CIB Skater of the Month October: Burd Brain
CIB Skater of the Month Burd Brain has a lot to say about this community!!
Mumma Trample met Eleni at RollerCon and they got chatting! After that, they kept popping up on our team's radar and we wanted to get to know their story, and we're so glad we did. There's a little bit of everything in this interview, so take a few minutes and get to know Eleni aka Burd Brain, one half of Chub Club and one heck of an advocate for this community!
Alias: Burd Brain
Location: Lehigh Valley, PA, USA
Other channels: @chubclubofficial + shopchubclub.com
Chapter: CIB Lehigh Valley
When did you discover roller skating?
I started skating in May 2015 when two of my best friends and I decided to join our local roller derby league’s freshmeat class. I really loved learning how to skate, even after I broke my wrist during my first month of practice.
What transitioned you to skateparks?
After a year of struggling to pass the endurance portion of the minimum skills assessment, training became a big source of stress and self-doubt in my life. I needed to find a way to make skating fun again, so I watched the original CIB tutorial on transition skating and went to check out my local mini ramp on Mother’s Day. It was love at first pump, and I made the switch from derby to ramps right away. Even though I never graduated to bouting, I’ll always be grateful to roller derby for getting me on wheels.
Tell us about the local scene where you skate!
Our small but mighty local skate crew grew from two of us into a core group that supports each other on and off skates. Because we are a smaller area, we learned to connect with other skaters from our region like Philly, Central PA, NYC, Maryland, and Virginia.
I would love to see our CIB Lehigh Valley crew continue to grow, so don’t be a stranger!
What inspired the start of Chub Club?
Chub Club was inspired by the lack of visibility of fat skaters in non-derby skating culture. The brand itself sort of started by accident when I made a t-shirt design (Get Low) to sell to pay for Moxi Skate Camp in 2018. I thought it was just a one-off project, but I hit my sales goal and when I went to camp, Pigeon asked me about wholesaling to the Moxi Skate Shop. From there, Caitlin and I built a brand that is focused on inclusion and visibility in the roller-skating community. In the first year, we added 2 artists to our collective and vended at Rollercon.
If there was one thing you wish the skating scene had more of, what would it be and why?
Although skate brands are starting to listen and make changes in response to the recent spotlight on the lack of representation, I wish the whole skate scene supported more ongoing, productive conversations. People talk about these issues regularly and have been for a long time, but the community struggles to listen. We all need to commit to actively listening to feedback every day, not just when large scale call-outs force us to. It’s important that we support the next generation of skaters by showing them this sport is for every body.
What inspires and influences do you attribute to your skating?
When I started skating, I was really inspired by all of the amazing plus size skaters in the derby world. But when I switched to parks a year later, there were significantly less role models that I felt I could relate to. Pigeon from the Moxi team is a boss at carving bowls and bombing hills, and she was my inspiration for non-derby skating for a long time. Back then, I didn’t see people with my body type doing the types of tricks that I found really exciting though. I thought that maybe I would never be able to do those tricks because I wasn’t built for it. It wasn’t until Jessamyn Stanley, a plus-size yoga teacher and body positivity advocate I had been following for a while on Instagram, posted a beautiful photo of them in a handstand that I realized I couldn’t have been more wrong. It became clear that I would have to work a lot harder to unlock the tricks that came with ease to thinner skaters, but it was possible. That was the summer I conquered shoot the duck.
Can you tell us about your journey with your head injury and how that has impacted park skating?
In 2010, I was knocked unconscious when I fell about 25 feet off a ledge into a shallow creek while camping. After a few days in the ICU and another 2 weeks in the hospital, I spent the rest of that summer recovering from a collection of broken bones and damaged organs, including a skull fracture and resulting brain injury. My life changed in a lot of ways that summer, but I eventually understood how much growth would come from it. By the time I started skating, I had already learned how to function with my new brain. And when it came time to pick a skate name, Burd Brain seemed like a perfect fit. I still experience a variety of effects from my brain injury, but the most significant are my memory and balance. It took some time before I realized I needed more repetition to build muscle memory and that I fell a lot more than a lot of my skating peers. But eventually, I got pretty good at falling and I wasn’t afraid of it anymore. And if there was one thing my experience taught me, it’s that moment of pain and struggle open the door to progress and change.
What does ‘Spread the stoke’ mean to you?
Share your love for the sport by supporting and respecting everyone’s unique skating journey.
If you had one piece of advice to new skaters what would it be?
Embrace every part of the process, and learn to love falling. Falling on purpose helps develop the instinct to bail safely because it teaches your body how to protect the parts that need protecting. Like anything, falling takes practice. And if you can embrace all aspects of the learning process, you’ll have a lot more fun.
Describe what skating means to you in three words!
Resilience, Community, Paradise