Skateboarder Tara Tate On Cheating Death, "I'm Not Afraid To Skate Again".

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Photo Tom Flinchbaugh

Photo Tom Flinchbaugh

Photo Tom Flinchbaugh

Tara Tate. The photos we always saw on social media of her would make most people envious - wakeboarding, snowboarding, hanging at the beach, skateboarding ramps and having awesome downhill session with friends. Tara was living the life she wanted, and having fun every single day. Her amazing smile, positive outlook on life, and her easy going attitude, made her a favorite in the downhill community, and with everyone she came into contact with.  If you ever went into the Arbor store in Santa Barbara or Venice, Tara may have been the one to throw you a smile, give you some good advice, and then help set you up with the perfect ride to snowboard or skate. She was definitely living the California dream...  But on June  7, 2015 Tara's life changed in a dramatic way.

No one can tell this story better than Tara, so we're turning over the GN4LW site to her today to let her share what happened. We are so proud to know Tara, and stoked to share her incredible story of strength and positivity here with all of you.    xx Cindy 

Written by Tara Tate
Special to

Photo Tom Flinchbaugh

I needed to go skateboarding. Sometimes, life can pile a person up with so many trivialities that the only way to let loose is to find release in some way. Depending on the person, that release may come in the form of exercising, going on a drive, or escaping to a quiet place to read a book. For me, it’s skateboarding, and on this day, I needed to go.

Photo Traci Frumkin

I started skateboarding a few years ago to keep up my balance during the off-season for snowboarding. Being a snowboarder, skateboarding came to me with ease and offered me a whole world of concrete slopes to carve around on. Since Arbor supported me for snowboarding, it was easy for me to find support from their skate division, too. Pretty quickly, I became a skateboarder and had a skate family that welcomed me with open arms and high fives. Not long after, the local crew at Santa Gnarbara took me in and showed me around the healthy supply of roads that my hometown had to offer.

Photo Michal Cihlar

There’s no adrenaline rush like the one a person gets from skating fast down hills. I think I can compare it to blazing first tracks at my favorite resort the day after a storm has dumped a few feet of fresh snow on the mountain, but living by the beach in California, I’ve only ever truly experienced that a handful of times. So, on June 6, I was craving that adrenaline rush – the same one I’d experienced a number of times before on my local roads. I needed to go skateboarding and I was trying to rally any local skater to head to the hills for a session.

Photo Patrick Welsh
Tara and her friend Alicia Fillback  / Photo Carmen Sutra

June 7, 2015. I didn’t think I’d go skating because I got called into work that day. ‘Oh well’, I thought, ‘I’ll go skating Tuesday with the crew in Malibu’. Tuesday was my next day off and I had been wanting to skate with my skate-brothers Cooper Darquea, Seth McKinney, and Will Clay. After work that day, I realized that it was almost summer solstice and I had at least 2 hours of usable light left. I quickly asked my housemate at the time, Patrick Welsh, if he wanted to head up a local favorite for a few quick runs. Pat was reluctant because he was knee-deep in finals week for school, but I know Pat has a hard time saying no to a skate sesh and he agreed. We ascended together, then descended one at a time as the other followed in the car. Long awaited, fun, sunset runs, on a local favorite with my skate-brother; what a perfect way for me to end my day. As I took off for my second run, fastening my full-face helmet, my memory of that day ends.

My next few memories are foggy patches of being looked at by doctors, family and friends visiting my hospital bed, and my nurses prodding me with their tools and asking me questions. On my second run down the road that day, the worst that could happen, happened. Approaching a turn, I fell and slid on my pucks and knee pads into the other lane, putting me in the direct path of an oncoming pick-up truck, whose driver reportedly had the sun in his eyes. I always wear knee pads and high-top skate shoes whenever I skate, but that day I also wore my mismatched G-Form elbow pads and my XS DH6 full-face helmet, along with my slide gloves. I now only own a pair of really scuffed high-top skate shoes and a broken DH6 helmet, which is the reason I am able to write these words today.

