Thursday, January 29, 2009

Rise Up Longboarders?

Our oldest son, Will (6) on my Subsonic Pulse 40.
It's all Derek's fault really. I mean this in the nicest way. It all started when he sent us a link about this guy named Barefoot Ted, who is an ultrarunner who recently started skateboarding very long distances through a technique known as long distance pumping or LDP.

At first, I sort of chuckled and thought "That's just the sort of crazy thing Derek would be into". But then I thought about it some more and came around to the idea that is could really be challenging and fun.

I always wanted to skateboard when I was growing up, but it just never happened for me. I tried out a friend's board here and there but never really felt coordinated with it. The board felt too tiny, the wheels didn't seem to roll enough. Who knows? I even tried again on a small street board when my son wanted a skateboard a couple years ago, and nothing had changed- I still stunk. But now, things are a lot different with longboards. The boards are bigger, sometimes much bigger. The wheels are bigger too and actually roll nicely. Balance is more comfortable at first, and this long distance pumping idea seemed more like exercise, more like a long run, and more like a challenge that was less pounding on the body than a marathon but no less intense. If you have a few minutes, I highly recommend checking out James Peters' excellent site on LDP here. There are also a few videos filed under how to pump which demonstrate pumping better than I ever can in words.

Before I knew it, I had ordered a LDP board called the Pulse 40 from Subsonic Skateboards. I waited a few weeks for it to be made (very cool to have something made for you in this day and age), and then gave it a try soon after it arrived.

When I first got on the board, I was struck by two things. One, balance was way easier on this than any street/smaller skateboard I had tried before. Two, the board really likes to turn on the front trunk. It felt twitchy at low speeds or when trying to push off and go straight, but it turned so easily when I wanted it to that it inspired confidence early on. I really had no clue how to pump at first. I watched the videos several times and read the descriptions, and I soon managed a feeble wiggle on the front trunk that extended the glide of the board only a little. It wasn't really pumping, more like pumping light.

But I stuck with it. The first mile was exhausting. I felt muscles in my legs I didn't know I had. Every time I tried to push off the ground with one foot, I almost fell off. I felt wobbly. I fell a few times. But I was smiling most of the time. I felt like a kid again. After a few sessions, I began to feel an actual pump happening as I could feel the board accelerate during a quick turn. I could hit slightly higher speeds. One mile became two, and then three, and then five. I worked up to fifteen miles last Thursday and today I am hoping for twenty-five.

Soon, I was pumping to the Y to get to my other workouts in the early morning. I joined fellow RURs on my board alongside their morning run on a Tuesday, and I could keep up. I even joked the next time that I needed to find some faster running friends! All I can really say is that pumping is addicting, and that it feels sort of like a combination of other sports that I like. It has been described by others as surfing an endless concrete wave. I would say that it has the smooth feeling of rolling along just like cycling, with the steady rhythm and upper body movement of running. Add to that the improvisation and fun of dancing with the fluid, wavelike feeling of (pick your watersport). That is the best I can do to sum it up. Of yeah, I forgot to add to that a little bit of the feeling that LDP is weird, different, and, depending on where you live and skate, illegal, and you've got a pretty compelling package.

I'd love to share more, but I'd rather skate than type, and I have some training to do. Ultraskate VI is coming up in March, and I have to get ready for it!



Michael Valliant said...

Well said, sir. I started skateboarding when I was 13. I started running cross country when I was 15. It never occurred to me to combine the disciplines until your longboarding adventure started.

Funny, I look for trails and like to avoid the pavement when I run, but now have started eyeing smooth stretches of asphalt and concrete. Very much digging how it's all coming together. I am likely good for something on the Ultra Skate...we'll see what training and schedule allows for. Be fun to shoot for 100 miles! I've been looking for longboarding on FuelTV :)

charlie said...

That is sick!!! Great write-up. I skated as a kid, and hated having to roll to wherever the latest 1/4 or 1/2 pipe had just been built. Small wheels, small unstable board, and lots of pumping for not much forward motion. This sounds sweet, though!! I am down, surfing on the road!!

Barefoot Ted said...

Very cool.

I am glad to hear LDPing is catching on. It is an amazing and true sport that will help you get strong and fit and good at balance and dealing with a little danger (note: wear helmet and knee pads).

I am so happy to have been lucky to have met James Peters last year at Green Lake Park in Seattle. A couple months later, I set the world record of 242 miles in 24 hours and was hooked.

I have taken the last 6 months off of my skateboard, but look forward to the Northwest skateboard season to start again.

Keep up the skateboarding. 100 miles is an excellent goal to shoot for...and attending the Ultra Skate.

Best Regards, Barefoot Ted

Landy said...

Thanks Ted! You just made my day. I've enjoyed reading your blog and have adopted a closer to barefoot lifestyle by wearing Five Fingers (both flow and KSOs) almost exclusively. You are an inspiration-what you have done on the trail and the skateboard is amazing!

When the weather warms I'd like to order a pair of your huaraches.

I doubt I will make it west this year for Ultraskate, but will participate locally. Some day I hope to make it to the Northwest to participate in person.

Anonymous said...