JMU and Female Longboarders: Give ‘Em a Break

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( Photo retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/101106985@N03/ )

Guys who longboard? They’re cool. Girls who longboard? They’re unskilled wannabees.

I’m not quite sure when gender became an indicator of ability to ride a piece of wood with four wheels, but as a girl who genuinely enjoys a good longboard ride at home, it irks me how I don’t feel comfortable bringing my longboard to JMU.

I’m a Delaware native which usually implies one of three things: I’m a northerner from around or near urban Wilmington, a redneck who lives amongst hundreds of acres of corn and soybeans, or I’m a beach bum. And although I do live in the middle of a cornfield, I am definitely a beach bum through and through. The beaches I grew up around, Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island, are family-oriented and include hundreds of massive beach houses and miles of flat, skinny side roads. So, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise to you that my summers were spent outside. And most of the time, my transportation during the day did not involve a car. I traveled with my feet, a bike, or—you guessed it—my longboard.

Okay, let me clarify before I continue: I would never claim to be an awesome or skilled longboarder. In fact, by most standards, I suck. The roads I typically ride on are flat and straight. The few times I went to our local skate park to ride, I sat on my butt as I rolled down the hill. But that doesn’t eliminate one factor—I have fun. I thoroughly and genuinely enjoy longboarding.

When I came to JMU, I was keenly aware of how many hills existed here. I moved from one of the flattest states on the east coast to one of the mountainous, but I was optimistic. I knew how to ride a longboard (in its simplest form), and I needed to get from East Campus to the Quad in less than 15 minutes. So why not longboard from class to class? It made sense, right? Even if I did fall on my face, I could slowly learn how to master the hills.

My optimism and confidence was quickly shaken, but not from some horrible face-plant at the bottom of the Village Hill. In fact, the first time I tried to ride around campus, I didn’t fall at all because I knew my limits and would pick up and walk my longboard if I felt I wasn’t ready. My confidence was shaken by the judging looks I received throughout campus. The guys I saw riding to class were completely ignored, as if a guy on a longboard was more natural than a sorority girl holding a Starbucks cup. But I—a girl—was met with a spectrum of reactions. Some looked at me with a judgmental glare; some just stared because they were shocked that a girl was even within touching distance of a longboard; others would stop me and ask questions about my board or experience—questions I couldn’t answer because, as I mentioned above, I was under no impression that I was going to have a professional longboarding career. Longboarding was just a hobby to me, not a passion. So my lack of knowledge, honestly, just made me look like an idiot.

I kept trying, but eventually gave up. And by the time my freshman year ended, my longboard was just a dust collector under my bed. I brought it back to school for my sophomore and junior year, but never touched it. And when it came time to pack up my things for senior year, I just left my longboard at home.

Even today, I read tweets people post about girl longboarders on campus: “Do they even know what they are doing?” or “Ugh, if you are girl, just stay off the board.”

Now, this isn’t to say that everyone one looks down on a girl who longboards, or that there aren’t highly skilled girl longboarders at JMU. I am just saying that, from experience, longboarding became a lot less fun for me.

Looking back, I wish I could have just grown a back-bone and ignored everyone around me. However, being the people-pleaser and introvert that I am, longboarding just became less and less fun. And now, I only ride at home, on flat land, near the beach.

So can we all just agree to give us girls a break? We are allowed to enjoy longboarding, and yes, some girls do kick butt at it.

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