A defining feature of the West Point Skateboard Gang is the terrifying sound it produced as its members charged across the streets of the United States Military Academy. West Point residents during the era of the artful dodgers quickly learned the gang’s trademark sound—an angelic cacophony of polyurethane wheels slashing across pavement that heralded the gang’s travels and produced widespread panic across the region. Louder than a gang of Harleys, the source of innumerable nightmares among military families—the deafening roar this tribe of unruly skateboarders made crossing the ‘Point’ signaled to all within earshot the impending arrival of defiant power. Like a gigantic hand scraping its fingernails across the chalkboard of West Point’s concrete, the sound of the dodgers in transit was a fluid social stain designed to disrupt with impunity the otherwise perfect and repressed order of the Academy.
As the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, the sound of each wheel reinforced and amplified the sounds of every other wheel in its proximity, producing a rowdy chorus of rebellion and unrestrained freedom. Of course, the infamous roar was but a part of the larger aesthetic—a blinding blur of flowing hair and bandanas, trailing smoke, faded jeans, cranked music, and wild laughter.
After a classic ‘sesh’ in Pat and Chris’ attic room, 10 or so of us glide down the grass hill by the Catholic Chapel, drop in with military precision onto Washington Road and begin our journey to the half-pipe in Lee area. Crackling like a succession of lightning strikes, each board joins the orchestra of fury—a haunting crescendo of sound that compels mothers to grab their children, freezes dogs in their tracks, halts local traffic, and impels MPs to feel for their gun holsters. Our sublime tornado of sight, sound and fury makes its way past the cemetery slamming-out repetitive clicks from the sidewalk cracks, jets smoothly down and past the PX on Buckner Loop—bodies bent to reduce air-drag and gliding swerves to accelerate the board’s forward motion and then, as if a cork popping from a champagne bottle, lights-out onto Lee Road. The group’s formation elongates into a single line and then contracts again into a condensed phalanx only to elongate again—a living, breathing configuration, a loosely-congealed bubble of orbiting bodies floating effortlessly down the hill and onto the flat, our beautiful cacophony at our heels the entire way. We are magicians who have conquered Newton’s laws, let alone the mere rules and restrictions that suppress the normal residents of USMA.
All subsequent generations of West Point inhabitants can hear the faint echo of skateboard wheels in the distance.
“Lights out, lights out in West Point, hold ‘em tight til the end. God knows when I’m comin’ on my run”.