Remember the lockdown? Finding something to do during those stressful days to distract from the terrible reality of COVID-19 felt nearly impossible. Comedy specials on Netflix lost their sense of humor, and family time became way too much. Many Americans took up new hobbies and learned new skills: cooking, painting, knitting, and skateboarding. Yes, skateboarding, it’s everywhere! The news, the Olympics, TikTok, even Instagram. It was hard to miss. Chester Observer, a skateboarding website, found that the inclusion of skating in the Olympics resulted in “a thirty percent increase in traffic, with people searching for skateboard lessons.” With all the extra free time, skating has become a new hobby for many.
Young people needing to rebel against the lockdown went outside and dropped into the sport. Romy, a nineteen-year-old sophomore, wears the default attire on the vast UConn campus: sweatpants, T-shirt, and Vans. I hung out in her dorm, listening to punk rock and sitting in a beanbag chair. I understood the boredom she was talking about. There was no one bustling around on a Friday night, even without quarantine mandates. She was bored to tears during the height of the pandemic. So at night, scrolling through social media, she decided to rebel. She discovered that skateboarding is one of the most accessible sports to get rolling. Romy understood why “a lot of people have picked up new hobbies like skateboarding. I started skateboarding during COVID and only picked it up because I was stuck inside all day.” According to Modern Gentleman, a fitness and lifestyle magazine, “roughly 77.1% of skaters are male, while 23.9% are female.” But watching Romy skate showed that girls are just as skilled with the board as the guys. Romy continued to skate after she was released into the wild of Storrs, Connecticut, even in the blistering cold. “Just layer up,” she says as she retrieves her board from the corner of her dorm. It’s time to skate.
TikTok and Instagram’s glamorized take on skateboarding convinced Romy that the sport was worthwhile. “The media definitely portrays skateboarding as a cool thing to do!” she exclaims as she throws herself into the exit door handle. The piece in Modern Gentleman also found that “kids who skateboard have greater self-esteem.” Romy certainly looks cool. Skating the flat pavement, pushing the board as hard as she can, she looks as if she could skate through anything.
The sport saw a worldwide boost in popularity in 2020. Dutch board enthusiast Ruben Vee, of the website Skateboarders HQ, believes “skateboarding is on the verge of becoming mainstream.” This mainstream popularity inspired many to get outside and participate in a solo sport that does not require competition between two people to experience the fun. The Chester Observer also mentions that after skating got added to the Olympics, its arrival sparked “a 200 percent growth in skatepark searches on the MySkate app.” Skateboarders HQ cited a figure from Statista.com that reported: “the skateboard market will be worth $2.4 billion by 2025, growing at a 3 percent rate.”
Romy’s only competition was herself, and maybe she could skate to the top and get a slice of this growing multibillion dollar market. She skates at her own pace as we head across campus to get to D.P. Dough—one of the many food outlets open late on the massive UConn campus.
We smack our left feet on the pavement, rolling around campus and picking up fellow skaters for the ride. We approach Storrs Center after forty grueling minutes of skating. Our bellies growled for the fuel to skate back. Romy points out another pack of skaters. “Look at those f——g posers!” she cackles, stopping and pointing across the street. I slam my foot on the ground. They were posers! The group members were riding electric skateboards equipped with headlights. Romy admits, “It looks kind of fun, not gonna lie.” I wondered where they got these strange contraptions. If the global skateboard market will be $2.4 billion in a few years’ time, then a huge chunk must be going to these newfangled electric skateboards. I turned and asked one of the fellow skaters, a guy sporting skinny jeans, a bomber jacket, and a green Penne board, where they might have gotten these boards. He tells me, “The internet, I’ve never seen one at the park though.” This left me wondering what will happen to all of the traditional skateboard shops that don’t cost an arm and your pushing leg to keep up. What about the people who cannot afford a giant motorized board? I was wondering how much success skate shops received from the new influx of skaters.
As skaters, we can skate through everything but the snow and hypothermia. The cold is here to stay and I longed for somewhere to skate. This brought me to CT Bike, the world’s oldest indoor skate park located on a corner intersection in Bristol, Connecticut. After being bombarded by the cold on the now electrical longboard-dominated streets, I found a new place to skate without feeling the freezing wind blowing. I needed a place that still cherishes skateboarding in its purest form. The shop never felt more welcoming as they invited the most dedicated of skaters into their historical skate park for the price of ten dollars. “It’s enough to keep the bills paid,” said Tim Payne, the owner of CT Bike.
The main area of CT Bike is filled with scooters for sale. I hollered, “hey,” and in response came Payne from the back of an almost hidden room. He scoured the glass display cabinet full of skating peripherals for a ten-dollar bill to make change for my twenty. There weren’t many people around in the late afternoon. He shuffled his way around the shop in his blue jeans, hunched over in a dark blue shirt. I felt extremely welcomed in the warmth of his building, sheltered from the cold. “At times, there were a lot of skaters here, especially during the lockdown. But there is a big outdoor skate park in town for free,” Payne said. Due to the very uncertain Connecticut weather, the skate park has seen many skaters like me resort to paying ten dollars to practice their tricks or film something cool in the comfort of Tim’s skate park.
During the summer, the free skate park across the street lured skaters due to the COVID-19 lockdown, but in the muggy CT summers it sometimes gets hard to breathe while skateboarding. Payne has you covered with a place that has fans and windows to keep skaters cool. After I asked him what kind of skaters come in here to skate, he pulled out his phone. He played me a video of world-famous skateboarder, Tony Hawk: the same skateboarder who won ten gold medals at the X Games. Hawk was sitting in his car in a plain black t-shirt, congratulating Payne on the work he had done over the years. Through a phone screen and in a dimly lit room, he spoke in the iconic Tony Hawk voice I heard when playing video games as a kid. Hawk said, in the now iconic skater voice, “I can only think of a handful of skate parks that have ever survived over thirty years.” It was astounding. I was standing in a historical building! I picked my jaw up off the ground. CT Bike is the oldest indoor wooden skatepark in the world!
The door to the second-floor park said, “We’re open—better heat and light.” I journeyed up the stairs to find a large wooden skate park with elaborate graffiti on the walls. The wooden door complemented the dark wood of the ramps. Carved into the sides of select ramps were shadowed but elaborate art of city buildings. In the back of the skate park, a half-pipe ends the room. The back wall is decorated by tapestries and skateboard decks. In the video message, Hawk pleads to “check them out, for old times’ sake.”
Indoors or out, there are many ways to acquire the extreme rush of skating. So go ahead, push yourself through a hard time with a skateboard. No matter the time of year, skaters worldwide are slipping on their Vans, stepping on the tail of their board, and dropping right into the sport. Ride on!
Osric Baird is a Staff Writer for Blue Muse Magazine.
Header Image Credit: Jeremy Thomas