By Deena Farrell [Read more...]
By Jason Javaherian, Emma Kazaryan, Milena Kozlowska and Rebecca Ungarino
At Kebeer Draft Bar and Grill in Brighton Beach, in the heart of Brooklyn’s Russian community, every television was tuned to the XXII Olympic Winter Games hosted in Sochi, Russia on a recent Sunday evening.
Notwithstanding that men’s cross-country skiing—not a popular spectator sport—was the focus of the evening’s telecast, enthusiasm for the games appeared scant. Patrons at Kebeer, which is at the intersection of Brighton Beach and Coney Island avenues, glanced briefly at the screens to catch results, only to quickly return to their conversations.
“Russia did not need these games,” said Sergey Zinoviev, who was standing at the bar with several friends, alluding to the estimated $51 billion cost of the Sochi games, more than seven times the cost of the winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, four years ago, and larger than the $44 billion of the 2008 Beijing summer games, the next most expensive. “I think they could have spent money on more important things, like schools.”
Zinoviev, a banker, said he is not indifferent toward his native Russia. “Every time I watch the games I feel proud for Russia, especially when our sportsmen are winning,” conceded Zinoviev with a smile.
“I don’t cheer for Russia,” said Igor Galiakhmetov, 60, an owner of a Brooklyn moving company. “I cheer for good sportsmen.”
For Galiakhmetov, who moved to New York 14 years ago with his family from Novorossiysk, a port city on the Black Sea, 176 miles from Sochi, the distrust he feels for the regime of Valdimir Putin, who has ruled Russia as either president or prime minister since 2000, colors his view of the Olympics. “Knowing the Russian government, I am pretty sure that after the Olympic games, the region as well as the newly built infrastructure, will be abandoned,” he added.
As Russian émigrés follow the Sochi games from their new homes in New York, they are experiencing divided loyalties to two countries—the Russia they left behind and their adopted U.S. For many émigrés, whether they fled the former Soviet Union or Putin’s Russia, their view of the Olympics is colored by the corruption they associate with both regimes.
“Many people come to cheer for the U.S. rather than Russia,” said Rassul Massimov, an employee at Kebeer and a student at ASA College who is from Kazakhstan, which was part of the Soviet Union until its dissolution in 1991.
“We are American and are rooting for America!” agreed Matwiej Dommith, 85, also of Brighton Beach via the U.S.S.R, who has been a U.S. citizen for 20 years and has grandchildren born and raised here.
Meanwhile, on Staten Island, at the NetCost Market, on Amboy Road in the Richmondtown neighborhood, the sentiments toward the Olympics were much the same.
“I am rooting for Russia, Estonia and America, but mostly for America because they are my home,” said Igor Shurygin, who was stocking the shelves at the store, which is part of a chain popular among the community’s Russian, Estonian and Ukrainian residents; the store carries traditional Eastern European specialties, such as pierogi (potato or cheese dumplings), plov (a hearty rice dish), and kotlety (breaded meat cutlets). Shurygin, who moved to Staten Island two years ago from his native Estonia, said that when he was not working he watched the Olympic games at home, and especially enjoyed the snowboarding competitions.
Rachel Mickley moved to New York from Ukraine nearly 38 years ago and said that she, her children and U.S.-born grandchildren were all rooting for the United States. Mickley said she watched the Olympics on Channel One whenever she gets the chance; Channel One Russia, the Russian Federation’s first television channel, is available via local cable companies.
“My husband and I, we don’t want Russia to win medals,” said Ella Pil, a 39-year-old barber in the Floral Park neighborhood.
“The Olympics are a show for Putin and his friends,” said Pil, who came to the U.S. in 1994 from Uzbekistan, and reflected the animosity that many residents of former Soviet satellite countries still feel toward Russia.
By Brad Williams
The hum of four soft urethane wheels gliding over abrasive asphalt has become a common addition to the noises on the streets of New York, as longboarding continues to grow in popularity. Far from the stereotype of skateboarders (teenage boys, or young men with long hair and tattoos), the people riding longboards range from businessmen, to young mothers, and even young children. They often ride together in groups of three or more on long-distance cruises. They can be seen nonchalantly whizzing by traffic and pedestrians on the city’s streets without doing a single trick, on boards of various shapes and sizes but longer than three feet in length. One rider might be 5 years old, and the next rider might be 50.
