive things, are free-spirited, inspiring, courageous, talented competitors. I believe it’s important to highlight the accomplishments of people in extreme sports and the amazing events – and I am honored to do so through my writing at Suite101.