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Bloomington sees an increase in skateboarding during the COVID-19 pandemic



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Skateboarder Sam Crawford ollies three stacked skateboards July 25 in Columbus, Indiana. Crawford won first place for best trick in the park toward the end of the contest. Alex Deryn

Skateboarding isn’t new to Bloomington. The sound of the polyurethane wheels against pavement is as much a part of the Bloomington soundscape as yells from Kirkwood bars or basketball shoes against linoleum. 

However, this year has seen a rise in the activity in the city said Jonathan Prather of Rhett Skateboarding in Bloomington. Factors that may have contributed to a rise in skateboarding include the activity’s individual nature, a new skatepark in town and the release of the video game Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2. 

“There’s so many people getting into skateboarding right now, I think because of the pandemic,” said Prather. “Bloomington has a new skatepark and on top of that it’s going to be in the Olympics, you know? And Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is being remade.”

Skateboarding will debut as an Olympic sport at the postponed 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo with both park and street style competitions.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2, a remaster of the first two games in the famed skateboarding video game series, released Sept. 4. Hawk also partnered with online education platform Masterclass to release virtual skateboarding classes. 

Bloomington has two concrete skateparks, Switchyard Skatepark and the Skatepark at Upper Cascades. The Upper Cascades was built in 2003, while Switchyard Skatepark opened with the rest of Switchyard Park in November 2019.

“I got into skateboarding mainly because of the pandemic and trying to find something new to do,” IU senior Zach Crouch said. “I’ve had a very tiny soft spot for skating ever since I was little, but never got fully into it.”

Something happening recently that Prather has taken notice of is students and local skaters who want to use skateboarding for both tricks in their free time, as well as just to skate around campus.

Crouch has spent time skating both on campus and at the new Switchyard Skatepark. He purchased a new skateboard two weeks before classes began as a way to get to class and do tricks. 

This spike in interest for skateboarding isn’t necessarily new. Prather has seen growth in the activity around Bloomington. He recalls a time a few years ago when longboarding became popular with students for transportation. 

IU senior Jacob Hiscock, who hasn’t been on campus since students were sent home in March, has noticed more students and locals skating while driving around Bloomington.

“I skate a little bit recreationally just around my neighborhood,” Hiscock said. “Sometimes if I need to get somewhere I would bring my board, but not a whole lot on campus.”

New skaters should decide what style they’d like to skate before buying a skateboard, Prather says. Preferences include wanting to skate as a method of transportation or wanting to skate at skateparks. Boards can be built for both transportation and tricks.

Prather enjoys the skateboarding culture in Bloomington due to its accepting nature. He said that with some college towns there’s a separation between college students and local skaters, but that isn’t the case here.

“It’s never like two scenes,” Prather said. “Everyone is really tight with each other, which I appreciate.”

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