Many people refer to these boarders as skaters – and that leaves those on the other end of the skateboarding spectrum – trick skaters – fuming. While outsiders might see longboarders and shortboarders as two families of the same clan, the participants see themselves as rivals.
In the past five years, longboarding has reached new heights in popularity. As more and more longboarders coast through the streets of New York City, many shortboarders frown in disapproval.
The basis of the dispute is the style of board used by the rider. In general, there are three types of skateboards: trick boards (also referred to as “regular” and “short” boards) used primarily for executing numerous tricks; longboards, mostly used for transportation and riding at high speeds, and cruisers, a varying mixture of both.
Longtime skater and Roll America skateboarding instructor John Jackson is displeased with the increase in longboarding. “It feels like they outnumber us now,” Jackson said. “When I would skate around 10 years ago, I’d see skaters everywhere, riding in groups, now I just see a bunch of longboarders clogging up the bike lanes.” Founded in 1988 by Joel Rappelfeld, RollAmerica offers rollerblading and skateboarding lessons and says it works with more than 50 elementary and middle schools to teach students.
Longboards, significantly longer than trick skateboards, require less effort and can reach much faster speeds. Most longboards have wheels twice the size of regular skateboard wheels, to handle rough surfaces and add momentum when in motion. Longboards are primarily used for transportation.
Jackson said beginners were the “most annoying thing” about the rise in longboarding.
“As an instructor, I encourage my students not to start out with a longboard. It’s too easy to reach high speeds, and beginners can’t keep control,” he said. ”It’s like driving a Corvette the very first time you drive a car, you’re a danger to yourself and everyone near you.”
“I can count four longboarding deaths in New York City since 2012. I can’t think of a single person dying from trying a trick here,” Jackson said. “And we skate all of the ramps and rails that most people think are so dangerous! It’s all from a lack of experience and comfort on a board.” According to the Web site Skaters for Public Skateparks, two skateboard-related deaths occurred in New York City in 2012.
By Jackson’s definition, the majority of the city’s longboarders should not be referred to as skaters because they have not spent countless hours bettering their skills through trial and error.
“What can you fail at as a longboarder?” Jackson asked. “Riding down the street? Outside of the hardcore longboarders, who have complete control at speeds above 15 miles per hour, longboarding is not a demanding activity.…Is anyone who rides a bike considered a cyclist? No. They should only be referred as longboarders.” he added, “Longboarding is more like surfing or snowboarding than skateboarding.”
Jeff Gates, an avid longboarder and the founder and owner of Uncle Funky’s Boards in the West Village, said there’s not just a link between longboarding and board sports such as surfing and snowboarding, but that the latter are “the root of all skateboarding”– meaning that skateboarding as a whole evolved from surfing.
“Longboarding is as simple as riding,” Gates said. “You can get the gist of it in a matter of hours, while street skating requires a lot more practice and dealing with injuries.”
Gates said that trick skaters embrace skateboarding as part of their identities, and aren’t happy to see people who just bought longboards being referred to as skaters.
“When a dude who’s been doing tricks for 15 years sees a guy in a suit riding a longboard to work on Wall Street, he’s pissed,” he said.
Unlike Jackson, Gates believes that a longboard is an ideal choice for newcomers for a multitude of reasons: “It’s longer and wider than a standard board, so it has more room to stand on and is more stable. Its wheels are much larger, so riders don’t have to worry about tripping over every crack, twig or pebble, and it’s just easier to turn on.”
Gates admits that the ease of reaching high speeds is a potential danger, but advises that all riders should do their best not to skate outside of their abilities. In addition, he suggests a change in philosophy: “Everybody can skate, everybody should skate. It’s fun, and it’s easy…And I think skaters have tried to keep that secret for too long—to protect it like it’s their own. But it never was their own, and it never should be their own: it’s for everybody.”
