By: Marcus Dieterle, Assistant News Editor
The dominant representation of skaters in media is that of a ragtag bunch of vandals and delinquents, but that’s not an image that resonates with Towson University Glider Alliance Vice President Kevin Abelmann. Abelmann and the rest of the Glider Alliance, a skateboarding club at TU, want to show Towson and society at large that they just want to have some fun doing the sport they love.
“Society has written off skateboarding as like a hooligan sport, which kind of sucks for the people who are good contributing members to society,” Abelmann said. “We all carry our GPAs here. We do good. We offer everything. And it kind of just stinks that we’ve all been seen as loiterers and property destruction and all those things that have been tied to us.”
With the exception of temporary, chalk-like scuff marks left by their wheels on the road, Abelmann said the club hasn’t damaged University property. Abelmann and Glider Alliance President Parrish Walker met with University officials on April 21 in an attempt to secure a location where the club is allowed to skate.
According to Coordinator of Student Organizations Chris Rindosh, current TU policy on “person mechanical conveyance,” says students can use skateboards on pedestrian routes but cannot perform acrobatics or use skateboards on rails, elevated structures or inside buildings.
Rindosh said that while students can skate on campus, the Glider Alliance’s situation depends on the matter of finding a location that is both safe for them and other students and community members.
While the University hopes to accommodate the Glider Alliance, Rindosh said on-campus resources are not always available for such accommodations. If that’s the case, Rindosh hopes that the University will be able to find a suitable alternative location off-campus, such as a local skate park.
Rindosh said the Glider Alliance, like sport groups and other physically active groups, amended their group’s constitution to establish a list of safety guidelines. Among those guidelines is a liability waiver that participants must sign so they are aware of the risks and cannot sue the University or club officers if they get injured.
“I really do think the University is doing what it can to help them… I think Kevin and Parrish have done a really good job,” Rindosh said. “They’re advocating for their students and their organization. I think it’s our role to help them to the extent that we can.”
Seniors Walker and Abelmann would also like to see the University Store expand its skateboarding products, particularly safety equipment. The store currently sells a small selection of skateboards from the Globe brand.
Walker and Abelmann said at least three Glider Alliance members have bought Globe boards from the store and had them break soon after purchasing them, largely because they are made of cheap plastic and are not well-equipped for tricks and other techniques that the Glider Alliance practices.
“Around here, you don’t have always the smoothest surfaces, like International Walkway is bricks and stuff,” Abelmann said. “So a certain strain on the board is to be expected and if you don’t have a great quality product, something could happen and that comes down to the safety of the rider.”
Abelmann said that skateboarders go through boards fairly frequently, but that the Globe boards break especially quickly and are just as expensive as other brands’ boards.
University Store Director Stacy Elofir said she has never received a return or formal complaint for a Globe board, and has never been provided proof that one of the boards purchased from the University Store have broken. She has purchased three Globe boards for her children and hasn’t ever had one break.
“Globe is a respected mid-level skateboard company at a reasonable price,” she said.
If a customer were to complain about a board purchased from the University Store, Elofir said the store would refund the customer’s money.
Elofir said she received an email from the Glider Alliance in September 2015 with a list of products — including safety gear, wheels, trucks, apparel and accessories — and vendors they would like to see in the University Store. Since then, Elofir has had several email exchanges with Walker and Abelmann about products and vendors.
In particular, Walker and Abelmann suggested to Elofir that the store could add products from the Baltimore-based board company Bustin Boards.
“We are always happy to review a new vendor’s product line, especially a local business,” Elofir said.
But Elofir said in an email that the store has been “unable to find a vendor to support a sufficient stock of safety gear,” and that the store does not currently have the space for the products that Walker and Abelmann requested.
“The UStore is always concerned about students’ reactions and concerns and review merchandise offerings, policies and procedures often based on those reactions and concerns,” Elofir said. “The Glider Alliance has not contacted the UStore regarding their concerns directly for over a year. I currently have no formal complaints regarding our skateboards.”
Elofir said the University Store has photographed members of the Glider Alliance for advertisements and social media posts, and has posted the club’s information with the boards on the sales floor.
“We’d like to do more of them, work with the store and that sort of thing,” Walker said. “It would definitely be a benefit if we could get safety gear and promote that the school is selling all this stuff.”
The Glider Alliance is also working on ways to fund their club.
Abelmann said the Glider Alliance is a Package 1 student group through the Tiger Stripes Program, meaning they receive basic benefits but do not receive funding through SGA. Being a Package 2 student group requires a group to complete 50 community service hours, which Abelmann said the Glider Alliance is unable to do because it is difficult for the members to coordinate their school schedules and other commitments.
Instead, he said the club has raised its own funds in the community to spend on boards and safety equipment for some of its members, as well as transportation to competitions.
Walker and Abelmann estimate that a full skating set (board, trucks, wheels, gloves, grip tape, bearings, knee pads, helmet and any other equipment) could easily reach $300 and that the Glider Alliance does not receive the same financial support as sports clubs do, even though skateboarding is just as physical.
Ultimately, Walker and Abelmann just want Towson to support the Glider Alliance and reduce the stigma surrounding the skater community as a whole.
“Longboarding and skateboarding — it’s a lot about sport and all that stuff — but it’s also about a lifestyle,” Abelmann said. “There’s a certain feeling you get when you longboard and people find that out. We’ve all found it out when you go down a hill. It makes you feel awesome and we want people to experience that feeling also.”