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ISSUE 119 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/14/2005

Longboarders carve up campus

By Emily Forbes
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 14, 2005

In the 21st century, there are endless ways in which students choose to get around, on and off campus. We have scooters, we have bicycles, we have those scarce few with the luxury of a car, we have fast legs, lazy legs and Northfield taxis.

Recently, however, St. Olaf has been experiencing the foreign presence of what seems to be a glorified version of a skateboard creeping onto campus. I’m talking about longboards, the land-stranded sister to surfboards.

Unlike skateboarding’s traditional focus on performance and bench-damaging tricks, longboarding has a whole new perspective similar to the surfboard: the love of the cruise. With wide, lengthy and flexible boards to match their large, soft wheels, longboarders seek smooth hills to capture the exciting rush of what once was limited to riding waves.

This "sidewalk surfing" phenomenon first started gaining popularity in the late 90s, especially among beach towns, and has continued to spread in popularity since – not to the exclusion of the Hill either.

Over the past couple of years, there has been an increasing presence of longboarders here at St. Olaf. And why not? Boasting large hills, smooth concrete and an extensive network of sidewalks, our well-kept campus makes an excellent hub for the birth of what many may consider St. Olaf’s very own longboarding culture.

In fact, who wouldn’t want to longboard when those guys are whizzing by effortlessly to class and we’re late … again?

On the other hand, some people are skeptical of these so-called misdirected skaters – especially of those who are still (eh-hem) learning. Having just bought my first longboard about three weeks ago, I consider myself an on the-verge-of-being-a-skater-chick/I-am-returning-my-board-to-ebay-before-anyone-finds-out chick.

To be completely honest, I feel a little awkward "stealing" what seems to be a hobby not belonging in the Midwest. However, still finding my feet on the darned thing, I am slowly seeing what has drawn the activity all the way from the west coast to good ol’ Northfield.

Minnesotans suffer from a deep-rooted bitterness against our measly three-month-long summers that leave us with nothing but tropical postcards to stare at all winter, as we think of what life might be somewhere warm and snow-less. With its relaxed West Coast appeal, longboarding offers what many of us in the Midwest have been cut off from.

It carries with it a relaxed, Californian attitude, while still maintaining an extreme sport edge – with less cuts and bruises, of course. Longboarding gives those of us who have been deprived of the chance to even see the ocean – let alone ride a wave – to feel the relaxing rush of carving down hills.

"It’s about bombing hills and trying not to fall flat on your face," said Alicia Peterson ‘07, who has been long boarding for four years. Perhaps snowboarding was our way of answering back to those tan, blonde and perfectly sculpted surfers living the dream on the coast? Turns out us Minnesotans are not so different from the Kens and Barbies across the country from us. In fact, longboarding could be considered the off-season answer to snowboarding in an ocean-less land.

With this in mind, I didn’t feel so bad about my new hobby anymore. I didn’t feel so bad about starting to get to class on time either. With its love of the ride, coupled closely with its leisurely style, it is no wonder longboarding has caught on here on the Hill.

Even if the most Californian we ever get is looking at a tropical postcard for eight months, at least we can still embrace the latest craze flooding the coasts' hills.

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