Always listen to your mother.
And to your husband. And friends. And especially to your "gut." Really, just listen to anyone who knows you well enough to know better - more on this in a bit.
After I learned to surf in Maui two years ago, I’ve been obsessed with the feeling I caught riding those waves. The athleticism. The freedom. The relaxation I felt combined with an endorphin releasing excitement that I have since to match. I have craved a piece of that lifestyle that merges sport with ocean.
But, I don’t live near any body of water that has waves worthy of more than a leisurely canoe outing. I do have Apple TV though. And while streaming ABC News I overheard the term "landsurfing." That was all it took.
I was instantly glued to a piece on KOTA Longboards, a Colorado-based company owned by a former US Navy Pilot that manufactures longboards right here in the USA.
KOTA stands for Knights of the Air, paying homage to military aviators and honoring the veteran hiring practices that are part of the company.
What exactly is a longboard? Well, it sure looks like a skateboard. But, it’s longer and wider with larger wheels. The sport originated in Hawaii and was called "sidewalk surfing," by the surfers who created it as a way for them to cross train in the off- season and on crappy wave days.
If a connection between Wisconsin and longboarding seems impossible, think again. Every KOTA longboard is born from Wisconsin wood. According to their website, "Only the best Hard Rock Maple becomes a KOTA longboard. We specify American Hard Rock Maple from Wisconsin for its strength, durability and beauty. Each veneer is individually inspected. If it makes the grade it becomes a KOTA deck."
As innovators of the longboard, KOTA’s boards have a distinct, hand-painted, vintage look. A very unique yet, functional aesthetic feature of KOTA longboards is the glossy finish on each deck. That’s their signature KOTAgrip – which they developed to provide grip to rubber-soled shoes without tape and for an easy to clean, durable surface.
In addition to their sweet look, KOTA longboards are engineered for distinct performance. Riders can customize their ride by choosing the deck shape, color and design. Deck shape influences the way each board performs in terms of flex and energy for skills like slalom and carving.
I could not resist the grace and the parallel movements to surfing I observed while watching videos of longboarding on the KOTA site and on YouTube. I was hooked from the visuals alone, sans any personal experience – even on a skateboard. Since I have plenty of pavement surrounding me, I decided longboarding would be a great way to appease my inner "Wahine." (That’s "female surfer" in Hawaiian.)
Somehow, trying out this new sport blossomed into a master plan. A girlfriend and I embraced our inner children and formed a "Longboarding Gang" (before feet even touched deck) complete with nicknames worthy of being embroidered on the back of fringed and studded leather vests. We texted the details our imaginary cruising adventures back and forth. The dream turned into reality when KOTA generously loaned me two of their exquisitely handcrafted pieces of art-like equipment to experience first hand.
I admit it. The Kota longBoards arrived weeks before I had the guts to ride. I was scared. I was intimidated. I found excuses like the weather not to step up on deck. But, the more I researched and studied videos, I told myself, "I could do this."
Remember that part about listen to your mother?
Well, it definitely applies to longboarding. Whether total novice like me or in the league of Tom Sims/Brad Stradlund (credited as the pioneers of longboarding,) PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE wear safety equipment when using a piece of equipment designed to move at any speed in any direction when standing a top it.
I learned this hard way.
I was supposed to make my debut ride with my fellow longboard gang member, but I got impatient and instead of being a mature adult, I decided to let the child inside me rule. She said, "Go on, jump on that longboard even though you’ve never done it before. It’s ok that you don’t have a helmet, wrist guards or knee pads." In fact, safety gear never even crossed my mind.
That little voice coaxed me onto my beautiful loaned Handley Page Type O Cruiser KOTA longboard, artfully painted with navy blue vertical stripes and the KOTA insignia embedded at the nose.
Before I go any further, keep this in mind: the street outside of my home is not flat. It is a hill.
