Leland Bailey-Burks’ parents bought him a skateboard when he was five after they noticed his budding interest in the hobby, which was sparked when he began tuning into the televised X Games.By the time he reached high school, Bailey-Burks, now a freshman studying music production at Ohio University, was skating four to five days each week.
Yet now as a college student, Bailey-Burks said he has put his pastime on the back burner to make room for the school year’s other priorities.
“This past semester, I was usually only able to get out once or twice a week, which is definitely not as much as I would have liked to,” Bailey-Burks said.
For many student skaters, finding the time to skate is more difficult than it was at the grade-school level, because the pursuit of a higher education — as well as employment — forces many to reconsider how they allot their free time.
Bailey-Burks met fellow freshman and True House mod-mate Adam Omlor, who is studying marketing, after they were introduced at a hall meeting and discovered their shared interest. The two became fast friends and have skated around campus together throughout Fall Semester.
Though a leg injury limited skating time for Omlor, who has been skateboarding for five years, he said he also feels the workload at OU has kept him from taking his board out as much as he’d like.
The extreme nature of skateboarding is often what draws thrill-seekers when they’re young, but it is also a contributing factor that presses them to give it up when they’re older.
Doug Nehrenz, a junior studying engineering technology and management, began making the four-hour journey to Athens from his home in Sheffield Lake, Ohio, before he was a student, to skate at the park behind the Athens Community Center.
Since starting to skate at age 11, Nehrenz has suffered numerous sprained ankles, as well as a dislocated index finger that now “won’t bend as far as the other one.”
“You know it’s not going to last forever, especially when you wake up every day and your knees and ankles are just feeling worseand worse,” Nehrenz said. “My mom has never actually seen me compete, because she doesn’t want to see me get hurt.”
The hospital bills a daring skater could accumulate would be enough to drive most away, but the expenses don’t end there.
At FlipSide Skateboard Shop, 14 W. Stimson Ave., a complete skateboard typically ranges in price from $80 to $150. Additionally, most skaters prefer to skate in sturdy shoes specially designed for the sport. On average, a new pair requires an investment of $40 to $70.
In the end, the decision of when or why to stop skateboarding is left solely to the skater, but giving up a lifelong obsession can be a tough choice to face — and one that some never choose to make.
Moss Miller, the owner of FlipSide, moved to Athens in 1990, began skating a year later and quickly became a familiar face in the local skating community.
Skateboarding has allowed him to travel the world, reach the semi-professional level and be sponsored by brands such as Ninja Bearings and Emerica Shoes.
Now at 35, Miller said skating has been so prominent that it has become “a way of life.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever fully give it up,” Miller said. “If I were to give it up, it would be because I couldn’t do it, but even then, I’d try and find a way to.”