Recently I had a chance to attend the Action Sports Retailer (ASR) show in Long Beach. I had attended the show a few years ago, and it was great to make it back. Basically, it's a trade show for people who run skateboard, surf, and snowboard shops, and tons of companies are there showing off the new stuff.
Boards. Although there were lots of new decks, there was very little that I'd consider groundbreaking. Don't get me wrong, I saw many great decks, but it seemed that what stood out most was the craftsmanship of some of the new (and not so new) companies and expanded lines by some old favorites.
In terms of craftsmanship, there were a couple of companies that stood out above the rest. First, were the boards from Real Wood, wood core encased in a clear layer of fiberglass. These boards were lightweight and felt strong and responsive. Plus absolutely gorgeous on the eye. They might cost you a little more, but I'm sure they're worth it. Another real eye catcher was the line from Surf One. The boards featured nice shapes, concaves, kicktails, etc., but what set them apart were the brilliant top graphics. Using their Cleargrip topcoat, the colors and designs on the tops of the decks come through bright and vivid, rather like you're looking through a sheet of translucent glass that you get from standard clear griptape.
From established companies, Dregs pulled a bunch of aces out of their sleeves with four new longboard and hybrid models and their race board which is bound to keep speed demons in road rash for years to come. Fans of Flexdex will be happy to see that they now offer 46 and 60 inch models. And for the skategeezer, Dogtown is back. Most of what they had was new school, but they did have a couple of wide pig shapes and a 37" hybrid, not much when you think about it, but it is Dogtown and that goes a long way. Geezers will also be happy to know that Kryptonics is now starting to think of itself as not just a roller blade company. They now offer a full line of longboards, along with a 38-inch hybrid, and their wheels have been reformulated, more on that later.
Probably the most technically advanced longboards were from Lib Technologies and Soul Boards. Though not really new, Lib Tech's 44-inch longboard stands out amid the typical wood ply laminates. Their board features 80 wood laminates, fiberglass construction, and UMHW polyethylene integrated into the nose and tail--that's right, the nose and tail are made out of the same stuff the used to make skid plates out of. Combine that with a functional shape, retaining much of its 9.25" width at the nose and tail, double kick, concave, wheel wells, and your choice of medium or firm flex, and you've got a board that's hard to beat.
Finally, the prize for the most high-tech boards would have to go to a new company, Soul Boards. Their decks are what you would imagine a Turner Summer Ski would be like if they started to make longboards with kicktail and cool graphics. The foam core/composite construction and nice camber gave a great snappy responsive flex. With five models to choose from ranging in size from 33 to 57". Although the real lookers in their line were the Interceptor (pictured to the right) and Malibu 46 models, the one that caught my eye was the Live Wire 33" model--a true slalom board. It seemed to be short enough to make it through tight cones and long enough to not feel like you're riding a toy. Do be ready to pay a bit more, as their suggested retail prices for the decks alone are projected to be between $135 and $150.
Finally, one of the great things this time was the minis. I know that this is a longboard site, and most of us don't want to hear about shortboards, but there were a number of miniboards, not short boards, but boards for little kids. Face it, as much as you want to buy a new Tahoe Talmac, it's probably not the best choice for your five-year-old, but miniboards just might be. Leading the way is Rene Bruce of Fluid Skateboards/Power Paw with Equal Skateboards. These boards look like new school boards but shorter and thinner, 29 x 7 3/8" and 30 x 7 5/8". They also come with custom thinner trucks. They have thin hangars, roughly the width of original Tracker Full Tracks, on Suregrip Invader baseplates. In fact they might want to start selling the trucks alone for old schoolers, slalom riders, etc. Are you listening, Rene? Hint, hint. Flexdex also offers a line of minis with their Mini 17, Mini 23, and Grommet 29 models.
Trucks. There's not much to say about trucks. The real quantum leaps in truck design were made by Randal, Seismic, and eXkate some time ago. At the show, only two new designs stood out, the long-awaited Nuclear Pickle and a truly different approach from Carver Skateboards.
If you've heard about the Nuclear Pickle at all, it is probably because you've seen the ads in International Longboarder Magazine. The Nuclear Pickle is a torsion truck that solves the biggest drawback with torsion trucks, the fact that they can only be adjusted by changing the bushings. I spoke with Eric Kirkland, the inventor of the Nuclear Pickle, for some time. The Nuclear Pickle has three tension settings that can be adjusted by rotating a collar on the base of the truck. Rather than relying on urethane bushings for adjustment, the Nuclear Pickle uses a series of cams on the inside of the truck. Kirkland says that the problem with urethane bushings, aside from their not being adjustable, is that they are subject to wear and ultimately failure. The cams on the Nuclear Pickle should last indefinitely. Production models should be shipping in early March and should retail for about $90 for a set. The only drawback I can see to the Nuclear Pickle is that it is an extremely high profile truck, designed with XT Off-Road wheels in mind.
The most different product at the show had to be the Carver Skateboard, allowing a ride more similar to surfing. The secret is in the front truck (pictured to the left). Carver Skateboards use conventional trucks on the back, but the front truck has an extra pivot point, which allows you to move the front wheels from side to side without lifting them, similar to the way that a surfer pumps his board on smaller waves for speed. Although it's a pretty radically different approach (I got on it and could hardly stand), it seemed like it would be something a surf-style skater could pick up pretty easily. It also seems to be well designed in that the hardware has been designed to be used with standard skate tools/parts.
Wheels and the rest. It looks like the Power Paw Aluminator just got better. Rene Bruce was showing off the new 78 mm Aluminator, and it looks great. It will come with either a new larger core or the standard Aluminator core. This is great. My biggest problem with most large wheels is that they tend to be big heavy chunks of urethane. With the large core, the 78 mm Aluminator feels lighter than most 70 mm wheels. Or if weight is not a concern, you can also get them with the standard Aluminator core, so they'll have more meat and last longer.
At the show, we spent a while at the Kryptonics booth/garage. To be honest, I was not that impressed. I started to get psyched when I got home and started to read through their literature. First of all, the urethane has been reformulated. Normally, I'm not all that impressed by claims like this, except for one thing. Apparently, Daryl Freeman helped them develop the new chemistry. I've seen him rip stand up slides at 30 mph in videos, and I can't imagine anyone being harder on wheels than this guy. If they can take what Daryl Freeman throws at them, they should be able to handle anything. They now offer a 76 mm model and the green Hawaii K at 70 mm and 86A looks to be a great sliding/skatepark wheel.
Finally, right before we left I had a chance to check out the Kwik Split. This device allows you to put roller blade wheels on your longboard, and not have it be outrageously dangerous. Anyone who's ever tried inline wheels on a skateboard knows two things. First, they are very fast, because they are usually a larger diameter than standard skateboard wheels and the narrow track gives them very little rolling resistance. Second, they are practically impossible to ride, because they give you no traction in the turns. I was skeptical at first, but the Kwik Split does work. I pick up a set, and although I have only taken it out once, it rides well. I should have some better feedback soon.
I was totally stoked to see all the new stuff. I'm sure you'll feel that same way when this stuff hits your local shops.
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Nose Wheelie, except where noted otherwise, was written and created by Chris Sturhann.
Copyright © 2000 Chris Sturhann