A Day with Downhill Skateboarders


When most of the general public thinks of skateboarding they think of two things. 

First, they think of all the crazy street tricks like ollies and kickflips. Second, they think that skaters are nuisances who always put their lives in danger and skate in areas they are not supposed to. 

I wanted to see what these “Hooligans” are actually like, so in September I went with my twin brother who has been skating for 4 years to a “sesh” in Chapel Hill. 

Now these skaters, including my brother, do a different kind of skating called downhill. Basically instead of learning tricks on flat ground. These guys fly down long steep hills at crazy speeds.  They use a method called sliding which uses special gloves with pucks attached to basically drift when going down big hills.

“That’s kind of our brakes instead of having a brake system,” said Carson Pate, a skater and photographer.

(Photo Permission of @csptmedia)

We started by meeting up at a hill called Kenmore named after the street this slope was on. The first thing I noticed was there were around 8 cars lined up at the top of the hill. The amount of people that take part in this niche sport was surprising to me. 

We met up with the skaters. A cool aspect of this community I could tell off the cuff was the diverse age group. There were people from the ages of 17 all the way to 27. It was really cool to me how these guys with a 10 year age gap could come together for a mutual love of skating. 

After watching them skate Kenmore for a little while, we went and grabbed lunch at a local McDonalds where I heard some of the history of this interesting activity. Apparently due to the people who were best at the sport getting older and stopping, the skate scene died for a little. In recent years however, this style of skating has grown exponentially thanks to groups like 919 Downhill introducing the activity to a new audience.

(Photo permission of @csptmedia)

After lunch, we went to another hill called Sierra, a street in a nearby neighborhood. At Sierra, something very interesting happened. While I was asking some questions to the skaters, one of the homeowners came out and started talking to us. He started asking some questions on what they were doing and remarking how he had never seen this happen here before. The truth is however, that these skaters came to the area quite often, but this guy had just moved in so he had never seen them. The neighbor all of a sudden shifted his tone and told us to leave because if one of the skaters crashed into his curb he claimed he would be responsible. Since Sierra was a public road, from a legal standpoint they did not have to leave. 

But to make things easier, all of the skaters, including Logan Jacobson, a skater, spoke up and acted really mature about leaving the spot. 

“To people who have a negative opinion, like just go out and talk because the worst thing in the world is when we are at a spot, and someone comes out all guns blazing and screaming and everything like that because it’s something that could be resolved with simple conversation,” said Jacobsen.  

This really impressed me due to the stereotype of skaters being disrespectful towards their community.

After this plan went out the window, we went to another hill they called Elizabeth. It was a steep incline with a massive blind corner. But all of the skaters were aware, wore safety gear, and had spotters at the bottom of the hill who yelled “Car!” and made an X with their hands when they saw a vehicle.

(Photo permission of @csptmedia)

 After this session, I went back to Raleigh feeling enlightened about this sport, and the truly great  people involved in it. 

“I think it’s very misunderstood. Any community in any sport is going to have its bad apples but for the most part downhill longboarding is a great group of guys and girls just trying to have a good time” said Will Aurewreck, a skater who is sponsored by Omen Boards and Arsenal trucks.

(Video courtesy of Grant Silver)

If you would like to learn more or get involved in the scene I would recommend following the instagram account, @919downhill which is the main skate page for this group. Also check out @csptmedia which is run by Carson Pate who took all of the photos used in this article as well as many pictures for the Central and Western NC Downhill scene.  

The experienced skaters had loads of advice to give. “Go faster. Anytime anybody asks for advice on how to skate, 9 times out of 10 the answer is to go faster” said Morgan Burns, a 27- year old skater. This is because sliding at high speeds is easier than sliding at low speeds. 

It is also very important to “Be safe, Skate with a group and know your limits” , said Coleton Roper, another experienced skater in the group. 

Below is fun skater vocabulary with some definitions. 

Thane- Short for polyurethane and that is the streaks wheels leave behind after you slide them 

A Wall- A very steep hill 

Skitching- Holding onto a moving vehicle while on your board.

Sesh- A group skate event 

Stoke- Being excited and energetic 

Tucking- Leaning down on your board in an aero position to go faster 

Skids- synonym for sliding 

Freeride-A form of downhill skateboarding that is more trick oriented and technical

Dialed- Very skilled

Bricked- When someone falls very hard


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