At 15-years-old, Kyle Baacke was stuck in Flagstaff, Ariz. with $200 and a week all to himself when he bought his first longboard. While his father went to a medical conference in the area, Baacke spent hours on end teaching himself how to board at the Northern Arizona University campus. Five years later, the junior traverses the Knox campus with a newer model, riding alongside a growing population of longboard enthusiasts.
In the past couple of years, longboarding has grown in popularity. Senior Josh Voravong remembers seeing only two longboarders on campus during his freshman year. Now, he has lost count of the new freshman and other recent longboard enthusiasts.
One of the main appeals of longboarding is quick and convenient transportation. According to sophomore Dakota Stipp, longboards make it easy to quickly move from place to place, and, unlike bikes, they don’t need to be locked up.
“I can carry it to class and have it with me,” Stripp said.
Compared to skateboards, longboards are better for transportation. Their length provides greater stability, and their larger wheels can easily glide through roads and sidewalks.
Sophomore Laura Lee, who is depicted longboarding on a Knox postcard sent out to prospective students, describes the easy, fluid motion of cruising as similar to wakeboarding or waterskiing.
“It’s like being weightless,” she said.
Apart from transportation, Voravong has used his longboard to move luggage and storage across campus, often to the jealousy of passers-by carrying heavy objects by hand.
According to Baacke, a longboard also makes a good impromptu chair.
Another appeal of longboards is their customizability. Longboards can be customized by shape, length, material and details. Different shapes are made for different topographies. According to sophomore Sarah Gaynor, the “pintail” board shape is best for the Knox campus, as it curves easily along flat land. Length determines stability, and material determines flexibility. Details include deck design, wheel color and grip tape design. Longboard accessories include “land paddles,” which are sticks used to push off from the ground instead of feet.
When looking for a board, it’s good to try out different options and consider the area you will be boarding around the most. Start off with a cheaper or used board, as new longboards can cost from $100 to $200.
When learning how to longboard, Voravong suggests using a bigger board, spending the first couple of weeks simply learning how to balance and finding friends to help teach you. Baacke suggests learning near grass, because it will cushion the inevitable falls.
“I was getting scraped all over myself during the first couple weeks,” said Voravong.
According to Gaynor, it’s especially fun to board along the parking lot between Brooks Street and West South Street, as well as the roads near the Center for Fine Arts and the Memorial Gym.
Voravong’s favorite spots to board on campus are actually inside buildings, as the smooth tiling of certain buildings makes them easy to board through. He and a group of friends have even raced their longboards in the basement of SMC. As the boards don’t scuff floors or damage property, maintenance staff have been lax on the indoor longboard use.
One of Voravong’s plans for his last year at Knox is a larger longboarding race somewhere on campus, and maybe even a club for enthusiasts. Unlike past years, there are enough longboarders now at Knox to make it happen.
Baacke would hope to use club funding to buy boards for the school (similar to Knox’s bike share program), teach people how to board and go on boarding trips to places like Lake Storey.
Right now, the longboarding club is in its early planning stages, though with its established audience and growing popularity, there’s no doubting its success.
Pretty soon, don’t be surprised when you see longboards on a college essentials