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Finding friendship and freedom on an electric skateboard

How a PEV Facebook group got me through high school

Photo by Rain Cervantes

Wanting neither a ticking time bomb of a hoverboard nor the hassle of paying for a grimy rental scooter, I worked my ass off at a minimum wage job during the summer of 2017 to afford my first electric skateboard: a Boosted Dual+ V2. Almost every weekend after I forked over my $1,500, I’d take my board out to my local boba cafe. I’d do a couple of laps around my Northern California neighborhood on the way back home, my milk tea in one hand and my remote in the other.

As a high school student on an uphill battle to get into one of California’s top universities, electric skateboarding became my go-to form of escapism. It allowed me to take a break from the books — and gave me an excuse to go outside. It offered the effortless freedom of a car with the rush of a bicycle.

My weekend rides were fun, but riding alone got old quickly. I found myself in a small niche of electric skateboard riders who only rode for leisure (instead of using them for commuting). That’s when I discovered Bay Area Esk8 (BAESK8), a San Francisco-based personal electric vehicle Facebook group that frequently hosts rides circumnavigating the city.

My electric skateboard and my new group of friends opened up parts of the city that I had never seen before. Growing up in suburban Northern California, the trip to San Francisco took at least an hour depending on traffic, and I had already been to all the tourist traps. Now, we weren’t constrained by traffic since we could lane split to our heart’s content, and our PEVs let us seek out spots that no average tourist would get to see. The people, the sights, and the thrill of riding together as one big group made those rides something I’ll never forget. That board and those group rides helped me make it through high school.

Due to both the pandemic shutting down group rides and my acceptance into San Diego State University, I retired as a rider with BAESK8 in 2020. I bid San Francisco adieu and set a course for Southern California.

Even before I arrived on campus, I went looking for a group like BAESK8 in San Diego. There were a few small groups here and there, but there wasn’t a group in the area that was as active or as PEV-diverse as BAESK8. So, right before classes started, I started a Facebook group called San Diego Electric Skateboarding (SDESK8) along with my friend Rain Cervantes.

Our inaugural group ride was less of a “group ride” and more of a small get-together with four like-minded gentlemen I had reached out to through Facebook and Instagram. The route was nothing special: just a short eight-mile loop around San Diego’s Mission Bay. Still, it brought back the same sense of community and freedom I found on those short-range bayside BAESK8 rides.

In September 2020, we found out that Super73, the famed Irvine-based electric bike company, was hosting a group ride in San Diego. I made an event post on our Facebook group to “come crash the event” with our electric skateboards and, sure enough, about a dozen members showed up. This was amazing for SDESK8 because it let local e-bike riders know that SDESK8 was a group for all PEV riders and not just electric skateboarders. Following this event, we started to notice more e-bikes, e-scooters, and electric unicycles joining our mix of both production and DIY electric skateboards.

As SDESK8 grew from a group of a few dozen riders to a group of a few hundred, I knew I needed to bring on more admins. With the help of my friends Kyle, Cody, and Ryan, SDESK8 has grown to over 700 members in the span of only a couple of years.

We hosted “Best in the West” — our largest group ride to date — on August 7th, 2022. It was in collaboration with Los Angeles PEV (LAPEV), and we had over 200 riders in attendance. The sheer number of riders was one hell of a sight on its own, but what really impacted me were our riders’ stories. Some showed up to escape the monotony of their 9-to-5s. Others were high school students wanting one last hurrah before going back to hitting the books. There was even a family who brought along their young son to ride on the back of their electric moped.

It’s stories like these that make SDESK8 — and personal electric transportation as a whole — so important to me. Experiencing the thrilling and freeing nature that PEVs provide is cool, sure, but getting to experience that with others and seeing the smile on their faces? That’s priceless. That is why I ride.

Sebastian Aniciete is a third-year computer science major at San Diego State University. When they’re not attending lectures or working on campus, you can find them biking, skating, filming, or exploring the virtual skies on Flight Simulator.