To skateboarders who know their history, Jami Godfrey is the agile skater who competed against — and often beat — some of the sport's original greats, like Tony Hawk and Steve Caballero, as part of pro skater and filmmaker Stacy Peralta's seminal team the Bones Brigade.
To his kids, Mason, 12, and Carter, 9 — collectively nicknamed the Jones Brigade for their middle names, also their mother Jessica's last name — he's just Dad, a guy who used to skate.
Skateboarding, which is set to be the youngest Olympic sport when it debuts in the 2020 Summer Games, is one of few sports whose first generation is still alive. Although East Coasters caught on later than their counterparts out west, Philly was a skating hotbed from its first boom in the 1960s, and the city's proximity to popular parks at the Shore didn't hurt, either.
Many of the original skaters, who were teenagers in the 1960s and '70s, have since put away their boards, but there is a resilient group who have stuck with it, or returned to it, often to skate with their kids. These original Philly skaters can still be found rolling around, everywhere from mellower, so-called old man parks like the Grays Ferry Skatepark to the more hardcore FDR Skatepark in South Philly, a gnarly skater-built park with the unofficial motto, "FDR hates you."
Skateboarding's pioneers are not always recognized, but as Godfrey, 53, who grew up in Elkins Park and who now lives in Berwyn, said, they're still out there.
Godfrey took a break from skating when he left Philly to study environmental science at Northern Vermont University. His skating lapsed, especially as he got into snowboarding and opened his shop, Cool Runnings.
But then he took Mason and Carter to see Bones Brigade: An Autobiography, a documentary about his former skate crew, and they urged him to teach them to skate. Not only does the sport allow Godfrey to bond with his kids, he also feels more connected to his younger self.
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"At my age, I'm not going to learn to street-skate. But I do, with my kids, go out and just roll down the hill and cruise the street now and then, because those vibrations going through that deck into my feet remind me of when I was 11, 12 years of age, just starting to skateboard. Except I don't have to pick up the ball bearings as they fall out of the wheels," he said.
Skip Winter, 48, of Pottstown, who works sales and marketing for an automotive company and who also draws the comic book series Unit 5, never stopped skating. He describes how younger skaters at the park see him: "They're like, 'Here's this old guy, and, yeah, he's pretty good, but, eh.' They don't have an appreciation for where it came from."
It's tough having a few decades on your peers, especially in a sport so synonymous with youth. James Moore, 46, is a woodworker whose son recently got him back into skating 25 years after he put away his board.
"When I have my son, it's cool. But I do feel self-conscious if I'm the only one there. I pick parks appropriately," he said.
Moore said he has an "old man crew" that he skates with at local parks like the Foundry and Grays Ferry. Many in the group are dads like him, and he likes skating with people who are "at the same spot in life."
Skating with other old heads usually results in a more like-minded group, as well. Bud Baum, a 57-year-old Philly native who was vital to Philly's skate scene, also said he rides with a crew of older skaters. He described them as a rowdy, wild group. "Older skaters, they like to show up and have fun. Younger generation, they seem like they're more serious about it sometimes. Like, all the kids just want to get sponsored," he said.
Crews may have aged, but so have bodies. Though every skater will proudly rattle off a running tally of "splat" moments, it takes considerably longer to recover now.
"I'm getting over a broken collarbone, kind of, I've broken my wrist — phew, that was a slam," Moore said, peering across the Foundry to watch a fallen skater collect herself before continuing the list. "Torn ACL … this is all in my 40s, too, so it's much harder on your body."
It's not just time away from skating Moore has to worry about; as a woodworker, an injury can put his work on hold.
"You just don't push yourself like you used to. I realized it at one point in the early 2000s. I was still skating pretty good, and I got a knee injury. … After I got my head injury, I started to go, 'Well, is this really worth it? Do I have anything else to prove?' I don't have anything else to prove," said Winter.
The other skaters echoed his sentiment. They all said they would rather avoid injuries than skate with the same ambition they once had.
Despite injuries, jobs, family life, and skateboarding itself changing, none of the skaters plan to give it up any time soon. "Life gets in the way, but I'm always going to be a skateboarder, there's just no question," said Winter. "If you ask people and they have to describe me, from where I grew up or whatever, they'd say, 'That's Skip, he skateboards.' "
"It's like anything at this age, people say 'Ah, shouldn't you be slowing down, aren't you too old for that?' " said Peter Majka, 47, laughing. "Yeah, I might be getting too old for it. Tell me again, how was your trip to the Alps?"