Longboards gaining popularity on island
After years of being confused with skateboards, longboards are developing a loyal and diverse following.
“We see every type of person riding longboards now,” William “Boog” Cram, of Ohana Surf & Skate in Galveston, said. “Men, women, girls, boys, old, young — it just doesn’t seem to matter.”
The ratio even skews toward female riders in his shop — running 60/40 percent, Cram said.
“People are using them not just for fun, like riding along the seawall, but as basic transportation and recreational use,” he said.
Although closely resembling skateboards, longboards are significantly different in both design and purpose. While skateboards are generally shorter in wheelbase and built with a stiff deck for rigidity, longboards are built with the opposite goals in mind. With larger, softer wheels and deck lengths beginning north of 3 feet and up, longboards deliver a completely different riding experience. While skateboards seemingly invite riders to be aggressive — sharp turns, flips or sliding across a handrail — the longboard’s personality and graceful tendencies invite the rider to relax and simply enjoy the ride.
The combination of the extended wheelbase and flexible deck give the longboard a gentle bounce moving along a road or sidewalk.
“We used to call that feeling the ‘boing,’” Cram said.
Cram lends me a classic teardrop-style longboard to cruise the Galveston seawall. The lines are beautiful, as if the deck itself wishes to slip through the air.
Similar to skateboards, longboards are outfitted with a deck, two trucks and four wheels. The similarity, however, ends there. Think of a Harley-Davidson and sport bike. Both are technically motorcycles, but each with dramatically different mannerisms, design and purpose.
Stepping on the longboard, I remember Cram pointing out to place my feet between the front and rear wheels after pushing off. This is a stark departure from skateboarding, where the natural position is to place your rear foot behind the rear wheels and your front foot across the forward wheels.
A few pushes and I’m off and rolling. Or should I say cruising?
The oversized, deep cherry red wheels are soft and forgiving, easily absorbing small pebbles or modest cracks in the seawall. I also notice longboard trucks are wider and more flexible than those on a skateboard — delivering the graceful turns or “carves” as longboarders call the motion. The feeling is remarkably similar to surfing in the nearby Gulf waters.
After a few minutes, I gain my longboard legs, if that’s a term. I settle into a comfortable rhythm of gently carving back and forth, allowing the board to propel me forward through the sea air.
While the extreme ends of longboard culture include racing — or “bombing” — down hills at high speeds dressed in protective gear, I’m rather happy to be modestly cruising along, taking in the day. The feeling is liberating. As I casually pass people walking along the sidewalk, I can’t help but feel as if I’ve discovered a secret way to enjoy the beach front.
Longboards, by all accounts, are here to stay. Riders cross both age and gender gaps.
And for those looking for a different way to see the world, a relaxing ride on a longboard is an experience you won’t soon forget.
Longboard supplied courtesy of Ohana Surf & Skate, 28th Street and Seawall Boulevard in Galveston, 409.763.2700.