Skateboarder and novelist Kyle Beachy reflects on his life and the promise of the past

By Peter Midwa, Photojournalist

Kyle Beachy (left) and “Minding the Gap” director Bing Liu (right) gather at a Chicago Humanities Festival event for a conversation about skateboarding and what it means to be influenced by a childhood passion. Peter Midwa

For Kyle Beachy, a Chicago novelist and associate professor of English and creative writing at Roosevelt University, a childhood experience can come back into a person’s life in a new way. One such childhood experience that Beachy believes changed his life is skateboarding, which led him on a path to becoming a writer.

Skateboarding is not just a part of his history; it defines him as a person, and he cannot easily separate himself from that activity or pursuit.

In Beachy’s conversation with “Minding the Gap” director Bing Liu during a Chicago Humanities Festival event on Oct. 10 at the Columbia Student Center, 754 S. Wabash Ave., he discussed how skating has helped shape who he is today and given him meaning in life.

Beachy started skating in the mid-1980s as a kid. Over time, as he kept skateboarding, he started writing fiction and eventually published “The Most Fun Thing,” his essay collection about life lessons learned from years spent skating.

“I think there is a lot to learn from skateboarding,” Beachy said. “Those who ride skateboards [in a sustained way] will discover new parts of themselves and new parts of their ambitions.”

Beachy said skateboarding can help people understand that failure is a normal part of any process that is worthwhile.

“It was a great conversation, understanding the relationship our daily practices have with public spaces,” said Adraint Bereal, a director and photographer from Texas who attended the event. “Being here is really important in the fight for protecting public spaces for people.”

Beachy said he wants to use what he’s learned from his skating hobby as inspiration for future pieces so they can be enjoyed by readers.

“Skateboarding is made healthier and more interesting when more people do it,” Beachy said. “But even if you don’t skateboard, [‘The Most Fun Thing’ essay collection] would still give you some sort of reward.”