Mentor and Role Model: Chisholm Wants To Be What He Never Had

Patrick Chisholm practices tricks with his friends at the skate park at SYS in North Sea. Michael Heller photo

Johnny Chisholm remembers the first time his younger brother, Patrick, landed a pop-shove-it.

It is one of the most fundamental and thus monumental skateboarding tricks to master. While cruising along, the rider flips the board up and around to the backside, 180 degrees, without changing body position, before landing. The milestone came for Patrick when he was around 6 or 7 years old, skateboarding on the cement floor in the unfinished basement at home with his older brothers, Johnny and Ryan. Johnny said he remembers the moment vividly — Patrick was wearing a pair of hand-me-down Nike skate sneakers that were too big for him, with pictures of aliens on them, and a backwards PBA Little League tee-ball hat. Standing up, the board reached his belly button.

“He was such a small kid, and the amount of excitement you saw on his face, it was just the beginning of what it is now,” Johnny recalled.

Patrick, who just finished his junior year at Pierson High School, has been chasing that thrill ever since, and his commitment to it has both paid off for him personally, and also been paid forward to other local kids, toting around belly-button high boards. He is equally committed to achieving his own skateboarding goals and dreams, attending competitions in New York City and spending time skating there to hone his skills, while also trying to encourage and mentor local kids with the same passion he had as a 7-year-old.

Patrick Chisholm at play in North Sea. Michael Heller photo

Patrick Chisholm is the poster boy for unassuming. When he walks into the modest and well-worn skatepark tucked down a hill and nearly out of sight from the parking lot at the Southampton Town Recreation Center, he does not carry with him any aura of inflated self-confidence or bravado that would, quite frankly, be understandable considering what he can do on a skateboard. On a trip there in early June, he wore an easy smile, slightly baggy khaki pants, and a simple navy blue striped polo shirt — no helmet or protective gear, no brightly colored hat or tee shirt declaring an anti-establishment creed, or allegiance to any skateboard company or brand. His board sat on the ground near his side at the picnic table as he spoke with passion and humility about his lifelong love affair with the sport, how it has been more than just a hobby for him, and why he tries to spread that spirit to younger generations. He’s made a habit of offering tips and pointers to younger skaters and has earned a reputation for that locally.

“I want to be the role model I didn’t have growing up,” he said.

When he isn’t mentoring younger skateboarders, Patrick makes frequent trips to New York City, entering amateur skateboard competitions like the LES Damn Am, part of the Street League Skateboarding World Tour (an amateur league created in 2010 by pro skateboarder Rob Dyrdek to help grow and support street skateboarding). Patrick has garnered sponsorships from some local businesses and is trying to carve out a bigger name for himself to garner even more sponsorships and attention, which will help him devote time and energy to the sport he loves. He also spends a lot of time creating routines for videos shot by his best friend, Pat Rice, which they post on YouTube to try to gain greater exposure. He has another year of high school ahead of him, but Patrick said that after graduating from Pierson, he wants to move to New York City and immerse himself in the skate scene there, while also pursuing a career in film and media, a career path he is attracted to in part because it has natural synergy with his skating lifestyle.

Sag Harbor, and the greater East End area, does not have a skateboarding scene to speak of. It is not like other, mostly urban, skateboard friendly locales across the country, like New York City or Santa Cruz, California, where the sight of someone cruising through the streets on a board or congregating with friends in other public, outdoor spaces to work on tricks and moves is familiar, widely accepted, and not restricted or regulated. Patrick says he did not have any true mentors in the sport, aside from his older brothers. Johnny gave up the sport just as Patrick was getting into it, after breaking his wrist, but Patrick said part of his motivation to always improve and push the limits of what he could do came from a bit of sibling rivalry, and trying to keep up with his brother, Ryan, who is also a talented skateboarder.

Patrick says that skateboarding has had deeper meaning in his life as well. He admits he went through a period where he struggled with depression, losing connections with certain friends, losing interest in other pursuits like playing baseball. He speaks of skateboarding almost as one would speak of a loyal friend.

“When things started to fall away, skateboarding was the thing that really stuck with me,” he said.

From his oldest brother’s vantage point, skateboarding has been an outlet for Patrick.

“Whenever he feels down, he always knows there’s one thing he can hang his hat on with confidence.”

Johnny said he can read his brother’s moods or frame of mind just by watching him skate.

“Sometimes I’d come home and he’d be skating the rail or a box, and based on how hard he was going and his reactions when he messed up, I’d be able to tell the kind of day he had,” Johnny said.

Johnny said it has been good to see how much the sport has meant to his younger brother, and how he has been inspired to pass that on to younger skateboarders. He has seen the way the younger riders react to his brother, and it reminds him of the way his brother was at that age.

“I remember when he was that age and he’d come home and would say, so and so was there, and he’d talk about the experiences with skate X or whoever it was,” Johnny said. “It’s funny to watch that come full circle.”

The evidence of that full-circle cycle was clear during Patrick’s trip to the SYS skatepark. When he was done talking about everything that skateboarding means to him, and was asked to show off a few moves for the camera, Patrick eagerly shot up from the bench where he’d been sitting, with a child-like energy and enthusiasm. The board seemed glued to his feet as he popped up and over rails, ramps and boxes. Even the tricks he failed to land ended in a smooth, fluid, feet-first dismount. The pair of younger boys who had been dropped off at the park earlier by their father and had been cruising around, with helmets and knee pads, trying to land relatively modest tricks, stopped and stared in awe at Patrick, like they’d been in the presence of greatness and only just realized. When asked if he knew who they were, Patrick smiled.

“No,” he said. “But I will soon.”