LONG BEACH, Calif.—Skateboarder Kwami Adzitso was halfway through ollieing—a jumping technique in which the board appears to stick to a skater’s feet in midair—a high staircase in downtown Long Beach, California, when his feet lost the connection with his board.
His body hit the pavement and the sound of his skateboard rolling away echoed off the surrounding buildings as the evening sun highlighted it all with golden rays.
Adzitso didn’t express the slightest frustration. He paused and sat where he had fallen, contemplating the mistake that landed him there. He quickly jumped to his feet, board in hand, and went for another try.
Passersby stopped to watch, their smartphones held up to document the next attempt. An elderly security guard appeared and motioned for everyone to clear away. Like most good skateboarding spots in Southern California, this one had a “No Skateboarding” sign on the wall next to the stairs.
“Just let him have one more try, and we’ll leave,” pleaded one of the spectators, a heavy-set man who looked to be in his early 40s.
The guard conceded, nodding and smiling, and Adzitso hopped on his board. This time, he did a perfect ollie—he leaped into the air, letting go of the board with his hands while his feet stayed on it. He landed smoothly and, without pause, skated happily toward his car.
Skateboarding, originally called “land surfing,” or “sidewalk surfing,” came to Southern California in the mid-20th century after it was developed by surfers looking for something to do when the waves were poor. Eventually, it became a popular hobby for America’s youth, and in 1963, Hermosa Beach in Los Angeles County hosted one of the first skateboarding competitions.
That competition was sponsored by Larry Stevenson, a pioneer of skateboarding. He refined the boards’ design and began producing them through his company, Makaha. He sponsored riders with a passion for the budding sport.
Adzitso, 26, has sponsors who give him gear, including boards and clothes. They also feature him in promotional videos and pay his travel expenses for shoots. But they don’t yet give him a paycheck to be a skateboarder.
That’s what would define his step to professional from amateur, which is his goal. Another benchmark in determining who is a pro is participation in professional competitions. But the paycheck is the main one.
In the meantime, Adzitso works in insurance and models. Multiple jobs keep him busy, but he persists in his true passion.
“When I’m skateboarding, there are no thoughts in my head and nothing else matters. … A lot of people would refer to it as being ‘in the zone.’ And when you’re in the zone … everything is tunnel vision,” Adzitso told The Epoch Times.
He was born in Ghana, raised in Utah, and moved to California in 2016 to pursue his dreams of professional skateboarding.
“I was being told by people on different occasions that I have potential and one thing I learned early on was that you should find what you love, then find a way to make money from it, and that way you never work a day in your life,” he said.
His sponsors include DC Shoes, 5-50 Wheels, ADO Lifestyle, Ethika, Shred Shades, Rastaclat, The Berrics, Just Have Fun Co., SkateBalm, and most recently, Mountain Dew.
“Mountain Dew reached out to me to help them work on their new online store where they sell all their Mountain Dew merchandise. When I got the offer through my agent, I was happy to be involved with such an iconic company,” Adzitso said.
He sees his accomplishments as a way to give back to his community. He’s able to pass along gear to those who can’t afford it and positively influence younger skaters who look up to him. He also has dreams of using his business degree in conjunction with his skateboarding passion to help people in his homeland of Ghana.
“I would love to start an organization to help build skateparks in Third World countries, starting with Ghana, to help discover all the amazing things skateboarding has brought into my life,” he said.
COVID-19 put a pause on the skateboarding world, as it did on practically everything else this year.
“We all were given the chance to reflect on our lives, and now that things are starting to pick back up, I’m excited for a few upcoming things, including a skateboarding project with Mountain Dew, shooting for a lookbook with a company called Akomplice, and with working on my next full-length video part.”
Aside from his insurance 9-to-5 job and his modeling and filming projects, Adzitso needs to stay athletically fit and find ways to prove himself to companies, to show he deserves to be a pro.
“From the first day I saw a skateboard, I gave it 100 percent,” he said. It can be a lot of pressure, filming on deadline, and putting on top-notch performances. “But when you are around a group of friends that cheer you on until you nail that last trick, the feeling is like nothing else,” he said.
“Skateboarding is different from everything else because it is the only sport where you will constantly fall and it’s your choice if you want to get up and try again. There is no coach to force you. It’s only you, the skateboard, and your determination to succeed.”
Adzitso posts on his Instagram account, @kwamiadzitso, with the latest updates on his journey.