Lindsey Musclow is currently an honours thesis student in the sociology department at Trent University, studying under Jim Conley. She has been immersed in longboard culture for quite some time as a spectator, a rider, an event organizer and wife to Kolby Parks who is currently ranked 6th in the world for streetluge and classic luge.
Competitive longboarding: an inclusive counter-cultural mobility
Competitive longboarding and streetluging is a new, fast-growing global form of mobility. This paper is based on an insider ethnography of longboarding races at Whistler British Columbia, Maryhill Washington and Picton Ontario. Research was conducted between June and October 2012 for the author’s sociology honours thesis. In the paper I argue that longboarding is a solidary but inclusive counter-culture resulting from five characteristics of the sport: risk, competition, emotion, ritual, and longboarding as a lifestyle. The culture is inclusive as it is welcoming to new comers and counter-cultural because like skateboarding in general, it is a stigmatized form of mobility. The component of risk is comes from the inevitability of crashes as up to twelve riders can go down the hill at once. Emotion plays into racing through the excitement and rush of competing and reaching speeds around 100 km/hour. Racing is very competitive, and yet it is informally regulated through the camaraderie of riders; they participate for themselves while looking out for the others. These elements come together in post-race socials, in the technological mediated ritual of watching video footage from the day. Finally, longboarding is not simply about racing, but is a lifestyle for riders who, regardless of socioeconomic status, gender and age, use their boards to commute and for the love of riding.