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Getting their bearings: A look into Duke's skateboarding culture

Picture it now: you are strolling back from French Science at 4:50 p.m. on a Friday. The final class of your week, a tinge of pride flutters your heart for attending this excruciatingly dry recitation, unlike the previous couple weeks. The sky epitomizes fall, clear and sunny, the air crisp and delicious, and a soft westerly combs your hair and flutters red, brown and orange leaves about.  One lands to rest on the shoulder of your crew neck. Rounding BC Plaza, you hear them before you see them. A chorus of polymer wheels hitting concrete at angles and bounces. The grunt of an ankle catching or a body tumbling.  You may wish not to admit it but you certainly look. Maybe a beat long. And perhaps you even watch the display for a moment or several, if the green tables appear comfortable enough to compose last minute emails before the weekend’s festivities.

An aura pervades their skateboarding show. A mystique too complex and fluid to firmly categorize or define. Perhaps it’s their nonchalance — the loose, understated fit. Nikes scuffed to let them know you live a little. Shirts big and ruffled to let them know it isn’t all that serious. As Vogue eloquently notes, that unstudied sense of cool coupled with a zero-fucks-given outlook.

Perhaps it’s their quiet poise too.  The boldness acted, not spoken.  The willingness to publicly fall, slip or trip in the name of perfecting a trick. As if, for the basketballer, honing your three-point shot requires the ball ricochet back into your face after each bricked attempt — all while the park hoopers look on in astonishment. As with skiing, snowboarding, rollerblading and more, learning to skate requires mastering equipment and a way of movement for which the human body was not intended.  At skating’s core, one is learning to stand, walk and run once more, and to do so, one needs to fall– a lot. To teach me about the ins-and-outs of tricks and falls and skating life at Duke is junior Daniel Lim, known to many as Limmy, one of those guys whom you can't help but eye their skating with interest and awe.


20221117 Skateboarding Kerria Weaver#3
Limmy skates down Chapel Drive. He started the hobby during quarantine with a friend.


Limmy began skateboarding with a friend during the ubiquitous and familiar boredom of quarantine. We discuss the beginning and the efficacy of starting with a quality board. “Boards are normally pretty expensive, so with the deck, the wheels, the truck, the bearings, everything, it can get up to $150, $200,” he explains, and buying a shitty board from Walmart is always a possibility, but you likely don’t exercise the same commitment to practicing as one does with a quality one.  And if you are practicing frequently, boards take significant wear and tear. “Since I started […] I probably had […] 15 decks [...] they wear out really easily.”

Next, I’m interested in skateboarding as exercise. In the beginning, he continues, hamstrings and quads feel quite sore from jumping and balancing. If you follow Limmy on Instagram, where he posts both successful tricks and beautiful fails, you understand: don’t begin skateboarding if you fear bruises.  “Shins are the worst,” he says and further elaborates on how injured his wrists feel at this very moment.

We move on to skating life at Duke. There’s almost no barrier to meeting fellow skaters, he says, just as simple as walking up to someone with a board, like yo, I skate too. We agree that skating attracts a certain personality type — often personable and laid back. In regards to his close friends, Limmy explains, they “got together one time, just kicking it skateboarding, and we became homies since then.” To which I eloquently acknowledged, “Hell yeah.” A universal thing, he continues, you see someone with a skateboard, and you are assured they are an easy person to talk with.  

Naturally, the conversation shifts to the best places to skate on campus. “Keohane Atrium,” he answers. "We are always out there because the ground’s really smooth and security is usually chill and doesn’t kick us out. The Chapel too, because it is huge and has nice concrete." And lastly, the BC plaza.  “They got a couple stair steps, a couple drops.”  I ask him if security is often an issue.  “On the occasion.”


20221117 Skateboarding Kerria Weaver#4
Limmy agrees — skating draws those with laid-back personalities.


On the Durham skating community at large, Limmy explains the crew often visits the skate park in Durham Central park. “It’s a cool spot… it’s a tough park to skate. It’s super steep.”  In regards to the clientele at the park, he says there are many Duke and high school students and many locals in connection with a cool downtown skate shop Manifest. “The owners there are super chill, super involved.” And on their ability: “They are amazing.”

Finally, we discuss false or unfair perceptions of the community. “On the occasion, we get the rep […] that we are assholes.” Cordially, Limmy even says he can understand given their skating is sometimes in the way.  I interject my thoughts — his awareness and acknowledgement are valiant and honest, but I posit the majority of students really appreciate the flair it adds to campus life. Does The Chronicle need to drop a straw poll?


20221117 Skateboarding Kerria Weaver#2
The Chapel is one of the best spots for skating on campus.


Well, picture again. Minutes, hours, eons maybe, and you still rest at the green table on the plaza with not one email successfully sent, eyes transfixed on the skateboard flicking and flying and defying gravity on the sunken landing by Beyu Blue. You shake your thoughts together, the red leaf falls off the shoulder of your crew neck, and you pack your laptop and rise. Before strolling away, you silently thank the skateboard and rider for the show — and the crucial dimension they add to campus life and culture.

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