By Sean Creamer
Skateboarding has enjoyed a boom in New York City during the last decade, as the Bloomberg administration has doubled the number of skate parks.
With new parks in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan new businesses have emerged to meet the rising demand, among them the so-called Tre Truck. On any given day, outside the parks, you’re likely to spot the plain silver-sided self-proclaimed “World’s Finest Mobile Skateboard Shop” parked at a nearby curb.
The Tre Truck is owned by Alex Ritondo, 21, a skateboarder and entrepreneur who drew his inspiration from the food trucks that can be found throughout the city. The Tre Truck travels from the Lower East Side skate park under the Manhattan Bridge to the newly constructed Far Rockaway skate park and to points in between.
The goal is to bring hard goods — the skateboard decks (the platform on which the boarder stands), trucks, the turning apparatus and wheels — directly to skaters at prices comparable to those in a moderately priced skate shops. At an average skate shop, decks usually go for about $60 and trucks for $40.
“Skateboarding has always been my passion,” says Ritondo, his brown shaggy hair tucked under a baseball cap. “I originally wanted to open a shop. Me and my friends always talked about it.”
With skate shops, as with many businesses, location is a key element. And “a good location for a skate shop is going to cost a lot of money,” adds Ritondo.
Rent on the Lower East Side, a popular skate location — the Lower East Side skate park, on Monroe Street, is a regular stop for Ritondo — ranges from $2,000 to $3,000 a month, according to Tungsten Properties, a commercial real estate company in Manhattan. (Most local skate shops pay $25,000 to $100,000 a year, or roughly $2,000 to $8,000 per month, according to ReferenceUSA.)
Then, too, in the last few years a few skate shops have closed, in part because of a weak economy, but also because gentrification has pushed the shops’ customer base—typically young 20-somethings—to other neighborhoods in the outer boroughs.
A graduate of Borough of Manhattan Community College with a degree in entrepreneurship, Ritondo skateboarded daily while at school and decided to reimagine the idea of the traditional skate shop to make his dream a reality.
A traditional skate shop acts as the headquarters for a community of skateboarders. The shop typically purchases merchandise wholesale from larger suppliers who supply similar shops all over the country.
The Internet has taken some business away from brick-and-mortar retailers. But for die-hard skateboarders, the local skate shop/hangout is still the preferred locale for buying equipment and accessories, including skateboard brand shirts, shoes and other items that define the lifestyle.
While Ritondo couldn’t afford to open a skate shop, he saw opportunity in the proliferation of new parks.
“I don’t think that Tre Truck would have been sustainable without the creation of all the skate parks,” says Steve Rodriguez, a skateboarding legend in New York City who also owns Five Boro Skateboards. “Tre Truck needs that concentrated audience to do enough business to make it worth it.”
Ritondo bought a used truck from a friend on Long Island with savings and help from his family. He also got help from some of the bigger players in the city’s skateboard industry.
For example, Michael Cohen, shop manager of the Shut Skateboards brand and flagship store in the Lower East Side, agreed to let Ritondo open an account to sell Shut Skateboards.
“It is a win-win situation, people will buy from the Tre Truck and then come to the store,” says Cohen who has known Ritondo for several years. “At the same time we get kids who come here and we will tell them to check out the Tre Truck at their local park.”
The Tre Truck, which has been operating since September, has brought in about $10,000 in revenue so far. Ritondo knows that he will need to increase sales substantially in order to stay in business. He is hoping one day to franchise the operation and have trucks operating throughout Long Island.
Then too, skateboarding is seasonal and there isn’t much business in the winter.
Despite these challenges, Ritondo wins praise from both competitors and customers. “We offer a lot more variety, but what they are doing is a cool idea,” says Lennon Ficalora, the owner of Wampum skate shop on the Lower East Side.
Skaters like Frank Nicado, a regular at the Chelsea Piers 62 skate park, are often on the lookout for Ritondo. “The Truck just always has what I need,” says Nicado. “When I lose a bolt or a bearing they are always willing to hook me up.”
