Googling myself today, one of my favorite self-absorbed activities, I came across a profile of a 65 year old longboarder/skateboarder on the NW Skate Coalition web site.
ME, ME, ME!
Several months ago Cory Poole took some photos of me doing my land paddling thing at Minto Brown Park, and asked some questions about why I enjoy senior citizen skateboarding. The story was told earlier this month.
NWSC Rider Profile
Location: Salem Oregon
Rider: Brian Hines
Ride: Longboard Larry Walkabout with Kahuna Big Stick
Occupation: Writer / Blogger
Why do you skate?
Brian: I use it for exercise.
How long have you been skating?
Brian: Around 2 1/2 years.
What does skateboarding do for you?
Brian: Skateboarding is an energizing use of your whole body. It’s just you and the four wheels.
The idea of scratching items off a list of stuff I want to do before I die seems too organized and Protestant-ethic'ish. Why not just do what you want to do, when you feel like doing it?
Which is pretty much how I ended up taking my longboard to southern California this weekend. A dream of mine, though let's not call it part of my bucket list.
Some time ago I'd told my daughter that one day I wanted to land paddle on Venice Beach's boardwalk -- one of the meccas for this activity. Sunny. Warm. Flat. Filled with interesting sights.
I wasn't sure whether I wanted to bring my longboard gear on this trip, though. I haven't been doing much longboarding after gettting an outdoor elliptical bike, a StreetStrider. But when my daughter asked if I was going to do my land paddling thing at Venice Beach, I thought, hell, yes.
Pimped up my ride. Forked out $25 to Alaska Airlines for a checked bag. Practiced at my daughter's house, accompanied by my skilled scooter'ist granddaughter, Evelyn, a first grader.
Saturday morning we arrived at Venice Beach, ready to roll.
The boardwalk started off in a residential area. Noticing the "Walk Your Bike" signs on the pavement, we figured that a scooter and a longboard weren't bikes. So ignored them. Along with almost everybody on bikes. Free spirits rule on the Venice Beach boardwalk.
I changed t-shirts after making a $5.99 buy at one of the shops along the boardwalk. Part of me wondered whether it was cool to wear a Venice Beach skull t-shirt while at Venice Beach. However, I figured that this could be construed as an ironic hipster statement -- so uncool that it is cool.
Near the end of our Venice Beach visit I headed off by myself for a final boardwalk run.
I put my iPhone into a Miveu chest mount. The Miveu case makes the iPhone into sort of a poor man's GoPro camera with a fish-eye lens. It was the first time I'd used the gadget. Worked fine for me. You'll see that the boardwalk had gotten pretty damn crowded by early Saturday afternoon, when I made the video.
I'm deeply proud that I only ran into one person during my several miles of longboard land paddling along Venice Beach: my wife. Hit her on the leg once with the end of the Big Stick. To her credit, she yelled "Hey, dude, watch where you're going!"
[Update: After watching the video again, I realized that it takes on a whole different vibe if you mute the sound on the You Tube video, press the start icon, then play the music from Jaws in a different browser tab while watching my land paddling.]
But I'll be visiting my daughter and her family in southern California fairly soon. My dream has been to experience the Land Paddling Holy Land, the boardwalk along Venice Beach (well, it isn't really holy, which is one reason I want to go there).
Figuring that a senior citizen longboarder might not be as rare on Venice Beach as it is here in Oregon, I wanted to put on the Shark Wheels as an additional attention-grabber.
It wasn't until I took a photo of my Shark Wheel'ed longboard in a setting sun that I realized, "St. Patrick's Day!" OK, two days away, but still... I'm greened up, wheel-wise.
I like how my longboard looks from the front now. The Roe Racing Mermaid has some personality. Sweet, yet edgy.
I'm also greened-up bearing-wise. I had some Shake Junt skateboard bearings waiting for the new wheels. When I took them out of their box, I thought Cool! They're green! Hadn't realized that when I'd bought them. Good longboard wheel karma. (Bearing is under the nut in center of photo.)
I also belatedly installed the BoardBrake from Boolah Boards that's been sitting in our garage for months. It needed a wood "riser" -- the block on the left side of the photo above -- because the Roe Racing Mermaid is set up with risers on the trucks for LDP, long distance pumping. Which I adapt to long distance paddling.
So the pad on the BoardBrake that scrapes the road/trail surface when a pedal is pushed wouldn't reach the ground when I first installed it. The Boolah Boards guy, Tony Knapp, promptly sent me a longer push-piece.
That helped, but I still needed to add the block of wood to get the pad making good contact with the ground. In the photo above I'm pushing with my hand as my foot would while riding the board. A few short test runs in our carport shows that the BoardBrake should work well now.
Venice Beach, here I come!
Now I've got a better chance of stopping before I run into a beautiful, curvaceous, bikini-clad roller blader, which would cause her and me to collapse together into a tangled mass of intertwined arms, legs and other body parts.
Which, now that I think about it, doesn't sound bad at all. Maybe I'll take off the BoardBrake before hitting the Venice Beach boardwalk.
I'm going to take my longboard, protective gear, and other stuff in a Decent Hardware board bag that's been waiting for an Alaska Airlines flight to southern Calfornia. Checked today to see how everything would fit. Result: nicely.
That's how I both go and stop on my longboard. No pushing with a foot, or dragging a foot. Dragging the rubber tip of the Big Stick works fine to stop at slow speeds, but not so well at higher speeds. And since I've accustomed to having both feet on the board, my ability to do the footbrake thing is minimal.
So now I have two ways to stop: the BoardBrake and dragging the Big Stick. And four attention-grabbing ways to roll, the green Shark Wheels.
I'll be sure to share photos and maybe a video of my Venice Beach longboarding. Plus, perhaps, a Los Angeles Times newspaper clipping:
Oregon man, 65, charged with sexual harassment after running into 22 year old female Venice Beach roller blader on his skateboard.
For immediate super-important stop-the-presses release
Salem's Senior Citizen Skateboarder, a.k.a. Brian Hines, a.k.a. me (though I will speak in the third person for greater dramatic effect) will be making an appearance at the Salem Sunday Streets event tomorrow. All available Statesman Journal reporting and photographic resources should be diverted to this locally, stately, nationally, and, arguably, cosmically important event.
Syria will still be a problem on Monday.
Sadly, the online next-day SJ story featured a cute 3 1/2 year old riding a bike rather than a not-cute 64 year old riding a longboard/skateboard.
Sigh... I am now required to be my own publicity agent. OK, more accurately I am once again required to do so.
Here's a Go Pro video that I made of me taking a return trip down pleasantly car-less State Street.
Along the way I talk with a bicyclist who made a point of catching up to me, being curious about how my longboard was propelled by a stick rather than a pushing leg.
I hope Salem Sunday Streets does a repeat of the event. If it were better publicized next time, likely there would be a lot more people taking part.
What struck me was how different State Street seemed without any cars or trucks on it. The state Capitol area felt wonderfully calmer and more natural. As a bicyclist rolled by, I heard him say "This should happen every Sunday!"
I just sent a press release to the Statesman Journal. Didn't have the New York Times' email address. Also, probably too late for them to get a news team to Oregon by tomorrow noon. Local newspaper, it's up to you!
For immediate super-important stop-the-presses release
Salem's Senior Citizen Skateboarder, a.k.a. Brian Hines, a.k.a. me (though I will speak in the third person for greater dramatic effect) will be making an appearance at the Salem Sunday Streets event tomorrow. All available Statesman Journal reporting and photographic resources should be diverted to this locally, stately, nationally, and, arguably, cosmically important event.
Syria will still be a problem on Monday.
Hines has received extensive media coverage in the Oregonian, Salem Weekly, and, um, nowhere else (hey, he only had to write half of the coverage himself). For background see:
Hines is noted for his tricks in Salem's senior citizen skateboarding/longboarding/land paddling community, which so far appears to only consist of himself, thus explaining his notability.
Hines says, "My main, and indeed only, senior citizen skateboarding trick is that I am a senior citizen who rides a skateboard. OK, a longboard. And I push it with a stick, not a foot. This is called land paddling."
Several times a week he land paddles five to seven miles at Minto Brown Island Park. Rarely seen in civilization, this is a rare opportunity for the general public and journalists to observe Salem's Senior Citizen Skateboarder. He can be picked out from the crowd by being (1) old, (2) on a longboard with purple and orange wheels, and (3) holding a black 6 foot Kahuna Creations Big Stick.
If more than one person at the Salem Sunday Streets event fits this description, Far Freaking Out! …dude.
