Riding for home
Even with a broken wrist and a nasty cold, Sara Paulshock '11 is the best of the best of female competitive longboarders.
Paulshock notched her fifth straight win recently on an unusually cool and windy day in Hallandale Beach, Fla. She won $500 for being the first female competitor to cross the finish line at the Adrenalina Skateboard Marathon, a first-of-its-kind 26.2-mile longboard road race.
With her latest win, Paulshock, undefeated since her first competition a little more than a year ago, is gaining a sort of celebrity status within the longboarding community.
"People were asking for my autograph, which was surreal," she said. "I was just sort of scribbling. It's hard to write with my cast!"
Paulshock fractured her right scaphoid - a small bone in the wrist that doesn't heal easily - practicing short board tricks at a local skate park. The pink and blue striped cast, which bears the name of her skateboarding sponsor, is a visual symbol of her fearlessness.
Paulshock, who is originally from New Hampshire but now lives in Celebration, Fla., is sponsored by Bustin Boards, a New York City-based company that produces custom longboards. She was first acquainted with the company in 2009, when she proposed a funded internship through Connecticut College's Career Enhancing Life Skills (CELS) program after learning about Bustin Boards during the 2009 Broadway Bomb longboarding race.
Paulshock says she did a little bit of everything during her internship at the company's headquarters and New York City store front, from sales to board production to custom graphic design.
"The whole industry is blowing up right now," Paulshock explains. "Longboarding is easy to learn, and you don't have to have the balance that's required with a short board. And it's an easy way to get around. I never took to the train in New York. I skated everywhere, and nine times out of 10, it is a faster way to travel."
For Paulshock, however, longboarding is more than just a hobby or a sport. It's an entire culture that intrigues her.
"Skateboarding has a history in punk culture that longboarding isn't wrapped up in," she said. "As an anthropology major, I took note of who would come into the shop - it is families with little boys who jump out of Mercedes to pick out boards and it's Europeans and it's local New York City kids; it's girls and it's boys - that's part of the appeal."
Inspired by Iain Borden's "Skateboarding, Space and the City: Architecture and the Body," a study of how skateboarding and skateboarding culture is redefining urban space, Paulshock is considering an independent study of longboarding culture from an anthropological perspective.
Longboarding culture is inclusive, welcoming and international, Paulshock says. Recently, she traveled with a group of boarders to Toronto for a gathering of hundreds of boarding enthusiasts. On another occasion, she hosted a female boarder from Sweden.
Eventually, Paulshock would like to work in sales, ideally for a longboard company. But after graduation, she hopes to take a year off to travel and skate competitively. "I'd love to travel to Europe, and if my sponsors want to support me, I can't think of a better way to do it."