I've heard from some longboarders who feel they should be considered skateboarders, and I've heard skateboarders say that they hate longboarders. I've heard trash talk from both sides for completely different reasons, although a lot more garbage seems to get dumped on longboarders. The issue of how the skateboarding community as a whole feels about longboarders is shockingly complicated. So complicated, in fact, that I have to define some terms before I even really dive into it. From here on out, I will refer to people who exclusively skate on boards with large wheels and long wheelbases for the sole purpose of cruising around- whether it be for transportation or recreation- to be longboarders. People who ride boards with smaller wheels and shorter wheelbases with a preference for doing ollies or other tricks in addition to cruising will hereby be referred to as shortboarders.
Now that I've finished that particularly boring order of business, I will present the arguments. Many shortboarders have a tendency to look at longboarders as a sort of pest, comparable to spiders or mice. Maybe where you live, hyenas sneak into your house at night and reset your alarm clock to wake you up an hour later than you set it, so pests to you would be those hyenas. As long as you understand what feeling I'm talking about, you can understand how some shortboarders feel about longboarders. If I so much as bring up longboarders up in a skate shop, someone will chime in with, "Ugh, longboarders are so retarded. Hate 'em." Despite all this hatred, though, I never really see people coming up with a good defense for their feelings. It seems so understood in shortboarder culture that they pretty much don't have to.
Most longboarders can't really relate. To the casual longboarder, skateboarding and longboarding are one in the same, it's just that some people choose to ride a bigger board and some ride a smaller board based on what they want to do. As a longboarder spends more time around shortboarders, though, they begin to notice that shortboarders seem to have this culture in which longboarders are unwanted. Some longboarders take the defensive approach, arguing that skateboarding is about expressing one's self, while others take the dismissive approach, claiming that shortboarders just act mad because they've built up an ego around their favorite hobby. These arguments are general impressions and not direct quotes, but I believe they accurately represent how a lot of longboarders feel.
So for the shortboarders, I have some distressing news: if this is an argument, we're losing. What I mean by that is we seem to be much more affected by this whole issue than longboarders. I'm willing to bet a lot of you are thinking, "That's not losing though, we just know what's really going on, unlike those oblivious, stupid longboarders." But if you think about the nature of conflict, that's not really true from an outsider's perspective. Imagine a guy is sitting at a table in a restaurant. This particular guy is about 5'2" and can't weigh more than 135 lbs. He haunches over his food as he eats, occasionally pushing his glasses back up his nose. Now imagine that some huge guy who's 7 feet tall and weighs in at just over 350 lbs comes in and accidentally bumps into the back of the first guy's chair. The little guy is annoyed and springs up to start yelling at the big guy. The big guy looks around to make sure he's the one being yelled at, as he doesn't remember doing anything. While he's doing that, the little guy swings his arms as high as he can reach and connects his tiny fist with the big guy's face. Then some other restaurant patrons restrain the little guy while the big guy stands there with a confused look on his face. If you had to declare a winner of that fight, who would it be? You couldn't say the big guy lost just because he got punched in the face- he stood his ground and didn't feel the need to fight back. You also couldn't say that it's a tie, because it's pretty clear that the big guy, if nothing else, is at least not being a dick about the whole situation, even though he could have. Shortboarders are the little guy in this situation. It's not that we have no reason to react- longboarders bumped our chair, our space was violated, and they don't even care enough to know what we're mad about.
In other words, it seems to be the naivety that's the most bothersome. I have personally experienced this, and I must admit, it's a little uncomfortable. I sometimes use my skateboard for transportation- I already own and maintain a skateboard, and it's way faster than walking, so why not? But whenever I bring this up to a longboarder, their suggestion is always the same:
"You should get a longboard then. It's like, way better."
This comment is as uninformed as it is infuriating. Yes, I understand that the larger wheels and wide set trucks allow for a smoother ride and less pushing, but in an urban environment, a shortboard has several distinct advantages. I can ollie up and down curbs with no problem. I can take sharper turns. I can come to a complete stop as fast or faster on a shortboard, given how much easier it is to powerslide. And if all else fails and I wind up carrying my board, a shortboard is way easier to carry. A longboard is definitely not "like, way better" in any category that I give 1/64th of a turd about, and asserting that I made the wrong choice implies that I am ignorant and should spend a bunch of money that I don't really have to get another skateboard.
And if I was going to take advice from someone, it would be from someone who looks like they know what they're doing. I'm sorry if you happen to be "that guy" that I'm about to describe, but if you're mongo pushing around town with not just a helmet, but a pair of gigantic gloves with plastic balls all over them, but you leave your elbows and knees exposed by wearing a tank top and shorts, you don't look like you know what you're doing. Actually, I'm just going to say it- if you're that guy, you've clearly never put any real thought into your skateboarding. I say that with the utmost respect- I'm not blaming you for not knowing, but if your scared enough about scrapes and cuts to wear gloves for sliding, then you should be worried enough to wear elbow and knee pads. Or, you could stop being a wimp about it and just ditch the gloves and helmet- if you know what you're doing, neither of them are that useful anyway. The rules change for those who bomb massive hills- in that case, a helmet, pads, and gloves are at least respectable. The problem is that the vast majority of longboarders who wear gloves really don't need them for rolling to and from 7-11.
Even still, are reasons like this good enough to justify our attitudes towards longboarders? I mean, being angry at them isn't helping anything, that's for certain. Longboarding is more popular than ever, and calling them stupid isn't convincing them of anything. If anything, it just sends the message that we are hypocrites for claiming to be misfits and then turning around and claiming that longboarders aren't cool enough to join us.
So what's a better way to look at it? Well, the way I see it, there are plenty of lame skateboarders out there who misunderstand what skateboarding can be or should be. This is precisely why there are so many clips on Youtube of random little kids breaking their boards for no reason. It's because they think that breaking their board is cool, and not understanding that pros break boards out of the frustration of being tormented by a trick that they couldn't do. They don't understand yet that some people who break their board have gotten frustrated to the point of being psychotic, they just think it's cool to be all angry and break stuff. So why single out longboarders out as their own category of evil? They're no different than any other kooks who skate. In fact, there are even a few longboarders who really are just normal dudes who want to have fun on a skateboard- I know a couple of them, and they're not everywhere, but they exist. As skateboarders, what are we if not just people who like to have fun on our skateboards with no pressure or guidance from anyone else?
Another thing to consider is that whether it's intentional or not, they are helping our cause as collective skateboarders. Sure, they buy their decks from different places, but a lot of longboards come with Independent trucks. I'm sure that there is also some overlap in the wheels and bearings category as well, not to mention the various clothing lines out there. And if your local city planning committee is going to be encouraged to put money into maintaining roads and sidewalks, you can bet your sweet and savory bum that it won't be for the shortboarders who have already been labeled as trespassers, vandals, and troublemakers- it's going to be on behalf of the people who ride bikes and skate for transportation purposes. So in a few small ways, we're benefiting from their existence, even if we don't like them.
So maybe we shouldn't be so rough on longboarders. After all, we know that we're making the most out of skateboarding, and that's all that matters.