The Art of Longboarding

Have you ever taken a drive through the tranquility of Orinda expecting to share the road with cars, only to be passed by a crouching blur that resembles a teenage boy? Chances are you just encountered a longboarder.

Many people in this country associate skateboarding with ollies, grinds, and other tricks made famous by icons of the sport such as Tony Hawk. However, there is an entirely different way to utilize a board with wheels attached to it which doesn’t involve any hopping or flipping: just riding it.

Young people around the country purchase “longboards” for purposes that symmetrical skateboards struggle to perform, such as transportation over long distances and achieving high speeds down hills. The shape of these boards, their elevation from the ground, and their rubber wheels allow much smoother, faster riding than the characteristics of normal skateboards.

A longboard can come in a variety of shapes, depending on which style of riding each boarder desires. Some very long boards are strictly designed for speed and control, creating an intense but fairly simple experience for the person on top.

Other boards allow for a freer style. While longboarders rarely lift their vessels from the ground, many skilled individuals perform tricks that involve rotating the board 180 degrees or executing sharp carves on the road, causing the board to actually slide on the axis perpendicular to its velocity. For more maneuvers, often on very steep hills, expert boarders wear special gloves that help to control one’s speed while protecting their hands.

Not only is the act of riding a longboard much different than that of a common skateboard, but there is also an entirely different culture for the sport. Instead of starting from scratch, trying to learn tricks that may intimidate new skateboarders, all a budding longboarder needs to succeed is balance and a little confidence. This makes the activity much more accessible to newcomers, and encourages experienced riders to utter the phrase “Wanna go board, bro?” without much discretion to the listener. This laid-back attitude also crafts the longboarding demographic: “chill,” shorts-wearing bros who tend to contrast with the hardcore punks that many people associate with skateboarding.

What makes longboarding so popular in Orinda and more importantly, at Miramonte? First, let’s take a look at the natural topography of Orinda: hills. While our town’s landscape of modestly sized rolling hills makes for a picturesque landscape, alternatively, Orinda’s hills compose some of the greatest spots to longboard. Notable longboarding areas include the Orinda Downs, Hall Drive, Orinda Woods, Old Tunnel Road, and the Orinda Parking Garage. These famous longboarding hot spots share smooth concrete surfaces, steep inclinations and long spacious, maneuverable streets. All these characteristics, when combined, create an ideal longboarding environment.

Orinda adolescents, chiefly Miramonte students, have utilized Orinda’s landscape, and as a result have created a unique longboarding culture, centered on perfecting the longboarding art and spending time “chilling.”

As of this year, Miramonte hosts the first official longboarding club. Titled “Bo(A)red,” the club’s goal is to introduce the sport of longboarding to students looking to learn a new hobby, by teaching them the basic mechanics and skills involved with riding and showing beginners how to have a good time. The club’s president, senior Robby Tong, started the club hoping to establish a community of Miramonte students with a shared interest in longboarding and relaxing.

“Longboards are like people. They come in so many different sizes, from short two-foot boards to five-foot really long longboards. My goal as club President was to unite the diverse community of Miramonte longboarders in order to carve the Orinda streets together,” said Tong. “As a club, we’ve been all throughout the Bay Area. We’ve been to spots at Treasure Island as well as ditches scattered throughout San Francisco and Walnut Creek. We boarders have improved our style of riding. If you look close enough, longboarding is a kind of sophisticated art form.”

While some may laugh when a seemingly juvenile sport like skateboarding or longboarding is compared to an art form, the longboarding technique and maneuvers are somewhat comparable to those of ice-skating.

“It’s all about the fluidity when you carve back and forth along the pavement. Once you get to high speeds you can start sliding and reverting the board along the road,” said Tong.

Using a number of techniques, riders generally carve back and forth along the road, somewhat like a surfer riding a wave. More advanced riders take advantage of rubber wheels in order to slide the board against the pavement. Similarly, longer boards, ranging anywhere from four to five feet in length, may be used to cross step. Cross stepping is a technique where a rider shuffles his feet up and down the board while maintaining a carving motion.

The popularity of longboarding is largely attributed to how fun it is. The rush of cruising at high velocities coupled with the friendly, carefree culture that boarders have established help make longboarding a timeless sport for Miramonte teens.

“While I know one day my joints may be brittle due to the process of aging, I’m confident that the philosophy of the longboard will survive the brutal test of time,” said Tong.

Q&A With Andre Motier

Q: When did you first start longboarding and why?

A: I started longboarding in March of 2008 when my friends convinced me that longboarding was the next great form of transportation.

Q: How fast have you gone on your board? Do you regret going that fast?

A: Robby clocked me going 35-40 miles per hour going down bear creek road and it was one of the most intense runs I’ve taken. By the end I was almost crying because of the wind, several cars were held up behind our chase car and I had to duck off to the side to avoid being yelled at.

Q: Where is your favorite spot to longboard and why?

A: Longboarding Ghost Town (Augusta Dr.) is easily the most fun because there are no cars and the pavement is perfect. Also, having to stop before the chain at the bottom makes it seem more intense.

Q: What has been your worst fall?

A: The second time I went longboarding I broke my collarbone. Riding down the hill that exits Wagner Ranch, I had to swerve between an oncoming car and some parked ones. I flew off and slammed my shoulder, and I could see my bone poking the skin, which, admittedly, concerned me.

An Insight Into Longboarding Lingo

Slide: to turn one’s board 90o  so it is sliding perpendicular to the axis of one’s velocity.

Manual: to balance on one truck of the board.

Cross-step: to cross one’s feet up and down the longboard while maintaining a carving motion. Often referred to as “dancing.”

Carve: to turn from side to side of a road in an attempt to either control speed or just have more fun!

Bomb: to ride straight down a hill with one goal: as much speed as possible.

Chase car: a vehicle, usually driven by a fellow boarder, which transports riders to the top of a run more efficiently than feet do and then follows them as they descend.