Community, Features, Profiles

Dropping in to a community: The tight-knit skate culture of BU

Although the Boston University Beach sits directly adjacent to Storrow Drive, the most prominent sounds come from skateboards coasting by on a sunny March afternoon.

From ollies and pop shove-its to tail slides and nose-grabs, these sidewalk surfers do not just come to the lower half of Bay State road to try out new tricks — they engage in an accepting community.

“We’re really connected,” said Manny Cordoba, a BU skater and a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. “We all talk together and we hang out a lot because we go to skate on all the same spots basically in the city.”

Skater at BU beach
Isaac Tsolak skateboarding at BU beach. Groups skating on campus can happen cluster organically at BU Beach, outside of the Joan & Edgar Booth Theatre, and a skate park in Allston. HUI-EN LIN/DFP PHOTOGRAPHER

Cordoba said group skating on campus can happen organically because skaters tend to cluster in similar areas. Cordoba mainly skates on the BU Beach, but has ventured with groups to skate parks and shops in Copley and the North End.

The skating community on campus is held together with support and encouragement, Cordoba said, as many skaters push each other to try new tricks.

Suraj Patel, a BU skater and junior in CAS, said he finds a sense of pride in his skateboarding.

“Skateboarding allows people to challenge themselves and really push themselves to achieve something that may not mean anything to anything else, but it means a lot to them,” Patel said.

Online organizations foster this skateboarding community through organizing meetups for people to skate, rollerblade and have fun, Patel said.

Penny Hill, a junior in the Pardee School of Global Studies, co-founded the BU Girls Skater Club in the fall of 2021, to create a community for girls and gender queer people to feel comfortable and supported in skating.

The group has hosted skate meetups at the BU Beach, outside of the Joan and Edgar Booth Theatre and a skate park in Allston, where skateboarders, roller skaters and rollerbladers of all different abilities get to know each other and work on different skating skills.

“Everyone just gives each other tips and advice, we share snacks and we hang out as much as we skate,” Hill said.

The club helps build friendships for all skaters, regardless of ability, Hill said. The organization has multiple “loaner” skateboards that they raised money to buy for first-time skaters to be able to join the meetups with the proper equipment.

“There was this one girl who came to her meetup the other week,” Hill said. “It was her first time skating and we lent [a board] to her over spring break. And she was like, ‘I never would have had the opportunity to learn or meet other girls who skate in the town that I’m from.’”

BU’s placement directly in the city allows for adequate street spots for skating, Hill said. She has never run into any problems from BU security rejecting skateboarding, besides a few signs.

One of these signs to discourage skating was placed outside of the Booth Theatre last semester, said Sierra Hoss, a production office assistant in the Theatre and a senior in the College of Fine Arts.

Hoss said the smooth sidewalk often attracted groups of two to six skateboarders, which was disruptive to people entering and exiting the building, and when moving scenery in and out of the theater.

Hoss has been working at the Booth Theatre office for two years, and said she noticed a decrease in the number of skaters since the sign went up.

Patel’s first time skating at BU was at the Booth Theatre. He respects the sign now, but in the past met multiple skaters while outside the Theatre, he said.

Now, BU skaters mostly congregate on the BU Beach due to the area’s long stretch of road, grass, and “nice ambiance,” Cordoba said.

Cordoba, Patel and Hill all said a lot of their friendships at BU today have come from skateboarding at the University. This gathering through skateboarding has a positive impact on the students in the BU community, Patel said.

“It’s just a good thing,” Patel said. “I think people need to loosen up and, especially in an academic setting, really find what allows you to get loose and be a goddamn academic weapon.”

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