Friday, June 4, 2010

Longboard Commute

Riding to work yesterday morning on the Burke-Gilman trail, I caught up to this skateboarder dude I've chatted with before - but it's been awhile. I slowed down and said hello once again as we cruised down the trail together. I asked him a few questions about his board, a longboard, since it was different then the previous board I've spotted him on. Super friendly guy, and you can see the passion and hear the enthusiasm as he describes his equipment and what he's doing.

And what exactly is he doing? Commuting to work via skateboard, 13 miles each way. That's right, 26 mile round trip. He's also not just paddling along, he's pumping the board side to side to generate movement. Pretty damn cool. Most cyclists just blow by the guy, without batting an eye. Not me, I can't help but to get a buzz just watching him do his thing.

If you think pumping a skateboard 13 miles to work is a little nuts, he also does the STP bike ride every year on a longboard. That's Seattle to Portland for you non Pacific Northwest types. That's 200 miles, pumping a skateboard for 12 hours a day, for 2 days. Crazy, but awesome. Before you shake your head wondering why, plenty of people also wonder why you'd ride a bike for 200 miles, or to work for that matter. Different strokes for different folks.

The dude's name is James Peters and he's also 40+ years old. Being, uh, 40+ myself, I get a big kick out of people "my age" still doing their thing - cycling, skating, skiing, running, surfing - whatever. There's something cool and very inspiring about that, 'cause as anybody in that age bracket knows - it's really easy to let other aspects of life squeeze that out of the picture, but we don't let that happen - 'cause it's part of who we are.

James also has a website, called Pavedwave, that focuses on the longboard and pumping scene. Interesting Seattle Times article on him posted there, along with some great videos. Even if you don't skate, check it out. If you catch him on the Burke-Gilman trail, slow down and say hello, then watch his technique up close.

Part of my interest in what he's doing is from my own dabbling with skateboards. As a kid in the '70s I skateboarded a bit, along with some friends. These were the days of Tony Alva and the Dogtown crew. The images of them skating pools in tube socks and Rector pads are burned into my brain, from the pages of Skateboarder magazine. For an excellent documentary on that era, check out Dogtown and Z Boys. Well worth the couch time.

Later, like 30 years later, I picked up a Sector 9 Longboard and occasionally goof around on it - as do my kids. Nothing serious, skater I'm not. Still, it's fun to play around on it.

In any case, whatever your "thing" is, people like James Peters keep it alive - and that energy spills over to keeping cycling alive for me - my "thing". As I pedaled away from James that morning, I felt even more psyched about riding to work then usual, just from our little chat session. And that kind of energy is priceless.


  1. Amazing, I too love the free spirit that goes with skate boarding, one of my sons lived on the board, but has since taken up chasing women.
    Great article, on this fellow, I will check him out.

  2. Maybe your son could chase women on his skateboard - that way he could catch the fast ones.....

  3. I really enjoyed this article, thanks for writing. I myself love to leave the car parked but where I live there is no trail so I take my bike but have spots for the longboard to come out too! Keep it up and props to both of you for helping the environment! We need more people like this!

  4. @Chris

    Thanks for the nice comments. More people on boards and bikes would be a good thing.

  5. Nice article. I work at an airport and to save money I decided to stop paying for monthly parking, park my car off the airport grounds and start walking the rest of the way. I figured that I could use the exercise anyway. After a month of walking (20 minutes + or - one way) I was on the market for a folding bicycle or electric scooter to throw in the trunk of my car. Not because I was lazy but because 20 minutes in my life are a precious commodity. I came across a Riviera "Jesus I roll with thee" longboard on Craigslist and fell in love. I hadn't been on a skateboard for over 10 years but found it easy to get back on a board. I now ride everyday, lost a few pounds, shaved about 15 minutes off my commute, save money by parking outside and love carving the sidewalks on my way to work. I actually look forward to my Mon-Fri skateboarding sessions. ;)

  6. @Zee. Cool story - thanks for the post.

    I usually ride my bike to work, but when I drive, wind up parking blocks away for cheaper parking rates (downtown Seattle). I've thought of throwing my board in the car and doing the same thing.

    Maybe I'll finally give it a shot.

  7. i have mine. a pintail type and i like just riding with the wind with it. hooray to longboard.

    Smith | littman stethoscope

  8. @Andrew. Hooray to the longboard indeed. We're not serious skaters, but the family and I still goof around occasionally on our longboard.

  9. Hey dude, great post. Found it really inspiring considering I'm watching my life run out on my daily commute via train. Looking now for a new skateboard, eventhough I haven't been skating for about 15 years now (am now 29).

    Mind if I re-post your article on my blog? Obviously I will credit you, and post a link back here.


  10. Hugo - thanks for nice words. Sure, link away and credit me if desired.

    I also must credit the Seattle Times for the photo, think that's where I got it from, if I remember correctly. I've since credit folks anytime I've used someone else's photo on my blog.

    Thanks for checking out my blog. Get a new skateboard soon...