Welcome back—come inside—want some lemonade? Temperatures are rising, and with the Catalina Island Classic and Newton’s Nation biting at our heels much of the downhill community is kicking harder, tucking longer, and taking better lines in preparation for race season. Who said it: “There’s no time like the present?” Robert Frost, maybe? Anyway, now is the perfect time to lay it down in the name of high speed action. Let’s not take the road less travelled. That road is slow, and probably flooded with tears. Let’s jump in and snake the best line—always going for top-speed! Speed is not only for racing; going fast is arguably the best thing about downhill skateboarding in general. That’s why most of us get into it in the first place—the rush of speed! As Hunter S. Thompson posits so eloquently: “Faster, Faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death.” Whether you are a seasoned vet strapping on your aero-helmet or a shredder learning to slide, speed is important to what you do—having it and being able to manage it is key.
More speed equals longer slides, (to me) better times, and it intensifies everything that makes yo mamma worry. More speed please! In order to achieve high speeds you have to become more aerodynamic or just not be a bitch, go balls to the wall, and make that shit happen. Let’s get down to some simple principles of aerodynamics: If you have a basic understanding of what is and isn’t aero you will be able to regulate your speed whether you want more of it (good!) or less (not as good). If you want more speed while riding down a hill here are a few things you want to do with your body: 1. Be as still as possible (the less flailing, adjusting, and Jesus-carving you do the faster you will move down the hill). 2. Minimize weight-to-tuck size. No matter if you’re a compact, midsize, or an SUV you have to make your tuck as small as possible.
Once you’re more comfortable with shredding hills with speed and know the basic mechanics of aerodynamics you will be able to start flowing some runs. Visualize flow as a plot line in a movie that begins when you kick into the hill. Think about what lines the road would want you to take and get creative. Try not to throw down sloppy-sauce all over a straight road. Flow is expressed on every run individually. Not all books have the same narrative voice. Similarly, every road has a particular voice and it’s yelling: “go faster, take better lines. . . kook!” Riding a particular run as it is supposed to be ridden is this elusive flow I speak of—you achieve it by gracing the road’s curves with solid lines and sliding when it is necessary and appropriate. When you have taken enough runs to read the road, you will then know when the time is right to slow-down-cowboy, and when it’s time to giddy-up-ghostrider. Let’s address the opposite of flow for a moment: Skating slow or “putting”—as it has come to be known—is when a rider is simply skating way too slow. If a hill requires skating speeds of 35-45mph and you’re tossing slides at 15mph, and going for no-comply slides during a run, then you’re surely “putting”. Harnessing flow is the remedy to recover from the sickness of putting. If you aren’t comfortable with doing standup slides at the speeds the hill creates, then throw down a puck. If you or someone you know suffers from Chronic Putting Disorder (CPD), sorry, but there’s no hotline. The only prescription is a friendly everyday bitch-slap. Ha ha! Really though, the only way you’ll ever get rid of this slow and festering disease is by challenging your own personal boundaries, practice, and overcoming your fears.
As you begin to thrust your skating into new and clandestine realms of speed you will never want to slow down. You’ll be hooked forever! But, as Hunter S. Thompson points out, there lingers that interesting and unforgettable: “ . . . fear of death.” Fear is definitely important, and although we as individuals have the radical power to overcome our fears, it is there for a reason: To keep us alive! That said, harness the skills and techniques to go faster down hills, and make sure to do it all with maximum style. Have a grand time, and stay tuned next month when I discuss my third Pillar of Shred: Safety.