CHP Not On ‘Board’ with Freeway Challenge Fad

Skaters dangerously explore new pavement as they film videos of skating through heavy traffic.


loofcuomo of Instagram

Driving down the 5 on a Thursday afternoon, the traffic is bad as usual. Cars are stopping and starting and honking and no one is going anywhere. Without warning, a car door swings open and, board in hand, a skater throws down onto the pavement and proceeds to flip his board and swerve between cars. As traffic begins to move, he grabs onto the back of a semi and hitches a ride. As quick as it began, the skater hops back into his friend’s car and drives away, looking excitedly at the footage, making sure it’s ready for the internet.

The footage is painstakingly uploaded to Instagram and tagged #freewaychallenge. This internet “challenge” is the latest action sport danger that athletes have started to take, encouraging skaters to risk life and limb by performing tricks in an environment previously unused by athletes. This challenge has made its way into the skate underground, and has attracted the attention of many professionals, Fox News, KUSI, the Union Tribune, and most importantly, the California Highway Patrol.

“It is clearly unsafe to be skateboarding on the freeways at anytime…there’s no safe time to do that. There are reasons why pedestrians shouldn’t be on the freeways ever, so our main concern is obviously for the safety of the individuals that are performing the stunts on the freeway” said CHP Officer Jake Sanchez. “It’s just an unsafe thing to do. It’s dangerous and it’s also illegal.”

This type of challenge isn’t new, especially to a venue like Instagram, which has been known to perpetuate all sorts of ludicrous tasks for its users. People will certainly remember the ice bucket challenge,  but one prominent difference between these two challenges is that one benefited charity while the other can end in death.

“It’s not worth your life. You could lose your life doing something as simple as a skateboarding trick and end up underneath someone’s tires…Don’t get yourself hurt or killed.”

— Jake Sanchez

The freeway challenge, originating in LA, has made its way to San Diego more recently. Footage surfaced on KUSI of a skater 360 flipping on the 5 freeway in Encinitas. Sanchez stated that efforts are currently being made in tandem with the Oceanside CHP office to arrest some of the individuals involved.

However, a large number of skaters see the challenge as a positive thing. Junior Monty Gracey said “Personally I think it’s pretty funny. I think it’s pretty cool. It puts skating…out there, on people’s social media and things.” The challenge, although viewed by many non-skaters and officials as unsafe and illegal, may very well portray skateboarding in a different light for those previously unexposed to it.

As with any polarizing subject, many skateboarders and social media users regard the freeway challenge as unsafe and a poor decision. On one video, Instagram user solow619 said “When you take a stupid chance of hurting yourself, hey, that’s on you. But when you take the chance of someone else [spending] the rest of their life thinking and reliving [hitting] you, that’s f–cked up.”

Another aspect to consider is how this trend may affect the police. According to sophomore Max Grensted, the freeway challenge “doesn’t seem to be doing much harm, but the fact that it’s illegal probably makes relationships with [law enforcement] more heated.”

“Our message to them is that this is not the place to be skating” said Sanchez. “There are plenty of skate parks here in San Diego, this is probably one of the nicest places in the world to skateboard. Go to places that you’re supposed to go to, skate at those locations. They’re there for a reason.”

Surprisingly enough, skateboarding is not the first thing to make its way to the freeway (besides cars). As recently as 2015, videos have been posted of a man riding a horse on the freeway, and in December of 2015 the group Black Lives Matter halted freeway traffic in Culver City to protest police brutality towards black victims.

With its quick rise to popularity in the skate community, it is not unreasonable to make the assumption that the freeway challenge could make its way to SDA. There is no evidence of SDA students participating, but there is certainly the chance they will in the near future. “I definitely would not be surprised if someone tried it in the near future in an attempt to be trendy,” said Grensted.

“It’s not worth your life,” concluded Sanchez. “You could lose your life doing something as simple as a skateboarding trick and end up underneath someone’s tires…Don’t get yourself hurt or killed.”