This year I made it my new year’s resolution to take up skateboarding (or rather longboarding, but for the purposes of this post skateboarding will do just fine). I bought a board, stood on it once or twice, and played Tony Hawk 2 for a half hour. I was ready. Then I arrived on campus and there was a foot of snow. Then it snowed another two feet, so, inspired by Sheek‘s post of yore, I turned to old Argi to investigate the history of the noble sport at Wesleyan and see what this first Intercollegiate Tournament of 1965 was all about.
As it turns out, this feat of badassery not only took place, but was a pretty big deal. On May 1st, 1965, Wesleyan invited “surfers” from the other members of the Little 3 to our sloped campus for a contest of four-wheeled prowess that attracted a crowd of 500 “shirtless and shoeless students, teachers, high school girls, and coeds” as well as reporters from NBC, the New York Times, and Life Magazine.
As the Times put it, “After a long, cold winter John Cage recitals of avant-garde music and Francois Truffaut’s new-wave films, the students at Wesleyan . . . confidently decided to show their rivals at Williams and Amherst that not all Wesleyans are indoor-types taking such courses as ‘Study Group in Javanese Gamelan.'” Apparently little has changed in 45 years, but that’s an entire post in itself. Also, John Cage taught here?
Anyways, the three schools converged on a sunny Saturday to compete in four events: a giant beer can slalom down the observatory access road; a shorter beer can slalom down college row; a “cross-country marathon” from PAC, around Judd, to High Street; and a freestyle competition featuring tricks like Bill and Dick Reevs’ double handstand, a rolling human pyramid, and the ever-classic wastebasket ride (pictured above).
The prize was the coveted Hot Dog Award, “a hot dog mounted to an aluminum plate.” Ultimately, and unfortunately, Wesleyan lost narrowly the Dog to Williams with a score of 79-73. The good news is that Amherst, showing up shorthanded, hung-over, and fresh off some undisclosed police encounter, garnered a pathetic 21 points.
The event and its legacy are evidenced today by the brave few that swerve through the oblivious, texting masses around Andrus. It’s as much a part of our Cardinal-red blood as Gamelan and gender-neutrality. But who’s surprised? As one Barton Bean ambitiously remarked to the Time reporter, “What Cooperstown is to baseball Wesleyan will be for skateboarding. It’s obvious!”