New sanctions threatens the future of longboarding in B.C.

The sport doesn’t sit well with everyone who lives in Vancouver’s North Shore

Freedom to ride?

Rayne Longboards

Vancouver’s North Shore is the closest thing Canada has to Orange County, Calif. Split from the downtown by the Burrard Inlet and bordered on three sides by mountains and water, the suburbs it contains are worlds unto themselves. At once wealthy, WASPy and uptight, they are also conversely laid back and sporty. It’s the kind of place where you might get called “bro” by a banker’s son on a mountain bike, or yelled at by a cast member from the Real Housewives of Vancouver (one of whom owns four houses in a gated community on the shore).

Along with Laguna Beach in Orange County, and Adelaide, Australia, the North Shore is also a global centre for the burgeoning sport of longboarding. And that doesn’t sit well with everyone who lives there. An increasingly heated dispute between longboarders and their foes boiled over in the district of North Vancouver in recent months, exposing the central tension in North Shore life. The culture there is essentially conservative, but it’s also touched by a freewheeling love of outdoor sport. And, as the longboarding battle has shown, the two aspects of shore life don’t always coexist well.

Longboards look like oversized skateboards. But with broader bases and bigger wheels, they’re easier to ride and better for longer trips. Les Robertson, the marketing and sponsorship manager at Rayne Longboards in North Vancouver, breaks down users into three groups: transporters, who treat their boards almost like bicycles; sliders, who do tricks; and downhill racers.

It’s that last group that is causing controversy in North Vancouver. The streets in the district are built against a mountainside. Many residential roads flow unobstructed for thousands of steep, winding metres. For downhill boarders, they’re perfect for building up speed, taking tight turns and even carving across the roadway like snowboarders on a mountain.

At a recent meeting, district council decided against banning boarding outright on municipal roads. Instead, councillors approved a strict set of sanctions for longboarders who are deemed to be out of control. But the new rules, scheduled to be adopted later in the month, seem to have pleased few. “Basically, we’re trying to accommodate both [cars and longboards], and I don’t think that’s going to work” says Robin Hicks, a dissenting voice on council.

Sue Hope lives midway up one street popular with longboarders. She first noticed them a few years ago. Back then, it was mostly older teens and twentysomethings, guys and girls who looked like they took care of themselves and each other, she says. But as the sport grew more popular, the boarders became younger and more cavalier. Riders on Hope’s road used to have spotters at each of its three hairpin turns to watch for oncoming cars. Few do so anymore, she says. “It kind of scares me. I’m worried about people coming up the street around the blind corner and there being an accident.”

There have already been a few. In 2010, Glenna Evans, a competitive downhill longboarder wearing full safety gear, died after colliding with a vehicle near the bottom of a North Vancouver road. More recently, local resident Chuck Duffy says a longboarder slammed into his truck, causing $2,000 in damage, according to local reports. After that crash, Duffy started gathering signatures for a petition calling on the district to ban longboards on local roads.

It’s a move Lyle Craver would support. He lives on a steep road that doubles as a bus route. In an email, he says he routinely sees longboarders “engage in anti-social behaviour.” “I was coming home from work three weeks ago and found one group boarding three abreast in the middle of the road,” he says. “When I gave a light horn tap, two of the three flipped [me] the bird, as seems to be their reaction to most anything they dislike.”

And there’s the rub. The fight about longboards is as much about culture as anything else. “There’s this perception of this sort of ’80s thrasher skater that still persists, even now in 2012” says Robertson. “We’re different from that. We really consider ourselves more along the line of skiers or F1 racers.” But for some homeowners in the city, longboarders just look like bands of kids doing scary stuff on their roads.

If adopted as planned, the district’s new rules will allow police to levy steep fines and confiscate boards. Craver doesn’t think that goes far enough; he wants to see a complete ban. Robertson, on the other hand, believes the rules go much too far. “We’re living in Canada, this is supposed to be a place where we have personal freedoms, where we’re outdoorsy and athletic and co-operative and we say sorry when we don’t need to,” he says. “We’re not doing that right now. Right now we’re acting like America.”


New sanctions threatens the future of longboarding in B.C.

  1. The new “sanctions” have only encouraged longboarding, not threatened it. Before the new bylaw came into adoption, longboarding was considered illegal on our streets.The new DNV sanctions have now made longboarding “street legal”, which means more longboarders will come here and flaunt the laws. Try to catch them in the act of disobeying the rules of the road. It is not going to be easy. It would have been wiser for the District to have banned longboarding.

    • You have a great point. One of our frustrations is that the laws have not been communicated to anyone very well. We’re working to put out information and reach Longboarders and residence to try and bring people together. 

      My concern with banning Longboarding and even the fine increase is really with creating a ‘criminal environment’. I’m concerned a young longboarder might try and run and that’s when the risk of accident is greatest. Longboarding has risks for sure, but they are also focused when it’s being practiced. You can’t be focused when your ‘escaping’ it’s a panic. 

