Meet UHD's Gator Skaters
By Mike Emery
The seeds of contemporary skateboarding were planted in mid-20th century southern California. Fast forward to 2017, and the sport continues to grow around the world … including right here at the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD).
Whether it's carving concrete waves at skate parks or cruising city sidewalks, skateboarding is a great way to exercise mind, body and spirit. No one knows this better than the members of the UHD Skater Club. The 12-member student club was formed in December 2016 with the primary of goal of skating as a way to unwind from class and connect with Gator skaters.
Founding member Christian Tijerina is a sophomore psychology student in the University's Honors Program. He was seeking a student club to join and decided to start his own organization focused on skateboarding.
"When I looked at different UHD clubs, I couldn't find anything that I was really into," he said. "I always have my skateboard with me to skate in between classes and work, and I see a lot of other people with skateboards. I thought it would be great if a bunch of students would skate together."
Through his peer mentor, he met sophomore business major and fellow skater Juan Rivera. They began handing out flyers and reaching out to students carrying skateboards. Among their recruits was freshman computer science major Cameron Kelly.
The club's immediate goals are to host meet-ups either on campus or the nearby Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark. Members plan to compete in local competitions and are striving to become the first sponsored university skate club in Texas. More than anything, members simply want to meet new friends and learn new things about skateboarding.
"For me, it's a stress reliever," Tijerina said. "It's something to do to unwind. I also like the skateboarding culture. There's always a new trick to learn and new people to meet."
The club accepts members of all skill levels, Tijerina added. It also welcomes skaters who use traditional boards, long boards or penny boards (smaller 22-inch skateboards).
"As a skater, I instantly connect with someone who's just skating by," Kelly said. "You realize that someone else share your passion. Plus, you can learn tricks from other people and perhaps teach them tricks too."
While skateboarding isn't necessarily an academic discipline, UHD Skater Club members agree that learning new maneuvers and practicing with friends is a casual yet effective mental exercise. And working with fellow students builds teamwork and collaborative skills, Tijerina added. The camaraderie and creativity associated with skateboarding provide experiences that will help them ultimately finish UHD strong.
More than anything, the club is aimed at creating a fun, friendly skateboarding community on campus. Tijerina and Kelly encourage students who are interested to reach out to them. Many students might be interested in learning how to skateboard but are embarrassed to try. As long as they're willing to learn and want to meet new friends, the club welcomes all Gator skaters.
"That's why the club is here," Kelly said. "We want to promote skating in Houston. If you're not sure of what you're doing, we'll help you. Skateboarding might not be a class here on campus, but our club offers another learning opportunity for students."