Hines will be available for fawning admiration from young and old alike, including both human and canine sentient beings, from 11:30'ish to 1:00'ish around State Street and Riverfront Park. Media availability is subject to change depending on when he wakes up and how long it takes to caffeinate himself.
Have you heard the rumor? Of a strange creature roaming the trails of Minto Brown Island Park. It’s like nothing seen before. Fortunately, it elicits smiles rather than screams.
The rumor is true, because I am that creature. A senior citizen skateboarder.
More than that: a longboard skateboarder who propels himself on flats and mild uphills by pushing with a stick, not his foot. I’ve gotten pretty damn good at this, a super-fun activity called land paddling.
I mention my longboard with orange and purple O-tang wheels (O-tang is skateboard shorthand for Orangatang). It's a fairly new addition to my longboard fleet.
Thank you, social security! And all you young people paying into it! Without you, us senior citizens wouldn't be able to afford the necessities of life -- like cool-looking longboards such as the Roe Racing Mermaid.
I like the Mermaid a lot.
Stoked Skateboards helped me figure out what options to choose when I ordered this "pumping" longboard. Meaning, it is set up to be pumped rather than pushed. Paved Wave is the best source of info about how to pump a longboard, and why you would want to.
I'm a land paddler who pushes his board with a Big Stick. After starting out with other sorts of longboards, I decided to try pumping-style boards.
After all, like pure pumpers, I don't use a foot for pushing; except when I'm getting on or off the board, I push with the Big Stick, while pumpers use a rather difficult-to-learn body motion to propel the board. For now I'm unable to truly pump my board. Meaning, I can't keep it moving on flats without using the stick.
However, I'm pretty sure I'm benefitting from some pumping action-energy as I use the stick much as stand up paddlers on a paddleboard do (except my stance is more "surf-style," angled, not both feet straight ahead, the typical stance of stand-up paddlers, I believe.
Here's a RunMeter screen shot from my June 16 strange creature'ing at Minto Brown Island Park. It was my first sub-hour time for my usual seven mile route at the park (disregard the map; I was downtown when I captured the screen shot, so RunMeter showed my location at that moment).
Not bad for a guy who will be 65 in a few months.
Those 7.15 miles at 7.16 average mph include ups and downs, rough cracked asphalt, twigs and pebbles on the trail, plus a few walking moments when the slope is too steep for land paddling along. I ascribe my new fastest time to the responsive Mermaid board, my steadily improving technique, and greater core strength after many miles of land paddling.
I trusted myself when I had the urge to become a longboard land paddler. I’m glad I did. I’m in much better shape than I was before.
So much so, I’m waiting for the call to pose shirtless for the Senior Citizen Skateboarders Calendar (sadly, this doesn’t seem to exist). I rarely fall on my longboard anymore. If I ever have a semi-serious accident, I hope it is after I turn 65 in a few months.
I envision becoming a solitary Medicare statistic: “Skateboarding accidents among men 65 and over — 1.”
I'm a senior citizen who gets around on a skateboard. Well, longboard actually. That's a skateboard which is -- get ready for a non-surprise! -- longer.
But almost all of my longboarding is on trails in Salem (Oregon) parks. Usually I land paddle my way along for five to seven miles.
For other skateboarders/longboarders, their boards are a principal means of transportation. Kudos to Shred Oregon for making a video that will help to educate people, including policymakers, of this fact.
"Skateboarding is Transportation" should be required viewing for city councilors, county commissioners, state legislators, and others who make decisions about what is, and isn't, alternative transportation (alternative to cars, that is). For example, is it really necessary to ban skateboards in downtown areas?
Salem sucks pretty bad when it comes to dedicated bike paths.
Especially multi-use paths (bikes, pedestrians, skateboards, roller bladers, etc.). I don't ride a bike in town, but since I've started longboarding I'm always looking for places other than parks where I'd feel comfortable doing my land paddling thing. And Salem doesn't offer much.
Skateboarders are misunderstood by most people. They associate skateboards with annoying kids who play around and do tricks where they shouldn't.
But, hey, I'm 64 years old; more or less responsible most of the time; never caused any damage to myself, another person, or any living thing on my longboard (squirrels stay out of my way, though many dogs are curious about a guy rolling along on four wheels).
And I'm a skateboarder!
Even though I don't use a longboard for daily transportation, I can testify to the reasons some of the people in the video cited as why they get around on a skateboard.
My longboard easily fits in the back of my small Mini Cooper. A few small tools are all I need to use to maintain it. It's super-simple mechanically. No adjusting of brakes, chain, shifter, etc. as there is with a bike.
When I get off the board and want to walk for a while, I just pick it up. If I ever pass by a coffeehouse and feel the need for a caffeine pickup, I can take it inside. Lock not necessary.
Longboards are less expensive than bicycles, and arguably better exercise -- especially when someone, like moi, land paddles with a stick, thereby involving his/her entire body (especially the core) in propulsion.
So the next time you see a longboarder, think great way to get around. Not, crazy skateboarder. Longboarding is becoming increasingly common transportation. USA Today says so.
[Note: driving home on Liberty Road this afternoon I had to make a detour because police were investigating a serious accident involving a skateboarder. Reportedly the boarder is facing a DUII charge and wasn't wearing a helmet. So, yeah, some skateboarders do crazy stuff. But so do priests, lawyers, doctors, politcians, everybody.]
This was after I spent a few months doing the push with your foot thing, which I never felt comfortable with. Discovering the Kahuna Big Stick changed my longboarding life.
Being a senior citizen land paddler, I figure that I need to evolve my longboarding approach as expeditiously as possible.
After all, when you're sixteen you've got a lifetime of skateboarding/ longboarding ahead of you. Same is true at sixty-four, but with a big difference: my remaining time of being alive likely is much less.
Not because the others aren't good longboards. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. I've just become comfortable enough with my land paddling to appreciate what the Walkabout offers: another dimension of movement, plus the ability to "pump" the board -- a skill I've gotten a taste of, but not the full meal deal.
I've had the Walkabout for a week. Been on it five times, for a total of about twenty miles. Bottom line: it's a great longboard for land paddling if you're looking for something beyond the carving/cruising ordinary.
By which I mean, most land paddlers, who push with a stick rather than their foot, look for a board that will turn easily (carve) and is stable going straight and on downhills (cruising).
For someone getting into land paddling, that's the way to go at first. I'd never set foot on a skateboard before I got my first longboard. It took me a while to feel comfortable rolling along on four wheels that turn with body weight shifts, and have no brakes.
Now that I am, I really like the Walkabout's pumping set-up.
If you're not familiar with pumping, head over to PavedWave, "the soul of distance skateboarding," and click on How To Pump. The videos will speak a thousand words (or more).
Pumping strikes me as magical. It's a way of making a longboard move without pushing with either a foot or a stick. Just through body rotation and weight shifts. I kind of grasp the physics of pumping.
But it's still magical.
I've given it a try now that I have the Walkabout. Pumping is tough to learn; almost impossible, it seems, with a longboard that isn't set up properly for pumping -- as the Walkabout is. Mine has Bennett trucks front and back, with orange Otang Inheat wheels.
I'm beginning to get that pumpin' feeling, albeit with the aid of my Big Stick land paddling. That is, so far I can't keep the Walkabout moving for very long by just pumping. However, I get extra energy, let's call it land paddling "turbocharging," by using a pumping motion after pushes of the stick.
For now, pumping is an add-on to my land paddling. My goal is to get good enough at pumping so it becomes the main, or at least a major, way of moving me along.
Regardless, I'm already really liking the extra dimension the Walkabout brings to my longboarding.
The trucks produce a "swoopy" feel that is very different from my other boards. Hard to describe -- sometimes I feel like a slalom skier while land paddling with knees close together and my waist/core making the S-curve turning happen.
Never felt this before. In dance terms, it's sort of like the difference between waltz and swing: both turn, but not at all in the same way, with the same feeling. The Walkabout is a swing dancer, fun, lively.
It wants to move. "Play with me!" it begs.
Which sort of proves the adage I followed when playing competitive tennis for many years: when you feel like you aren't playing as well as you could, blame it on the equipment, not your technique. That usually isn't true, but sometimes it is.
My main message is that if you're a land paddler, expand your longboard horizons to include pumping boards like the Walkabout. I use the Runmeter iPhone app when I land paddle, so keep track of my distance, speed, and such through its GPS'ability.
Yesterday I was about 20% faster on my usual seven mile land paddling route. With less perceived exertion.
