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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

SBCC student carves a gnarly career out of downhill skating

Sunny Silverstein
Adrien Paynel shows off a broken arm he got from skating on May 5 in Santa Barbara, Calif. Paynel’s scratched helmet saved him during a fall a little over a month ago.

A group of downhill skaters burst down Gibraltar Road with an incredible view of the sunset as wind pierces through their hair at speeds of 80 miles per hour, causing any wrong move to result in horrific injuries or death. 

“I think there’s a really valuable aspect that we are always so close to death because we have an appreciation for every single day,” said 21-year-old skater Adrien Paynel. 

Around five weeks ago, Paynel was at a race when he crashed and broke his wrist and bit through his upper lip where he now has six stitches. 

“If I wasn’t wearing this I probably would be dead,” said Paynel, pointing to a scratched-up helmet with a purple cast on his left arm.  

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“Going 45 miles per hour into a brick sewage drain kind of puts everything into perspective. I got really lucky I only broke my wrist, there were so many factors that could’ve gone differently,” Paynel said. 

Injuries in this sport occur often due to the high speed the skaters are going. Patrick Welsh, one of Paynel’s roommates who also skates said he’s had over 40 shoulder dislocations. “I lost count after 30,” Welsh said. 

Welsh and Paynel met through the skating scene and now live in an apartment together with two other downhill skaters they also knew through skating. 

Paynel was raised in San Diego and has been skating since he was a child. He came to City College three years ago and is currently finishing up his third semester. He is planning to take a gap year after the semester is over. 

“I think I got into it for the adrenaline but then just kind of moved forward because of the community,” Paynel said. 

Paynel said his social media presence and his race performance have gained him a lot of traction and attention from sponsors and got him started in the industry. “It’s all about Instagram reels,” Paynel said as he explained what kind of videos are successful. 

Paynels’ skating has landed him sponsorships with brands such as Madrid Skateboards, MuirSkate, Seismic Skate, and a few others. These opportunities have allowed him to travel all across the world. 

Paynel has been able to travel to Romania, France, Italy, and many more countries. 

“I’m super grateful to be able to say I’ve been to so many places,” Paynel said.

Paynel hopes downhill skating is soon included in the Olympics so the sport can get more recognition. 

“In downhilling you get hurt less, but when you get hurt it’s way more intense. Most parents don’t want to let their kids skateboard in general, especially not when it’s down a hill,” Paynel said as he explained why he feels downhilling is less popular than other types of skating. 

“People think we’re out of control,” Paynel said as he explained how people call the cops on skaters a lot of the time because, “they think we don’t know what we’re doing, but we do know what we’re doing.” 

Paynel said how some people have this perspective that skaters don’t value their lives, “It’s not because we don’t appreciate life, it’s because this is what we want to do with our lives and the worlds going to s–t anyways so might as well make the most of it,” Paynel said.

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