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Longboarding trend spreads from California to Chicago

By Kyle Widenski
On May 16, 2011

You've seen them around campus, you've seen them downtown and you've seen them skated on with barefeet, sneakers or sandals. Longboards have been a part of our culture for the past 60 years and have gradually become a part of our campus within the last three.

"Windward has been selling longboards for years now, but within this last year we have seen them fly off the shelves," said Jess of Windward Boardshop, located at 3317 N. Clark St., which specializes in any kind of board sport. "It's mostly young adults showing the interest, guys and girls. Our sales have demonstrated that, too, because we are constantly getting new shipments and restocking our shelves with new brands."

While these boards may be flying off the shelves at retailers, the culture has not yet taken shape on campus. 

"There's not a big scene at DePaul for longboarding, but there is a sense of camaraderie amongst the riders," said John Koeger, a 21-year-old junior who's been riding for a year and a half. "It's just nice to talk about a commonality and gain new perspectives with someone I've never met before. I would like to see a culture take shape because this hobby is not as common as what it should be."

"I ride alone mostly, but it's better to ride with at least one other experienced rider," said Jeremy Chereskin, a 20-year-old longboarder. "A sense of unity creates a bond among the group and nothing else matters at that point, even if you do fall and fracture your arm."

Longboarding is often a way of expression, exercise and stress relief. The culture itself exemplifies freedom: Freedom from work, from home or school. When you're riding, you're on a mission to carve that freshly paved asphalt and not think or worry about anything else.   

"To me, longboarding is a source of empowerment," Koeger said. "It's liberating, in a sense that I can rely upon myself and my board to go anywhere I choose."

"When I ride, I feel like a navigator of my environment. I feel at one with the geography of the land as I use it to my advantage to propel me forward," Chereskin said. "Riding is a relief from the everyday, stand still life. It's hard to explain the feeling, you just gotta get on the board and experience it for yourself."

"Whether you want to race down a mountain side or cruise along the beach, there is a board to fit your style," Jess said. "But in the city, longboards are mainly for cruising around or going from place to place." 

Longboards are a good mode of transportation because they are smoother and glide longer than traditional skateboards. And, according to Jess, it's faster than walking while still being relaxing.

"Boarding in one word or less, efficient," Koeger said. "There are no barriers when boarding; you can easily hop off your board and walk where no bike, car or train can go and still be on time for class."   

This new culture may be confused with skateboarding, but rest assured it is not. It's the difference between BMX and road bikes. And, like road bikes, longboards are meant to ride, not "thrash." Even the technical designs are different; longboards are longer and use wider trucks, base and wheels. The boards are also more flexible, allowing for greater speed and control.

Koeger not only rides, but he hand makes them too.   

"My first board was a board I actually made," Koeger said. "I make 40-inch drop through decks which are best for city cruising…I started out just making a board for myself but then a friend of mine asked if I could make him one. Since then, I've been getting more and more requests."

Now is the time to invest in a longboard as the summer months are quickly approaching and gas prices averaging $4.50 a gallon in Chicago. Even if you don't know a thing about longboards, but are interested, don't sweat, there are people to help you. Just ask a longboarder.

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