Like I said, that's with half-assed (or less) pumping technique. And the 42 inch Walkabout feels as stable as my 60 inch Kalai when I go over the cracks, bumps, twigs, leaves, and whatnot on the rural Minto Brown Island Park asphalt trails that I enjoy.
The only downside to the Walkabout that I've noted so far is that the swoopier Bennett front trucks aren't as stable on downhills as the Kalai's Original trucks. I feel more wheel wobble, but not drastically or scarily so. I've just been taking downhills more cautiously during my first week with the Walkabout.
Surprisingly, I'm only a fifteen minute drive from their shop in Independence, Oregon, yet didn't even know about them until I ran across a mention of Larry's boards while doing some cruising of the Net.
Larry himself demo'd the Walkabout for me, so I can testify that someone who knows how to pump can do it on that board. Me, I'm still a pumping baby. Well, maybe a toddler. Who knows, though... I could be walking one of these days.
Here's the poetic LongBoard Larry description of the Walkabout. Nicely written. Made me want to try one out.
The Walkabout was designed with distant treks in mind, true to the aboriginal rite of passage. Imagine long distance pumping rides that will take you across cities, counties, states, deserts, and countries. Tune into your surroundings and lose yourself on the extra wide concave, with a slightly upturned nose that locks you into place as you move up and down the deck.
On the Walkabout, your pumps require less effort and return more energy with the most high-tech composition LBL has created to date. A glass, birch, and carbon-fiber sandwich that's ready to groove to the drone of the didgeridoo, and whatever other rhythms you're ready to throw it's way. Multiple rear truck holes allow you to further fine tune the flex.
Brian Hines, 64, a writer from Salem, Ore., rode a motorcycle as a younger man, but when he wanted to return to two-wheeled riding in 2009, he took some extra safety steps: He got a motorized scooter instead of a full-sized bike, repeated an optional safety course, bought a highly-visible white helmet and avoided riding at night or in the rain.
His precautions paid off and he never had an accident, Hines says.
...As for Hines, he did sell his scooter in 2012 – something he says greatly pleases his wife. "She was worried every time I took off." He says he likes a little risk in his life, "but there are ways to fill that need without risking life and limb." He's taken up skateboarding instead.
The rest of the story is worth reading also. Basic message: older riders need to recognize the increased risks they face because of poorer reaction times, decreased visual acuity, and such.
Davis talks about how the risks of motorcycling can be reduced markedly by going against the grain of what gets riders injured or dead.
That's why I have a white scooter, wear a white full face helmet, always wear complete protective gear, have green day-glo striping on my jacket, drive a scooter with antilock brakes, rarely drive at night or in the rain, don't speed or take turns too fast, don't ride after drinking alcohol, and -- vitally important -- retook the Team Oregon training class before I started my scootering.
I'm taking the same minimize-risks approach with skateboarding (actually, longboarding, but I can't blame Kim for using the more generic understandable term). I believe in living life crazily, on or off a four-wheeled board.
However, there is no contradiction between (1) taking risks which other people will view as "crazy," and (2) lessening those risks as much as possible. After all, getting hurt from a preventable accident often is better termed stupid than crazy.
So I've continued to wear full protective gear almost 100% of the time when I'm on my longboard. With my big scooter, I never broke that rule. But since a longboard is quite a bit less dangerous than a motorcycle or scooter, occasionally I hop on one of my boards without a helmet or gloves on.
But rarely. I know that at 64, I don't heal nearly as fast as I did at 14, or 24. Older motorcyclists need to keep that in mind also. Be crazy and have fun. While being as safe as possible.
At 63 years old, I came late to longboarding (skateboarding on, duh, a long board). But I'm on the early cutting edge of those trying out an innovative way of stopping on a longboard or skateboard: the Brakeboard.
I must be one of the first to order a Brakeboard, which recently started to be sold by Ben Newman, an Australian. They're pricy, including shipping from halfway around the world. However, I was drawn to buy this braking system for a simple reason:
Stopping on a longboard is important, yet not easy. Especially at speed.
Sliding (either sit-down or stand-up) takes considerable skill. Dragging a foot on the ground is problematic at higher speeds. Plus, I've become addicted to land paddling, where a stick is used on flats or mild uphills to propel the board rather than pushing with a foot. So I'm not used to balancing on one foot, which is how foot dragging is done.
Being old, I'm also not interested in learning how to stop at higher speeds through trial and error -- "error" likely involving some painful falls. Yet I wanted the option of going down steep'ish hills, like my driveway, and being able to stop safely.
So I ordered a Brakeboard, along with a set of wheels designed for the braking system (other wheels can be used with the Brakeboard, but they need to be modified).
Here's the bottom line of my first impressions: the Brakeboard is well designed and works well, albeit with a few quirks that I'll describe below.
I made a video of a test run down my driveway. Keep in mind that I've only been longboarding for about seven months, and would be utterly unable to cruise down the driveway without the Brakeboard, as I note in the video.
I haven't dealt with the Brakeboard squeaks. According to Ben this should be easy to fix by rubbing the brake parts with a lightly oiled rag.
I'm also hearing some clinking in the rear Brakeboard truck when I do my land paddling thing without braking. Some minor adjustments seem to be called for. And I decided to upgrade the bearings that came with the Brakeboard.
To my mind, these are small "shakedown" issues.
I'm impressed with the quality of the Brakeboard design. A lot of thought and testing clearly went into this longboard/skateboard braking system. Quite a few people have tried to come up with a mechanical way to stop a board. Looks to me like the Brakeboard is the best product on the market.
Being only moderately handy with tools, I was moderately worried about installing the Brakeboard on my Landyachtz Switch, since it required drilling a 3/4 inch hole through the board. This went smoothly, though.
Here's how I handled it.
Following the installation instructions on the Brakeboard web site, after taking off the original rear truck I slipped the Brakeboard truck over the screws and penned in the outline of the truck. Then I measured where the center of the hole in the truck is, and located that spot by measuring from the edges of the outline. With a small drill bit I made a pilot hole at that center-of-the-hole spot.
I bought an Ace Hardware 3/4 inch hole driller thingie that attached to my cordless drill. It uses a bit that protrudes slightly beyond the round hole driller. That fit into the pilot hole. It took a while to get through the wood, but the result was good:
After that, it was just a matter of following the Brakeboard installation instructions. I'd never removed longboard trucks or wheels before, so it took me longer to install the Brakeboard than someone experienced with this stuff would take.
Live and learn... even (or especially) at 64.
Getting the adjustment nut in the right place took some time. Too far out, and the Brakeboard won't brake. Too far in, and the wheels won't turn freely when the brake isn't being applied. Once I got one side adjusted properly, it was pretty easy to replicate that on the other side. In the end, the parts looked like this:
The metal part on the right presses on the metal part on the left when the pedal on top of the board is pressed. Having the parts quite close, but not touching, seems to be The Right Distance. Pressing the two parts together, then fiddling with the adjustment screw, was my first approach.
Putting on the wheel, complete with bearings, and tightening the wheel nut was the final test. As shown in the video I made, the goal is to have the wheels spin freely with no brake, and then to stop firmly when the Brakeboard pedal is pushed.
All in all, installing the Brakeboard was pleasantly challenging.
I learned quite a bit about longboard parts and how they fit together. As Ben says in the installation instructions, getting the upper and lower parts of the Brakeboard to mesh is a tight fit, but eminently doable. I used the small end of the wheel installation tool to nudge the pedal pin into position after wondering "how the heck is that thing going to fit?"
Some longboard/skateboard purists feel that putting a brake on a board is a horrible idea. "Learn how to stop by sliding, dude, or don't ride a board!" they say. Well, that sounds ridiculous to me. There's no Eleventh Commandment, Thou shalt not use a mechanical brake on a skateboard.
Ben Newman has made an excellent product. It will appeal to some longboarders and skateboarders, but not to others. I like the Brakeboard.
Like I said, it's fairly spendy. However, so is getting injured on your board because you weren't able to stop before you hit something, or something (like a car) hit you.
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?
If you've been waiting to see videos of me pushing my way along on a longboard with a stick (not a foot, which distinguishes land paddling from regular longboarding)... I'm amazed.
But sometimes people don't know what's been missing from their lives. (Which, of course, is the secret of Apple's success; don't give people what they want, give them what they will want once they know about it.)
I put it on a chest mount yesterday without really knowing what I was doing. The results turned out fine. Audio was pretty damn audible; I used the "skeleton" case with holes in it rather than the totally enclosed waterproof case.
The last two videos are more exciting than the first two, being of me going downhill rather than uphill or level. "Exciting," of course, is a word fraught with ambiguity.