By Alex Mikoulianitch
The year was 1994. The New York Rangers eliminated the New Jersey Devils, their cross-river rivals in the Eastern Conference finals, advancing to the Stanley Cup finals, where they beat the Vancouver Canucks for their only Stanley Cup since 1940.
For Elvis Tominovic that was enough to spark a passion in the young Croatian immigrant that would lead him to play for his country’s national team.
And there his dream ended. Like Ivo Mocek, Tom Lambertson and Paul Durante, his teammates on the Steiner Stars of Chelsea Piers Division 1 adult league, their dreams of playing in the National Hockey League were not realized.
Even making the national team was long and arduous. From learning to skate, to learning the mechanics of the game and developing “hockey sense,” (the ability to make fast decisions on what to do when) Tominovic stood out. “Hockey was fun from the start, it was fast paced, lots of hitting and a lot of hard work,” Tominovic says. “It came to me naturally, even though I played it from sunrise till sunset as a kid. My first position was defense because I was a big kid growing up, and the coach put all the big kids on defense. I played defense until I was 14 and moved to Long Island, then the coaches put me at forward. I can play both defense and forward in men’s league.”
When he was young, Tominovic’s family wasn’t financially well off, and playing hockey is expensive, because of the cost of equipment.
For a good hockey stick, prices start near $100, and skates and protective equipment are far more. Because of his talent, Tominovic was helped by some of his coaches, and was able to get equipment and start training.
“The coaches started taking me under their wing and gave me old equipment to use and let my mother only pay half the fee for ice time,” he says. “Sometimes they allowed me to work at the rink in order to receive free ice time in return. Without their help I would have never played ice hockey.”
Tominovic developed into a strong, effective skater and played in college at SUNY Fredonia, in Division III of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Succeeding there was the key to Tominovic’s invitation to play for Croatia’s national team.
“I moved on to play for the Croatian National Team and from there they offered me a contract to play for Medvescak of Zagreb in Croatia,” he says. When he returned to the U.S., he played in the Eastern Professional Hockey League, a minor league. There, he realized that he didn’t have what it takes to make the NHL, that “the dream was fun, but hockey will not pay the bills.”
His teammate Paul Durante made it much closer to the NHL. Durante was a late bloomer; his mother didn’t want him to play hockey, saying he was a “china doll.” Only after his parents divorced was he able to play. “In order to get custody of me, my dad told me, ‘Hey Paul, if you come live with me I’ll let you play hockey’,” says Durante. “So I ended up playing hockey because my father wanted to spite my mother.”
He started to play ice hockey at the age of 11, though he says he “played street hockey since he could walk.”
Durante played in a bunch of junior leagues until he finally was invited to training camp by the NHL’s Hartford Whalers (now the Carolina Hurricanes). But injury intervened. While wrestling for his high school team, “I badly dislocated my shoulder and it ended my hockey career,” Durante says. “So I stopped playing when I was about 18 or 19.”
Another Chelsea Piers teammate, Tom Lambertson, came closer.
Growing up in Texas, he and his brother decided to stray from football and took up hockey. Living close to the rink helped.
From a young age, Lambertson attended a regional camp, played in high school, then at Buffalo State University, also in Division III. He left school and was noticed by a coach in the East Coast Hockey League.
The team was linked to the Montreal Canadiens, and some players who didn’t perform well in the NHL were demoted to where Lambertson was playing.
It was there that Lambertson concluded he wasn’t good enough to move on. Among the opponents he played against was Sidney Crosby, now with the Pittsburgh Penguins, who is among the three or four best players in the world when he’s healthy.
“He would just win the faceoff to himself, one guy would slash him on the hands and he would just be like ‘Okay, no,’ I’d try to grab him, he would be like ‘no’ and he’d go down the ice and score a goal,” Lambertson recalls.
Even though the players’ dreams didn’t turn into reality, playing at Chelsea’s Division 1 is more than enough now.
“You know it’s all about having fun,” said Mocek. “And I have that here, at men’s league.”
Story and media by Bing Wu
When Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks suddenly and unexpectedly emerged as a star, in Flushing, the Queens neighborhood that is home to the city’s second-largest Chinese population, “Linsanity” was a phenomenon the residents embraced.