The impact left me with a fractured skull, fractured vertebrae, and a few cuts and scrapes. My brain was immediately affected, swelling up from hemorrhages causing blood to pour out of my ears and nose. My ears would bleed off-and-on for the next week, as my memory starts to clear up regarding my time in the ICU. Since I don’t remember much, I’m not sure if I realized how much of my story had been relayed on social media, but the resulting outpouring of support from that relayed message must’ve worked. The swelling in my brain eventually went down, the most precarious crack in my skull had sealed itself off, and I was able to be transferred to a rehabilitation hospital after just 3 days in Intensive Care.

At the rehab hospital, I’d be tested on my memory, strength, balance, cognitive skills, speech, hearing, and everything else the brain normally controls. I improved in all of these areas every day. I felt myself improving and I knew I was improving every day. Every night after I finished therapy, I would read the messages of support that I was receiving from around the world and it was that, I believe, that gave me the motivation to improve. To see the skate (and snow) community, the world over, come together to rally for the recovery of one of their own to this day leaves me speechless. People that I had never met before, had never even talked to before, were sending healing thoughts my way and it’s because we have that one passion in common: we’re all skateboarders. Armed with this overwhelmingly positive energy that strangers and friends alike were sending my way, I went, and still go into every day with the fullest and purest intent to improve.

Photo Tom Flinchbaugh

Photo Tom Flinchbaugh

I got out of the hospital on June 23, 2015, after just over two weeks. My recovery process after that would be riddled with doctor visits, though, because right after I left the hospital I’d contracted pneumonia. All the while I dealt with doctors and fighting an incessant cough, there was a fight much bigger than my own going on over skateable roads in my hometown of Santa Barbara. A legal measure had been put in place to ban skateboarding on a few local favorite roads and my crew at Santa Gnarbara was working hard to combat it. I’d signed the petition and tried hard to make my voice heard that I, in no way, wanted what happened to me to affect the ability of skaters to skate the local roads. Although the turn out against the ban was more than what the city had expected and many minds were changed in the process, a deal had been made behind closed doors that effectively set the ban into place. Of course, though, where there’s a will, there’s a way. The law just affects a few roads, not all roads in Santa Barbara, and it doesn’t affect any legally sanctioned event like the Santa Gnarbara Downhill that takes place each fall. Skateboarding still has a strong and deep-rooted presence in Santa Barbara, even with this ban in place.

Photo Tom Flinchbaugh

Photo Tom Flinchbaugh

I’m not afraid to skate again.

After falling off my board around a corner going 20+ and being run over by a truck also going 20+, fear really has little meaning to me anymore, to be honest. Today, I’m happy to say that I still skate and I would gladly, but as safely as possible, skate down any of the three roads affected by the ban. Have I learned my lesson? I knew what I was getting into when I took off for my run that day, fully equipped with safety gear. If there is a lesson to be learned from this, it would be that positive energy goes a long way, no matter what situation you’re in. At almost two months after I got bricked, I made the trek back up the road and found a fresh body outline where it happened. Although it was initially heavy to see, I was able to make my peace with that road by seeing the spray-painted outline of where my body ended up because it was further down the run than I’d expected it to be. That means I had one hell of a run before I got bricked. I was having fun skateboarding, and that’s all that matters.

Photo Tom Flinchbaugh

It seems that waking each day with intent to improve has done some good for me, for in the months since the brick, not only have I returned to skateboarding, but I have also been able to enjoy snowboarding again and I am now the head of Women’s for the Arbor Collective. Resilience may have played a part, but I fully credit my successes through my recovery to the positive energy that was sent my way from my friends, family, and followers.

Thank you.

Photo Tom Flinchbaugh

On Dec. 5th, 2015, I had my redemption on the road where I was hit. I skated with all my skate-brothers and had one of the best, most memorable, and probably more emotional skate sessions of my life. Of course, I skated with full protection - a new full-face DH6 helmet from XS, new kneepads and high-top shoes supplied to me by my family at Brooklyn Projects, and new Arbor gloves. I wanted to skate responsibly, stay in my lane, and make it to the end of the run. I wasn't trying to keep up with the guys; I just wanted to have fun - which is all skateboarding should ever be and always in the pursuit of.

1 comment :

  1. God bless you, you made it through where many do not. You are an inspiration. You said it best in your last sentence. Keep the stoke as we carry it for so many who didn't make it and can never feel the joy of skateboarding again.


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