I love watching point-of-view GoPro videos of people doing wild and crazy stuff. My land paddling is only mildly wild and crazy. But, hey, when you're 64, just getting out of bed can be an accomplishment.
And I'm rolling along on a freaking skateboard!
(Note: the GoPro camera has a wide angle lens which gives kind of a "fisheye" look to videos, and makes my staight stick look curved; it's a feature, not a problem!)
Aptly titled, above is my first GoPro longboard land paddling video. This is where I go early on in my usual Minto Brown Island Park route. Gets me warmed up with mostly mild uphills.
I turn left along a wider, smoother asphalt path once I reach the trail that runs along a Willamette River slough. The video above is on my return route which leads to the west parking area.
I like this trail which runs through some open fields. Some aerobic uphill pushing pays off with this fairly lengthy downhill run. One advantage of land paddling on a longboard is that you can push with both feet on the board. Hard to push otherwise on a longboard at speed, especially if you need to be able to turn. At least, it was for me before I discovered the joy of land paddling.
Minto Brown Island Park is quite flat. There's a few sort-of-steep downhills on the trails, though. This is one of them, the flip side of the hill I pushed my longboard up at the end of the preceding video. On a longboard even moderate speed feels fast. I'm probably only going 10 miles an hour, or so. Maybe a bit more.
Here's why I'm stoked after learning that Brakeboard is about to begin selling an innovative, functional, cleverly designed skateboard brake.
One of the first things I learned when I got my longboard was... skateboards don't have brakes. Well, allow me to be more descriptively accurate.
After I jumped on my longboard for the first time and started rolling, my first thought actually was Fuck!!! Skateboards don't have brakes! How the hell do you stop this thing!!??
Answer is: not easily.
Foot braking is one way. But that requires standing on the board with one foot and dragging the other foot on the ground. Even if you're young (I'm not, being 64), this isn't easy. Especially going fast. Down a steep hill. Maybe while turning to avoid an obstacle.
Sliding the board sideways so the wheels skid is another way. Also not easy. Some boarders slide with their hands on the ground, which requires balance and flexibility. Stand-up sliding is as tough or tougher. And sliding won't work very well, or at all, if you're confined to a narrow trail or bike path.
I'm into land paddling on my longboard.
I push my way along with a Kahuna Creations Big Stick rather than pushing with my foot like most skateboarders do. While keeping both feet on the board, I can slow down by dragging the rubber tip of the stick along the ground. It's also possible to slide a board sideways while leaning back on the stick, sort of a blend of Coleman/sit down and stand up sliding (can't do this yet...but I dream).
Wanting to find a way to stop my longboard on steeper hills than I feel comfortable on now with my minimalist stopping skills, I've researched skateboard brakes via Google.
There's various homemade varieties, some as simple as PVC pipe bent in a fashion that allows it to drag on the ground when pressed from the top of the board. Skatebrake makes a product that has gotten so-so reviews and doesn't appeal much to me, as the brake controller has to be handheld -- which would interfere with my two-handed land paddling.
By far the best skateboard brake design I came across was by Brakeboard, which integrated the braking system into the trucks that hold the wheels. But the "under construction" web site said the product wasn't available yet.
Yesterday I emailed Ben, the Brakeboard founder, designer, engineer, tester, CEO, CFO, janitor, secretary, sales manager, and more, I bet -- at least in the early stages of his Brakeboard career.
I was thrilled to get a quick reply, pointing me to the nifty new mostly-completed Brakeboard web site. Ben said the skateboard brakes are close to being orderable; early January, if not sooner. Looking over his product line, I'm confident that a Brakeboard will enter my life.
I'm not out to become a senior citizen downhill bomber on my longboard. I'd just like to know that if I want to stop -- because of a stop sign, debris area, person in my path, whatever -- I can do so safely and reliably.
Watching Ben demonstrate his Brakeboard-equipped longboard makes me confident that his creation will do just that. Have a look. (More Brakeboard videos here.)
Last July I took up longboarding (skateboarding on, duh, a longer board). I was a youthful 63 years old back then. Now I'm an even more youthful 64.
Not a typo, because my fitness level has skyrocketed after discovering the joy of land paddling on a longboard (a lot like stand up paddling on water except, duh, on land).
You can peruse previous posts in the "skateboarding" category of this blog if you want to learn about the trajectory of my longboarding.
I started by pushing with my foot, as most longboarders do, but quickly learned the drawbacks -- especially for someone who (1) had never skateboarded before, and (2) wasn't in his teens or twenties. Discovering land paddling, where I never take a foot off the board except when starting or stopping, transformed the activity for me.
I'm hooked now. Which seemingly would be a problem, weather-wise, since I live in western Oregon, in Salem.
When I went to buy my first longboard at Salem's Exit Real World skateboard shop, I recall one of the sales guys saying that even at the ripe old age of 30 (!!!) he and his buddy still like to go to the skatepark. "But," he added, "it's frustrating to have to wait until spring when winter comes."
Well, winter has come (meteorological winter is December-February, and its Dec. 9).
I'm still happily longboarding. Cruised around Minto Brown Island Park today for about fifty minutes and four miles. That's mild uphill and mild downhill miles, along with some level stretches. The whole way I'm using my core muscles to propel myself with a Kahuna Big Stick on my Norgeboards Kalai.
Great workout. And it doesn't bother me that I'm longboarding in 40'ish degree weather, usually cloudy, occasionally drizzly, sometimes windy as heck.
I accept, no, embrace, the obvious fact that land paddling in the Pacific Northwest is going to be a lot different from what's shown in the You Tube videos of barely-clad longboarders frolicking in the warm sun, often next to a beach, or at least with palm trees.
Shuna and David had a good time playing with their Kahuna Creations longboards and Big Sticks on a cruise around the Rose Bowl. And I also had a good time today, although I was dressed a lot differently.
I'm finding that with loose fitting pants and a sweatshirt, I'm comfortable in just about any weather Oregon can throw at me. Once I put on rain gloves under my arm/wrist protectors when it was in the low 40's. Today the temperature was 47. Balmy!
Land paddling is aerobic. You aren't just rolling downhill, like "bomber" style longboarders do. You're pushing your way along, most of the time. So colder weather is more comfortable, in a sense. Less sweat, for sure.
Given my addiction to land paddling, I feel good that so long as it isn't raining hard, I can get out on my longboard.
I've gotten some rain wheels but haven't put them on yet. Since land paddling doesn't involve a lot of sharp turns at speed, a.k.a. carving, sliding out of control on standard slick ungrooved longboard wheels isn't likely. At least, I've never had a problem with this.
My biggest problem is leaves, twigs, and moss/mildew. Or whatever the heck that green stuff is on the asphalt of shady trails which makes the rubber tip of my Big Stick slip when I push on it.
I like how my five foot Norgeboards Kalai is big enough to roll over most minor obstacles, like twigs and leaves. I'm learning when it's OK to stay on my board through a "debris field" and when it's safer to get off. The park where I like to longboard the most is rural, though close to town.
There's jillions (almost) of trees, with bajillions (roughly) of leaves and twigs that fall off them.
But this has offered me an opportunity to practice my Zen Mindfulness Land Paddling -- where I'm rolling along a path almost covered with leaves, but with enough bare spots to enable me to precisely place the end of my pushing pole in a leafless area, which usually has enough traction to propel me forward.
Pushing on a slick leaf which slides backward always wastes energy, and sometimes almost throws me off the board if I've leaned over strongly to plant the pole.
Anyway, I just wanted to reassure anyone who is thinking of taking up land paddling this time of year, and lives in a rainy cold climate like mine, to... go for it! Life is short. Longboarding makes it seem, well, longer.
I feel really, really good land paddling on my longboard. Even when it's cold and cloudy. Even when it's rainy and breezy. Still, I'm looking forward to spring and summer. My senior citizen abs might even be fit enough by then (heck, they might be ready now) for some shirtless longboarding photos.
Reason enough to keep returning to this blog. Or, not.
Land paddling is a lot like stand-up paddling on water. Except, obviously, you're on land. And you don't really paddle, you push a longboard skateboard with a stick.
For me, land paddling transformed longboarding, which basically is skateboarding on a longer board and without the tricks.
Last July I got my first longboard, a Landyachtz Switch. I was learning how to get around on it fine, until I practiced on it two days in a row. The second day I was using my right foot/leg to push my way up a gradual slope when -- ow, ow, ow!!! -- my lower calf suddenly really hurt.
I'd stretched something beyond how it wanted to be stretched. It took a few weeks to feel back to normal.
