The Long Way 

How longboarding makes you faster and more dangerous on the hills

Longboarding may not be a new trend nationwide, but the sport seems to have invaded Boise along with last summer's heat. With its roots in the heart of regular skateboarding and the West Coast hills, longboarding is slowly making its way into the valley. From the Boise State campus all the way to the Foothills, Boise is teeming with riders. This daring new way of skating takes some guts, but might help riders train for snowboarding.

A longboard is a stretched-out skateboard that can be anywhere from 34 to 50 inches long. The bodies are shaped differently from that of a normal skateboard. Likewise, the wheels and trucks—which attach the wheels to the board—are different.

"The geometry of longboards really isn't too different from traditional skateboards," explained Greg Goulet, co-owner of Prestige Skateboard Shop. "The wheels make the board." Longboard wheels are much wider than regular skateboard wheels. And they are are softer, which means better traction.

Longboards are made for speeds as fast or faster than 25 mph, with improved turning capability and greater maneuverability. Although the trucks on a longboard have more give, which is intended to allow for better turning at high speed, the attachments are still critical. They are a must to prevent "speed wobbling," a dangerous but common effect that occurs when the trucks aren't screwed on tight enough to the board. All these factors, fans say, produce the ultimate skating machine. Watch a longboarder ride a sloping hill and you'll understand why some people refer to it as "street surfing."

So where do these crazy longboarders ride?

"One place where a lot of people go is the Boise State campus because it's lit at night," said Will Emmons, who works at the Board Room on State Street. Many college students have taken to longboarding for transportation. It simply gets you from point A to point B in a quick, cheap way.

"I would use my longboard to cruise to the skate park with my short board on my back," said Ben Woodard, a 10-year longboarding veteran. Transportation is a huge part of the longboarding scene. Since the wheel base is wider than that of a regular skateboard, you go further with one kick than you would on a regular skateboard.

There's another side to this simple piece of wood. All those people you have seen carving their way out in the Boise Foothills really aren't trying to kill themselves. These downhill daredevils are simply enjoying what they call a casual ride.

"It's the combination of carving in and out and going fast," said Dave Hecker, a local skater. Some of the popular longboarding places are Shaw Mountain Road, Table Rock Road and any other windy, steep road in the Foothills.

Many of us have seen the brave, usually helmetless skaters almost run into cars on many of these roads. It takes a lot to look straight down a hill with only a piece of wood and wheels under your feet and tell yourself that you are going to get down in one piece. But these extreme skaters do just that. Then they ride back up and do it again.

Not all parts of town are wide open to longboarders. The city's rules about skateboarding still apply. The downtown area might look like a fun place to cruise around, but there is a catch. If you're caught skating in the "dismount zone," you will be handed a $25 ticket for each infraction. According to Lynn Hightower, spokeswoman for the Boise Police Department, the areas from the south side of Main Street and the north side of Idaho Street between the west side of Fifth Street and the east side of 13th Street are dismount zones, which means no skating of any sort. The area also includes the south side of Bannock Street, the north side of Front Street, the east side of Ninth Street and, finally, the west side of Capitol Boulevard.

Many of these boarders are snowboarders as well. Longboarding is a great way to train for the snowboarding season, for reasons that become obvious upon observation.

"I originally started longboarding to cross train for snowboarding. It's similar because of the balancing back and forth from your toes to your heels," said Justin Logan, who rides both the winter and summer version of the longboard. The whole concept of carving in and out and riding down the hill is much like snowboarding in the summer.

"It's just what you do in the summer," Hecker said.

Interested in trying it out? The average cost of a longboard setup is $100-$275, with prices for custom-made boards at the higher end of that range. And if you're really serious, then you might look at special shapes. Pintails, for example, are a type of longboard with a pointier body that makes it easier to turn. These leaf-shaped decks are the most common longboard. This is because, riders said, they are an all-around simple board.

Longboarding is becoming more prominent in the Boise community. Keep your eyes open for these brave boys and girls who are carving their names into the Boise hills and city streets. It takes a lot of guts to try and even more to do it every day. Longboarding is one more way for transportation to meet the freedom of skating.

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