Spencer Hamilton

Pro-skater Spencer Hamilton suffered many years before he got diagnosed. He wants to make sure that doesn't happen to you.

Photography of Spencer Hamilton by Carl WilsonIt is safe to assume most professional skateboarders deal with persistent joint pain, and Spencer Hamilton is no exception.

The incredible amount of stress he puts his body through on a regular basis is unimaginable, and he’s got a few bulges in his lower lumbar disks to prove it.

But while hurling yourself down a set of stairs would trigger immeasurable pain for the ‘average Joe,’ it isn’t what causes most of Spencer’s struggles.

Spencer has ankylosing spondylitis, a type of arthritis that, simply put, is trying to fuse some of his joints together.

“Frig, it’s a constant battle for me,” says Spencer. “The nature of my occupation is that I have to be able to perform on given days, in front of crowds, with my teammates, and I just don’t know how I will be feeling when I wake up that day. There are some days I can barely walk. A sneeze or a deep breath can spark excruciating pain.”

It took three years for the Vancouver resident to figure out what was going on with his body after he first began experiencing symptoms. Shooting pain in the hips and legs, alternating from one side to another, seemingly at random, were often met with dismissal from the numerous doctors he consulted.

“It must be some sort of nerve pain due to your bulged disks,” was a common chorus. At the time, Spencer was eating ibuprofen like candy.

“I must have spent $10,000 in physical therapy in one year alone. It was such a different kind of pain that I could never understand or explain properly. I tried it all: massage therapy, intra-muscular therapy, spinal decompression, etc. Most of it seemed to make it worse.”

The long-awaited diagnosis finally came around 2018. That same year, he was a contender for Thrasher Magazine’s Skater of the Year Award.

“The guys know that when I can skate, I give it my all. If I’m feeling good, I will be out there, skating, filming for an upcoming [movie] part. No man is the toughest man, but we all have strength, especially at our lowest points. Pain is pain, but your mind has to be tougher.”

Yoga has been a key contributor to his newfound mental acumen, he says. He prefers a meditative form, based on flexibility and optimal stretching.

“It’s become a daily thing for me now. It helps a lot and I think it was the missing link.”

Over the years, the now 31-year-old has become more vocal about his disease, hoping it can prevent others from going through a long period without a diagnosis.

“It took so long to figure out what was going on with me and I’ve yet to find a way to be live pain-free. Since I started talking about it though, I’ve had people living with it reach out, offering support and sharing tips and that’s been nice. Maybe this can help others figure it out faster.”

While most of his sponsors and teammates understand that sometimes he can’t perform, they are often not quite sure why. A frustrating misconception the pro skater has to deal with is the notion that he’s just nursing an injury, not a chronic condition. He wants to change that. It’s another of the many reasons he takes a stand today.

“I want to contribute in a meaningful way that can help me or others. People need to understand how hard arthritis can wear you down. It’s a disease for life.”

In the meantime, you can spot Spencer at the local skatepark, pushing through the daily grind.