I'm a skateboarder.
That's how I started off referring to myself last July, when at the geezer'ish age of 63 (496, or thereabouts, in skateboarder years) I decided to get a longboard skateboard. So actually...
I'm a longboarder.
Except it didn't take me long in my longboarding career to realize it was going to take me too long to learn how to push with my foot and stop by foot-braking or sliding, so I decided to get into pushing myself along with a stick on an even longer longboard. So...
I'm a land paddler.
At least, that's what I say when, as often happens, people ask me what the heck it is I'm doing on a 5 foot bamboo board with big green wheels, cruising seven miles or so on up-and-down Minto Brown Island Park trails here in Salem, Oregon, offering me a terrific core and aerobic workout that's a lot of fun.
"It's called land paddling," I tell them. "A lot like stand-up paddling on an enlarged surfboard. Except, water is softer than asphalt. On the plus side, I don't have to drive to a lake or the ocean and put on a wetsuit."
Mostly I get positive comments and looks -- cool's and thumbs-up -- from both young and old. Sometimes, though, I've gotten the feeling from certain young people that I am so, so, so wrong.
Reading "Why Longboards Suck" by Willy Staley helped me understand why some skateboarders would consider me not only an affront to the holiness of their four-wheeled religion, but an apostate thrice over.
For one, I ride a longboard, not a skateboard.
For two, I paddle my longboard with a stick, not push it with my foot.
For three, I've put brakes on one of my longboards, which will allow me to stop it with a pedal, instead of foot-dragging or sliding.
Staley despises longboarders. Especially those who don't know how to stop the way he thinks they should. He longs for the Golden Age of skateboarding when the Thou Shalt Commandments he worships hadn't been broken by heathen longboarders.
Blessed with the art-school dropout pretense that taking part in an urban subculture can provide, and saddled with the pot-choked vocabulary of their ancestral homeland, skateboarders are very opinionated but economical with words. Asked how they feel about longboards, they typically resort to simple, timeless insults. Longboarders are kooks. Longboarders are losers. Longboarders suck. Superficial as it may seem, their blunt loathing is the key to understanding why the longboard is an insidious, parasitic vehicle.
...But when it comes to the question of what they can do, or rather what they enable their riders to do, the differences between skateboards and longboards start to pile up. A skateboard allows you to take part in nearly half a century of progress; a longboard enables you to roll and powerslide (and this only if you get really good at it, and if you have protective gloves).
...And though the longboard was designed with downhill skateboarding in mind (which is incredibly dangerous and requires both balls and talent) they are more frequently found on city streets and on college campuses, in bike lanes and walkways, used as a sort of cowardly and silly compromise between biking and walking. The convenience and ease of use they provide is a major selling point. Not only are they easy to use; they’re incredibly limiting, too.
You can’t even ollie with a longboard. The simplest of tricks, the one that has enabled everything that street skateboarding has become, is by design simply impossible with a longboard. Even those that do have a tail are too massive to reliably take off, and so long that it would take a massive ollie to even guarantee your rear wheels clear the smallest of curbs. They’re the dodo bird of the skateboarding world. Unfortunately, unlike the dodo, they won’t go away.
Perhaps they’re more like the ostrich: not only flightless, but also oversized, stupid and cowardly.
OK. That's an ignorant uninformed head-in-the-ass opinion. Beautifully written and argued, though. So kudos to Staley for stimulating debate on the subject.
I'm no expert on church history, but I bet whoever was Pope at the time Martin Luther nailed his protestant theses to the wall had much the same attitude toward this fucking heretic as traditional skateboarders have toward longboarders.
Of course, senior citizen land paddling longboarders with a high-tech brake on their board are in an even more despicable realm of skateboarding desecration. Which, given my irreligious inclinations, fills me with considerable joyful satisfaction.
I'm not saying that all skateboarders are as closed-mindedly fundamentalist as Staley.
In fact, today I enjoyed hanging out at Salem's Exit Real World board shop, showing off the newly installed Brakeboard brakes on my Landyachtz Switch and getting some better bearings. The guys there are supportive of all varieties of skateboarding. And were impressed with the Brakeboard.
(I'll put up another post soon about my experience with the brakes; so far, I'm liking them.)
It's just surprising to me that the hang-loose whatever, dude skateboarding crowd can be so judgmental about longboarders who don't hew to their notion of what "real" skateboarding is all about.
Perusing comments on You Tube videos showing the Brakeboard brakes in action, I've been amazed at the overly obscene vitriol directed at the supposedly Oh So Wrong notion that maybe, just maybe, some longboarders would like to be able to stop safely and quickly via a mechanical means instead of a slide that is both tough to learn and difficult to carry out on a crowded city street or narrow trail.
Chill, dudes. Truly embrace your inner whatever.
For example, if old guys like me want to land paddle along on a longboard with brakes, look on us as skateboarders marching to the beat of our own different drummer.
Isn't that what skateboarding is all about, doing your own thing?