Summer is here and it’s time to get out and enjoy this special time of the year. Over the next three months the Now will offer you some unique sporting ways to experience summer without leaving town.
Modern skateboarding came to life in the 1970s when California kids used their wheeled rides to traverse the urban landscape. The 2005 movie Lords of Dogtown depicted this era, when staid and choreographed roller-rink skateboard scene was upended by a new generation who aspired to surf on concrete.
The boards they used were different than the gear rolled out at skate parks today. Dubbed longboards, the retro gear is longer and has a wide range of designs to meet the challenges of the street.
“Longboards are more for travelling purposes, cruising around on the streets, and more street surfing,” said Mike Faux, owner of Authentic Board Supply in Whalley. “I look at longboards as the place where skateboarding came from. It then developed into something else, and now it’s come back to just riding your board in the street and enjoying that.
“Longboards come with larger, softer wheels than conventional skateboards. This allows them to roll smoothly over imperfections in a street surface such as ruts, cracks and uneven pavement.”
Better known as Hippie Mike, Faux is Surrey’s skateboarding guru. He taught skateboarding with Surrey’s parks and recreation department and staged the wildly popular Hippie Mike’s Tour de Surrey skateboarding competitions before opening his shop last year.
“There are guys who do tricks on longboards and there are other people who go out in groups and do slides and whatever down the street,” Faux said. “They move together in a large group. What they are doing is taking the skate park used by the other style of skateboarding and moving it to wherever they please.”
The movie Lords of Dogtown came out in the middle of a mini boom in skateboarding centred around the re-emergence of the longboard – the sort of skateboarding highlighted in the Hollywood film. As with most everything in pop culture, what is old becomes new again and a new generation hit the streets in search of the perfect concrete wave.
A wide range of skateboarding enthusiasts welcomed the return of the longboard. Veteran riders bored by the limitations of skate parks jumped at the offer of freedom on the streets while new riders of all ages snapped up boards and honed their skills in cul-de-sacs across suburbia.
Longboards sales were a growth market in the industry for the better part of a decade and show no signs of fading away. In larger urban centres there are shops dedicated solely to selling and servicing longboards, but most skateboard shops – including Faux’s – cater to both kinds of skateboards.
“Longboard sales are holding steady right now,” Faux said. “There was huge growth in them from 2006 until 2012; it was massive. My friend owns a distribution company and he said it went from one per cent of their sales to 60 per cent at one point. So it got really large and now it’s sitting steady. There are a lot of people riding longboards.”
Faux added it’s hard to pin down a specific demographic for longboard customers. Younger enthusiasts buy them for the freedom they offer while some parents purchase them because it is an activity they can pursue with their kids.
“Longboards are built to be a little easier for people to ride so it is easy for a parent to do with their kids,” Faux said. “A lot of parents today were skateboarders as kids so they have that balance in them.”
One of the problems new riders experience with longboards is the culture of the sport. Conventional skateboarders gather at skate parks where they try out new moves and
learn from older, more experienced riders. The very nature of the longboard scene is much more solitary. Veteran riders are out there, but they are hard to find because they often hit the streets at preferred locations and at times when they won’t attract attention in communities where by-law officers crack down on sidewalk surfers.
“Just like with regular skateboarding, there’s always an older generation mentoring the next generation,” Faux said. “It might be harder to find in longboarding. If you buy a skateboard, you’ll take it to a skate park where everybody else is riding their skateboards. When you buy a longboard, it’s harder to find that core group to connect with. You may not ever find them.”
Faux recommends new riders learn the basics by watching instructional videos online. After building up experience, they can then seek out veteran riders for tips and advice.
The very nature of longboarding can be hazardous to a rider’s health. Streets are designed for cars, trucks, motorcycles and bikes – not people cruising along on wheeled cafeteria trays. Reckless riding coupled with inattentive drivers can be a deadly combination, especially with the speeds that longboarders can hit on long, steep hills.
Faux and others in the industry stress safety at all times and recommend riders wear proper safety equipment when using their boards. At the very least, always wear a helmet.
In an effort to ease the danger, the City of Surrey has looked at the possibility of creating a special longboard park for enthusiasts to practice their skills in relative safety.
“The longboard park would have wide paths and not be geared to higher speeds,” said Faux, who sat on the planning committee.
“It would be a place where people could go and ride in a controlled area. They can come and practice there and have ownership of the whole area. It would be the perfect place for parents to be involved with everybody learning together.”
Faux added that whatever you choose to ride and wherever you ride it, always do so responsibly.
“The biggest thing I tell people is be careful out there,” he said. “There may be a difference in the shape of the boards, but we’re all skateboarders and we all represent the same community. When people are making mistakes and causing problems, it hurts us all.
“Go out there and learn and get some experience before you go onto the big streets. And just be careful.”