The Grind Lab of Central Texas held a downhill longboard race Saturday at Lions Park.
While it resembles a skateboard, a longboard is a whole different kind of animal, said Moni Johnson of Temple, race coordinator. Regular skateboards usually have thin, harder wheels. Longboards have softer and wider wheels, which makes for a safer ride, he said.
The downhill course covered about a quarter of a mile on Lions Park Road, and the racers hummed along at about 30-35 mph. They wore aerodynamic helmets, knee pads, hip pads and special gloves.
“They do this all over the world,” Johnson said. “It’s mainly younger folks, but there’s no cutoff.”
This was the Grind Lab’s first formal race, he said. They’ve done “outlaw,” or unsanctioned, events where they just go out and race, he said, all over Central Texas. Area longboarders also have attended such sanctioned events as the Waco Gnarathon in Cameron Park, he said.
The Temple race was delayed by COVID-19, he said, and he only got cleared by the city of Temple on Monday. He still expected contestants from as far away as San Antonio and Houston.
Chris Southerland, 35, of Temple said he’s been longboarding for about two years and has placed in the top five in Central Texas at the Waco event. The sport takes a lot of practice, he said.
“You’ve got to want to do it,” he said. “You have to be able to fall and get up.”
Skateboarders are not the same as longboarders, he said.
“We like to go fast,” he said. “They like to do tricks.”
Chris Egan, 41, of Killeen has been longboarding for six years. He once placed fourth in the master’s division of the Waco race. A longboarder has to find roads to run on, or get a tip from someone, he said.
“You either like it or you don’t,” he said of longboarding. “Some people enjoy it and it kind of becomes a part of your everyday life.”
Luie Pang, 19, of New Braunfels has been longboarding about seven years. What does he get out of it?
“The adrenalin — just getting away from everything else,” he said. “When you’re skating you’re not really thinking about anything else.”
“We definitely fall now and then,” he said. “When you fall you put your gloves down.”
The gloves have a special pad covering the palm of your hand.
The longboarder can do “slides,” he said, which is turning somewhat sideways, to slow down a little.
Victoria McFall, 14, of Palestine came to the race to ride her street luge, which she’s had for about six months.
“It’s not really longboarding,” he said. “They do it on ice in the Winter Olympics. I’ve never met a street luger, but I haven’t been doing this too long.”
She rides the luge feet first, she said, although some people ride it head first.
Her brother is a downhill longboarder, she said.
“I tried it. I didn’t like it,” she said. “I asked my dad to tow me behind his car on a skateboard. He said no, but the closest thing I could get to that would be the street luge.”
She’s not scared while riding the luge, she said. She was more scared on longboards, she said, because they’re taller.
“If I crash, I just kind of roll off,” she said. “Head injuries are not a threat with street luge.”
She recommends the sport to others, but said it’s expensive.
“This setup costs almost $1,000,” she said. “Skaters, they own like 10 boards. You only buy one of these.”