Off the Board, Opinion

Me and my board: Penny-boarding through Montreal

I have always been a cautious person. Though I can bring myself to take risks in many areas of my life, when it comes to physical activities I am usually the one who stays behind, choosing instead to sit inside with a good book. It is for this reason that I never considered picking up a skateboard.

On top of the physical risks of the sport, there is the intimidation factor: The skateboarding community can come across as intense. I had also imagined skating to be one of the activities that can only be learned at a young age. In my head, there was nothing more embarrassing than a 21-year-old skateboarder in full knee pads, elbow pads, and a hot pink helmet. Not only were these thoughts limiting, they were also untrue.

Although skateboarding initially seemed daunting to me, when I started practicing seriously I was able to pick it up within a few weeks. Freshly home from a trip and stuck in quarantine in June 2021, I took a leap and ordered a penny board online. Then came learning. I took it out to the backyard to give it a try, and I won’t lie, it was scary. The first few times, I could not let go of my boyfriend. Soon enough, however, I was slowly gliding down the parking lot.

I then started skating with a friend in parking lots and quiet streets, still away from the public eye. She taught me to skate one foot at a time and in just a few days, I was making significant progress. The frustrating thing about skateboarding when you are a woman—thus not the “typical skateboarder“—you tend to draw attention to yourself, resulting in many awkward and sometimes creepy conversations. I have had to fend off many unwanted comments and dismiss the prying eyes of passers-by. Luckily, I was the one on the skateboard, and I could quickly speed away in the opposite direction. 

I eventually started skating to campus, which had been my aim all along. But by August, when I still had not made as much progress as I had wanted, I thought my goal remained out of reach. I feared that perhaps it would never happen. That said, on the first day of school, I showed up with my board in hand. 

Aside from the obvious benefit of a sport that doubles as a form of transportation, it is also a social one. My boyfriend has a longboard, and some of the best times we had in the summer were spent racing down Montreal bike lanes in the pitch black of night together.  

Unfortunately, daytime skating involves the added consideration of cars, whose drivers often do not feel like collaborating with pesky, unpredictable skateboarders. 

In addition to the dirty looks from drivers, skateboarders face another inconvenience: Montreal’s poor road quality. Every time I go over a bump, I pray I do not fall off. 

I have fallen off my skateboard three times: The first time I twisted my ankle, the second time I bruised one knee, and the third time, the other one knee. Although I admit that I am still only a beginner, I place most of the blame on the unpredictable nature of the pavement; skating here is a challenge at the best of times.

Despite this, I keep getting back on the board, and I now consider skateboarding to be one of my favourite activities. As the skateboarding season comes to a close—at least for those of us who do not want to be gliding through the snow—my advice to anyone interested in taking up the sport is to not be afraid to try it out. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to look a certain way or be fearless to skate. If you want to skate, then skateboarding is for you. Take my word for it—it is never too late to try.

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