That re-taught me something I already knew: being in your 60's is a lot different than being in your 20's. Or your teens, which are the ages of most longboarders and skateboarders. So I fired up Google and looked for a better way of getting a longboard to move on level ground or mild uphills.
Which is a stick. I have several. My favorite is Kahuna Creations' Big Stick. Just got the carbon fiber model. Love it. I also have the adjustable and bamboo Big Sticks.
I have several longboards in addition to the Landyachtz Switch, Kahuna Creations' Haka Moko and Norgeboards' Kalai.
Ever since I got the Kalai about a month ago, its been the only board I land paddle on. Bigger really is better, at least for the sort of land paddling I do on rough, uneven, leaf-strewn trails at Salem's Minto Brown Island Park. The Kalai is 60 inches long, a full five feet. By contrast, the Haka Moko is 47 inches and the Switch is 41 inches.
There's more to like about the Kalai than just size.
The trucks (thingies the wheels are attached to which enable a longboard to turn) are spring-loaded Original S10 torsion trucks with Abec 5 bearings. Don't ask me what that means. Heck, I'm a senior citizen longboarder with a whole three months of experience.
All I know is that I feel quite a bit more confident on the Norgeboards Kalai than on the other boards I own.
They're all great longboards. I enjoy land paddling on all three. The Kalai just feels more stable, both when turning and, especially, picking up speed on a downhill stretch. I don't feel the wheels wobbling on a downhill like I did with the Haka Moko and Switch.
Yes, the Kalai is heavier. But I rarely carry it. When I come to an uphill or downhill that is beyond my pushing or riding ability, almost always I push it along with the end of my Big Stick, kicking the Kalai's rear end with my foot from side to side as needed to keep the board rolling in the right direction.
On the slight chance that a prospective buyer of the Kalai reads this who, like me, has a Mini Cooper, here's proof that it fits in the back. Just barely. I carry the Kalai around almost all the time, along with my protective gear bag, the backpack that I wear while land paddling, and the adjustable Big Stick.
Here I am with the Kalai, in a self-timed iPhoto shot. I'm proudly six feet tall, having shrunk only about an inch over the years. Wanted to mention this because the perspective makes me look just a bit taller than the five foot Kalai.
I'm now up to land paddling 5.85 miles at Minto Brown Island Park. My way-cool iPhone Runmeter app gives me precise workout data. Yesterday it took me 1:20 (hour and twenty minutes) to go that far, so the average speed was 4.4 mph.
Here's the Runmeter graph of speed and elevation change. You can see that when I'm moving, my land paddling speed ranges between 2 mph (or less) on uphills and a sizzling 12 mph on a brief downhill run. The elevation change graph shows about 65 feet of up- and down-ness on the trails I take. I start out on a fairly steady uphill stretch, which then becomes fairly level and downhill'ish after a bit over a mile.
I've tried longboarding on city streets and at Salem's urban Riverfront Park. I much prefer the natural setting of Minto Brown Island Park. The trails may be rough, leaf/twig covered in places, and have puddles I need to skate around, but that's a small price to pay for being mostly by myself in a beautiful rural area.
When I wear my tie-dyed sweatshirt I got at Neskowin Beach a few years ago, my persona appears more than a little hippy'ish. Hey, that's fine with me. I came of age in the 60's (the decade), and now I've aged to the same number (as noted above, 64).
I deeply enjoy land paddling on a longboard. The Norgeboard Kalai, like I said, is my favorite. I'm in better shape than I can recall for a long time. Maybe ever. Land paddling for almost six miles is a tremendous aerobic and core workout.
Planting the pole and pushing involves almost every part of my body, from my toes up to my shoulders. I've done a lot of different athletic activities in my life. Land paddling probably is the most satisfying physical activity I've ever done (aside from um..., you can guess).
Thanks, Steve at Bend's Norgeboards, who designed, makes, signs, and ships each personally crafted longboard. I enjoyed meeting you at the Sisters Harvest Faire in October and being able to try out the Kalai at your demo area. Nice to buy local.
Who: Brian Hines, 64, Salem; 6 feet, 180 pounds. Hines is a writer who retired from the health planning and policy field. He has a daughter and a granddaughter. He and his wife of 22 years, Laurel, live on acreage in the country with room to roam.
Workout: About three months ago Hines took up longboarding, which he says is "basically skateboarding without the tricks. Or minimal tricks. Getting from here to there and having fun along the way is what longboarding is all about." Then he discovered stand-up paddling on a longboard and a passion was born. He says he's hooked. He "landpaddles" twice a week for 45 to 60 minutes, or three to four miles.
...Feedback: He says of paddling his longboard: "I'm hugely impressed with the great exercise this is. It's aerobic and a tremendous core workout. Having done this regularly for a month or so, I can say that I've never felt in better shape. Emotionally and psychologically it suits me very well. There's just enough risk to keep my attention focused but not so much as to cause anxiety. I wear knee and elbow pads, padded shorts, hand guards and a helmet." Hines says he has none of the aches and pains that many people in their 60s complain of. He believes if you do what you love you don't get as tired. "It's like being 10 years old again; just you and a pole pushing yourself along. It uses every part of your body."
Ms. Dow said more fascinating stuff about me, so you should read the entire article if you're as interested in me as I am. Also consider going to the Oregonian webs site and commenting on the article, because so far I'm the only one who has left a comment and said nice things about me.
After our phone interview, Nancy invited me to let her know if there was anything I wanted to add or retract. I spent some time pondering what I'd told her.
I was concerned about a statement that went like this: "I remember reading a story in Parade magazine, or wherever, about a Marine serving in Iraq. He said that everybody needs something in their life that can kill them. I agree. Not necessarily kill physically; it could be psychologically. And it doesn't have to be kill; it just needs to be something risky."
The whole "kill" thing seemed rather dark. So I labored over a few sentences that better expressed how I feel about the riskiness of longboarding.
A risky activity jolts me into seeing every moment as infinitely precious. The attention needed for longboarding casts me into a present-focused awareness where I can smile at the finitude of life. The richness of the moments I'm enjoying makes their inevitable end a better bargain with death.
Wow. Re-reading those words, they seem even darker than what I said orginally. Better suited for a blog post, than for a breezy My Workout article in the Living section of the Oregonian. But they're true.
I sent the Oregonian a couple of photos. They didn't use the photo which showed me with my new favorite longboard, the bamboo 60 inch Norgeboard Kalai. Norgeboards are made in Bend, Oregon by Steve Bangsund. Fairly soon I'll write a review of the Kalai, describing what I like about it.
Don't get me wrong. The Kahuna Creations 47 inch Haka Moko longboard shown in the other photo also is a highly enjoyable board. But like they say, bigger (sometimes) is better.
Lastly, my Big Stick longboard outing yesterday was a new distance record for me at Minto Brown Island Park: 5.75 miles. Not counting stops for water and photo taking, it took me about 70 minutes. Not bad, for a senior citizen longboarding on rough leaf-strewn trails with quite a few ups and downs.
[I use Runmeter on my iPhone to keep track of my workouts. Great app.]
Let go. Wonderful advice. For living. For dying. And...
For getting on a longboard at the top of a long, winding road down a picturesque hill. What the hell is there else to do, but let go?
This guy is highly skilled. Yet what struck me the most about his ride was the simple flow of it. He makes letting go look easy.
I was moved by "Let go." Struck me as a metaphor for life, yet also exactly what it concretely was. Have a look. (Thanks to bayrider for sharing the video link in a comment on this longboarding post of mine.)
I don't need an excuse to get all philosophical. It comes naturally to me.
But armed with a strong cup of coffee, a warm dry Oregon early evening, and a memory of a pleasant afternoon spent longboarding at Salem's wonderful Minto Brown Island Park, I feel especially inspired to muse about what life means to me on my 64th-birthday eve.
The Beatles released "When I'm 64" in 1967. I was a college freshman. Loved the song. Hated the idea of being 64. The lyrics seemed depressingly fantastical back in those youthful days.
When I get older losing my hair, Many years from now...
Bummer of a thought to start off a Flower Child era song. But I didn't take it seriously. Hell, I'd never be 64. I was just 19 at the time. No way I'd ever become the old geezer the Beatles sang about.
And yet... here I am. Almost 64. Losing my hair to a bald spot. Also, to thinning.
But here's the difference between the 64 year old me I feared I'd be, and the 64 year old me I am. Just before I snapped that photo, I'd propped my Camera+ self-timer equipped iPhone 5 against my backpack and gotten a larger perspective on what I was doing.
