I always wanted to be that boy at the pool who did flips off the diving board. Growing up, the best I could muster was a decent swan dive. Sometimes I’d take a run down the board telling myself I’d go for it, but once in the air I’d freeze up just as I began to rotate, my eyes closed, not knowing what to do next. It was the same on the ski hill: the cool kids were pulling 360s, while I was stuck on the spread eagle. By the time I left home for college, I’d pretty much come to terms with the fact that I just wasn’t that good at flying.
Then, last winter, I saw a chance to try again. House of Air, an indoor trampoline park in San Francisco, was offering an evening class in action-sports aerial maneuvers. Develop your skills on our competition-grade trampolines, the pitch went, and you can take them to the terrain park. At 38, I was the oldest guy in my class by at least a decade. For the first four weeks, we practiced a sequence of drops and rotations designed to build proper form. Just as we began ramping up to a front flip, I got sick (I swear) and missed two critical sessions. When I came back, my classmates had already moved on to the backflip. I tried so hard to catch up that I tweaked my shoulder. Finally, in the very last class, I nailed a couple dozen flips. I couldn’t stop. That night, I giddily emailed a video clip of one to my old grade-school buddies.*
But my real moment of glory came this past summer at the lake house of a family friend. Some kids were bopping around on one of those inflatable floating trampolines. I swam out to them, took a couple of test bounces, and launched a crisp front flip into the water. When I surfaced, this gangly seven-year-old boy was staring at me in silence. I knew exactly what he was thinking.
*Editor’s note: He actually sent this to seemingly everyone in his contacts list.