Once-hobby takes skateboarder around the world
By Sara Jerome
When Bordentown native Ishod Wair got his first skateboard from his mom 12 years ago, she thought he would lose interest quickly and ditch the sport. She need not have worried: now 20, Wair competed this July in the X Games in Los Angeles.
Wair’s mother had finally given in and bought him a skateboard for his birthday, and Wair has not stopped skating since. After getting his start tinkering around at the Carslake Community Center in Bordentown, Wair catapulted onto the skateboard scene at the end of high school when he started winning competitions. His success became undeniable last year after he won the Maloof Money Cup Skateboarding World Championships in Kimberly, South Africa, taking home a $100,000 prize.
Wair’s one-time hobby has consistently opened doors for him. Counting the likes of Nike and Real Skateboards among his sponsors, he spent the summer travelling to competitions all over Europe, with pitstops in the Netherlands and Denmark. He has also criss-crossed the U.S., starting in high school, when his mom used to travel with him to competitions.
“You’re switching time zones for this lifestyle and it messes up your bodily clock, but it never really bums you out,” Wair said.
When Wair, now living in Philadelphia, was still just a teenager messing around at skate parks, his mother was concerned about how it would affect his studies.
“I worried, but now I know that he was so talented in this and this is good plan for him,” Wair’s mother, Renee, said. “It’s kept him out of trouble. He invested his time because he loved it so much.”
Renee, who grew up in Bordentown and now works at the state Department of Environmental Protection, describes her son as a “hyperactive” kid whose Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder was channeled into skateboarding.
“He tries and tries and tries, he doesn’t ever accept failure,” she said.
Wair’s career began to pick up around age 16 when he found himself in an increasing number of competitions. Attending Clara Barton School and then Bordentown Regional, he had to miss classes to go compete.
It was Renee who helped Wair manage the professional skating lifestyle. She travelled with him all over the country.
“I got super far back on my work, and I switched to home school,” Wair said. “My family was never telling me not to do it. They helped me make it work. My mom, even if we didn’t have the money, would tell me to go for it. She wanted me to do what would make me happy.”
It was not clear at first, even to Wair, that skateboarding would open so many doors.
“I started ditching school to skateboard. I didn’t know where I was going to go with it,” he said. “But everything really worked out.”
Wair has found supporters outside his family, too. As much as he embraced the world of skateboarding, it embraced him. He started picking up sponsor after sponsor and can now skateboard full-time with no concerns for getting another job.
“Ishod is a naturally gifted skateboarder. He makes it look easy. He is one of the better of the new talents. I’m proud of him,” said Darin Howard, the scout at Real Skateboards who helped Wair turn pro.
Now Wair is soaking up all the perks that go with professional skateboarding: the international travel, the press interviews with the likes of ESPN, the recognition. But he does like to maintain some privacy.
“I hear from people from when I was growing up and get messages from them on Facebook,” he said. “But I’m not really a celebrity type. I like to fly under the radar.”
Full-time skateboarding has its ups and downs. At the X Games, Wair did not finish as well as he would have liked.
“I didn’t do too good. I’m not sure of my place, but I’ll try again next time,” he said.
Wair’s fundamental love for the sport helps him get sponsors, in his view. He cautions other up-and-coming skateboarders not to focus too much on getting sponsors because that will come in time.
“There’s kids out there now who are like, ‘all I want is to get sponsored.’ I think that taints the true meaning of skateboarding. A lot of people in skateboarding aren’t like that and it will throw them off,” he said. “I’m not saying if you’re in a position like I am, ‘just have fun’ and blow off responsibilities. But remember that skateboarding itself is really rewarding. There’s no coach. It’s a form of expression.”
Skateboard has its own unique culture, according to Wair.
“You know how in baseball and basketball people will pound their chests?” he said. “In skateboarding, it’s not like that. People would be like, ‘what’s going on?’”
Wair’s mom is just hoping his career can have ‘longevity,’ and that’s something Wair thinks about too.
“I try to skate everyday, and sometimes I get a little hurt,” he said. “But I want to do this for a long time. There’s guys who still do this in their 40s. You’re as young as you feel.”