I was about 2 1/2 miles into another ride on my newly acquired Kahuna Creations Haka Moko longboard, which melds so nicely with the Kahuna Big Stick (basically it makes longboarding into stand up paddling, on asphalt rather than water).
And yes, I wear a helmet. I just took it off for my picture taking. After all, I'm not crazy.
Or am I? Of course I am!
I asked that question three months ago in my first skateboard post, "At 63, I'm seriously considering skateboarding. Am I crazy?" The responses I got from most other people were along the lines of "absolutely."
Which didn't deter me at all, obviously. I like craziness.
Not the pathological psychiatric variety; there's nothing funny or fun about psychosis. What I like is the delicious feeling of doing something that doesn't make sense to other people, that seems like an outrageously bad idea to them, yet strikes me as a marvelously proper thing to embrace.
What I really was afraid of back in 1967, as now, wasn't becoming old. It was becoming sane. The sort of sanity where you act your age, do what's expected of you, don't take unnecessary risks, pursue activities that don't raise eyebrows or attract wide-eyed attention.
Understand: I don't longboard because I want to look like an insane geezerish skateboarding senior citizen rebel who is having an end-of-life crisis that won't quit. Well, that's part of the reason, because I like that image; but there's much more to my longboarding madness.
I just knew. That. It was what. I should do.
Short and simple. Four ungrammattical declarative sentences.
In 1989 I asked my wife to marry me after knowing her only a few months, and having been divorced just a little while before I met Laurel. Crazy! And yet...
We celebrated our 22nd anniversary this year. I just knew. That. It was what. I should do.
Three years ago I jumped into another crazy wheeled activity.
I bought a big Suzuki Burgman 650 scooter. Just as with longboarding, the prevailing consensus was that this was an ill-advised idea. After all, everybody knows how dangerous motorcycles are, and a Burgman 650 is a thinly-disguised motorcycle (albeit one that shifts on its own and has antilock brakes).
I sold the scooter this year. Never got as much as a scratch. Never had any sort of accident. Had a lot of fun with it. Never regretted the crazy decision to get it. Because...
I just knew. That. It was what. I should do.
Craziness, non-pathological variety, is in the eye of the beholder. And the judge of this should be us. There's no such thing as objective crazy. What seems awesomely outrageously inappropriate to one person will be the bestest most wonderful splendiferous thing to do to someone else.
I really didn't know what to expect when I decided to jump into longboarding. It just called to me.
I can conjure up reasons for why I bought a longboard, but those wouldn't be the truth. I don't know why I did it. I have no idea how my brain came up with the thoughts and feelings and intuitions and oh yeah's! which led to a Kahuna Big Stick and Hako Moko longboard becoming a permanent traveling companion in my Mini Cooper, along with my bag of shoes, helmet, and other protective gear.
Often when I open up the luggage compartment and look at that stuff, I think about Magritte's "This is not a pipe." Likewise, my longboard isn't a longboard. Well, it is and it isn't.
It isn't, because it's so much more than what it outwardly appears to be.
It's the mixture of trepidation and excitement I felt when I took my first faltering rollings on what seemed to be a crazily unstable means of getting around on unforgiving asphalt. It's the fear of trying something new that I wasn't sure I could do, and also the fear of not trying something new, the two fears being like matter and antimatter, cancelling each other out in an explosion of "Fuck it! If I can't longboard at 63 I'm sure the hell not going to be any better at it next year, or the year after, or the year after, and then one year I'll have died without doing what..."
I just knew. That. It was what. I should do.
Younger dudes and dudettes, which by the laws of human longevity will encompass almost everybody who comes across these almost-64th-birthday thoughts, this is my geezerish advice for you:
Embrace your craziness. It's the most sane part of you.
That crazy idea, feeling, intuition, desire -- that itchy urge which won't go away no matter how much you try to scratch it into practical, logical, sane oblivion -- the notion that, when you get up the guts to share it with other people, they scream at you no, no, don't do it!, that could be the thing you need to do so badly, your life will scream at you no, no! if you march to the beat of someone else's drummer and DON'T do it.
Here I am, timer-photo'd with my iPhone propped against my backpack, standing in the shadows on a sunny October Oregon day, on the Minto Brown Park trail which runs along the Willamette River (in the background) near Salem.
Since my birthday is approaching -- I'll be a freaking ancient 64 -- I felt entirely justified in getting myself a present to give to myself, my only problem being that I now need to forget what I've done so I can surprise myself on my actual birthday.
Where's senility when I need it?
I've got nothing bad to say about my first longboard, a Landyachtz Switch. I was just curious to see how a longer longboard, made by the same Kahuna guys who came up with the Big Stick (in my right hand) that I like a lot, would feel like.
After a hour-plus of riding on Minto Brown trails, I can say, great.
The Haka Moko feels more stable to me. And I think it turns a bit more agilely. Since I don't know how to do any tricks on a longboard, including "switching" (a 180 turn), I'm not missing the bi-directional design of the Switch.
I think the Hako Moko is also more pushable with the Big Stick. Can't be sure of this, because my Big Stick technique is steadily improving. But it seems like I can lean forward into a push better on the Hako Moko, since the drop-deck design of the Switch keeps me a bit further back on the board.
Aesthetically, the embedded beach sand on the top of the Hako Moko is cool (and grippy). It even feels fine barefooted. The blue on my Big Stick matches with the blue of the Hako Moko, which matches with the blue semi-tied laces of my Teva shoes.
Today a bicyclist yelled at me as he went by, "Nice way to surf." For sure. No need to drive or fly to the beach. No need to wait for a wave -- the trails are always ready for a ride.
I also took a upclose headshot, something I'm usually reluctant to do. One of my main techniques for coping with getting older is not looking closely at myself. (See "When a man goes to the dermatologist.")
Hey, not too bad. I'm old, but pretty damn fit.
And with that look, if longboarding doesn't work out I can always get a Harley and sit around on Saturday afternoons at Starbucks with the other gray-haired geezers having their end-of-life crisis. However, right now I much prefer senior citizen skateboarding.
Longboarding with the Big Stick is great exercise.
In 40 minutes I go about three miles, including a few stops and some walking, feeling both the aerobic buzz and some serious core/upper body workout. I get some puzzled looks from other trail users, but if I saw me coming along on a skateboard, pushing my way along with a metal stick, I'd be puzzled myself.
(Note to self: if you ever decide to rob a bank, don't make your getaway on the longboard. It's kind of difficult to look inconspicuous on it when you're 64.)
No, not that Big Stick. This Big Stick -- the Kahuna Big Stick, an adjustable pole for pushing a longboard skateboard without having to put a foot down.
I'm really enjoying it.
Went to Salem's Riverfront Park yesterday. Did about three miles in forty minutes or so. That includes some walking when an uphill section seemed like too damn much work, and also when a downhill section seemed too damn scary.
The reactions of other skateboarders have been interesting. Not surprisingly, so far I haven't run into anybody who looks older than twenty-something. Thus seeing a gray-bearded geezer pushing his way along on a longboard elicits varying reactions.
Most commonly, nothing. Meaning, when I smile and say "Hi," my brother skateboarder (they're almost universally guys) doesn't even look at me as he rides by in the other direction.
Doesn't bother me.
I recently sold my big Burgman 650 scooter. For three years I regularly gave the motorcycle wave to guys on Harleys and other motorcycles. Mostly they ignored me on my white Japanese scooter. So I'm familiar with being ignored because I don't fit in with a prevailing stereotype.
Yesterday, though, I did get some smiles and a "nice board" comment from some skateboarders.
Along with a "why aren't you on the board?!" from a guy who was bicycling up the ramp leading to Wallace Marine Park and saw me walking down with my longboard in hand. "Because I suck at stopping," I yelled back. Geez, dude, I'm almost 64. Give me some credit for being on a longboard at all.
If I keep this up, I could win a senior citizen "best abs" contest before too long. (In my dreams, at least.) Using the Big Stick to push a longboard is a terrific core workout, especially if a trail has some ups along with downs.
Today I came across a video which demonstrates the benefits of the Big Stick that's worth watching for several attractive reasons. Observe the female BIg Stick reviewer and you'll easily discern two of them. Both the guy and gal are attractive, though.
(Note: he gets "goofy foot" backwards in the video; right foot forward on the board is "goofy," not left.)
I couldn't help but note that the guy is riding on what seems to be a Kahuna Creations Haka Moko longboard. Since giving begins at home, I'm leaning toward getting myself one of these for my birthday, and then surprising myself with it.
