Rollin’ through the High Country, taking the long way home.
Written by Jeremy Mackey
Photography by Jeremy Rodgers
“Two hundred years of American technology has unwittingly created a massive cement playground of unlimited potential, but it was the minds of 11 year olds who could see that potential.” – Craig Stecyk 1975
We like well-ordered things. It’s part of our nature to categorize and organize the world around us into nice neat little boxes. Experiencing the outdoors and nature is not immune from this phenomenon. More often than not we think of going outside as this ethereal and profound experience in some remote location in which we learn a valuable lesson. I get caught in this trap all too often and sometimes all it takes to snap me out of that mindset is to take a simple walk through the woods. For some, however, this quick escape from everyday life doesn’t happen on two feet but on four wheels.
It’s no secret that a certain stigma is attached to skateboarding. Even now, 40 years since Craig Stecyk penned those words in what could arguably be the most influential decade for skateboarding, some people still fail to see the athleticism and artistry in skating.
As the name would suggest, long-boarding, is skateboarding on a longer board. One of the biggest differences between traditional skateboards and longboards is in the truck design, which allows the board to flow, more like a surfboard. The wheels are also different, being made of softer urethane, which allows for better grip and greater roll speed. In these differences riders find versatility and stability.
Like any sport, there are sub-disciplines of long-boarding: cruising, free-riding and downhill, and for the most part, they’re self-explanatory. But the feeling of each is indescribable. Philip Clamon, team rider for F-Town Longboards in Fayetteville and local board and truck manufacturer Braden Boards, put it this way: “It’s an escape. Floating down the road on a plank of wood, expressing my creativity through sliding and dancing and flowing with gravity. I get stoked by new local riders, new tricks, and creative setups.”
For Clamon, like many other riders, it started as just a way to pass time in between other sports, but it eventually became one of his passions. Willie Knebel, local rider for Ouachita Outdoor Outfitters has a street skate background, but after a few injuries finds long-boarding to be a lower impact way of staying stoked and on a board. “There’s a rebellious freedom that comes from riding,” Knebel said. “I live in a town where everyone is bearded with a Carhart jacket. I’m a square peg stuck in a round hole and I love that” For Knebel, the community aspect of the sport is just as rewarding as riding. “The smiles, dude. Just the stoke spread. The look on a kid’s face when we hook them up with a board and the look they get when they do their first slide.”
Riders are constantly searching for new areas to ride. In the Ouachitas there’s no shortage of beautiful riding spots. Small patches of asphalt with steep inclines and little-to-no traffic are abundant and often feature scenic views of the Ouachita Mountains. Staying safe while riding is important, and you rarely find a long-boarder without his helmet, knee pads and slide gloves. You’ll also not find a more respectful and helpful group. Riders are always willing to help beginners in the sport and organize group rides and events to help each other out in times of need. But Above all the other reasons to ride a longboard, the main thing is that it’s just plain fun. Stay tuned to our website and Facebook page for information on upcoming longboarding events and if you’re so inclined, head down to your local skate shop and find out just how fun the simple act of cruising on a plank of wood can be for yourself.