After those few tentative pushes, the rider is launched off into another realm of being, where the senses melt and morph into new ports of stimuli. Sight narrows inwards and extends further into the horizon. Your peripherals are jettisoned as your ears mull over the humming of urethane rolling over stone. One’s hips find a new importance that allows the slightest adjustment of weight to blossom into an arching turn. Your feet knead the board beneath you.
Regardless of poetics, skateboarding is a beautiful activity that is often overlooked for the brashness of trick skating. There are many facets to skateboarding and this writer happens to be enamoured with longboarding. The name can be deceptive as the skateboard itself is not always a long one, however the label implies a certain set of qualities: speed, stability and rider comfort.
Longboarding tends to focus on the simple pleasures of skateboarding. However it also includes sliding, dancing and downhill skateboarding. The boards are usually longer and wider than standard skateboards. They can sometimes incorporate a flexible platform, which helps soak up bumps and provide energy return when leaning in and out of turns. Equally, longboard decks can be super stiff with complex build design incorporated. Some high performance downhill boards are made entirely from carbon fibre and fibreglass, which gives them more shared heritage with F1 cars than the average skateboard. Wheels are larger, softer and come in different shapes and sizes to trick skateboard wheels. Trucks (the metal assembly that connects the wheels to the deck) are wider and focus on the stability of the ride.
Without wandering into clichéd pastures, there is a sense of oneness that the rider feels with their skateboard. Once acclimatised to the physical nature of longboarding, the rider can skate without ever looking at the board beneath them, in a voluntary blindness. This writer has a particularly fond memory of skating down a multi-storey car park late at night. Of the 12 floors, only the bottom four were illuminated with lighting. This meant that the upper floors were plunged into near darkness that eased as your night vision strengthened. This lack of lighting meant that you could not see the floor beneath you, let alone the skateboard under your feet. A total trust in your body and the act of skateboarding was required as each push found a foothold of blackness. The experience was akin to flying, as the shadowed shapes of skateboarders descended down the slopes of the car park and emerged breathless into the light.
A collective pastime
Skateboarding can be enjoyed alone and with others. Skating with groups of people is tremendous fun and adds a different element to proceedings as you have to account for others when hurtling down hills and around tight corners. There is always a tale to be told once the bottom of a hill is reached as near misses, too tight turns and bad luck snap at the wheels of every skateboarder. When the adrenaline is coursing through your veins and the wind has ceased to buffet your face, the urge to discuss the hill is immense.
With everything in life, there is an element of risk involved, however; longboarding is a relatively safe pursuit providing one knows their limits and when best to push them. Some people look at a skateboard and think “how do I stop?” Braking on a skateboard occurs through a process called foot-braking. This involves removing one foot from the skateboard and dragging the sole along the ground to slow you down. This action requires a degree of practice to achieve the right balance on the board and the road. Once it is learnt, however, foot-braking proves an invaluable and effective means of stopping. For more experienced riders with harder wheels, there is the option to slide the skateboard and therefore reduce your speed. This requires a high level of skill and is a staple technique of serious downhill skateboarding, where speeds of up to 70mph can be reached. The odd fall here and there is to be expected but these incidents are rare to behold.
Longboarding is an extremely versatile pursuit that can morph to each rider’s desires and requirements. They can be used for commuting, tearing up hills or simply having a gentle carve along a promenade. The pursuit is extremely accessible and almost anyone can ride longboards due to the stable platform they often provide. Old and young alike can embrace their respective branch of this wooden tree and find the right board for themselves. Those initial pushes send the rider rolling away from problems, stress and the past into a temporary field of Elysium, where the greenery features a paved strip that extends after each push.