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Skate Tips: Catamaran

Talk about a blast from the past, catamaraning can be a lot of fun, and it's real easy to do. All you need is a partner. What you do is you sit on your board sideways facing your partner, while your partner does the same. Position the boards so that you can both put your feet comfortably on your the ends of each other's boards. Once in position, you start down a fairly mellow hill. You turn by having the person on the turning side lean back, like he's on the trapeze of a catamaran. The person on the nonturning leans in to help out with the turn. Basically, there are two ways to catamaran, the right way and a couple different variations of what I like to call "the homophobic wrong way."

The picture on the right from an old skateboarding book shows the better of the two versions of the homophobic wrong way (sorry I haven't had time to get out and take pictures of me and a friend doing it the right way). The other one is the extremely homophobic wrong way, where you each put your hands on the ends of your own decks. You see catamaraning was invented in the 70s, and back then most guys weren't real crazy about the idea of holding another guy's hand. They figured that if you held another guy's hand, that might mean you were gay. If you hold another guy's hand while catamaraning, that doesn't mean you're gay. Going home and sucking each other off afterwards, that means you're gay. So just deal with the fact the you're going to be touching another guy's hand for a lot longer than you might feel comfortable with.

Note that I did say that the picture shows the better of the two varieties of the wrong way. This is way better than holding onto the ends of the board, because it forces you to work together. The only real problem with it is that it's an awkward grip. Sure grabbing each other by the forearm works great for trapeze artists, but the thing there is that they're trying to reduce the chance of missing. That's not a factor here. The best part about catamaraning is leaning way over in a turn so that you can feel your shirt scraping on the ground. When you're in that position, it helps to have your partner pull you back up after the turn, and you don't want to have do deal with a poor grip.

The right way is to grip hands as if you were shaking hands, but not the standard business handshake, use the 70s "right on, brother" handshake. Reach over with your right hand and grab your partner's right hand, right on, brother style. Then do the same with your left hands. You'll end up with your hands more or less crossed. This is going to do two things. First, it shortens the distance between the two of you and forces the nonturning guy to lean way in when the other guy is leans back, helping make the turns easier. Second, it's a comfortable strong grip, which is going to help at the end of the turn when you're pulling the turning partner back up.

Aside from getting the grip right, the most important thing about catamaraning is to find a good spot. You're probably not going to want to try this on a public street. Think about it. When you sit on your board you're only about three feet tall. Cars just aren't going to see you. What you want to look for is a nice wide parking lot on a gently sloping hill, with the width going crossways to the slope of the hill. This way you can get some speed up, make a turn, and cruise sideways across the hill. Then make another turn and cruise back the other way, like you're tacking a sailboat or--a catamaran.

One last note. If you do this often you're going to eventually to find yourself heading for a curb, lightpost, or some other immovable object. It's easy to do. You misjudge a turn, or your partner thinks you're going one and you think you're going the other. Just remember that your feet are sitting on your partner's board only a few inches off the ground. All you have to do is put you feet down and hope you stop in time. Sure you'll go thorough shoes quick, but it sure beats running into a curb.

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Nose Wheelie, except where noted otherwise, was written and created by Chris Sturhann.
Copyright © 1999 Chris Sturhann