Restaurants were filled with patrons cheering him on, the area’s basketball courts were filled with more Asian players than usual, and those who have never watched an NBA game suddenly became fans.
To the people of Flushing, Lin — whose quick rise to fame was cut short by a knee injury — brought out passion, pride and a fair measure of hype.
“My father, he never watched basketball before, now he started watching,” says Steve Lam, a Knicks fan even before Lin. “Now it’s just more exciting, I’m more looking forward to every Knicks game.”
As much as the excitement he brought to the community, Lin brought controversies as well. People on the street argued over Lin’s ethnicity.
The Chinese said Lin was Chinese, but the Taiwanese said that since his parents were from Taiwan, so he should be considered Taiwanese. And then the conversation would then turn into a larger debate about whether Taiwan is a part of China.
On YouTube, videos like “Jeremy Lin – Taiwanese Pride” or “Asian Pride” attracted tons of comments.
For many fans, that Lin attended Harvard was secondary. He was the underdog. More than that, he looked different from everyone else on the court, yet seemed so comfortable and confident.
Many people in Flushing’s Asian community admired such a confidence, whether it was found in the younger generation or the older generation. They all understood how difficult it is to be different.
“Lin is for real!” says Ming Wong, a 24-year-old college student who has been a fan of basketball for more than 12 years. “To perform well for one game is easy, a lot of players have those days, but to perform well continuously is hard, especially under such a huge public attention and pressure, you have to be mentally strong to do that.”
People just loved watching Lin; whenever the Knicks played, the sports bars and restaurants in Flushing were packed. Watching Lin with families and friends became a must-do thing.
Dante Claure, the manager of Applebee’s in Flushing Sky View Center mall, spent $5,000 just to make a Chinese version of his menu to accommodate the new wave of customers who were mainly there to watch Lin.
“It’s definitely worth it,” he said. “When people started to notice Jeremy Lin, they started coming here little by little, and when he became famous, suddenly we were a full house.”
Those who couldn’t make it to the bars and restaurants watched games at home with their families. “We don’t have cable before, but after Jeremy Lin, we just install it and watch him,” said Li.
Unfortunately, “Linsanity” was cut short by a knee injury, and the Knicks were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, losing four games to one to the Miami Heat, as Lin sat on the bench in street clothes.
As much as the fans want Lin to be back to the Knicks next season, nothing is certain in this world of professional basketball. But wherever Lin goes, the community’s love for him will follow.
By Sabrina Khan
Kneeling beside a small broom on the ground of Norman’s Landing in Central Park, 17-year-old Jane Jacoby closed her eyes and waited. Beside her waited six others, and yards across from them, another seven. Moments later, “Brooms up!” someone in the middle of the pitch shouted, and Jacoby’s eyes shot open. She and the others surged forward, straddling the brooms between their legs.
A beater on the New York Badassilisks – one of 95 teams that competed in the Fifth Annual International Quidditch Association Quidditch World Cup on Randall’s Island, on Nov. 12 and 13 – Jacoby was preparing to win.
“I know that we’re gonna do really well and I’m so excited,” she said from the sidelines.
Adapted by the IQA from the fictional sport made famous by J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and the films based on them, the IQA Quidditch World Cup was the ultimate Harry Potter experience and celebration of fandom for these teams and more than 1,200 spectators. But as in any tournament, preparation was key.
Running practice drills and scrimmages at Central Park nearly every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening since September, the team had been training for the Cup with their tournament 21, a group of 10 women and 11 men. Every play and player had to abide by the standard rules of the IQA, which also keeps track of more than 300 Quidditch teams registered from all over the globe.
From the page to the pitch
Often described as an amalgamation of rugby, lacrosse, basketball and dodge ball, IQA Quidditch is an aggressive contact sport, with body checking and tackling allowed. Each team has two beaters who use dodge balls as bludgers to bump and dismount players from their brooms, three chasers who use volleyballs as quaffles to score points through three hula-hoop goal posts and a keeper who mans the goal posts. The seeker remains in charge of grabbing the snitch, called a “snitch snatch,” to end the game with 30 additional points (instead of the novel’s 150), at the most opportune moment.
