Longboarding 101

There's just something about that gush of asphalt beneath your toes, the rubbery curl of your wheels, and that inevitable feeling of pleasant peace that makes longboarding a lovely way to break up a monotonous life in Claremont.  Though you check the Portal consistently, you may have noticed that no Longboarding classes are offered on the 5Cs.   But don't worry, the Forum is here to help. So, take a seat -  'cause class is officially in session.   I am without a doubt the lesser of the two longboarding Nyce siblings;  in fact, I am merely imparting this knowledge to you as it was passed on to me from my asphalt-hugging younger brother, a wild-haired pseudo-Socratic madman, who is always there to kindly chide me if I get too egotistical about my skills.  He will contemptuously mock my skate-sticker-adorned Macbook - “Girl’s got more stickers than she does tricks.”

In this respect, I am not trying to proclaim myself an expert.  This article is just the first step in my 12-step-rehab program aimed at being nicer and accepting my fellow riders.  So please accept my peace treaty.  To kick off our semester, I've complied a list of some essential terms to add to your sk8ter vocabulary:

To bomb (v) : To throw yourself straight down a hill with no form of speed control.   You can increase your velocity by crouching, like these dudes.  Note: Leather bodysuit is optional.

-          Ex.  I would straight-up bomb Mt. Baldy, but I would most likely die.

To cruise (v.)  : The act of traveling on a board with no purpose other than the authentic delight that comes from feelin’ that California air kiss your forehead.

-          Ex.  I’m just gonna cruise the Village.

To carve (v.)  : To turn while going down the hill, similar to snowboarding – an excellent method of controlling speed.

-          Ex. Dude, I just carved that hill like a chicken!

To dance (v.) : When the rider smoothly moves back and forth along the deck of the board while in motion, shifting and twirling until it looks like he is dancing.

-          Ex.  This awesome dude.

To slide/Sliding (v./n.) : A technique in which the rider makes the board slide sideways across the asphalt during a turn.  Think Tokyo drifting, longboard style.  There are standing slides and ground slides, the latter of which requires the assistance of sliding gloves.

-           Ex.   Whoa, brah, that was the longest slide I've ever seen done around that curve.

Speed Wobble (n.) : When your board is at a high rate of speed and begins to, well, wobble.  This can be risky, even the most experienced riders can get thrown off.

-            Ex. This less awesome, probably sore, dude.

So, now that you are down with the lingo, ready to buy your first board?  You probably want to consider the following:

Price : If you are on a really tight budget, I would definitely grab a Sector Nine.  Sector Nine is the most popular and well-known company – the longboarding equivalent of the Gap.   They offer solid basic boards for a lower price than many of the more specialized “designer” companies.  I will warn you that this is a trade off.  My board, my prized Loaded Dervish, goes for around $350.  No, I did not enjoy emptying my college savings over a longboard, but having a high quality board gives me way more joy than that money ever did sitting in my bank account.  The higher priced boards are typically done so for a reason - a reason you can actually feel when riding.

Length: If you were the King of the Middle School skateboard scene, you might want to stay with a shorter board,  perhaps one that is under 30”.  These boards are also more portable and easier for cross-country traveling (although, I must say riding my 41.5” Dervish down the airplane ramp to the Cabin door was probably the highlight of my trip back to California.  Hello, no fly list.)  Portability excused, I am definitely an advocate of the longer boards.   Longer boards turn wider and more gradually, giving a cool gentle curve, whereas shorter boards turn sharper, sometimes making them harder to control.

Flexibility: All longboard decks have varying degrees of flexibility.  Choosing one is really a matter of how responsive you want your board to be - whether you want it to feel solid, like a boat over the blacktop or if you want more bounce in your groove.  This will manifest itself in form of the deck's thickness and composition.  (Thicker decks are more solid, thinner ones, more bouncy.  Companies offer many different kids of materials from bamboo to wood - and even some new-age carbon fiber.  Do your homework on which material you think will work best for you.)

Brands: Hit up the major brand websites (Sector 9, Loaded, Arbor, Rayne).   A good place to start is The Longboard Store, which carries the majority of the top-sellers.   There are also a lot of smaller companies that produce boards of equally high caliber.  My brother has Longboard Larry’s Komodo which is completely killer.   Not only did he get a phenomenal board, but he also got extremely commendable customer service, including a phone conversation with Larry himself.

Good luck, future longboarders, and, hey, now I genuinely look forward to seeing you out there on the pavement.  Class dismissed.

Thanks to Drake Escrofani '13 for contributing to this article.