Skateboard or Longboard? A Culture of Campus Navigation


Skateboard Horz 3 color - Samuel Joseph

Photo by Samuel Joseph/The Ram

On the smooth road that snakes behind Loschert Hall — just past Alumni Court South and before it diverges into a fork beyond Salice-Conley Hall — two students casually rove back and forth.

Under a cloudless sky, Felix Chmiel, GSB ’15, and Joseph Casanova, FCRH ’15, are multitasking on their skateboards. While engaging in a creative and physically unique feat of subtle athleticism, the two revel in the simple pleasure of outdoor weather.

The scene gives off a cool vibe — similar to from that of a football game or Frisbee toss on Eddie’s.

Like those in search of a place for a casual game of catch, Fordham offers plenty of spots for multi-wheeled recreation.

Chmiel says he knows the most popular skateboarding spots on campus.

“There’s the four-step over by Empire State Cafe, and at night, if nobody’s there, there’s that blacktop over by Hughes,” Chmiel said. “Compared to the rocky roads off-campus, almost all the roads and paths on campus are pretty smooth and safe.”

Chmiel and Casanova skate for about an hour working on different tricks (the names of which any Tony Hawk wannabe would be able to identify immediately).

Chmiel works on a heelflip; Casanova, a variel flip.

Upon close examination, there is an innately aesthetic appeal to the tricks. Just like watching a soccer player juggle a soccer ball at length with ease, the results of years of practice are clearly on display.

Like watching soccer, it is not hard to envision sprained ankles and broken bones while watching a trick being perfected on a skateboard. When watching these students, however, the dangerous stereotype that is often associated with skating — particularly when the protection of a helmet is missing — melts away.

Their main concern is not to work up too much of a sweat under the warm April sun before afternoon class.

“It feels great,” Casanova said of the warm, but moisturized, air. “It means I can skate all day and practice my tricks.”

Casanova is not alone.

Blended in with the music of chirping birds and the excitement of Spring Weekend, the recent rise in temperature seems to have amplified the clatter of skateboard and longboard wheels on campus pavements and sidewalks.

For a decade or two, the sight of students riding around on four-wheeled boards has become a familiar one — a generally accepted ingredient in the well-frosted cake that is Rose Hill’s scenery.

But for some, the influx of boards on campus raises some questions. Perhaps the most popular is, “What’s the difference between a skateboard and longboard?”

Short answer? It is complicated. For outsiders (that is, those who choose to walk to class), the question is at the crux of a confusing difference between the two types of boards. Even for the advanced riders, the lingo can be tough to keep straight.

For instance, both longboarding and skateboarding fall under the same umbrella verb: “skating.” The question of the difference in boards is both a harmless and understandable one that even some veteran skaters struggle to concretely answer.

“It’s pretty simple, I guess,” Chmiel said. “Longboards are just longer, with bigger wheels and they’re easier to control. But for an exact answer [you have to] look that up; that’s something Google could tell you, not me,” he said when he was asked to name the differences in the two types of boards.

Terrence Walsh, FCRH ’15, says he has been longboarding since his senior year of high school.

“I guess longboarding is more cruising around getting from place to place,” Walsh said. “Skateboarders do that too, but skateboarding is a little slower and more technical.”

To a casual observer the differences are also probably noticeable. Skateboards are small, usually less than 35 inches in length, and louder on pavement. Longboards, characterized by their long length (easy enough) and ability to carve wide turns, can run up to 55 inches in length and generally ride smoother against the ground.

For anyone even vaguely familiar with boarding, this information may seem laughably novice, but the fact of the matter is that plenty of students, either by chosen ignorance or sheer bad luck, have never been around a skateboard culture before college.The dichotomy between skateboarding and longboarding raises questions about the skateboarding culture at Fordham because boarding is, to varying degrees, a culture and lifestyle as much as it is an activity

For Casanova and Chmiel, two dedicated skateboarders, there is indeed a difference, especially in terms of longboarding’s relatively easy accessibility compared to skateboarding.

“I feel like there’s more longboarders, because people don’t skateboard at college,” Casanova said. “I think maybe they’re scared of getting hurt and [longboarding] is safer in a way, but that’s what I think is cool about longboarding because more people can get into skateboarding via longboarding.”

JP Raynal, FCRH ’15, is an example of someone who recently found longboarding’s alluring accessibility. As a sophomore in college, Raynal took up longboarding only last semester.

“I started longboarding about five or six months ago and had some serious issues balance-wise,” Raynal said. “However, I stuck with it and bought a sector nine board and have been riding around Fordham since.”

As for the safest place for a beginner to practice, Raynal said he enjoys skating past Fordham Prep and near Martyrs Court — coincidentally, the same area Chmiel and Casanova frequently visit with their boards.

The dichotomy between skateboarding and longboarding gives rise to playful jesting, too.

“Longboarding is definitely cooler,” Walsh said.

Chmiel gave reciprocal feelings from his seat as a longboarder.

“Skateboarding is for nerds,” Chmiel joked.

But one thing that does unite the two groups of boarders is their mutual feeling about their experiences with Fordham security.

“They don’t like us riding in crowded areas — they think it’s a pedestrian school,” Walsh said. “I’ve just been told to keep [my skating] to behind the buildings that are around the fences. I don’t really have a problem with them; they tell us to stop, but you just walk around until they leave and get right back on.”

As The Fordham Ram interviewed other boarders on campus, a pattern seemed to be apparent.

“If we have too many people skating over in some spots people will complain, but they never harass us,” Casanova said. “They never bother you.”

When asked about Fordham’s official regulations, answers were muddled.

“I thought technically we weren’t supposed to skateboard,” Casanova said, “but I thought it was an unspoken rule that we could. I haven’t seen it in the handbook. It’s safer for us to skate here on campus compared to off-campus where people can be less understanding.”

Fordham’s student handbook states that skateboards “may not be ridden on campus” due to the threat of injury to pedestrians.

Raynal says he has a more bureaucratic idea of Fordham’s skating policy.

“It has recently come to my attention that it is against Fordham policy to skateboard/longboard around campus when people are around,” Raynal said.

It would seem the overarching theme of the relationship of Fordham’s security and administration with skaters is one of apprehensive acceptance. For both parties, this arrangement may be the best compromise and the result has produced experiences like those of Raynal, who finds the skateboarding culture on campus to be “welcoming.”

Walsh agreed, and he noted the camaraderie that skating harbors.

“If you’re riding around, and someone sees that you have a board similar to theirs, they’ll just stop you and introduce themselves and maybe ask, ‘are you trying to ride when it’s sunny tomorrow?,’” Walsh said.

“I skateboard everywhere,” Casanova said. “To parties, to the caf, to the library, but it’s most fun to skate with friends.”

From seasoned veterans to friends of skaters who simply want to see what all the fuss is about, Fordham’s skateboarding culture is thriving among the greenery of Rose Hill.

As for those who want to know the best way to get in on the fun:

“Just go skate,” Casanova said.


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s