BY JESSE LOUDENBARGER
They gather in Bloomington every week, and talk about such things as speed wobbles, mold release, Acid Drops, tacs, and frequent encounters with euphoria. Some are on konas and get lost in euphoria.
And, no, they’re not talking about drugs, although participants say their activities can be addictive.
“It’s legal on campus as long as you’re not destroying property,” says Max Vickers, a sophomore at Indiana University. We’re talking about longboarding, an outdoor sport that’s growing in popularity because the boards are longer, wider, and offer different traction and maneuverability than traditional skateboards. And as the president and founder of the Longboarding Club at IU, Vickers is leading the surge.
“We’ve had an unofficial group for the last three or so years,” he says. “This past year when I enrolled at IU, I submitted the form to make it an official student organization.”
The club is now more than a year old, with roughly 70 official members and hundreds of others plugged into discussions through social media. Its Facebook group alone has more than 400 connections. But the sudden surge in popularity belies longboarding’s long history in Bloomington. Artist Joel Washington and pro skaters Brian Patch and Kris Reeves were skating here decades ago. And longboards have been around since the ’90s.
Outdoorsman Brandon Hudson, 39, was a ’90s skater and longboarder. “I went to high school at Bloomington High School South. Coast Connection was the skateboard shop, and I was there every day after school,” he says. Now Hudson is a Bloomington firefighter at the 300 E. 4th St. firehouse, where he still hops on his longboard — the same deck he’s been riding since 1998 — and cruises downtown. “It’s a great town for longboarding. It’s a bicycle-friendly community, and there’s an acceptance,” he says.
To Vickers, Bloomington offers even more than an accepting culture. “The hills,” he says with a grin. Those exciting, challenging hills. Downhill sliding is the high-octane, highly technical, trick-focused version of longboarding, where skaters compete for trophies and sponsorships with skate shops and equipment companies.
Vickers, who has multiple sponsorships and competes throughout the country, hosted the 3rd Annual Slide Jam at the Dam in Monroe County this past April (see photos and a video below). The event attracted more than 80 skaters and over 20 sponsorships from companies in the industry.