Although there are many skaters on campus, Isaiah Jelani Lawrence is, in some circles, known at Southern Adventist University for practicing his skateboard tricks on the promenade, dormitory parking lots and various paved roads around campus.
Lawrence is a junior at Southern majoring in theology and computer science. In an interview with the Accent, he said he started skateboarding his freshman year around Christmas break. Some of his friends had encouraged him to start skateboarding and helped him learn how to do tricks. After being taught the basics, Lawrence said he didn’t give up on learning more about the sport. He puts a considerable amount of time into practicing his skating.
“Whenever I have time, I try to skateboard for at least, like, two hours a day,” Lawrence said. “Or, if it’s like Friday or Saturday night, I try to skate for, like, three to four hours.”
The practice pays off.
Lawrence said he has progressed a lot since starting and has almost completed all of the eight basic tricks of skateboarding. After completing these, he plans to move on to intermediate tricks, including the varial heelflip, and bigger gaps and rails.
He doesn’t practice rail tricks on campus because it is not allowed, Lawrence explained, and has no intention of trying to deface the school or break any rules.
“Probably my most favorite accomplishment was that I jumped the five stairs at the church. … It was a good time,” he said. “You know, I was working at it for like three days, two hours each, and I finally hit it.”
According to Lawrence, some students like to watch him skate.
“I just have been told they think I have a lot of fun with it,” he said, “especially because I like to bomb hills a lot.”
Although skateboarding may be a good way to get around campus, the sport is more than a form of transportation for the athlete.
When asked how skating makes him feel, Lawrence said, “Whenever I’m skating, … I feel just like I’m going with the wind. It’s cheesy, but I feel like the stress of life comes off my back.”
Lawrence spends a substantial amount of time skating, and despite the challenges of learning a new trick and the physical strain of falling, he always tries again.
His advice to others who are challenging themselves is: “Just send it,” meaning it’s ok to mess up; it’s ok to fall. Sometimes skaters must throw caution to the wind.
“You’re never going to be good the first time,” Lawrence said, “and when I say ‘send it,’ I really mean it, because … you have to fail at something to be good at something. And that’s okay, you know?
“It’s not like a judgment of your skills or your character or who you are,” he continued. “It’s just the fact that you did something you don’t have the muscle memory, knowledge or anything for. But the important thing is getting back up and trying it over and over again, calming yourself and telling yourself that it’s okay, then doing it again.”
Lawrence said he does skateboard giveaways on his social media when he can, aiming for one a month. He finds skateboards for a good price and gives them away to students who want to start learning. To be entered into the giveaway, Lawrence encourages those who are interested to direct-message him and state why they would like to start skating. He later chooses a winner based on their answers and announces them on his social media page. “I want people to skate with; it’s a good time,” he said.