Jesse Swalley – “I Can’t Stand Skating”

September 16, 2012

Sitting on his board feet first, long grey mustache trailing him in the wind, Jesse Swalley came flying past everyone at around 40 mph. But this isn’t always how he skated, “I skated up until the day I got my injury. I even had my skateboard with me the day I got stabbed,” said Swalley.

Swalley was born in 1962 and skated throughout the 70’s. “The first time I skated I was 7 years old,” said Swalley. “I think my first skateboard was made by the Red Wagon Company. It was one of those wooden ones with the metal wheels on it.”

It was around 1973-74 when Swalley really started getting into skateboarding.

It was 1980 when Swalley joined the Navy and set off to sea. Swalley worked the flight deck of an aircraft carrier moving airplanes around for a majority of the 2 1/2 years he was on the carrier. He also did some firefighting for around 6 to 9 months.

Swalley brought his skateboard onto the aircraft carrier with him while he was out to sea.”I would skate on the carrier and they used to laugh,” said Swalley. “Everyone from back east used to trip out because they were like, you’re like the typical California stereotype. You got the skateboard and your always talking about going to the beach.”

Being born and raised in California that’s all Swalley knew. That’s just what he grew up doing. “I was the only one on my boat as far as I knew that had a skateboard,” said Swalley. “It was cool. It was in experience. I got to go to some cool places. Skated in Australia, the Phillipines, Hawaii, San Diego. A lot of San Diego skating.”

Swalley’s life was changed on June 26, 1991. “I got stabbed because two guys were trying to jump on one of my friends coming out of a bar because they had some sort of dispute and I jumped in to help and the guy grabbed me, had some sorta knife and stabbed me and that was it,” said Swalley. “I actually didn’t even realize I got stabbed at first. I just thought that guy had one really hard punch that took me out.”

The stabbing cut Swalley’s spinal cord in half at the t-12 level. “I got stabbed in the back and then they got me 4 times under here (motions to around just under the armpit area) and they said I was gonna lose use of both legs and this arm, and I was in a wheelchair for awhile,” said Swalley. “I was told the day after I got stabbed, after the surgery, they said I’d never walk again. The first thing I said is if I cant walk how can I skate?”

With a strong determination to walk again Swalley went through several different braces to get to the one he wears today. “There’s no muscle control in my leg so my bones are just resting on each other, so the brace helps me from crushing my bones. My legs slowly degenerating and the doctor says that one day it will fold backwards. I don’t know when that will be but until then and even after then if there’s still a way to skate I’m gonna do it.” Swalley said.

Swalley was 28 when he got stabbed. June 26, 1991 was his last day on a skateboard for 20 years. “I never lost the inspiration to skate, I just finally realized that there was still a way for me to skate,” said Swalley.

Swalley had entered the 2011 Venice world record skateboarding parade, before he even realized he could still skate. The 2011 Venice world record skateboarding parade actually fell on June, 26, 2011. The 21st anniversary of the actual day that Swalley was stabbed, but in order to be in the parade you had to be able to skate in it.

“I was messing around in my house and I sat on my board in the position I ride in, I pushed myself around and figured I could do it so I gave it a shot and did it. Ever since then I’ve been skating,” said Swalley.

Sitting on his board on his knees pushing himself and stopping himself with his hands, Swalley realized he would need something for his hands. “I was practicing riding with gloves and they kept falling off,” said Swalley.

He then invented a new type of glove for himself that he calls the Shoves. The Shoves are basically cut up, modified shoes with both of the ends cut off. Swalley basically modifies shoes to become shoes for your hand. Swalley uses his shoves to push himself and as brakes to stop himself.

“The person with the biggest smile on their faces is the winner,” David “Slash” Hackett told Swalley. You see Swalley on a skateboard with a big smile doesn’t go away. “That’s what inspires me most is that I’m able to do it now, whether I’m doing 2 mph or 20 mph. I love it it’s that cool feeling. It’s moving fast,” said Swalley.

Skateboarding is not only fun for Swalley but a great means of transportation. Without a skateboard Swalley would need a fast electric wheelchair to get places. Walking is very slow for him. “It kinda feels like I’m walking on stilts,” said Swalley.

“I mean sometimes I’ll ride the buses, and if I had to get a bus from right here, I mean I’d have to go down there to catch it. (Motions towards the bus stop about 2 blocks down the street) I’d take about a good half hour to walk that far probably, maybe 20 minutes. I don’t know, I walk slow but on a board I’ll be there in like 3 minutes and I’ll avoid having to ride a bus from here to there. It’s so cool. I love it. I mean I get around,” said Swalley.

Getting a bike was something that Swalley thought about, but even on a bike he could only do so much pedaling with one leg. “I can’t go up hills because of this leg wont pedal,” said Swalley.

Obviously sitting on your knees on your skateboard can be hard on the knees. “The hardest part is just the cramping on my leg.” said Swalley. “All my weight is on my one leg so it’s a lot of work on my good leg.”

Swalley does all sorts of skating. He started getting back into it just by pushing around town but after meeting up with local skaters like Jesse Murillo and Chritopher Angeles and they started getting him into the skateparks. Swalley learned how to 50-50 grind again, learned to ride transition, and even learned how to do various tricks in the park.

Lately Swalley has been getting into downhill skating and has been loving it. There is even a video of him laying down face first going around 35-40 mph on a skateboard. “I wish you guys could see it if my leg was good. you would see how much into it. I would be doing pools, downhill all that shit,” said Swalley. “Dude, I did 19 miles the other day. That’s cool, none of my friends skate 19 miles just for fun. Most people are like; your crazy dude. But It’s something to do and it’s fun. I don’t lose interest.”

“Marc Juvenile, he skates across the country and stuff, because it’s a cool feeling and it’s a lot of work but it’s fun. It’s fun to be able to say I did that,” said Swalley. “It’s just something I won’t stop doing. You know skate until I die. I really like that saying. It’s really a true saying.” – Leecifer


Jesse is supported by The Pharmacy Boardshop in Palmdale and Victorville, Ca.

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