    • why do you want to take away peoples rights .Someone died longboarding down a hill by colliding with a car .How many bikers do you think this has happened to ? The reason people would ban longboarding over biking is because every non-boarder thinks were punk kids who are up to no good.I myself am a straight A student and am very respectful to everyone ,definately not a punk kid .As for those boarders who flipped that one guy off theirs always gonna be people in every sport who are disrespectful you can’t blame the whole longboarding community for the disrespect of a few people.Mabey someone should ask Lyle Craver if honking at those longboarders was respectful.

    • As an active member of my community for a number of years, and someone who’d intercede when hooligans would invade the hood I lived in, I can tell you that skateboarders can be the biggest bunch of a**holes on the planet. One guy was such a dickhead he was pulling skateboarding moves in a bus shelter. I’ve seen them grind on park benches set aside for seniors and generally act like they own the place and everything in it wherever they show up.. While there might be some real cool dudes riding their boards and showing some real respect for others, they’re almost always in the minority.

      • Hey so here’s the thing me and my friends are longboarders and we are all very freindly and nice kids I’m finishing up my first year of high school with a 4.0 I’m not a punk or a jerk . I know some skateboarders can be jerks but there are plenty of jerks doing lots of different things besides longboarding. There’s lots of football players who are jerks (not trying to hate on them at all) do you think football should be illeagal too. This topic shouldn’t be on skateboarding should be illeagal because thers a lot of mean slateboarders it should be on if it’s safe which it is more so than riding a bike (if you know what your doing.)and also don’t ask for respect if your not going to respect us and call us ****heads or ***holes .

        • Alex,
          Just in case you didn’t notice, the article is about longboard/ skateboarding. I don’t recall it making any references to dumbass football players. And while you may claim to have a 4.0 in your first year of high school, a competent grade 6 student could produce less spelling errors than you came up with.

          • Your argument was about skateboarders being rude so I was just saying just because people in a sport are rude doesn’t mean that the sport should be outlawed . I am truly a 4.0 and just typed this out quickly on my iPod so my spelling mistakes were probably from that. This page is about if longboarding should be legal and not about me so you can post your argument on the page but please be respectful .I am being respectful of you. Thanks

          • One thing to note here is that skateboarding and longboarding are two completely different things, done by completely different people. The article deals with longboarding, so comments should focus on that. One of my professors is in his fifties and is an excellent,enthusiastic longboarder. I agree that it isn’t just ‘punk kids’ who longboard. I do, however, feel that a large percentage of the current generation of teenagers do lack respect in general (not saying that all do) and you will find that a lot of teenagers are rude and disrespectful whether they are longboarding or not. As a note to these kids, being polite is important and if all longboarders were polite, respectful, and conscientious, I don’t think as many people would want to make the sport illegal. That being said, I have to go back again to Mr. Robertson’s comment: this isn’t the U.S.; don’t try to make healthy outdoor activities illegal.

  2. We appreciate that longboarding has remained legal and only want to see safe skating, within the law, and within the riders abilities at all times. The goal is to work with the community, not against it. There are sanctioned, car-free events this spring, summer and fall for downhill skateboarding in the region. Longboarders, please check the web for closed road, legal events.

    Longboarding is a lot of fun, keeping safe is how to keep it that way. We hope we can come together as a community so we can reach the offenders without limiting the freedoms of the group.

  3. Intolerance Be Gone! – What I feel is a well written opinion, from a Mother of longboarders in Laguna Beach. I’m seeing the same thing developing here.
    Every community will have outliers. Banning Longboarding will not stop the outliers, but it will punish legal, considerate enthusiasts who could be your classmate, neighbour, coworker or cousin. It’s easy to reach these people, they’re already tuned in and doing the right thing. We’re working on reaching the others.   

  4. “We’re acting like America”
    Not even canada is safe anymore?!?!

  5. To ban long boarding would be the most american way to go about “solving” this problem, and would only raise tensions and further separate culture and counter culture. Interesting to see a Canadian neighborhood doing the same thing that America does to every possible situation. It is very dangerous, and rich people hate it, but ruining a recreational culture is not very canadian

  6. It’s the same thing with any sport. If you are safe about it and play/ride within your limits, accidents will be less likely. I don’t understand however, why is this problem only concerning longboarders? I’ve seem few longboarders fly down streets causing cars to jerk out of the way, or stop all together, but countless times I have seen that happen with bikes. As for the people saying how disrespectful most kids are, it’s because you only notice the disrespectful ones. You will notice every disrespectful thing that someone does to you, or others, but very rarely will you remember that kid who held the door for you, the one who said sorry when he bumped into you, or even the one that just said Thank you at the counter of a restaurant.

  7. These kids should not be using our streets to longboard. These kids have done nothing at all to deserve to longboard on them. . These kids are disrespectful. They they harass; they follow no laws or rules; they do not pay taxes on our roads; they loiter and block traffic on roads that the neighbours have paid taxes to drive on; they swear and they give neighbours driving in their own neighbourhood the finger. They themselves ‘have taught people how to treat them’. These kids act like deserving, spoiled brats.