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2014 Spring Issue 4 (May 2, 2014)

Olly Aboard: The Rise of Riding Culture

May 5, 2014
By Jack Noble

As spring commences, cyclists spray WD-40 on their chains and pedestrians pack away their boots for summer storage. Carleton is an environment for expression across a vast array of mediums, and personal transportation is no exception. After a long winter, skaters, too, are hopping on boards—and this spring, en masse.

A multitude of different kinds of skaters propel themselves around campus: those who do tricks, weaving longboarders, crunchy barefoot skaters, kids who lash their boards to their backpacks; even scooter riders have been spotted using the bike repair stations around campus, living the dream of the early 2000s.

I caught up with junior Alex Trautman, a longboarder from Massachusetts, and asked him about the daily life of a skater. Trautman longboards primarily for transportation. He wishes he had a bike, but enjoys the direct response he gets while navigating the cracks of the Carleton pavement on his board.

Freshman Robbie Reuland of Brooklyn, NY was a longboarder throughout high school, and acquired a heavier, 1980s-style rig for college. “I couldn’t fit the longboard in my bag,” Reuland said. He has had to adopt an older style of performing tricks to match the construction of his board. His preferred moves center around the “bone,” a basic move from the days of Dogtown.

“This is the kind of board Tony Hawk would use,” Reuland proudly proclaimed as he displayed his Powell Peralta board.

John Blake is also one of the few skateboarders who perform tricks around campus. He began skating in middle school. “It started as an alternative to sports,” Blake said in a Monday interview. Blake has a variety of moves in his repertoire, which he quickly rattled off for me: nollie, ollie, heelflip, kickflip, among others.

Blake doesn’t do tricks alone. On occasion, he has encountered townies and battled it out in a game of SKATE, though typically he and his like-minded friends practice by Weitz. They are scoping out other locations around campus, though—skateboarders have discerning eyes for the environment around them.

“A banked piece of concrete become something much more,” said Blake. While photographing him doing tricks in front of Sayles, I remarked that the brick surface must make skating more difficult, but Blake responded like a sedimentologist: “They actually dry a lot faster.”

“It’s an ephemeral art,” he said—words that rang true for me as I watched. Video art and production have kept up with the sport of skateboarding, as one-time tricks can only be captured through cameras. 

Reuland expressed a similar sentiment about the pleasures of skateboarding. “When you go on a slightly steep hill with raw concrete, it can feel almost like a massage on your feet,” he said. “So that’s a health reason to skate.”

Steep hills around campus aren’t simply topographical masseurs, however—they pose a malicious temptation to brothers of the board. Trautman had a close call on the hill between the LDC and the Rec, when he braked with one foot, steered with the other, and took a spill, narrowly missing a lamppost and almost ending up in the lake. Blake was once skating with a friend who ate it on the same hill, also nearly taking a dip. Such are the ties that bind.

An emerging location may distract skaters from Carleton’s paved hills, however; skateboarders around Northfield have rejoiced over the news that a skate park will be built in Old Memorial Park, south of the Weitz. The project was executed by the Northfield Skateboard Coalition, a skater advocay group started in 2006.

Until then, skaters will have to content themselves with the current contours of campus. Perhaps students should do what they can to help tide skaters over. “I wish bikers would offer to pull me more,” he said. That’s one way to start.

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