Skateboarding for Community, Mental Health, Exercise and More

As a middle and high school student in the Bay Area in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Andy Duran was all about skateboarding — both for transportation and for fun. “It’s so freeing,” he describes. “You get to feel solid and graceful all at the same time and create a rhythm with the world around you.”

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He also found that it was a great way to make friends.

As Duran moved on from high school, he left skateboarding behind. Then the pandemic hit, and he found himself looking for ways to pass the time and to stay active while he worked from home. Skateboarding was a perfect fit, he thought. Except it wasn’t. Duran found a surprising lack of information and representation for fat skaters, not to mention the lack of skateboards with high weight limits and clothes in sizes past a large. These obstacles meant that plus-size people often didn’t fit at all.

So Duran went to work. He realized that in a sport where the representation is typically comprised of white, thin males, “as a fat person, a queer and trans person of color and someone close to 40, I’m already offering something unique and valuable, even as a beginner.”

[SEE: Breaking Fitness Stereotypes: Plus-Size Triathlete Bobbie Solomon.]

ChubRollz Community

Duran started sharing his journey on social media and then realized that he wanted to do more. He wanted to build a safe place for plus-size folks to learn to skate while building community. ChubRollz was born. The group is based in the Bay Area, but hosts both in-person and online events that include everything from hanging out and skating together to skating lessons and online coaching. It even provides some equipment for those who don’t have their own. Its main base of operation is its Instagram account (@chubrollz) where you can find information about upcoming events.

Duran tells me that there’s a misconception in skating that everyone who skates considers it a “sport” and themselves and “athlete.” In fact, many people are interested for reasons like cutting their commute time or moving and learning about their bodies. Duran notes that this can drive a culture where “everyone expects that the only folks interested in skating are those looking to one day go pro and everyone else is simply a ‘poser.’ This is the cancer that kills the heart of skateboarding.”

[READ: Tips to Spice Up Your Fitness Routine.]

ChubRollz fights back against that negative culture by offering events for plus-size people who want to learn and skate on wheels of any kinds, bringing together skateboarders, roller skaters and more people with diverse goals and interests.

“My favorite experiences,” Duran says “are always when the group rallies together to support someone, whether that’s cheering for a new skater or signing a skater’s cast when they’re hurt. It’s about coming together as a little community and saying ‘you’re welcomed here,’ and I love that so much.”

[Read: Tips to Restart Your Exercise Routine.]

Inclusion for the Underrepresented

Duran’s experiences have not been all sunshine and roses. He deals with his share of internet trolls. Though it can be challenging to wade through the vitriol, ultimately it always reminds him that the work he does to make sure that people know that they aren’t alone and that they deserve to take up space is deeply necessary and important.

For those interested in putting together skating events, Duran points out that it’s not enough to just want to be inclusive, or to believe that everyone is welcome. He explains that inclusivity is about action, actively demonstrating an awareness of the needs of those who are underrepresented and doing the work to meet those needs.

Next on Duran’s list is addressing the issue of sizing for skate apparel and safety gear like knee and elbow pads. He is also planning to restart virtual skate events so that those outside of the Bay Area can experience the joy that is ChubRollz.

Duran is clear in his mission. “We need to find our community to remember that we are not alone and we get to exist here.”

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Skateboarding for Community, Mental Health, Exercise and More originally appeared on usnews.com

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