When 36-year-old Andy Duran decided to return to his favorite high school hobby — skateboarding — in January 2021, the only obstacle he expected to encounter was his own ability to get back into the sport after the long hiatus. However, the 340-pound skateboarder from Oakland, California, soon realized that was the least of his problems.
Duran's challenges began before he even stepped on a skateboard. "I couldn't find any resources for fat skaters, what types of boards to try, or where to buy pads or even branded shirts in sizes 2XL or 3XL," he told DOGOnews.
What Duran did find instead was an unfounded belief that plus-sized people should not be skating. “I started to find people who were saying that if you're over 190 pounds you shouldn't be on a skateboard, or that the deck won't support you,” he says.
Determined to do something to change the narrative of plus-size people in sports, Duran founded Chub Rollz — a skating and skateboarding community for overweight skaters. "I knew that not only did I need to get back into it [skating] to prove people wrong, but I needed to create a safe space where others can have representation as well," Duran told ABC11 News. "If you feel like your size makes you feel uncomfortable about skating with others, you are welcome to skate with us."
To encourage plus-size people to pursue the fun sport, Duran created a list of recommended products for fat skaters. He also hosted roller skating and skateboarding classes to teach beginners. So far, the response to Chub Rollz has been “overwhelmingly positive."
Following a January 25, 2021, article about his initiative in the San Francisco Chronicle, Duran received a flurry of messages from strangers expressing gratitude for giving them the courage to stand up to naysayers. “This means so much to me; I didn’t think I could skate," said one. “A person at the skate shop laughed at me, but this club makes me feel like I can still do it," wrote another. Duran has also been contacted by some skateboarding brands offering to create larger clothing sizes and been offered free equipment by skating organizations like Skate Like a Girl.
Though encouraged, Duran believes a lot more needs to be done to dispel body image stereotypes. “I want to see more changes in communities. Maybe skate shops have more sensitivity training for creating a more welcoming environment for all types of skaters. Or boards to be made in a variety of strengths and sizes — everyone is making thinner, lighter products, but sometimes we need those heavy-duty options to stay available," he explains.
For those hesitant to pursue their desired activity due to their body size, Duran has this to say: “Be kind to yourself, as you’re often your worst critic. Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean you can’t be it."
Resources: DOGOnews, SFGate.com, ABCNews.com