Skateboarders intend to improve image

By Tyler Davis

The stereotypical image of long haired men rolling down public streets on skateboards has been a headache for city officials in America for decades.

The SIU skateboarding sport club, known as Skate Society, hopes to reverse that idea. The club was founded just four years ago and has already made a name for itself in terms of community service and unity. It has more than 20 members and has participated in multiple community service projects.

Clark Nelson, a senior from Chicago studying computer science, is the Skate Society president and was a founding member of the club. Nelson said the club began as just a group of people looking to skate with others.

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“Really it was a place where people can just meet and skateboard,” he said. “It’s everybody who enjoys the same thing, so it’s a connection and an easy way to find friends.”

The connection has spawned a club that is one of the most active on campus. Nelson said the club is open to long boarders as well and he hopes to see more of both around campus.

Shane Bennett, the assistant director for club sports and intramurals, said “skate culture” usually has negative connotations, but his work with the club has highlighted the positives skating has to offer.

“Just sitting there talking with them I learned so much about the skateboarding world and Skate Society,” Bennett said. “It’s not just about them, I think it is the culture of skateboarding; as much as it is individually, they understand the bigger picture of community.”

The feeling of community has led the club to partake in open skates, competitions for local skaters and even a toy drive for the Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale. The open skates and competitions are held at a Carterville skate park.

Nelson said the club hopes to get the support to build a skate park in Carbondale. He said the goal is to show the community skateboarding can be a positive influence in the town.

“We think that maybe the community service will help towards the community wanting to build us a skate park,” he said. “We really want to make a good name for skateboarding on campus because skateboarders had a bad name, especially through the ‘90s, and we’d really like to change that.”

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Tina Carpenter, program director for the Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale, said the club created a positive image of skating and SIU students in general.

“It’s wonderful that the students at SIU are invested in the community that they live in while attending college,” Carpenter said. “It’s great to see students who care about the children of the community and who are positive and role models.”

Nelson said while people like Carpenter have realized the positive nature of the club and skateboarding culture, the club has seen little progress in the process to get a skate park built. Not only is funding an issue, Nelson said figuring out who would build the park is a problem as well.

“There’s not even a clear definition between who would want to build that; the school or the city of Carbondale,” he said. “Neither of them have enough money to throw us skateboarders to build a big skate park so we’re working on some short-term fixes right now.”

The club said it has not approached the sport club board or the city council yet about the skate park. Nelson said he hopes to get better organized and get more community and student body support before the club takes the next steps.

In the meantime, Nelson said the club is pursuing other goals. Those “short-term fixes” include getting the funding for smaller things to skate on.

“Through the sports club, we have a lot more chances for getting a mini ramp on campus or fixing up the rink or buying a rail,” he said. “Something manageable that we can fundraise for, that we can make happen.”

Nelson said he would make any of those changes for the club but his main goal is still to provide skateboarders and long boarders with a place they can skate in Carbondale. He said the club will continue to organize events for the community, and help out with the Boys and Girls Club.

Bennett said he expects nothing less of the club.

“Philanthropically, they are our best sport club,” Bennett said. “We have sport clubs that do well with fundraising and stuff, but going out and doing things for the community, I mean they are outstanding students doing outstanding things.”

Skate Society meets at 5 p.m. Thursdays on the sixth floor of Morris Library. Interested students can also find the club skating around campus or at the hockey courts near Brush Towers and University Hall.

Tyler Davis can be reached at [email protected], on Twitter at @TDavis_DE or at 536-331 ext. 269

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