A low voice yells. It breaks through the thick sound of wheels rolling on the cement of Berks Street.
“Car down,” Matt Smith, a first-year graduate student at Temple, calls out. The longboarders roll off to the sidewalk like iron fillings to a magnet. The lone car passes the mixed group of skaters and it won’t be long until they take the hill again.
2014 marks the third year of Temple’s Longboarder’s Club, only three years after Smith began rounding up students who shared his passion. Vice President of the club, Tish Golafaie, smiled, as she recalled the day she met Smith.
“I was a freshman longboarding on campus when I heard Matt yell, ‘Hey longboarder!’ I was scared!” Golafaie laughed. “I was the one of the only girls who longboarded at that time. I remember he was wearing a hockey jersey, and he chased me down.”
Golafaie became a part of the group of seven that started the now growing club. Since then, the club has grown to include more than 30 people from Temple and the Philadelphia area.
Every Thursday night, the group gathers at the Bell Tower for the club’s official meeting. Club President Ben Katz circulates, sharing his friendly demeanor with the members.
“Free candy?” Katz asks as he holds out a bag of candy bars. Newcomers stand amongst experienced boarders and conversation ensues until Golafie and Katz call out for attention.
Announcements are made about club T-shirts and upcoming events before Katz waves his hands, calling out that the meeting is officially over. The meetings last about 15 minutes. Katz calls it “the longboarding enthusiast club,” for this reason.
When the group asked Temple to recognize it as a club, it learned that the skaters would not be insured. As a result, the actual skating has to occur outside the confines of the meeting, explaining why Katz emphasized the conclusion of the meeting before the group headed down past Anderson and Gladfelter Halls to skate. Because the skating is not directly affiliated with Temple, the club welcomes longboarders from the Philadelphia community.
“We consider our club pretty open and people of all ages, of all skill levels, and all different places just drop by sometimes,” Golafaie said. “I almost feel like we’re a community club in a sense, because we are just a point to meet and anybody can meet at that point.”
Among club members is James Contreras, manager of Community Bikes and Boards, or “Community,” as the members familiarly call it.
The relationship with Community and the Longboarder’s Club began when Smith was a team rider for the shop. Community hosted the Longborder’s Club’s first event, a day spent building and customizing longboards.
Since then, Community has offered discounts to all members of the club and keeps the club’s business cards on display in the shop. Community also encourages new riders and offers demo longboards at the meetings.
Golafaie even jokes about a nickname she’s used with Rob Everitt, the owner of Community.
“I call him Dad, just to get on his nerves, but kind of not because he really is kind of a father to me – he looks out for everyone,” Golafaie said.
Everitt played a major role in helping the club attract new members. Spring Fling in 2013 marked a turning point for the small club. With Everitt’s assistance and support from Community, the table attracted a mass of students; Katz and Golafaie said they were surprised when they ran of out of business cards.
However, Community is not the only outside support that the Longboarder’s Club has received. A Temple security guard who goes by Mr. Mark stands on the corner of Gladfelter and Anderson, the corner across the street from the hill that the longboarders ride down.
On Thursday nights, he too becomes a member of the club, always welcoming the skaters with a smile and encouraging them to do what makes them happy.
“He looks out for us,” Katz said. “He tells us when cars are coming. He calms things down.”
The hill on Berks street works as an ideal spot for the skaters to skate, they said.
“We try to pick a spot that is good for skaters of all different levels,” Golafaie said.
Still, the club has to deal with the occasional car. He said Mr. Mark acts as a quiet overseer, ready to keep peace between the cars and the skaters.
“He keeps us able to skate there in a sense which is great,” Golafaie said. “He creates a buffer zone between us and anyone who is trying to stop us from skating down the hill.” Golafaie said.
Over the years, the club has grown into a large community that extends beyond school borders, Katz said.
“Sharing what you love with others is like life, you know? It’s great,” Katz said.
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