I mounted the board "goofy," with my right foot at the head of the board as that’s how I felt most secure. Pushing uphill was easy, even a bit of a workout. I even tried reversing my stance to make sure I "got" it. Overconfident from the lack of speed going uphill, I peered from down from the top and heard that little voice inside of me, "RIDE DOWN THE HILL! It will be FUN!"
My ego got me and I stepped atop the longboard. Velocity took over and I sped down the mound. I reached maximum speed right away. I was conscious that I did not look like the easy cruising longboarders on the KOTA website, carving back and forth. I was a torpedo, flying forward - full speed in a blur like the Road Runner in those old cartoons.
And while acquiring that sort of speed doesn’t take study of physics, stopping certainly does. Well, it at least requires some practice. A dilemma flashed in my mind as I continued my rapid ride. I had neglected the very important skill of braking. Three options flashed in my mind from the videos I had studied:
- run the board into the grass
- do the "turn brake" maneuver or
- jump off
As I formulated how I was going to make this happen, the little voice inside me urged me to crouch into "surf" pose as I also saw on the videos, somehow thinking that would give me control, when all it did was make me gain more speed. Fear had now taken over so I impetuously stood up and chose option three. JUMP!
I momentarily flew through the air and then I remember feeling my feet move very quickly beneath me. I’m not sure what hit the ground first, but my right hand, right hip and back of my head all took a mega impact. THWACK. I felt my teeth clack together, my chin drive into my chest. I quickly stood up in a shocked daze and grasped the back of my head. First thought: blood? Answer: no. Thank, God. I gathered my board, my hat and raced into the safety of my home. My heart raced from adrenaline as I made a very ashamed call to my longboard gang sister who graciously came to my rescue as I began to see stars – just like in those old cartoons.
Please know, my fall has nothing to do with the longboard I was riding. I had the Cadillac of longboards beneath my feet as far as I’m concerned. No, this was an error of human judgment. I guess I missed this tidbit of wisdom on the KOTA website, "KOTA’s legal disclaimer is borrowed from the U.S. Navy LSO School, ‘Rectum Non Bustus’ – which loosely translated means, ‘Don’t Bust Your Ass.’ Ride hard, have fun, be safe."
Thankfully, I’m OK. Just leftover fuzzy head and fatigue, bruises, pulled muscles and a dented ego. Plus, a newfound passion for the value of safety equipment.
In this sense, my maiden voyage was a huge wake up call. In my defense, the bulk of photos and videos of longboarding action do not include a helmet, kneepads or wristguards. As someone interested in the fashion of any sporting lifestyle, I am now fully aware that somehow safety doesn’t fit into looking "cool." In terms of attire, anything seems to go from cutoffs and tank tops, high tops to flip flops and paired with logo T’s like KOTA’s KOTAwear. But, safety gear is just that – for safety and not necessarily part of the "look."
While it may take me a little while to get back on the horse, the lifestyle that goes along with longboarding is still so attractive to me. Thrill seekers who dig skiing, snowboarding and of course, surfing will feel right at home on a longboard.
The sport communicates freedom, bravery and a connection with wide open spaces maybe only rivaled by its muse – surfing. That action of cruising back and forth outdoors, hair blowing behind you as you swoosh side to side on the board will get me to try riding again, next time with the protection of full body armor and most importantly, a helmet.
Lindsay Garric is a Milwaukee native who calls her favorite city home base for as long as her lifestyle will allow her. A hybrid of a makeup artist, esthetician, personal trainer and entrepreneur all rolled into a tattooed, dolled-up package, she has fantasies of being a big, bad rock star who lives in a house with a porch and a white picket fence, complete with small farm animals in a version of Milwaukee that has a tropical climate.
A mishmash of contradictions, colliding polar opposites and a dash of camp, her passion is for all pretty things and the products that go with it. From makeup to workouts, food to fashion, Lindsay has a polished finger on the pulse of beauty, fashion, fitness and nutrition trends and is super duper excited to share that and other randomness from her crazy, sexy, gypsy life with the readers of OnMilwaukee.com.