In the 2010 World Cup, excellent play and snitch snatches led the Badassilisks to 14th place. It was a monumental feat for the team that had just formed that year when members of The Group That Shall Not Be Named, the largest New York-based Harry Potter fan club with close to 1,000 members, decided to create its own team.
With more established teams playing this year, the competition was greater. Yet the head coach, Jared Rohrer, 35, wasn’t concerned. Even with a ripe crop of new players recruited just this summer, he was hopeful.
“My team’s actually pretty good,” he said before the tournament. “My new players are good. They’re fast, they score well, and they move well.” In fact, his team advanced to the semifinals and unofficially came in fourth place in this year’s competition.
Competitive by nature, Rohrer takes the sport highly seriously. His philosophy is to play hard but always have fun.
“The one thing I remind them of is that we’re playing Quidditch,” he says. “That’s just a great thing by itself.”
With teams of men and women playing together, Quidditch teaches mutual respect, says the IQA chief operations officer, Alicia Radford, 22. Quidditch also welcomes all personality types, athletic or otherwise.
“Quidditch is a very inclusive game and has a way of drawing in a lot of people who have never been athletes before,” says Radford.
A beater, Caitlin Dean, 27, considered herself highly unathletic before joining the Badassilisks. Having learned about the team through the Group That Shall Not Be Named, she joined because she felt it would offer her much needed physical release and an activity she could genuinely enjoy.
“Being a part of the team that plays something so ridiculous and aggressive and dangerous and fun and silly all at the same time,” she says, “I felt that would change my life.”
Nearly all the Badassalisks share that sentiment. Their ages range from 14 to 44. And while most Quidditch teams are associated with universities, the Badassilisks come from all over the tristate area. A common love of Harry Potter is the one constant. The “muggle” (human) adaptation of the game stays extremely close to the magical one. The major difference: No one levitates.
While players cannot fly on brooms, the IQA does require team members to straddle them, making play more difficult and rigorous. There is also no walnut-sized golden snitch with wings. Instead, an impartial snitch runner dressed in bright yellow dangles a sock carrying a tennis ball from the back of his or her shorts. And seeking the snitch is no easy task as the snitch runner alone can play sans broom. The seeker must scavenge the pitch on a broom while the snitch roams around freely.
Spectators, tourists and joggers at Central Park took notice. One asked, “Is this like a Quidditch?”
“Not like Quidditch,” said a snitch runner, Ryan Blaney, 23, “It is Quidditch.”
An official snitch runner for the World Cup, Blaney, a Marine and former Geneseo College Quidditch player, was lending his services to the team at Central Park to help sharpen its game before the tournament.
According to Blaney, “Snitches are allowed to get away with anything short of breaking the law,” just so long as players don’t get hurt.
He’s gone so far as taking piggyback rides from players to throwing mud in their faces to distract them from catching the snitch. Practice with a seasoned snitch runner like him helped a lot, and a week later, the Badassilisks’ efforts showed.
In the Badassilisks’ first game against Hendrix College, the team triumphed 140-30. Eddie Rocco, 27, a seeker caught the snitch in a dive and acrobatic tumble to thunderous applause from his team in emerald green with snakes on their jerseys. The Badassilisks went on to beat Carnegie Mellon University, 40 to 30, Rochester Institute of Technology, with 100 to 60, Ryerson University, with 100-20, and SUNY Fredonia in the quarter final, with 130-60.
The venom ran out when the Badassilisks 140-60 in a semifinal match against Purdue University and the entire team took it to heart. They had played hard, and gritty stains lined their uniforms. But Purdue retained a lead and the Badassilisks bit the dust.
However, the assistant coach, Chris Berdoz, 36, was most impressed by the team’s performance.
“Our team’s defense is phenomenal when backed into a corner, and with a few things being slightly different, that game could have ended up in our favor easily,” he said.
