When traveling at 43 mph, the world is a beautiful blur of light and color. Outside the confines of a car, you can really feel the speed.
The wind gently pushes against me and even through my visor, I can smell the fresh-cut grass as I race past, balancing delicately on my board.
A neighbor waves and I reciprocate.
Everything is perfect.
I have taken great pains to prepare for this moment. The fastest section is up ahead and every tweak and improvement I’ve made to my form and my equipment is about to be tested.
If I make a mistake, my skin pays the price. My legs twitch and I lower myself to stabilize.
Clean and out, I made it safely through.
As I jump off my deck to walk back up the hill, I see the first car of the day and I know my time is up.
If I told you where I was, I wouldn’t be able to come back.
Everything I just did was completely illegal.
I’ll admit it, skaters have a stigma attached to them and there’s little we can do to shake it.
It’s been shaped by the way we’re represented in the media and by the way some of us dress.
Our disinterest in following rules leads to a presumed penchant for vandalism, drug use and overall shenanigans for the whole lot of us.
I won’t be the first to admit that these are gross over-generalizations and should by no means represent the skating community.
One bad egg can ruin the smell of the whole batch, but the rest are still edible.
Now, for the sake of specificity, I am a longboarder, which is quite different than skateboarding. While I could spend an entire column on the differences and benefits in both styles, I’ll define them in a nutshell.
Longboarding is the art of going fast downhill while performing controlled slides. Skateboarding is the process of performing flip-tricks and grinds at much slower speed.
Historically, skateboarders have designated parks, bowls and plazas in most towns across America. Conroe, in fact, holds one of the premiere spots in the area at Kasmiersky Park. Here, skaters hold demonstrations and safety classes for beginners. Kids and adults of all ages embrace the sport on a daily basis.
Huntsville has only one thing to offer skaters: City Ordinance Code 1961, § 25.01.06.
“It shall be unlawful for any person to skate or to ride on skates or any vehicle made with skates, or any vehicle of like character, upon or over any of the streets, avenues or alleys of the city.”
For those of us who consider our skateboards as a means of exercise, enjoyment and a viable mode of transportation, this code takes away a big part of our lives.
In my travels across our beautiful city, I have learned that all sidewalks, trails, parking garages, ditches, driveways, embankments and nearly every paved surface is off limits to me and my deck. Many an officer has politely pulled me over to inform me of that fact.
I’m not arguing to repeal this code. I do, however, feel that there are better methods to achieve what the city wants. The safety of the skater and those around them is the most important part of our sport.
I never leave home without a helmet, gloves, knee and elbow pads and I won’t let others skate without them.
We scout locations and track traffic patterns to avoid cars at all cost. We wake up long before you do and we stay out hours after you’ve fallen asleep in order to stay out of your way.
If you don’t see us, we’ve done our job correctly.
In June, a Sam Houston State student was critically injured on his skateboard after running a stop sign in the Avenues. While his life was spared, many have not been so lucky.
To this day, it’s not uncommon to see a skater traversing the SHSU campus or pushing through the downtown district on a daily basis.
Skaters will skate, with or without an ordinance. The question is, what we can do as a city to take steps to make skating safer?
First, we need to create a dialogue between the city and the skaters. Skaters know the roads that few use. Perhaps we could set up a designated spot and time where we could skate without fear of police and car intervention.
Regulation could prove more effective than banishment.
Secondly, we need to place an emphasis on safety above all else. Given a space to use, I know of multiple people, including myself, who would gladly spearhead safety classes for those interested. New skaters need to know how to act appropriately.
Like cyclists, we must follow traffic laws, yield to cars and pedestrians and share the road safely.
Lastly, we as skaters need you to understand that skating is a huge part of our lives. We are no different than cyclists and we do what we do so we can experience the beauty of Huntsville the best way we know how.
We keep to the shadows so you won’t see us, but that is no way to coexist. By coming together we can find a way for us to pursue our passions safely and legally.
Consider sharing the road with us. We may show you one you’ve never traveled before.