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Surfing On Concrete

Longboarding’s best return to Britannia


What looks like a skateboard, rides like a surfboard and carves like a snowboard? Introduce yourself to the longboarding craze, which will be taking centre stage this weekend with a contest on the steep asphalt at Britannia Beach.

Longboarding is essentially skateboarding on a wider and longer board up to a metre in length, giving riders more stability for a commute to work as well as the ability to rip down a hill at over 100 kilometres an hour. The tricks of their shorter predecessors are traded in for a more fluid ride and momentum that allow the longboarder to race downhill or to cruise urban streets with an environmentally-friendly and inexpensive form of transport dubbed 'traffic surfing'.

Rumours have it that this sport was dreamt up by some happy-go-lucky skateboarders/surfers back in the 1950s either in Hawaii or California - it's still in dispute which place was first. It's easy to imagine the Cali players ripping it up on their rolling hills, but the surf style of Hawaii also makes it a plausible birthplace.

Known initially as "sidewalk surfing" it's a concrete alternative when the surf's not up, or the snow has melted. The carving motion mirrors those you would make on a snowboard or surfboard, making it a relatively easy transition for people who have done those sports before. It is also more accessible for the novice, the stability of it allowing for a faster progression.

In urban areas the use of Longboards as a form of transport is growing, although at times this progress clashes with less inclined members of the community. Recently in Kelowna one of the town councillors stood up for skaters in general claiming that the prejudice was unfounded and troubling and that people's attitudes needed to change. Denis Walsh told B.C. local news reporters that he believes skateboarding and longboarding are no different than rollerblading or bicycling and argued they are a great alternative mode of transportation - too right!

Even though longboarding was a U.S. baby it's certainly well travelled. A quick look on the major longboarding sites reveals a wide range of different languages on the chat pages as well as event postings all around the world. Jean-Philippe, co-organizer for the 2010 Gold Rush Challenge held at Britannia Beach, said that competitors are coming from Brazil, the Philippines, Australia, Sweden, Peru, New Zealand, the U.K. and Chile, just to name a few.

"World Champions and internationally recognized racers will flock to Britannia Beach to experience the ultimate Canadian rush," says Lee Cation co-organizer of the Gold Rush Challenge. "If you enjoyed watching skier and boarder cross during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games, then prepare for the thrill of four downhill longboarders racing (head-to-head in each heat) and pushing speeds of 100km/hr."