Summertime shredding in Summit County
Summit Daily News
From Nags Head, N.C., to Stinton Beach, Calif., ‘coasters all know the thrill of longboarding. Even kids who didn’t grow up dropping into abandoned pools and building sketchy ramps and half pipes out of plywood are getting into longboarding, because it’s so damn fun.
And while longboarding has been popular on the hills and boardwalks of Southern California for 30-plus years, it’s been gaining popularity in Colorado and Summit County in particular as of late, filling an obvious place in shredding culture with Summit’s endless well-maintained bike paths. Not to mention more efficient carving boards, carving sticks, less-dorky pads and other innovations.
Yep, longboarding is enjoying widespread popularity in Colorado mountain towns, particularly among snowboarders, because the sport eliminates the need for water or snow to carve. With sidewalk surfing those who mourn the end of ski season have an opportunity bomb big hills and carve sweet, variable-radius turns throughout the warmer months. It’s the perfect shoulder season sport.
In case this wasn’t entirely obvious to the annoyed roadie out there or the frightened baby-jogger, longboarding is not simply just another form of skateboarding. “Skateboarding is about tricks, jibbing, while longboarding is focused on carving and speed,” said Matti Wade at Frisco’s Ten Mile Creek Kayaks, a shop that specializes in, among other fun sports, longboards and longboard related accessories. Think of it this way: skateboarding is to long boarding what freeskiing skiing is to big mountain carving.
Because of the way a longboard is constructed, the rider is able to ride as steep a hill as she or he can stomach and pick up pretty substantial speed. “I like to call it the ‘point of no return’,” Wade said. “Fifteen to 20 miles per hour and you can’t jump off because you can only run so fast once you hit the ground…once you hit the point of no return you’re staying on.” Longboarders can reach speeds of up to 30 mph if they are good enough.
In Summit County the bike paths offer miles of longboard-friendly terrain. One of the more popular runs among local shredders is to take the free Summit Stage bus up to Copper Mountain from north Frisco Main St. and ride the path back down. The ride down takes about 25 minutes depending on your speed and any safety stops made along the way. It is steeper and hillier than the path from Breckenridge to Frisco, but not quite as long.
Max and Rob Verrall, resident Breck snowboarders and Philly transplants, have been riding the path daily since it warmed up (um, March?) and use it for their carving fix. “It’s like having a summer ski lift from Frisco to Copper,” said Rob Verrall, who’s been snowboarding and skateboarding for more than 10 years, clearly a fun-addict.
Next, just as a skier or snowboarder often has a quiver of skis and boards for different areas of the mountain and different conditions, a skater may have a quiver of boards: a traditional board for mellow outings and less steep trails but that carves sweetly, a downhill board when the need for speed takes over, and a skateboard for pipes, parks, pools, and rails.
“Just like there are snowboards specific to different areas of the mountain — park boards, all mountain boards, freeride boards, etc. — there are different kinds of longboards,” Wade said. The traditional longboard allows for wide, deep carves at a variety of different speeds, and is more of an “all-mountain” board. A downhill board, on the other hand, is typically more square and, “has a dropped deck, a lower center of gravity and bigger bearings for maximum performance at high speed,” according to Wade.
Another, mellower side to sidewalk surfing referred to as stand-up or dry-land paddling will also be seen, utilizing something called the Big Stick. Cory McBride of Kahuna Creations, a Calif.-based surfing and skateboarding company, explained that the Big Stick is basically a paddle used in much the same fashion as a canoe paddle that propels the longboarder in place of and in addition to kicking, and also acts as a brake and a rudder. Kahuna is a pioneer in the longboarding industry, beginning as a surfing and skateboarding company in 2004, and adding longboards and accessories about three years ago. This growth parallels that of stand-up paddle boarding and surfing (SUP), which has skyrocketed as an outdoor industry segment and even now, has its own magazine. (see Rocky Mountain Surf Fest, PAGE BX)
The company’s biggest innovation is the Kahuna Big Stick. According to McBride, the Big Stick adds a whole new dimension to the sport by allowing riders to maintain more control and also provides a great new way to workout. Big-stick longboarding took off in California as a way to get around and to stay fit, particularly when celebrities the likes of Matthew McConaughey were spotted cruising the boardwalks.
The Big Stick provides two important advantages. According to McBride, it allows the rider to maintain more control over his or her speed, and it gives the option for a “more chill way to ride.” The Big Stick also can be used in a more aggressive fashion, allowing the rider to make deeper turns with increased control of the board, playing the street or sidewalk with deep carves.
Here in Summit County, Wade is also a big fan of the Big Stick and carries them at TMCK. The Big Stick is one of the reasons longboarding is popular among paddlers: kayakers are fun-hogs who like to carve on waves and move with gravity, and nowadays SUP paddlers are a natural fit for big-stick longboarding for both fun and training.
Longboards vary greatly in flex and style, and finding the right board largely depends on what the rider wants to use it for. The Kahuna Bombora is McBride’s pick for dry-land paddling because of its size and wide deck. “The Bombora was specifically designed for stand up paddling,” he said. “It allows the rider to actually stand on the board in a paddleboard stance,” making the ride more natural.
Look to manufacturers such as Denver-based Never Summer (known for their innovative snowboards made locally since 1983 and the fact that their factory is where many Colorado-based board manufacturers also press their products), Kahuna and Sector 9 for a selection of diverse types of quality boards. Never Summer continues to churn out interesting designs with their longboards and all Kahuna boards are handpainted, thus assuring maximum uniqueness. Kahuna has the market cornered when it comes to the Big Stick, so if you want to incorporate SUP into your longboarding, the Kahuna Big Stick is the only way to go.
Once you’re set up, it’s time to hit the pavement, and safety is pretty common sense: helmet, knee and elbow pads are a minimum for a lot of people. Wade suggests gloves if deep carving is your thing.
Part surfing, part skateboarding, longboarding has firmly entrenched itself into Colorado subculture. No longer the realm of Cali and beach towns up and down the East Coast, it was only a matter of time. Our huge network of bike paths are Summit County’s answer to California’s boardwalks and long sweeping hilly streets just right for shredding.
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