man [first got to] fly. ‘We can do this?’” Women fly, too, in the world of skateboarding. “It’s awesome,” Smith says, noting with enthusiasm that female involvement in the sport is growing rapidly. “They look so good on a skateboard.”
ecent generations have seen skateboarding go mainstream, though it still bears the stigma of its “juvenile delinquent” past, some deserved, some not. “I understand the stigma,” Prather says, as the “D-I-Y” nature of skateboarding can easily promote a “rebellious attitude.” But rebellion isn’t always bad. Growing up in Deputy, Ind., Prather says, “I rebelled from being on the farm—but it [skateboarding] also kept me out of drugs, alcohol.” “A lot of people think skateboarding is obnoxious,” says Smith, another view that both he and Prather understand.
Some of that opinion is formed by skateboarders “grinding,” scraping the board across a curb or railing on public property. “A lot of people obviously see that as destructive,” Prather says. Some communities, Bloomington included, chose to work with the skateboarders rather than against by building skateparks to provide an alternate location. Build a good skatepark, Prather says, and the skaters will skate there all day. Which they do. Even if Bloomington gets snow, “kids will shovel out one of the ramps [at Upper Cascades Skate Park] to have a place to skate.” (Incidentally, some architects have begun looking to skaters precisely because of how they view an urban environment. Where a pedestrian sees a safety handrail, a skateboarder sees endless possibilities for tricks. They interact with architectural landscape in a way that is unintended and limitless, which presents designers
with the potential for a whole new way to view structure and space.)
herever you are, if you want to give skateboarding a try, Smith and Prather suggest finding the skate shop or the skatepark and talking to the skaters. (You can talk to Prather at his shop, Rhett Skateboarding, at 118 S Rogers Street in Bloomington.) “The best way to start,” Smith says, “is to just get on and try.” A longboard, he says, might be a good starting point for those concerned about balance. The bigger, softer wheels make for a more stable base. “Invest in a good set of pads and a helmet,” Prather says. “Do it for fun,” Smith says. “Come in with an open mind. And be prepared to get hurt! You’re gonna take a slam.” But those slams, after all, will make it even more rewarding when you finally figure out how to fly.
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