You’ve been riding for miles now, just cruising along when you come to the top of the hill. You take a deep breath and reassure yourself that everything will be fine. Before you even realize it you’ve taken the plunge. You’re going faster than you ever thought you could on your board. The wind is starting to sting your face and your legs are getting shaky. Do you stay on your board or do you bail? But by then you’re already at the bottom and the adrenaline high is kicking in and you live to ride your skateboard another day.
Castleton University sophomore Ryder Hathaway has been riding since he was 14 years old.
“My cousins had some longboards and were skating around the town that I grew up. I just stepped on a board and I really liked it,” Hathaway said.
Through longboarding, Hathaway came into competitive downhill skateboarding.
“For me downhill skateboarding it’s an adrenaline-fueled activity. It’s got this mix of danger and technique that makes me fall in love with it,” said Hathaway. “I just watched this video that said that you must be totally willing to die because this is some terrifying shit, because you’re going down this hill at the slowest rate 30 miles per hour and at the fastest 50 to 60 miles per hour on open roads.”
When Hathaway is going down hill he needs to be careful because just one wrong move and he could hit a guardrail or head into oncoming traffic. Lucky for him, he hasn’t been badly hurt. He said he makes sure that he has all the proper gear like a spine protector, full leather suit and a full-face helmet.
Though Hathaway competes in downhill events, in the past four years he has also taken up street skating and hits the skate park on campus to relax.
“I use the skate park a lot because it’s a different form of skateboarding. It has a different appeal. For me it’s a more creative learning aspect, whereas downhill is more technical and feels more like snowboarding where you’re going really fast. Skateboarding your learning different tricks,” said Hathaway.
But he isn’t the only student who rides to relax. Senior Rebecca “Reba” Stodgell picked up longboarding her sophomore year in college.
“My boyfriend at the time was really into it. I’ve always wanted to skateboard and I just think it’s cool,” said Stodgell.
Because the campus is so flat, Stodgell said she can get to class easily. But what she likes the most about it is the exercise and that she can go for rides that go for miles.
“I do it to relax. If it’s a nice sunny day and I’m doing nothing but just sitting on the couch, I’ll grab my longboard and ride around town,” she said. She added that it’s the fun and the chance of danger that makes her love riding.
“I like to go fast and take chances,” she chuckled. “It can be sketchy at times because once you start going a certain speed your legs start to wobble. But it’s all in the fun and you get an adrenaline rush.”
Stodgell has noticed that there is a decline in skaters around campus this year. She thinks it has to do with the weather changing so often and gravel from the winter still being on the roads. Though conditions may not be the best for some students, it hasn’t deterred local skaters.
Local skater Sam Eisenhower, 19, comes to the skate park on campus at least once a week.
“I’ve been skating since I was 3. My dad and all his friends have skated all their life. They got me into it at a young age and my dad’s friend’s kids were good at it so I skated with them,” said Eisenhower.
Landing new tricks and finding new places are some of the things that drive him to skate. But Eisenhower also enjoys going to other skate parks either to skate or sometimes just to watch competitions.
Talent Skatepark & Shop of South Burlington, Vermont caters to skaters of all types and skill levels. Founder David Woods talks about skating culture and what his store bring to skaters.
“Skateboarding is so many different things, it’s a very diverse activity. There are different people for different things. Longboarding is still popular and there’s a sect of people for it. People still ride poles, bowls and ramp, it has its popularity. And people still like to street skate,” Wood said.
Wood said he sees a lot of different customers now. They still get middle school boys as their major customers, but he also sells to college girls who longboard, 50-year-old guys who have been skating during the ‘70s, and middle school girls too. They get people signing up for lessons and kids for camp. To them that’s how they’re popular.
Traffic in the store fluctuates, he said especially with the weather. On a nice day they may not see as many skaters in their park because they might be outside. But when it rains or snows people flock in.
Wood himself, likes to ride in skate parks. He primarily skates in Talent but occasionally he’ll skate the Burton Bowl and the Burlington Waterfront Park. Though they were fun, his days of trespassing on property to skate are over.
“I think that skateboarding is alive and well. Lots of people skate now and there’s no one demographic of skateboards now. You can’t clump them into one stereotype anymore,” Wood said.