With last year’s construction of a skate park, and the recent opening of a downtown skateboarding shop, some find San Marcos skaters practicing their sport with increasing freedom in the face of an ordinance banning skateboarding from public streets.
A handful of skaters gathered on Sunday morning at Texas Skate to join the shop’s two owners for one of their weekly expeditions to the city’s many prime skateboarding spots. Cody Hobbs, co-owner of Texas Skate, said San Marcos is “perfect” for skateboarding.
“It’s got everything,” said Hobbs. “It’s got street spots, downhills, ditches — I mean, you can do anything here as far as skateboarding.”
The Sunday outings usually involve “bombing” hills, which entails descending a steep road as fast as possible, usually on a longboard.
The skaters, most of whom had longboards, chose to break their adrenaline fast on Comanche Street.
Brad, a short, lightly-freckled, wiry man in his twenties, surveyed his surroundings as he walked with the other skaters uphill in the morning sun.
“It’s a great day to be skateboarding,” he said. Geoffrey Quick, co-owner of Texas Skate, responded with mock seriousness, saying, “It’s a great day to be alive, Brad,” to the amusement of the others.
Reaching the hill’s summit, the group of skaters paused to wait for more of their fellows to arrive. Cars passed by, bearing well-dressed church-goers, some of whom cast suspicious glances at the skaters. As a large sedan approached, one skater grinned at its elderly passengers.
“Old people never smile anymore!” he said.
Someone remarked on the contrast between a morning spent safely indoors in meditation and prayer and one spent exposed to the elements, risking life and limb.
“This is church for us,” said Cody Hobbs, co-owner of Texas Skate. “We do it every Sunday morning. I just worship asphalt and pray to not hit it…We sacrifice rookies every Sunday.”
“This is the most relaxing shit I do on Sundays,” said another skater. “It calms me down.”
After their first descent, during which no injuries or fatalities occurred, the group of skaters made a trek uphill once again, making a detour to gaze greedily at a skater delicacy — an empty swimming pool whose fence, against which the skaters leaned longingly, bore a “no trespassing sign.” They continued on their way uphill, having looked but not touched.
After conquering Comanche Street, the skaters chose for their next target Alta Vista Drive, the bombing and carving of which Quick described as “a 45-second run (downhill) and a 15-minute walk up the hill.” Aside from the high speed over a hard surface, the danger of descending Alta Vista on a skateboard stems from having to navigate the fork at Ed Jl Green Drive, where one must run a stop sign near a blind corner. Before tackling Alta Vista, the skaters joked about what might happen if a vehicle appeared unexpectedly.
“Sometimes you just have to slide underneath a car,” quipped one skater.
Ryan Tarjan, who elected to stay behind while his friends bombed and carved Alta Vista, watched joyously and shouted as one after another, his friends shot through the forked intersection at breakneck speed, their skateboards’ wheels roaring on the pavement. As the group walked back up the hill, their thirst for speed and danger not yet sated, a score of vultures appeared above, circling lazily, perhaps sensing the promise of a meal.
“These dudes are f***ing nuts,” said Tarjan, who said the day marked his fifth time on a skateboard. “There are no breaks on a skateboard.” He had borrowed a friend’s board for his first Sunday skate.
“I’m getting (a skateboard) when I get back from Christmas,” said Tarjan, who said he prefers the longboard to the traditional skateboard. “It’ll be my Christmas present from my parents — well, my Dad. My Mom’s against it. She thinks I’m going to fall and break my neck.”
San Marcos resident Benjamin Schwartz happened by on his way to work as the group of skaters trudged up Alta Vista for another descent. Schwartz looked downhill, eyeing the road as it curved sharply out of sight.
“I’m not a skateboarder, but I don’t know how the heck you can stop when (a car) is coming around the corner in your lane,” said Schwartz.
Schwartz compared skateboarding to bicycling and said he, as a cyclist, wears body protection and does not ride with people who don’t.
“It’s just like biking,” said Schwartz. “Some (cyclists) are crazy and do stupid things that I don’t agree with.”
