By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – A local longboarder took to the rolling slopes of Edmonton’s River Valley over the weekend, competing in the Rogue 7 20K Longboard Race. The race drew roughly 200 longboarders to the city and offered a $1,000 purse for the first-place finisher.
“There’s motive to win but it’s also just kind of a big fun event,” said 23-year-old Jackson Cramp, a Morinville resident who has been a longboarding enthusiast for about two years. The weekend event was his first competition.
Cramp was initially attracted to the sport a few years ago after seeing some skaters boarding in St. Albert. With his next pay cheque he went out and bought one of the boards, a 45-inch Palisades unit, a board that is considerably longer than a conventional skateboard. “I kind of did it all summer and a bit into the next summer, but I eventually dropped it because I got a bit bored,” Cramp said, adding his interest was rekindled at MacEwan University this year after meeting some longboarders. “I said I’d pick it back up again but I need something a bit better, more aggressive for downhill. So I picked myself up a Landyachtz Drop Deck, a flexible bamboo board.”
With the new board in hand and underfoot Cramp began training for downhill boarding and free riding, the latter a method of distributing the body’s weight in certain ways to allow the board to slide and slow as needed, buffing off speed as you go. “I’ve been doing that all summer and getting increasingly better,” Cramp said, adding he was trained and skated with people from Local 124, an Edmonton skate shop, as well as at a bike trail at the University of Alberta.
Different board, different culture
Cramp said the difference between skateboarding and longboarding goes beyond the size and style of the two boards. It’s what you do with them. “A skateboard is much shorter, around 30 inches or 25. The purpose of that is to do tricks with it, flipping the board, jumping up with the board, and hitting rails. Stuff like that,” cramp said. “With longboarding it is more about control over the board. They’re a lot more geared for downhill. You are meant to go fast. So you need a wider wheelbase so you have a bigger center of balance.”
Cramp said he has personally reached speeds of 60 kilometres per hour; however, sport pros, including Canadian longboarder Patrick Switzer, have been known to top 100 km/h downhill.
With speed approaching and meeting those of motor vehicles, there is an element of danger to the sport. Cramp said he sees the major danger being road rash. “If you wear your kneepads, helmet and stuff you are perfectly fine,” he said. “If you are going faster than that you get leather suits. If you slide out, it is like a motorcycle suit. You are not going to get any road rash whatsoever.” Cramp said the low center of gravity for longboarding makes for short falls when someone does go off the board. “If you want to do a technical slide you are a foot from the ground,” he said. “If you fall you are not even going to get bruised.”
But beyond the differences in boarding styles, Cramp said the perception of the two sports is different as well. “It’s a different culture all together, I find,” he said. “There isn’t such a negative stigma attached to longboarding as there is to skateboarding.”
That difference extends to age difference as well. Cramp said though there are many young longboarders, he’s seen more than a few heads of grey hair engaged in the sport.
Though a growing segment of skate sport, Cramp said the longboard is also an excellent mode of transportation. “A lot of people use it for commuting. I think that’s the greater use of it because it is really comfortable,” he said. “It’s seen as an eco-friendly alternative to driving. It’s kind of like being on a bicycle, just a bit different. It’s fun.”
Above: Jackson Cramp rides his longboard along a downtown sidewalk. The Morinville longboarder competed in the Rogue 7 20K Longboard Race on the weekend. – Stephen Dafoe Photo