Have you thought about longboarding (riding on a longer, more stable skateboard suitable for geezers like me), but are turned off by the difficulty of balancing on one foot while you push the damn thing to get it going, and then to stop it?
Turn off that turned off.
This senior citizen longboarder has found the solution to your worry. And also mine, because after starting longboarding I realized that pushing and stopping were what I enjoyed the least.
Until the Kahuna Big Stick entered my life. It basically makes longboarding on land a lot like stand up paddling on a modified surfboard. You keep both feet on the board and use the Big Stick to push and come to a stop (on mild slopes, at least).
Have a look. If it looks pretty easy to do, that's because it is.
I got the collapsible version of the Big Stick (so it'd fit in my Mini Cooper) and also the Sk8pole (different brand, for comparison) after I seriously tweaked my right calf while practicing my longboarding on a paved path with a steady slight incline at Salem's Minto Brown Island park.
I'd longboarded a different path the day before. I was feeling OK until suddenly -- ouch! -- my right leg, which was doing all the pushing, said no more, dude! Also, you're old! (almost 64). True. Often I can't do what I did when I was younger without my body complaining.
So that led me to search for a better pushing technique. Hardly ever using my legs at all, except on the board... yeah, that immediately struck me as an excellent way to not get hurt again. (My calf is still a bit sore.)
I've longboarded with the Kahuna Big Stick four times now, and with the Sk8pole once.
In general I prefer the Big Stick because it has a solid rubber pusher which works well for dragging/stopping. The Sk8pole comes with a "not for stopping" warning because its pusher is more flexible and less substantial. Works great though for pushing.
Now I have a whole different attitude toward longboarding. Using a stick is definitely the way to go for anyone, like me, who is older and/or adverse to balancing on one foot to push and stop. I feel much more secure and confident with the Big Stick.
It's helpful even when not pushing or stopping because it gives me a better sense of balance just cruising along, probably for the same reason a tightrope walker uses a "stick." I'm still learning how to use the Kahuna Big Stick to best advantage. Here's some tips from my experience so far:
(1) If you're new to longboarding, begin by practicing with your board without a stick, as well as with it. If you can push, turn, and stop unaided, you'll be a lot better off when you start doing those things with a stick.
(2) Watch You Tube videos about "stand up paddling" on a longboard before you set out yourself. Learning basic do's and dont's will save you some grief.
(3) Like making the mistake of getting the stick in front of a wheel. I've done this twice when my mind wasn't minding what I was doing. As several videos I've watched demonstrate, what happens is that your longboard stops but you don't. Both times I "ran" off the board forward without falling down. Still, this is something to avoid.
(4) Last practice session, I found that leaning forward on my toes while starting to push on my right side (I ride left foot forward, regular style, so my toes point toward the right) helped me to put the stick down safely to the right of the board, and also to get some rhythmic back and forth pumping action going. When I switched to pushing on my left side, I leaned backward on my heels at the start of each push.
Using a Kahuna Big Stick, or whatever, is great exercise. It makes longboarding into a full body workout if you're doing anything but coasting downhill.
Again, its changed my whole attitude toward longboarding. I feel a lot more confident now trying out new paths/roads. The fear of falling is much reduced since I've got both feet on the board almost all of the time.
Here's a few more Big Stick videos. The first shows basic tips and riding techniques. The second shows what longboarding with a Big Stick is like if you're skilled. (Both videos show the original "wheel" version of the Big Stick; I have the new version of the pusher, which is replaceable, like the first one was.)
Given how few 63 year old guys (and even fewer gals, likely) spend any time on a skateboard, I figure this makes me a skateboard sage -- mostly by virtue of lack of competition for the title.
My skills are limited. But my venerable sagely wisdom is not, in my own mind at least.
So if you're still awake after viewing this video of my most recent longboarding practice session, read on below it for some insights I've gotten into how my Tai Chi will relate to my skateboarding.
In today's Tai Chi class, we engaged in a "push me-pull you" sort of exercise.
Paired with another guy, he and I grasped each other's upper arms, then pushed and pulled our way around the floor, trying to maintain our balance/root in the face of unpredictable physical movement. The key, my instructor pointed out to me, was keeping my core, the center of my body, the place from which movement was controlled.
Same with longboarding, I'm starting to understand. I have to be centered on the board in order to make it go where I want it. A few times I've gotten a glimpse of how a simple mental intention is all that's needed to guide my longboard turns.
I'm beginning to get a vision of how Tai Chi and longboard skateboarding are intimately related, as is any movement art/sport and Tai Chi. Dance, soccer, skiing, golf, tennis -- these activities and so many more all involve relaxed, focused, committed, centered body/mind control which ideally ends up becoming magical flow.
What's unique about longboarding, and what it has in common with surfing and snowboarding, is that your mind/body center is resting upon a moving platform. So it's sort of like doing Tai Chi on a floor that's continually twisting and turning.
(My longboard is rigid front to back, while others have more flex; but all longboards/skateboards pivot from side to side; that's how turning occurs.)
In my skiing days, where I was a middling intermediate, I recall a moment of clarity. I was perched on top of a slope that struck me as being too steep for me to ski down with any degree of certitude that I wouldn't wipe out before reaching the bottom.
I'd cautiously snowplowed down similar slopes before, anxiously worrying all the way. This time, something snapped in me. I said "Fuck it." I dove down the slope as if I owned it. I was tired of skiing under control.
What I discovered was... trying to stay under control had been preventing me from being in control. The looser and more relaxed I was, the better I skied. Committing wholeheartedly to turns felt a lot more stable than weenie'ly trying to slow myself down via V-shaped snowplowing.
This is a central tenet of Tai Chi: move with your whole body, with your whole mind. Applies to skateboarding just as much.
However, as noted above I'm definitely aware that on my longboard, the "ground" on which I rest is moving. And the real ground (asphalt, usually) beneath that is damn hard. When practicing Tai Chi I've never had the floor disappear from under me. On my longboard, I have.
(Which is why I wear gloves, knee pads, elbow pads. And when I start riding on the street, a helmet.)
Anyway, I'm looking forward to becoming a Senior Citizen Skateboard Tai Chi Sage. Like I said, the sagely competition is pretty minimal.
Yeah, I did it. Got a skateboard. Longboard, actually. They're different breeds of the same four-wheeled animal. Quite different critters.
Skateboards are all tricky; longboards are for cruising, carving, dancing. I thought about the pros and cons of jumping into longboarding at the age of 63 (see here and here).
Then my inner voice, which hopefully isn't a senile or self-destructive one, spoke to me. "Dude, do it!" Since it used the word dude, I trusted the voice. Figured it was in tune with the skateboarding vibe.
After talking with the dudes at Salem's Exit Real World skateboard/snowboard shop, I settled on a Landyachtz longboard, The Switch. The description appealed to me, even though I have no idea what the "new school freeride movement" is.
Sure seems like something I need to be a part of, whatever it is.
Our premier freeride specific board which has helped define the emerging ride style of today's longboarder. This board has given riders of all levels the chance to experience the new school freeride movement making stand up slides and drifting easier than ever.
I like: how the platform is dropped low; it feels stable... how the board is symmetrical, so I can't get it pointed the wrong way... how there's "dropped hips" (sounds like my aging body) at each end where my feet can get pretty much locked in.
If you are a 50'ish AARP member or even -- gasp! -- a social security recipient (I'm both) who is considering getting a longboard, my main message is what I said above. Dude, do it!
After you think about it. Like I did.
I'm physically fit. I do Tai Chi. I ballroom dance. I regularly lift weights and do the ellipical trainer aerobic thing. I'm handling my longboard quite well after just an hour or so of practicing. Video evidence below. Many fellow senior citizens could follow in my Vans-clad footsteps.
Step 1 at the skateboard shop: tell the salesman, "I want to look cool, even if I end up longboarding like shit."
Step 2: be safe. I ended up buying a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, and gloves. So far I've only worn the knee pads and gloves, because I've been practicing at slow speeds on flat ground. When I go out on a road, the helmet and elbow pads will go on also.
I've ridden a big Suzuki Burgman 650 scooter for three years, never failing to wear a full set of protective gear every time I get on it. (I'm selling the scooter, figuring that one risky activity at a time is enough for me; the skateboard shop dudes, by the way, told me that longboarding is way safer than motorcycling/scootering; I agree.)
So I'm used to reducing risk by wearing the right gear. Us senior citizen skateboarders need to be particularly attentive to this, given that we heal more slowly than younger folk.
In my two days of practicing, I've had a few stumbles, but no falls. I've even been able to hold my iPhone while I recorded some on-board video action. My wife said, "Who wants to see where you're going, without seeing you on the board?"
