“Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of people say “There’s something missing in my life”; none of these people have been skateboarders” – Lucas Klein
Colin neatly tucks his longboard under his arm before getting into the lift and heading up to his office job as a Quantity Surveyor in the city. Everyday he rides four and a half kilometers on his homemade longboard to the train station, followed by a short skate from the station to his office door.
Building his first board four years ago, he has since designed a number of different custom decks. Colin loves to take his three-year-old girl for a short ride, “Initially she was a bit afraid, but now she really loves it. When she gets a bit older, I’ll probably make her a board of her own to start learning on while she’s young”.
Like the many others that are now rolling the streets, Colin is a part of the growing community of 20 to 40-year-old males who are picking up skateboards, despite not skating in their youth because they didn’t fit into the skate scene.
Skateboards started appearing in California in the 1940s and 1950s, and were used by surfers wanting to practice when the swell wasn’t up. Reaching its peak in popularity during the late 1990s, skateboarding was dominated by massive commercial brands such as Globe, Vans, and World Industries. Competitive trick boarders like Tony Hawk became household names, and computer games such as Tony Hawk Pro Skater and 1080⁰ Snowboarding were a huge success. On the back of this popularity a skate culture developed, where to be considered a skater meant wearing the popular skate gear and being able to perform tricks.
Then, in the mid 2000s skateboarding dropped out of vogue; almost as a counter response to the hyper commercialisation, marketing, branding and the pressure for skaters to perform tricks on demand. High social and financial entry barriers discouraged the non-committed from getting involved. However, skateboarding is currently regaining popularity in a four-wheeled youthful renaissance. Boarding is back, and everybody is doing it: from businessmen, to construction workers, to your average, and not so average, Joe. People have rediscovered the joy of just cruising around on four wheels.
In a response to the commercialisation of skating in the 1990s, people have begun to embrace the diverse family of skateboards, many of which are hand crafted, personalised, and unbranded. There are a plethora of shapes, colours, lengths and widths available – all a far cry from the standard black trick-deck of the 1990s. Although there are still branded boards such as the Penny Board or the RipStik, along with other popular skate clothing brands, many of the new skaters are learning the joy of riding around without any of these logos, slogans or dollar markups.
One particular type of deck that is gaining popularity is the longboard. As the larger cousin to the skateboard, longboards began to appear in the 1970s in Hawaii as a variant to the shorter boards. Typically over 80cm long, the larger wheelbase decks are easier to learn on and faster to pick up. Unlike the Tony Hawk skateboards of the late 1990s, where being able to ‘ollie’ and ‘grind’ were the minimum street cred’ requirement, longboarding is far more accessible which is contributing to its growing popularity.
Not only designed for travel, longboards can reach substantial speeds downhill, appealing to the thrill seeking, adrenalin junkies. And it’s not just blokes who are having all the fun. Women too are joining in on the craze, often using cruisers: a slightly shorter variant of the longboard. Designed for quick and easy convenience rather than serious speed, cruisers are the adult equivalent to the bright coloured Penny Board.
Chris, a 24-year-old community social worker involved with youth and the homeless, recently fractured his wrist longboarding. However, he is still unwavered, “I’d always wanted to skate, but was never able to get into it during high-school”. However, since two of his best friends have become hooked, Chris has got on the board and hasn’t looked back. “I get so much joy from it – it is the only exercise I genuinely look forward to”.