"Slowly, and then all at once". That quote, originally used to describe the manner in which someone falls asleep, can apply to the longboarding craze that has apparently swept campus.
A year and a half ago, when I got my longboard, I would walk through campus and nod at all the other longboarders, part of a silent club of few. Then more and more longboards started popping up and now, it seems like everywhere you turn you see a longboard barrelling towards you. The longboard season is ending soon but for now, it looks like longboarding is sticking around.
Longboards come in different shapes and sizes for different uses. Whether you're just looking to get from A to B, or want to bomb hills at high speeds, picking the right longboard takes a little research (or the help of a slightly more than novice longboarder).
Just Getting Around
I get it; there aren't many things I hate more than riding a crowded bus after a long day of classes. If you'd like to skip the public transport and just ride to campus, there are two boards you can try.
Mini-cruisers, or “Penny boards” as they're more commonly known, are fun for cruising and getting around the basics. Personally, I like something that I can actually fit both my feet on comfortably.
Longboards are the best for lazy people because one push can get you pretty far. To get the most distance with minimal effort, you're going to want a stiff board with little flex, lower to the ground, and probably longer. As long as you've got those bases covered, go crazy with whatever style floats your boat. Kick or no kick, it's all up to you.
If you watch most longboarders go down hills, you will see them go from side to side to control speed. This is called carving. Unless you want to have speed warbles or want to completely lose control, carving is very important. Most carving boards are between 35" and 43", a little longer is easier to carve. You'll want a little flex in your board too to help absorb the rough terrain.
If you're just starting up with a longboard and want to bomb hills right away, you are much braver than I am. Downhill decks are pretty stiff to allow better control when riding at very fast speeds. You'll also want a drop-through deck (where the board is mounted below the baseplate of your trucks, as shown in the picture). The lower the center of gravity, the more stable the board.
* If you're planning on going down hills, I suggest you invest in some protective gear before you do so. Trust me, I learned the hard way and have the scars to prove it.
If you want to do tricks on a longboard like sliding, dancing (yes, this is a thing) and grabs, you're going to want a shorter board than a downhill one. With freeriding and freestyling, the wheels are most important as you're going to want wheels that can slide. The best wheels are between 68-72mm in diameter and have a round lip.
Now that you've got the basics, you've got no excuse for not getting up and getting yourself your own longboard. It's easier than it looks; just try not to jump off halfway down a hill at full speed like a certain someone who definitely isn't me.
Check out Varnetta Skate Shop on Upper James for your equipment and www.facebook.com/groups/longboardmcmaster for info on slide school and people to skate with.
As Canadians, a mild winter comes as a bittersweet circumstance for most. On one side, the roads are safe, accidents are down and CAA members can rest easy knowing their 100km of free towing is still available to them. On the flip side, sledding on cafeteria trays at faculty hollow, skating on Cootes, and making snowmen are at a low. Even the traditional phallic sculpture outside JHE has been cut short.
The disappearance of snow at McMaster has also seen the dissolution of the Ski and Snowboard Club, leaving an unmet demand by thrill-seekers. Fortunately, some ragtag skate punks have come together to form a club in an up-and-coming adrenalin junky pass-time.
Longboarders have been sweeping through campus for several years now, getting in trouble from security, weaving around light posts, and getting to class considerably quicker than everyone else. Longboarding, which is an obvious derivation from skateboarding, is a faster, smoother and altogether bigger set-up. The boards aren’t meant to kick-flip; rather, they’re for carving, cruising, sliding and primarily racing down hills.
All these areas have their own following but downhill is by and away the most exciting. An inch of wood, four hunks of poly-urethane (the wheels) and some metal trucks (like the axle on a Red Flyer Wagon) are all that’s keeping a racer from barrelling into a curb, light post or worse when travelling at speeds of up to and beyond 100km/h.
Needless to say, McMaster’s campus isn’t quite outfitted for these sorts of speeds, so the freestyle divisions, carving cruising and sliding, are more prevalent. The technicalities I won’t get into, but words like “dancing,” “shuvit” and “standee” are a bit more conducive to the Westdale/McMaster environment.
So what’s the deal? Why do people get into this sport? It seems most people start out wanting to commute – to get to class from the far end of Emerson faster than the busses can do it, without having to worry about a bike to lock up. Sure, biking is a bit quicker, and you get to sit down while doing it. But by the time cyclists have locked up their bike, thrown a plastic bag over their seat in case of rain, and marched from the seemingly randomly placed campus bike racks, I’m already in class schmoozing with a cute girl about the dangerous lifestyle I lead as a longboarding racer.
To say the longboarding club will be revolutionizing how students get to class is a bit of an exaggeration, but it is prepared to offer lessons on skating, techniques and even on board maintenance. They all seem to have a collection of boards in a variety of styles, and no one hesitates to lend a board to a new rider.