Getting the grind on by the Union

Illustration by Diana Ortega

During a normal day on campus, students may notice the people who sit on the colorful chairs outside of the Starbucks by the University Union and watch kickflips and ollies over other people’s boards or book bags. The skateboarding scene is alive here in Flagstaff and some of these Lumberjack students are trying to get in a little skate time before they go to their respective classes.

Freshman Trevor Loucks has always known about the boarding culture even before he enrolled at NAU. During his high school days down in the valley, he would occasionally come up to visit the mountain campus.

“When I was a senior, I would come up and visit so I met with some of the skaters here,” Loucks said. “I kind of knew there was a scene here, but I did not know everybody.”

Other student skaters had no clue what the skateboarding culture at NAU. Sophomore Rubin Curley was relieved to find out that there was a community that was getting together and skating around campus. Curley said he had no clue about skating culture was like at NAU, but when he came to campus he immediately felt the support of the community.

The reasons vary as to how skaters developed the love of skateboarding. Loucks said his interest in skateboarding came from an old school cartoon that sparked his curiosity in the action sport.

“I watched the Ninja Turtles movies from the ‘80s and they were skating in the sewers and I thought it was the coolest thing,” Loucks said. “I told my dad about it and the rest is history.”

While Loucks was inspired by cartoons, Curley had a different revelation when it came to the action sport.

“I was around four or five when I got a little Spider-Man skateboard at Walmart,” Curley said. “I then met a pro longboarder from Sector 9 and he got me a little more into street skating.”

Curley said he became a pro skater for some local spots around his home town until an injury took him out of the skating scene for about a year.

At NAU there could be many places where skateboarders choose to flaunt their skills. Some buildings have available rails for these daredevils to test their limits. Junior Aaron Giroux explained what draws in the big group skaters to the Starbucks and The Wedge location on a day to day basis and why that location is a big factor.

“I think it has to do with everyone having classes and this is just a centralized spot so you can just come here in between classes,” Giroux said.

Loucks has the same mindset as to what makes this area a hot spot for skaters on campus. He said the centralized location is perfect for students coming from north or south campus.

“It has great seats here and no one really bothers us,” Loucks said. “I don’t get it, we have done some weird stuff, like bring rails and such, and nobody says anything.”

With students coming to and from class, the central part of campus is typically filled with people trying to catch a Louie Line bus, grabbing a quick coffee from Starbucks or walking into the Hot Spot to get some lunch before their next class. With the foot traffic that is coming through, it could make the skating space for boarding a little cramped. The skaters do know their limitations on their location choice.

“There have been a couple of times where, if anything, we can get annoyed at a couple of people for being oblivious as to what is going on,” Curley said. “But, that is understandable. It’s not our spot technically so we just appreciate the right to be here and everything.”

Sophomore Starbucks employees Geneal Whetten and Katelyn Conati have had their fair share of close calls from skateboarders.

Having a large group of people constantly posted out in front of a busy business such as Starbucks can occasionally present itself as a dicey situation. With skaters doing tricks that may call for a blind landing, it could be in the same direction as an oncoming student.

“I never actually have been hit, but a lot of them either don’t look where they are going or don’t seem to care,” Whetten said. “They just go right in front of the door or even if you try to go in front of them or around them, they just go straight at you.”

Conati has had a different experience with the skateboarders. She said they are a good group of people and doesn’t mind them hanging around by the store.

“I think they are pretty cool, honestly,” Conati said. “It makes campus life a little more fun, especially if people are just doing what they love out there.”

Just as long as the colorful chairs and picnic tables are all clear, there is a safe bet that a skater may be riding their way to the sunset.