This article originally appeared in the May 30, 1978 issue of the Boston Phoenix.
Most of us have at least some idea of what this new skateboarding craze is all about: once again, some force from California is yanking teenagers off baseball diamonds and basketball courts and putting them on boards that roll almost noiselessly two inches above the ground. It seems to be a harmless enough fad (though certain of the safety-minded periodically raise a fuss over the number of sprained ankles and broken bones), and its return, like the Frisbee’s a few years ago, has not gone undocumented: lately, skateboarding has been worth at least a few minutes at the end of the six o’clock news, or at the beginning of the Evening show.
So it’s only natural that the practice should also become popular on college campuses. Take Franklin Pierce College (FPC) in Rindge, New Hampshire, where the narrow concrete pathways that wind across the campus’s rolling hills offer the skateboarder long, weaving rides. In fact, the sport’s popularity rose to such a pitch during the warm months last fall that a few of the more dedicated skateboarders had an idea: a contest, “The First New Hampshire Skateboard Spectacular.” They would arrange to get the field house for a day, have some trophies made up – little bronze-looking numbers with skateboarders on top – and all the devotees on campus and in the neighboring towns could get together and have a good time. And maybe some FPC students would bring home some trophies, put them on top of their speakers and have a few laughs. It was a good idea, and the campus hot-shots were excited.
However, when the announcements went out and the organizers began to receive phone calls and letters from excited skaters from all over New England as well as New York, New Jersey and Delaware, they had a feeling they were really onto something. And when they heard that skateboard teams were planning to attend, they began to suspect that this might be bigger than they had first imagined, that maybe they were over their heads.
Sure enough, their suspicions were confirmed on the day of the contest, a typical spring day in New Hampshire (40 degrees, with snow flurries). By 9:30 – half an hour before starting time – the scene inside the field house was what could be called barely controlled chaos. In the middle of the huge floor were at least 100 adolescents in what looked like Technicolor Rollerball costumes – neon-ish helmets, elbow pads, knee pads and gloves, two-tone sneakers and bright long-sleeved shirts. And they were all on skateboards: spinning, standing on their heads, jumping over one another, flipping the boards, and so on. The idea of trying to carry my cup of coffee through this flailing mass of arms and legs and speeding skateboards was ridiculous. An end run, I saw, would be equally futile: each side of the center area was reserved for the so-called “specialty” events – high-jumping, wall-riding and barrel-jumping – and the skateboarders there were equally hyperactive. I wound up drinking the coffee where I stood.