By Luke Kenton
Following the death of his mother when he was nine, this inspirational man pledged to never succumb to the stereotypes of age – and he’s still skateboarding aged 60.
Reflecting on the sudden death of his mother during his childhood, a then-38-year-old Neal Unger made a pledge to himself to never grow up – and 22-years-later it seems he’s kept his promise.
Regularly frequenting the skate parks in his home town of Coachella Valley, California, Neal has developed a cult following among his younger boarding peers, who have even named a trick after him called the ‘Unger Flip,’ which requires the skater to bounce the board off of the ground, rotate it and then jump on-top.
Admitting that he’s always greeted with an amusing array of shocked and stunned expressions on the ramps, Neal believes the concept of aging to be a social construct, rather than a definitive fact.
He said: “The body responds to what we think about it and what we ask it do.”
Rebelling against the subjected ‘norms’ bestowed upon him as an approaching pensioner, Neal landed his first kickflip after 30 years of trying, aged 52, and he now insists he’s a better skater than ever before.
Determined to “grow bolder,” rather than older, Neal shows no intention to hang his beloved board up any time soon, declaring he’ll be “Nollie-ing” well into his 80s.
Neal, a full-time entrepreneur, said: “Over twenty years ago, I was thinking about my mother’s death in 1966, and it was in that moment I made a conscious decision to live out my childhood for the rest of my life.
“I think people worry and are afraid of their personal physicality weakening as they age.
“The creative story you build about yourself is the programming your body will follow.
“People my age and up often let go of stigmas mainly in order to feel good because time is running out, making it more precious.
“You have to cut through the bull and get to the good stuff – that’s where skateboarding comes in for me.”
Given his first skateboard by his mother aged six, Neal became obsessed with traversing through the streets on four wheels.
It wasn’t until his early thirties, however, that he really committed to his craft.
Regularly accosted by sentiments of “You’re too old to skate,” the soon-to-be sixty-one-year-old persevered regardless and still skates every single day.
Always finding amusement in the heckles, Neal said: “I’ve broken my foot, knee cap, ribs and bloody myself regularly – I’m always healing.
“I enjoy it now more than ever, and I see no end for skating in my life.
“I don’t feel like I’ve proven anything just yet because I’m still too young, but I regularly get messages from people who’ve been inspired.
“I sincerely hope I can inspire and open people up to the possibility of breaking longevity’s boundaries.
“I think I will continue to skate indefinitely.
“My older, wiser self simply is able to draw on many different aspects of such a wonderful sport that’s based on the freedom to create and express in one’s own way – it’s just perfect.”
To see more of Neal’s tricks, please follow him on Instagram: @neal_a_unger