Well, I'm not expecting my Senior Citizen Skateboarder series will go viral on You Tube. And soon I'll share some third-person view videos of me in my oh-so-cool Vans shoes doing whatever I'm able to do on my longboard.
Which is, so far, push off... go in a straight line... stop by a foot drag... make sweeping turns on flat ground.
Tomorrow, though, down Pikes Peak! Well, maybe after quite a few tomorrows. Here's what I've been up to on day 1 and day 2 of my longboarding.
Can't get it out of my mind. Longboarding, which is skateboarding on, duh..., a longer board.
After blogging about how I'm seriously considering giving longboarding a try at the age of 63, asking "am I crazy?", I've come to no firm conclusion. Of course, knowing the answer wouldn't tell me much. I've never had a desire to be averagely normal.
And leaving aside obvious clinical insanity, craziness is pretty much in the eye of the beholder. We all do, think, and believe stuff which makes other people say, that's crazy! While to us... they're crazy.
So viva la craziness. The world would be way too boringly sane without it.
The Great God Google provides me with lots of fodder to feed unlimited herds of pro and con arguments about taking up skateboarding at my rather advanced physical age (psychologically, I'm embarassed to reveal how young I feel).
The city is an adventure playground for a skateboarder, Lena Salmi claims. She views her home town with fresh eyes: there is a good chicane over there, and this is a good site for tricks. A public space need skateboarders more than the boarders need the city, she argues. “We give the city a measuring scale and show how a space works. We also develop the street culture. Longboarding is an incredible means of contact between people. Passers-by stop to look at us. All of a sudden the civil servants are not quite in such haste.” ”I allow the onlookers to have try for themselves and the dogs to sniff my board.” Salmi declares that she is having a lot of fun when she is skateboarding. Not everybody, it seems, is OK with that. ”A man cycling by once asked me: ‘Why do you bother with that stuff, an adult woman like you?’ I replied that I was a woman, but not an adult.” ”Another time a little boy asked how I was allowed to skateboard, even though I was so old. Where does the joy disappear from a person’s life?”
I actually know a few of these Grown Man Skateboarders, living as I do in Los Angeles' hipster-strewn Eastside. It's hard to really be against older dudes on skateboards! They look cute with the wind in their hair -- but then, I've always been sort of partial to the manchild. It seems to me the real problem is that if they fall, they're in trouble. I once dated a guy who'd been a skateboarder in his youth -- he had broken virtually every bone in his body. No, seriously. He had bones sticking up at 90 degree angles out of, like, his clavicle. Rainy days are going to be hard for that guy in 2030.
A lot more positive is Am I too old to learn to skate? Amusingly (for an old geezer like me), the oldest specific example cited of someone starting to skateboard was Jose, who returned to the sport at the -- gasp! -- ancient age of 45.
It comes down to my basic rule for living: there are no rules. Including that one. Life is a mystery. Dive into it however, wherever, whenever you feel like it; swim around; explore; it'll still be a mystery.
I emailed the dudes and dudettes at Exit Real World, an Oregon skateboard/snowboard business with stores in Salem and Portland. I've always liked the name. Never been in the store. I quasi-seriously explained why I first wanted to ask them my crazy question via email.
Yesterday I wrote a blog post called, "At 63, I'm seriously considering skateboarding. Am I crazy?" I've gotten one comment from a friend who is about my age. His answer: yes.
For a while today I thought I agreed with him. But somehow I can't get the notion of longboarding out of my mind.
...So I'm asking for your honest opinion. I realize that you're in the business of selling skateboards and gear, but you're also in the business of guiding people in the best direction for them -- which could involve, I assume, telling them "skateboarding/longboarding isn't for you."
...I was worried that if a 63 year oid guy walked into your Salem store, alarm bells would go off, a trap door would open up, and I'd find myself in an underground chute that leads to the Senior Center. An email seemed like a safer way to start off getting your opinion on 60+ longboarding. Any advice, based on your experience and expertise, would be welcomed.
l got a reply today. I liked how it started off. And ended.
Hey Brian, I was thoroughly entertained by that read. I've been in the skateboard industry for the past 10 years and have seen all shapes, sizes, and ages skateboarding. That's the good part, there aren't any rules for skateboarding. I think that plays a big part in the popularity of skateboarding.
...What's the worst that could happen when in a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, and wrist guards on if you chose that route? As long as you take it slow and learn the basics and don't start at the top of booyah hill in South Salem I'm sure you'll do just fine!
Well, I can evision various "worst's."
But the good news is that in 2011 there was only one skateboarding fatality of someone 25 years or older. Just one! And that person was 35. Senior citizen skateboarding is perfectly safe! (Along with being extremely rare.)
Most people think of tricksters in skate parks when skateboarding comes to mind. But there's all kinds of ways to get on a board and enjoy yourself. Like I was told, there aren't any rules. Longboarding simply can be a means of commuting, of getting from here to there.
Or, of dancing. This video appeals to me. I doubt I'll ever be dancing on a longboard with anywhere near this sort of expertise. But I could do whatever I can do. Which is the whole point of skateboarding.
I've never been on a skateboard in my sixty-three years.
But after a great conversation yesterday with a guy eight years older than I am, I'm seriously thinking of getting a longboard skateboard -- for cruising around, not doing fancy tricks.
Is this crazy? Not to me. And not to the 71 year old man I met while we were waiting for our cars to be serviced at Mini of Portland.
Killing time, we found ourselves standing together, looking at the new Mini two seat model in the showroom. Noticing what I was wearing, he said "That's a Crazy Shirt." "Yeah," I replied. "T-shirt and pants both; I love Crazy Shirt clothes; wear them all the time."
He was similarly attired. Had on the same Kona Coffee-dyed pants I often wear. We bonded immediately. Two old guys who like fast, fun cars like our Mini Coopers and comfortable, youthful Hawaiian-themed clothing.
In the course of our conversation, I mentioned how I'd been pondering taking snowboarding lessons this coming winter. (I used to ski, but don't play around in the snow anymore.) That led him to say: "How old do you think I am?"
"I don't know," I told him. "You look fit, but you're probably older than I am." "I'm seventy-one," he said. "Until four years ago I was a skateboarder."
A longboard skateboarder, he explained, looking longingly out the window at busy four-lane Canyon Road, which leads downhill from Portland's Sunset Freeway into the non-wilds of Beaverton. "That'd be such a great road to ride a longboard on -- if it wasn't so filled with traffic."
It turned out that he'd "caught an edge" (not sure what this means on a longboard) while avoiding an obstacle on a downhill road run. The fairly serious fall made him realize that his reflexes weren't as good as they used to be, so he gave up longboarding.
Still... "You should do it!" he enthusiastically told me. "I had four or five boards at one time, and made one myself. Get a good carving board. Remember that word: carving."
Well, I just might take his advice.
Going on my usual two-mile dog walk this afternoon, I looked with fresh eyes upon the sparsely traveled rural road that loops through our neighborhood. Some parts are pretty steep, but (perhaps overconfidently) I imagined myself smoothly carving my way down them, cap on backward, grooving to the beat of my 63 year old mind which is still young enough to come up with thoughts like "grooving."
My Mini Cooper friend and I (never got his name) agreed on a lot during our brief conversation. Life is short. It can end at any moment. Risks are everywhere. Yes, skateboards are dangerous. So is simply living.
There's lots of ways to "catch an edge" and take a tumble.
Cancer. Heart attack. Car accident. Falling off a ladder. Recently a newcomer to my Tai Chi class said he broke his back while simply standing on his snowboard, turning to look at a cute girl, and falling on his butt.
I'm not really disheartened by how few hits I got on a "senior citizen skateboarder" Google search. I don't feel like I'm as old as I am. I'm in very good physical shape. I do Tai Chi, lift weights, ballroom dance, hike and bike, boogie board big waves in Hawaii regularly. I could handle a longboard skateboard, for sure.
Just like this 72 year old man did first time out in the only You Tube video I found of someone my age or older skateboarding (but I didn't search very long).
l like his attitude. At the end of the video he also expresses a "just do it" philosophy.
My Mini Cooper friend told me that he thinks he could live to be ninety. His goal is to die a slippery slope sort of death: be bold and active right up until the end, then, whoosh!, abruptly slide into that last breath and heartbeat.
Sounds good to me also.
I hope the guy gets back on his board one day. Make a You Tube video when you're ninety, dude. I'll watch it when I'm 83. Maybe while I'm still riding a skateboard (around the old folks home?).