Fixing what was broken
You jump into the air. As you fall down, you misplace your feet right into the middle of the skateboard instead of over the skateboard trucks…and snap! The board breaks. It’s about time to buy a new one, right? Not for freshman Matthew Steinberg, who fixes simple street skateboards for his brothers and his friends out of spare parts.
Steinberg first started skateboarding around third grade after his oldest brother found two skateboards lying around in the backyard. After two years, Steinberg began to teach himself how to start fixing his broken boards with a little help from his brother.
“When I built my first board, I had to get help from [my brother], but we both barely knew what to do. There’s the internet, but that’s not too much help,” Steinberg said. “It’s better to be self-taught because you learn, and you remember instead of having to ask multiple questions.”
Getting a completely new skateboard was too expensive for Steinberg’s wallet, so he decided to use a combination of new parts and objects he would find lying around his house. Additionally, Steinberg received spare parts every one to two months after his friends broke their skateboards consistently.
“My brother [and my friends] would skate, and their boards would break, so there would just be a bunch of junk lying around,” Steinberg said. “You would try to pop out some of the bolts and nuts and try and get some of the hardware. Sometimes, you would just put the wads of paper there because you couldn’t afford any [bushings]. When you are low on funds, you have to work with what you got.”
To rebuild a skateboard, Steinberg first buys a brand new deck and puts the grip tape on it. Then, he takes both trucks and makes sure the bushings are in. With four bolts and nuts for each truck, he screws them onto the deck and cleans the bearings of the wheels with alcohol. As the finishing touch, Steinberg bolts the wheels back onto the board.
“Being able to get inside and really learn how [a skateboard] works makes it fun. It’s a task that turns into a hobby. If you need to get around, you need to fix the skateboard, but it’s also fun to fix it,” Steinberg said. “When you learn how it works, you can better yourself from it. If you learn what its limits are, like how far you can go, you can go really far with it.”
Steinberg bought his current skateboard back in seventh grade. In middle school, he used to skate to the library and host contests with his friends. As of now, he uses his skateboard as a means of transportation to get home, and he continues to fix it every time it breaks.
“When you create something, you feel attached to it. [My skateboard has] been there since the beginning,” Steinberg said. “The skateboard feels the same as it did a few years ago because [similar to] having the brain and the heart, but getting a arm transplant, a liver transplant and a leg transplant, you are still the same person. You aren’t completely different.”
Working with skateboards became a way for Steinberg and his brother to create memories with each other that involve small competitions and skate shop experiences.
“When we were building [the skateboard], we put some of the parts on wrong. And I guess that for some of the pieces, we didn’t know how they [assembled] exactly. When we rode it, we kept on falling on the street,” Steinberg said. “It was funny, like when you’re in a good mood with your friends. You fall down and everybody laughs.”
Although his brother recently became more busy with school, Steinberg still recalls the memories from the first day his brothers decided to ride around parks with his parents.
“We became real brothers when we [built and rode skateboards]. It connected us [because] we worked together to achieve something,” Steinberg said. “It was fun. It worked well as a bonding activity, but it kind of died out in the end. When he has free time, we still like to go skateboarding.”
Today, people can still find Steinberg walking through the campus with his simple street skateboard. It may be weathered and have a loose wheel here or there — but he can always patch it up.
“Not that many people know how to fix [skateboards]. They ride their boards. They bring them to school. They show it off for a bit. But when something breaks, they just get a new one. They don’t really try to work with the old pieces and try to fix it. I don’t [fix skateboards] to show off. I do it because I have to,” Steinberg said. “When you accomplish something or something goes really wrong, that’s the stuff you remember, and that’s the stuff that stays with you.”
By Kevin Arifin, Staff writer
Photo by Emily Chen