“Skateboarding is extremely rewarding. … It’s self-improvement based”
Two Northeastern graduates felt lonely in their skating journey, so they decided to use Instagram stories and direct messages to create Boston’s first BIPOC, queer-led skating group: Lonely Bones Skate Collective. Claire Lee and Rayven Tate had their first meetup in August 2020, without a plan.
Nearly ninety people of all ages and genders and mostly with no skating experience showed up to the designated Roxbury basketball courts in August with hopes of finding a comfortable environment. Some skaters even drove in from Rhode Island and Connecticut.
“We had nothing special. We didn’t even have water,” co-founder Lee said. “People just brought their boards and hung out for four hours, it just ran itself.”
Lee said the moment people started showing up, that’s when they knew that this skate group was needed more than ever, especially on the east coast. Lots of people said they didn’t even know they needed this until it was available.
It all started when Lee posted videos of herself skating on her Instagram stories. Lee had lots of experience in snowboarding and surfing but never learned how to skate until her boyfriend and his friends taught her. She still felt left out though, especially as a queer woman of color.
“I got a little braver,” Lee said. “I was like fuck it and posted a video of myself skating on my Instagram story.”
Tate was the only one to respond. Tate grew up in a small suburb in Houston, Texas where skating wasn’t very welcoming. “I was so lost,” she said. She said she saw Lee’s post on her story and immediately messaged her.
Lee and Tate shared a frustration with the lack of groups for people who wanted to start skating in a predominantly straight white male-dominated activity. So they got working and started curating posts for the Lonely Bones Instagram.
Lonely Bones grew from there. Now, 6,523 people follow them. And then came the sponsors. Converse, Yerba Mate, and Grillo’s Pickles started reaching out. Lonely Bones was fast becoming more than Lee and Raven ever expected.
“If I could quit my full-time job and have Lonely Bones be my full time, I would,” Tate said.
Tate is a software engineer; Lee, an engineer working in biotech. These days, they’re basically balancing two full-time jobs.
“I live and breathe Lonely Bones,” Lee said.
Caytlin Unhoch joined Lonely Bones in October 2020. She’d been skating since she was a kid, but finally bought her own skates this past summer. Unhoch said in this community, she’s felt comfortable not always knowing what she’s doing.
“They have made it incredibly welcoming to fall,” Unhoch said.
Falling is an essential part of the process. Lonely Bones held a recent event, Skate Swap with live music, local vendors, and a whole lot of free pickles at the Allston Pump Track near Harvard Stadium. People wound up teaching each other and eventually turned into a circle, where everyone could learn together.
Derek Iverson, who recently signed up for Lonely Bones, practiced falling and getting back up again for an hour straight at the event. He said it’s all part of the process.
“Skateboarding is extremely rewarding,” Iverson said. “It’s self-improvement based … That’s what stuck with me.”
When Lee and Tate started Lonely Bones two years ago, it was a bold move, especially in the height of the pandemic. Unlike a lot of businesses and organizations in the time since, they have thrived and kept growing. Since most of their events were outside, the club provided a safe space and break from the chaos in the world. It was also a place where people could find community during a time when many felt more alone than ever before.
“Every scene in Boston, like art, style, fashion, skate, are a little hard to get into,” Lee said. “We [Lonely Bones] want to be that introduction for a lot of people.”
Charlotte Howard is a journalism undergraduate student at Boston University. If she isn’t people-watching or listening to music, she spends her days overbooked and busy. She was a founder of The Pelham Examiner, the first independent student-run newspaper in the country and currently writes for the satire paper The Bunion, and Off the Cuff Fashion magazine. Facebook Status update: She’s gen-z but currently married to matcha.