I t’s Monday morning, and you’re walking to class. You haven’t had breakfast yet, and you’re probably going to be a couple of minutes late. That’s when you hear it: a clacking noise slowly getting louder and louder. Just as you’re about to glance back to find the source of the noise, you freeze as someone flies past you on what looks like a skateboard. It’s someone from your class who, just like you, had a slow start to their day. The difference is, they’re probably not going to be late.
Longboards are a popular mode of transportation throughout colleges across America. Like skateboards, they are a board attached to four wheels that are propelled by the force of the rider kicking off from the ground. However, that’s where the similarities end. As the name implies, longboards, typically longer than traditional skateboards, utilize larger and softer wheels to help increase the stability and smoothness of the ride. These features are why longboards are typical chosen over skateboards by those wishing to traverse long distances or travel downhill. Unlike skateboards, longboards are not typically designed with tricks in mind, although I have seen some people get creative with their boards. High-speed riders often perform what they refer to as “slides,” a maneuver in which someone riding downhill reaches for the pavement with one hand, forcing their board to make a sharp turn. Sliding is often used to slow down one’s board or make sharp turns while maintaining a high speed. However, Vassar’s campus is lacking in hills, making it difficult for maneuvers like these.
Most Vassar students use their longboards as a means of fast transportation between classes. To demonstrate how much time riding a longboard can save, I timed how long it took to ride from one side of campus from the other. Starting from the Deece, I went to Sanders Classroom, a trip which took two minutes and 45 seconds, before passing the Bridge Building and arriving at Jewett, which only took me two minutes and 38 seconds. However, I should note that the sidewalks were quite empty during this trial run. This factor makes a huge difference to anyone attempting to longboard across campus sidewalks. Seeking another point of view on the subject, I sought out a friend and fellow boarder, Jeremy Middleman ’18.
Jeremy and I sat down for a chat between classes to talk about his experiences with longboarding. I immediately knew something was up when I noticed that he wasn’t carrying his board with him. I have known Jeremy for years now, and he characteristically carries it wherever he goes. He explained to me how he was riding his board to class one day when he felt it shaking. Not wanting to fall, he dismounted from his board only to watch one of its wheels fall off right in front of him. He stated that his board had simply given out after years of hard use. Having yet to reattach the wheels to his board at the time of our talk, Jeremy was still having trouble adjusting to a longer commute. “I rode my board everywhere. Even the short distance between Jewett and the Deece,” he commented. Jeremy’s first foray into boarding was right before his freshman year when he took up longboarding to shorten his commute around campus.
“Why not a bike? It’s faster and some would even say safer?” skeptics might ask. Jeremy explained that he prefers longboarding due to the fact that he does not have to lock his board up every time he dismounts. He also explained how he remains safe while longboarding at speeds that allow him to safely jump off the board and land on his feet. He also tries to stay away from hills. Following such a strategy, he has never crashed into anyone, although he has received some injuries from boarding-related incidents.
Crashing and falling is a major issue amongst those who longboard. The cost of a faster commute is often numerous scrapes and bruises. I have personally been a victim to many a tumble and road rash over the years I have spent riding. I reached out to others to ask if they have had any harrowing experiences cruising around campus on their boards. Fellow boarder Daniel Espino ’18 was kind enough to share some of his longboarding experiences. Daniel began longboarding because he wanted to try something new. He told me, “It’s a fun way to get around quickly.” When I asked if he had ever gotten hurt longboarding, his response was simply, “Never.” However, the possibility of injury is definitely a factor keeping many from partaking in the joys of longboarding. Bevan Whitehead ’19 is hesitant to take up longboarding after an incident involving a skateboard earlier in his life. He would not give me the details surrounding the incident, only advising potential boarders to wear a helmet.
Longboarding is a quick and relatively hassle-free way to get around at Vassar College. Both students learned how to longboard to use it as a means of transportation around campus. However, for most people, it is a lot more than a way to get from point A to point B. Just like Daniel said, riding can be a source of joy and entertainment. If I weren’t having a good time, I would have stopped the first time I fell. It can be difficult to start from scratch. I’d recommend wearing a helmet along with knee and elbow pads if you want to skip the scrapes and bruises. However, I would insist that anyone looking for some form of alternative means of traveling around campus try longboarding.