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Northwest Passages Book Club: Fatherhood, family and skateboards the subject of Neal Thompson’s “Kickflip Boys”

UPDATED: Thu., June 14, 2018, 1:40 p.m.

When he first handed his boys the 300-page manuscript of his new book, Neal Thompson hardly expected them to be on board with the shenanigans he had documented.

The incidents in question were drawn from their skateboarder lifestyles: They did drugs, they skipped class, they got in trouble with the police.

When the two teenagers handed the draft back, Thompson said, it was riddled with with redactions and entire pages had been crossed out. “This is incriminating,” they wrote. “This is embarrassing!”

Thompson said he didn’t hold back in “Kickflip Boys,” a memoir about a father dealing with a rebellious set of boys who grew up in the gritty world of street skateboarding. Thompson shared anecdotes from his book Wednesday as the latest author to be featured by The Spokesman-Review’s Northwest Passages Book Club.

The book is a manifesto on Thompson’s conceptions of fatherhood, and his struggle between giving children freedom while also reeling them in.

The author originally planned on writing an Americana-type story on the evolution of surfing and its adaptation into the skate scene. In its early versions, he called the book “Boards.” “But I couldn’t find a through line,” he said. During a family road trip, he wrote notes about his experiences dealing with rebellious kids. The story changed in a way that surprised him.

He chronicled his kids’ time in high school, when they would would skip classes, show up high to family dinner or not come home at night.

“I started asking, ‘Was it my fault? Am I a bad dad? Am I doing it wrong?’ ” he said. And he wrote about how he and his wife dealt with the situation.

Thompson said his story can be applied to parents dealing with kids who test the boundaries of adolescence.

Some determining factors for keeping his family together, Thompson said, were having mandatory family dinners and, during arguments, keeping the kids in the same room.

Most importantly: not ending a day without telling his boys he loves them.

“It took me a long time to figure that out,” he said.

Thompson said his children are OK with the way the book turned out. Now at ages 20 and 21, the kickflip boys are on solid footing, he said.

“I can’t wait to put the book in their kids’ hands someday,” Thompson said.

He is the author of five books including, “A Curious Man: The Strange & Brilliant Life of Robert ‘Believe It or Not’ Ripley” and “Driving with the Devil: Southern Moonshine, Detroit Wheels and the Birth of NASCAR.”


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