Skateboarding and Longboarding on and Around Campus

Cole Anderson

Even though alternative transportation is rampant on Whitman’s small campus, only a handful of Whitman students skateboard. Whether longboarding to class or skating for leisure, those who own boards on campus represent a small fraction of the student body.

Whitman’s campus isn’t exactly ideal for the sport. For skateboarding you mainly just need an open, rarely frequented area with various obstacles and terrain. If there is a skatepark nearby, obviously that is a large draw, but for Whitman students, the nearest park is in College Place. On campus, skaters use the small area outside of Olin Hall or can be seen behind North Hall practicing tricks.

Quinn Lincoln '16 longboards down a hill behind North Hall. Photos by Halley McCormick.
Quinn Lincoln ’16 longboards down a hill behind North Hall. Photos by Halley McCormick.

As for longboarding, all one really needs is a hilly area that is hopefully nicely paved, ideally with not much traffic.  In Walla Walla, serious elevation change is something of a rarity, so most long boarders on campus mainly direct their hobby toward getting to class. However, there are students who do manage to find places off campus to longboard from time to time, like first-year Connor Hood, who likens his hobby to other extreme sports.

“It’s a bit like snowboarding for summer. I enjoy going fast and sliding around. I get a rush out of it, I guess,” said Hood.

Skateboarding on and around campus provides a similar release for the skaters.

“[Skating] allows me to take a break from the externally legislated tasks an individual has to do at school and … do something that is purely for me; it simply allows me to have a release and get out excess energy,” said Zach Gordy, a sophomore skateboarder.

Tom Shellum, another sophomore skateboarder, also explained his love for the sport.

Tom Shellum '15 skateboards outside of Olin Hall.
Tom Shellum ’15 skateboards outside of Olin Hall.

“Skating is a lot of fun. Like any sport it’s a good way to be active and get exercise, but it also has an element of creative expression that I don’t think you can find in most other sports. I think the combination of athletic activity and creativity that skateboarding offers makes it a great stress reliever, so it’s been a good hobby to have at school. It’s also been a good way to meet people outside of the Whitman bubble. I’m friends with a lot of skaters in Walla Walla just because we see each other at the park so often.”

Although Whitman is not an ideal skating location for the skating community, there are several places they frequent.

“If I’m skating on campus, my favorite place would be the weird banks that are behind the green fence on the Ankeny side of Olin. They are pretty small but very steep which makes them challenging enough to be really fun to skate, but if I can find a ride I always prefer to skate at one of [the parks]. There is just a lot more you can do at a skatepark than on flat ground,” said Shellum.

Although the skateboarding community is small, their unique interests have drawn them together.

“Everyone I’ve met who boards is really fun to hang out with, some really good people––guys and girls too, which is really fun,” said Hood.

Even campus security seems to get along with the skateboarders, even if they don’t approve of turning every part of the campus into a skate spot.

“Despite the stereotypes of skaters not getting along with cops, we actually have a pretty good relationship with Whitman Security. They let us skate pretty much anywhere, and if there is a spot that they don’t want us skating, they are really nice about telling us to leave,” said Shellum.

The rest of the student body seems to be ambivalent to the skaters, making the community even more isolated from the mainstream.

“I don’t think people really care about skaters one way or another at Whitman. Everyone does their own thing here so I think seeing someone skate is not really a novelty people pay much attention to. People are always surprised when they find out I skate, even though I frequently skate at spots around campus,” said Gordy.