Longboarding Along the Mississippi

It was near midnight, and I was with two other guys from my floor freshman year at the University of Minnesota, Joe and Christian. Nice guys. They had the sort of smooth, easy-going demeanor that made everyone feel comfortable and breathe a little easier. They wore a lot of plaid, Joe’s shirts always a bit too large for his body. Christian usually had a fantastic beard going, the kind of beard that most anyone could become a fan of.

They both had longboards, and another friend across the hall by the name of Petrie allowed me to use his that night. He had a nice bamboo Arbor board, a more classic board with no flex that stood higher up above the ground than a drop deck. It was stiff enough to get going fast, yet stood high enough above the ground to weave easily back and forth. We set out that night around midnight for the steep black hills paralleling the roaring Mississippi.

The night air was cool against my face, the exposed V-shape below my neck, my forearms and hands from where my rolled shirt stopped. It was the pushing and the gliding and the coasting, the floating, that made it feel as if you were formless, as if your body was nonexistent that Minneapolis night. In fact, you felt a part of the city.

It was the sound of the wheels spinning and the ease of turning your board. It was the quietness of it all. In a city of 400,000 and a student body of 50,000 that easily made one feel alone on many days, we were met with a different type of aloneness, the sort that one should embrace.

The most exhilarating moments were those in which we couldn’t make out how steep the hills were, where the lighting was sparse, and the road’s surface full of secrets. And as we began moving faster, so fast that turning felt risky, all it would have taken was a patch of sand, a pebble too large, a moment’s hesitation and a slight nervous adjustment to have sent us home bleeding with rough skid marks on our ass cheeks, rocks embedded in our arms that would have to be pulled out with a tweezers, a scraped face. Luckily we didn’t fall riding that night.

There are very few moments in which I felt as free.

 

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