Longboards on Asphalt

“Anybody who is first learning how to ride should get a longboard,” says skateboarder Brad Harvey. “It’s definitely more stable, like a longer snowboard or surfboard would be. Bicyclists think we’re nuts when they realize that we’re riding our skateboards down the Pacific Coast Highway. We haven’t had too many problems with motorists; we mostly try to stay away from them.”

While skateboarding on one of his ten-mile rides, Harvey says, “I can get up to 25 or 30 miles per hour without even trying.”

On Sunday, September 14, Harvey and his friends will host the “PCH Ride.” Longboarders will meet at Torrey Pines Beach, take the bus to Carlsbad Village, and skateboard their way back to the beach. Harvey says he skateboards not only for enjoyment and exercise but also to save on gas.

“Skateboards are not permitted vehicles on the street,” says Erik Basil, who runs a forum for skateboarders at silverfishlongboarding.com. “We’re not even supposed to ride across the street in a crosswalk. These rules are old; they date from the ’70s.”

Basil says it is the “trick” boards — which are shorter and have small, hard wheels “the diameter of a Rolex watch face” — that cause the most damage to property. “Longboards aren’t used for ollies [jumping with the board], grinds [sliding the board sideways down a curb or rail], or kick-flips [spinning the board while jumping].”

“We’ve been told that the cops downtown will confiscate the boards,” says Harvey. “We parked at Seaport Village and started cruising around and went up Fourth Avenue and one of the bouncers at a bar said you can’t be on Fourth or Fifth — the closest you can be is, like, Eighth or Ninth, away from tourists and pedestrian traffic.”

The softer wheels on longboards make them quieter on the street. “The point isn’t to be ‘rebels without a cause’ and terrify pedestrians — the point is to go on a long, fun, fast cruise with your buddies,” says Basil. “Longboards aren’t used to grind things; they aren’t used to vandalize. Longboard skaters don’t wear black T-shirts with emo haircuts.”

Basil always wears a helmet while riding. “The lack of a helmet becomes the mark of the geek,” he says. “If you’re not skating hard enough to need a helmet, you aren’t skating hard enough.”

Harvey compares longboarding to surfing. “Like hanging ten — you can hang your ten toes off the nose of the board,” he says. “Standing at the very end of the nose will lift the tail of the board up and the back wheels off the ground. It’s a balancing maneuver.” Longboarders can also “carve” by making “big sweeping turns, like on a snowboard or surfboard.”

According to Basil, longboarding tends to be friendlier and more inclusive than surfing. “Many times someone cruising by on a skateboard will start skating with us…until they realize how far we’re going,” Basil says. “Surfers get territorial about their waves, but the concrete waves are permanent. That asphalt’s not going away, and longboarders are eager to share that wave with everybody else.”

According to many skaters, police officers have cracked down on boarding in Pacific Beach since the booze ban took effect. Basil says the general consensus among skateboarders is that cops “didn’t have these drunk people to deal with and had to find something else.”

Chris Yandall, a skateboard champion since 1974 (when he took first place in the San Diego City Championships at Kate Sessions Park in Pacific Beach) and innovator of “one-foot skating” and skogging (alternating feet to push the board), was arrested on June 17 while on his way to Mission Beach.

“It is harassment,” says Basil. “It’s like the cops ran out of something to do, even though longboarders are typically more respectful, not doing anything more than transporting across town.”

The law tends to ease up around the Action Sports Retailer Trade Show, held three times a year at the convention center. “Thousands of skateboarders from around the country” converge for the show, says Basil. “The police department is totally cool, as long as you’re not doing anything stupid. In my experience, the SDPD treat enforcement issues during ASR on a conduct basis.”

In Basil’s hometown of La Mesa, he says he is rarely bothered while boarding — in fact, he says officers in his neighborhood are almost supportive. “The night that George W. Bush was reelected, I was skating around on a 60-inch longboard with a giant spotlight clipped onto the front,” he recalls. “The SDPD pulled up, and we chatted for a while. By the time we were done they had put their batons away and were skating on my board.”

— Barbarella

PCH Ride for Longboarders
Sunday, September 14
8 a.m.
Torrey Pines Beach Bus Stop
Cost: $2 for bus ride
Info: www.silverfishlongboarding.com

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