San Marcos resident and Texas State University professor James Pohl passed through the Alta Vista/Ed Jl Green Drive intersection in his truck on his way to the post office as the skaters conferred about which hill they would tackle next. Later, as Pohl left the post office, Pohl told Newstreamz.com he encountered a number of people in his neighborhood who complained about coming close to hitting skaters with their vehicles.
“I have nothing against skateboarders,” said Pohl. “It looks like a lot of fun and I’m sure they have a lot of fun, but I’m just afraid one of these days somebody’s going to be (badly injured)…I think it’s kind of a tragedy waiting to happen. If not now, next year, if not next year, the following year.”
Hobbs, a skater going on ten years, said he skates every day, both for recreation and as a replacement for his late truck. Hobbs said the danger associated with skateboarding is part of the sport’s appeal. He said injury from skateboarding is like “paying your dues,” and a sacrifice akin to those someone makes for a job, career or hobby. He said most skaters don’t wear any kind of body protection aside from sweaters and beanies that provide minimal shielding from harm.
“It’s definitely all about adrenaline rush,” said Hobbs. “You’re just trying to progress, always taking it another step, and another step, just build it up. You never want to go less. So, like, today was a big hill, so we just want to go bigger from there, or just go do that hill faster. You never really want to step back, you just want to further your game…It’s what skating is all about, is just pushing the limits. There’s definitely a risk factor. You either make it or you get hurt; it’s either one or the other.”
Central Texas Medical Center Administrative Director for Public Relations and Marketing Clay DeStefano said injuries associated with skateboarding are not usually listed as skating injuries in medical files, so determining local trends in numbers of injuries associated with the sport can be difficult. DeStefano, also a Vice Chair of the San Marcos Chamber of Commerce, said anecdotal evidence indicates no trend towards an increase in skateboarding injuries or a proportionally greater amount of physical harm incurred by skaters than participants in other sports. DeStefano said his son used to be a skateboarder. He recalled his son sustaining numerous injuries, none of which dampened the boy’s zeal for the sport. DeStefano said city officials in Pensacola, Florida, where he used to live, considered banning skateboarding, deciding against it after a study they commissioned found no greater harm to skaters or bystanders than to people engaged in and proximate to other normal recreational activities.
“Some of (my son’s) broken bones happened in soccer and other sports,” said DeStefano. “He never experienced anything other than a really bad sprains, lacerations, bruising, that type of thing, but nothing — broken bones happened in soccer and not from skateboarding.”
Hobbs said he is offended by anti-skateboarding laws that seem to deny his status as a self-owning individual.
“If I’m going to make a mistake, then let me make it,” said Hobbs. “Don’t tell me, ‘don’t do that because you’re going to make a mistake.’ If somebody makes a mistake, they have to learn from it.”
Hobbs said city ordinances prohibiting skateboarding on the streets and on downtown sidewalks to not deter skaters.
“Kids skateboard to this shop every single day, right down the sidewalk,” said Hobbs. “I skateboard right down the sidewalk every singe day right underneath the sign that says ‘no skateboarding.'”
Hobbs said his intention is not to break the law but to live his life in a manner of his choosing that causes no harm to others.
“They have speed limits, but it’s still your responsibility not to get into a wreck,” said Hobbs. “If I’m riding a skateboard, there’s a certain amount of skill that goes into it. I have control over my skateboard, I’m not going to hit anybody. I’m going to fall down on the ground before I ever shoot my board out or run into somebody.”
He said skaters tend towards anti-authoritarianism, anti-corporatism and non-conformity.
“The kids — one of their most common complaints is skateboard companies becoming to corporate…there are brands these kids won’t buy,” said Hobbs.
Hobbs said skating is like a social “equalizer.”
“You go to the skate park and there’s all types, shapes, sizes, heights, ages,” said Hobbs. “I’m 22 and I’m skating with 10-year-old kids, and I’m talking to them like they’re grown.
by Sean Batura
Photos by Christina ZambranoEmail | Print