From hot summer days to chilly November afternoons, skateboarders are almost always rolling around "the bricks" — also known as Smith Plaza — outside the University of New Mexico’s Zimmerman Library.
"One cool thing about this place is that you can come here on most any given day and there’s always gonna be at least one person skating," senior film student Carlos Renfro said. "I come here without my skateboard and guys will be here (and) they’d be like 'hey, you know, come skate with us,'" Renfro said. He added that, on occasion, the other skaters lend him a board.
Renfro began skating UNM after he moved to New Mexico from the U.S. territory of Guam. The island, he said, has a "small-ish skate community" and remembers just skating the streets with his friends.
"It's a little different — the cultures are kind of different. We didn’t get a proper built skatepark until about 2008, I believe," Renfro said, contrasting it to UNM’s large public areas, such as Smith Plaza.
He described the Albuquerque skate community as welcoming, even for new skaters.
"It doesn’t really matter about skill," Renfro said. "It’s like we don’t really care how good you are, we all just have fun skating here. And that’s like one of the coolest things about the community."
Other skaters that frequent the plaza include second-year students Brian Le and Andrew Angel. Angel has only been skating for a couple of months, but said his favorite part of skating UNM is the people.
"Skaters are everywhere, I think. I don’t think it’s hard to find community. I think it’s hard to get on the board and accept the fact that you’re just gonna get hurt every once in a while," Angel said. "I think that’s the biggest step."
Angel is majoring in biochemistry and in the BA/MD program. He has plans to attend medical school after completing his undergraduate degree.
"I’ve always looked up to skaters when I was a little kid, and it’s nice to be in that community and have people that I can talk to and hang out with," Angel said.
Le has been skateboarding since he was about six years old and took a break from skating for a few years before attending college. At UNM, he is pursuing a bachelor's in mechanical engineering.
"To all the beginners, just like learn the ollie first, don’t try to fucking do a kickflip or fucking 360-flip right off the bat," Le said. "You gotta learn how to crawl before you can walk. Just learn your fundamentals and get that down... It’s never too late. I’ve seen like adults, 20-years-old, start."
Other than "the bricks," Le said he also enjoys skating in the parking structures late at night when they are void of cars.
"Just powerslide and stuff and going as fast as you can, pretty much," Le said. "It is really dangerous, but that’s what we do — just skate around Zimmerman and parking garages."
Smith Plaza was recently remodeled and reopened in August of 2018 after nine months of construction.
Renfro criticized the remodeling of Smith Plaza, which he said previously had more space.
"I mean, they built this I believe intentionally to deter us skating, which in my opinion wasn't such a great idea. They put us all really close to all the pedestrians," Renfro said.
Before being remodeled, Smith Plaza had a large flat area covered with bricks, hence the nickname. This area made it easier for the skaters to not bother students on their way to class, according to Renfro.
Besides at the University, local skaters also find themselves at local skateparks, downtown and even in some of the ditches and arroyos in the area.
Renfro described attending video premieres in ditches, where one side of the ditch was painted white — much like a movie screen — and attendees skateboarded around until it was time to watch the film.
Albuquerque is famous among skaters for their downhill ditches — the miles of which were built to drain water away from the Duke City during the monsoon season — and the Indian School ditch tops the list as the most heavily trafficked. The arroyo has even attracted professional skaters such as Tony Hawk.
Albuquerque officials have previously warned against skateboarding in arroyos because they can flood at any time, often without any warning.
Despite the threats of flooding or the possibility of falling — hard — Le described the skating community as "pretty chill," even with the risks.
Makayla Grijalva is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MakaylaEliboria