Longboard journey honors Ramirez

Rocklin teens take trip in memory of fallen friend
By: Lauren Weber, The Placer Herald
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What started out as an honors English carpe diem “seize the day” project for a group of longboarders, quickly took a turn when one of their close friends lost his life in a skateboarding accident. At the age 16, Whitney High School student Peter Ramirez was killed last month, in what his friends call a “freak accident.” But instead of stepping off their boards and never riding again, they decided to take a 105-mile longboarding trip in memory of their friend. “It started out to be just a ride to ride. It came to be a ride for Peter,” said David Quezada, a junior at Whitney High School and one of the three longboarders that made the trek this past weekend. Starting at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday morning in Vallejo, Quezada, 16, Garrett Gruessing, 16, and Calvin Van Phan, 17, rode for more than eight hours covering 65 miles, traveling only on streets with shoulders and bike lanes. By 3:40 p.m., the three made it to UC Davis – the stopping point for their first day of riding. Their second day began around 8:30 a.m. Sunday, reaching Rocklin by 2 p.m. They averaged 8.9 miles per hour throughout their trip, while Quezada’s and Gruessing’s fathers rode alongside with a “Caution: longboarders” sign on their truck. To save time, they packed sandwiches and said they ate while they rode, but made safety a priority, wearing reflective vests and helmets. Despite the clear weather and reaching their 100-mile goal, the trip was not without its road bumps. Within the first 15 minutes of the trip, Quezada sprained his ankle, but kept on riding through the pain and swelling. The rest of the trip went just as planned. “It turned out great,” Van Phan said. “Just awesome. I can’t believe we skated 100 miles,” Gruessing added. Gruessing said he believes Ramirez would have made the trip with them if he were still alive. “He would have done it,” he said. “I think he would have ridden. He was a strong rider.” Following Ramirez’s death, the three said they didn’t shy away from boarding – instead they jumped on their longboards that day. “We’re trying to spread the stoke for longboarding,” Quezada said. “Instead of getting high and drunk, I get on my board for an adrenaline rush.” “This is just our sport. We longboard,” Gruessing added. For Quezada, he’s also trying to spread the word about the differences between longboarding and skateboarding. He said longboarding doesn’t vandalize property, and they never intentionally leave the ground, as in skateboarding. Longboards have a longer wheelbase, which makes the board more stable and faster for downhill riding, and the longboard tricks include sliding and drifting instead of jumps and flips of the board, Gruessing said. All three boarders are involved in The Longboarding Club at Whitney High School, advised by Jennifer Pethel, where they ride in organized trips with spotters. As a group of approximately 20 longboarders, they travel to Oakland and neighborhoods in Rocklin to ride. Quezada said riding is when he thinks about things and it opens up his eyes to the environment around him. “It’s really connecting. It’s why people get calm from working out. It really clears your head,” he said. Through their 105-mile trek through northern California, the three said they raised money that will go to Ramirez’s mom. But they admit it wasn’t about the money, but the memory. After Ramirez’s death, Gruessing said the trip took on a new meaning. “You know what, let's make this for Peter and his mom,” Gruessing said.