The Environmentalist











As the summer rolls around, the bitterroots atop Mount Sentinel bloom and the adventure of skateboarding in Montana begins anew. With inspiration popping up everywhere, I focus on Missoula and the most local skater in town, Dre York.
Half Blackfeet and half Crow, born and raised here in Missoula, Dre is a true native. His clothes are tattered, layered in a wild yet harmonious ensemble that sings of experience. Buttons, bandanas, scars and tattoos adorn him and wouldn’t be all that uncommon if he didn’t skate like a pure genius. While others congregate in circles, watching each other attempt flip tricks, Dre is riding free with a natural purpose that plays tricks on the terrain and the eye. Dre and the skatepark fit together perfectly.
Global media and the Internet have given skateboarding worldwide popularity. With so many points of interest at my fingertips, I was surprised when inspiration struck after watching a re-run of Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed.”
This Boston gangster flick couldn’t be farther from skating in Montana, yet Jack Nicholson’s first line, “I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me,” rang home like a bell. Dre’s skating embodies this notion to a T. Everything about him comes from right here, but what Dre does with his heritage makes right here matter.
Fortunately (for everyone), Dre differs from Nicholson’s character in that he is modest with manners learned from Grandma and a wonderful sense of calm. With these tools, the environment that Dre contributes to has a far brighter future than the mess those Boston gangsters left their city in. Thank you, Grandma.
Dre’s skating style is an adaptation to the park. Using just the right amount of air to transition between inclines and abrupt edges allows him to maintain an elegant continuity that, when combined with his natural flair, makes for visual treat. Riding one set of wheels, either the front or the back, is called a manual and separates good skaters from great skaters.
Furthermore, a nose manual (front trucks) further divides the class. Dre is a nose manual master and as if landing wasn’t enough, he rides out of many tricks on his front trucks alone. I’ve been skating for four years and I can’t ride a nose manual more than a couple feet. How does he do that?!
Another gauge of greatness at the park is called the Cradle. Like a bowl turned on its side, the Cradle sits defying gravity, waiting for a skater to join in. While many skate the cradle, very few bring enough speed and agility to ride high onto its walls. Dre hits the cradle at full force and not only rides a high line around it, he actually gets inverted; a testament to bravery and science. Indeed it’s Dre the Cradle was made for.
The happenings at the skatepark are fascinating and typify the human condition. Parallels between skating and life in the bigger picture, such ideas as motivation, reward, companionship, adversity, pain, perseverance, failure, fame, glory, love, hate, creation, destruction are all on display like a bouquet of fables (waiting for me to expose them). When asked if he could be any fish in the sea, Dre responded with Octopus because of their camouflage, adaptability and the way they lurk at the bottom. What a perfect fit. By skating the park the way he does, Dre makes it his own. He’s a product and creator all at once and like an octopus, just when you think you’ve got him in your sights, he escapes in a cloud of ink.