When Loyola senior Ethan Eldridge started college four years ago, he decided he needed to ditch his trusty roller-blades for a cooler, easier way to get around the city and Loyola’s campus.
“You can’t just slap on the blades and walk into class … so a skateboard seemed like a dope-ass option,” Eldridge, 21, said.
Now, Eldridge said he’s fallen in love with skating culture and has found a tight-knit group of fellow skaters at Loyola.
Diego Alanias Resendiz, a sophomore at Loyola studying philosophy and theoretical physics and applied mathematics, said he created a Snapchat group chat for Loyola skateboarders last semester after meeting fellow skaters while skating on the patio of Mertz Residence Hall.
“[The group chat] is to encourage people who want to learn how to skate or people who do skate to get together every now and then,” Resendiz, 19, said.
Eldridge said although everyone seems to skate for different reasons, the group, which currently has around 50 members, will meet up around campus to practice skills, share advice or just hang out.
“In typical skater fashion, everyone is pretty individualistic,” Eldridge said. “It’s not a team sport, it’s something that people do for a lot of reasons. They do it for recreation or for therapy or they want to get really good.”
Skateboarding has been gaining attention as a sport after an announcement it would debut in the 2020 Olympics this summer — and Loyola’s own skating community is growing, too — or, at least becoming more connected.
Eldridge and Loyola junior Taylor Bulla are both members of the growing Snapchat group of skateboarders at Loyola. Bulla said it can be difficult to find other people who like to skate, especially during the cold months in Chicago, and the group has helped connect student skaters.
“Skating is definitely a smaller sport and there aren’t many people involved in it, so when you get people that want to skate, go to parks, do tricks, work on stuff, it’s always very fun to have other people with you,” Bulla, 20, said. “It’s really motivational to have other people that are really passionate about the sport with you.”
Eldridge said he doesn’t hesitate to add someone he spots skating around campus to the group chat, no matter their skill-level as long as they are pushing “four low wheels around.”
“Anyone I see I’m always like, ‘are you in the chat, let me add you,’ I just want to get all of us linked up,” Eldridge said.
Resendiz said having an established community of Loyola skaters has also made him more open to striking up conversations with fellow skaters he sees around campus, and asking if they’d like to be a part of the group. Before the group chat, he said he’d notice someone skate by but didn’t have the courage to chat with them.
However, when students decide to meet up to skate, odds are they’ll be heading off campus. Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus has “skate stoppers” — usually small metal ridges or bumps — on several monuments and architecture throughout campus to stop students from skating on them.
Kana Henning, associate vice president for facilities at Loyola, said in an email to The Phoenix the skate stoppers are put in place during each project’s construction to “preserve those features for everyone’s use, and prevent costly damage.”
Henning said Loyola “has not intentionally developed or identified any skate-friendly areas,” but the university allows skateboarding for the purpose of transportation, not tricks. However, Resendiz said he has been stopped by campus cops while trying to get from “point A to point B” on campus.
Eldridge said he thinks students would care more about the architecture on Loyola’s campus, such as the Damen statue, if they could skate on its ledges.
“If you make a piece of architecture skatable, I think that makes it so much better,” Eldridge said. “That makes so people actually [care] about it. It’s not just a statue that people look at, it becomes integrated with the culture and not just an inanimate object.”
Resendiz said he doesn’t have an issue with the skate stoppers, instead he sees them as an opportunity for creativity.
“I am more than okay with having skate stoppers across campus,” Resendiz said. “Skate stoppers in general force people to get more creative with skateboarding,. There are spots that would be so nice and so easy if skate stoppers weren’t there but sometimes ‘so nice and so easy,’ doesn’t allow you to be creative.”
Eldridge said the skating community doesn’t discriminate — whether they’re working on their ollies or just learning to stand on the board, he said the group welcomes them.
“The kids I’ve talked to did not come from stable homes or good living situations and they have found joy and solace and creativity [in skating],” Eldridge said.
As a woman, Bulla said she sometimes catches people off guard when she tells them she skates, but she has ultimately found a place within Loyola.
“People are never really expecting it, they always seem somewhat surprised when I tell them I’m going skating or I have my board with me or something, but I feel like Loyola’s a really accepting community,” Bulla said.