That said, many felt the Badassilisks’ journey was a great success. The team–whose supporters included dozens of fan club spectators, a woman dressed as Harry Potter villainess Bellatrix Lestrange, in black dress robes with visible stitches on her fitted bodice and nightmarish, jet black hair, and a makeshift mascot of another woman wearing fangs and a green sequined gown cascading down the grass to appear like the Badassilisk serpent–exited the Quidditch World Cup Division 2 playoffs at No. 4. That was quite the win by their standards.
Looking back at the journey, Jacoby says her team had emerged champions either way.
“I’m extremely proud of us,” she says. “We really came together and worked hard,” she says. “The end was a little disappointing, but the farther I get from it, the better I feel about our performance.”
Story and photos by Ashley Lofters
More than 1,300 skaters zipped through Manhattan’s traffic on Saturday, Oct. 8, in the biggest longboard race ever in New York City, the Broadway Bomb. Both beginners and diehard skaters from around the world came together for the 11th anniversary of the race, created in 2000 by skaters Ian Nichols and Fred Mahe.
The race started at noon at 116th Street and Broadway and ended at the bull statue in front of the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street.
“It’s a highly spiritual thing just for you to mix with the people,” says Solomon Lang, a racer and an employee at a longboard shop. “Without having to say a word, without having to say anything, you just know that these people get it.”
New Yorkers took first place in the race, with Kiefer Dixon winning the men’s division and Sara Paulshock and Cami Best tying for first in the women’s division.
Because the Broadway Bomb is not officially recognized by the city, Broadway was not shut to traffic during the race, and participants had to weave through vehicles and pedestrians. Part of the race’s appeal, several skaters say, is the congestion. The motto of the race, “You Could Die,” says it all.
In the Wall Street area, racers also had to contend with the demonstrators who have been gathered for days in the Occupy Wall Street protest. They seemed generally supportive of the race. (One skater, Jack Smith, on the Broadway Bomb Facebook page before the race encouraged fellow skaters to bring food or other useful items for the protestors.)
A longboard is similar to a skateboard, but has a much longer deck, ranging from 33 to 59 inches, and wheels that are larger, making for smoother travel over pebbles and potholes. While skateboards are usually used for kick flips and on ramps, longboards lend themselves to different kinds of tricks, such as sliding, and some people even use them to commute (though no one seems to know how many).
(In sliding, skaters wear gloves with circular pucks attached and use their hands and board to slide across the ground, creating enough friction to brake. Sliding is also used in longboard downhill racing.)
“Longboarding is a different community than skateboarding,” says one skater, Christian Liriano, 18, from Queens. “Longboarding is a lifestyle. There’s no better feeling than cruising down a hill at top speeds with some of your buddies.”
The race had only two rules — wear a helmet and no skitching (when a skater holds on to a moving car and is towed). Both rules were stressed by organizers of the race but were not strongly enforced, and several skaters were seen without a helmet and skitching.
“There haven’t been many injuries, but people should be wearing proper safety gear and taking precautions,” said James Soladay, who finished seventh. Yet Soladay acknowledges that it’s hard to race cautiously. “In order to be a top finisher in the race, you have to throw caution to the wind and just go for the glory, because if you don’t, someone else is going to,” he says.
There were no restrictions on board size or setup. While the majority of skaters used longboards for the race, a few people raced on skateboards.
For those who prefer not to race in traffic, other races are held in New York during the year, including one in Central Park. Despite the huge turnout at the Bomb, the police made little attempt to stop the skaters. One police car trailed behind skaters at the start of the race, announcing that people should stay on the right hand side of the street.
This year’s race drew its largest turnout ever, more than twice as many skaters as last year. As the race grows every year, several first-time participants ask how best to prepare. Soladay feels the best strategy is to know New York City. “All you can do to prepare for this race is learn the timing of the lights, learn the intersections and make sure nothing blindsides you,” he says. “Always be prepared for the worst possible scenario in the sense that you’re dodging strollers, other skaters, pedestrians, jaywalkers, cars and cabs.”
Several longboard companies, including Bustin Boards on Allen Street on the Lower East Side, look forward to the race. Bustin, one of several shops in the city devoted to longboards, hosted a barbecue after the race at the East River Park, with freestyle competitions and product giveaways.
Lang, who works at Bustin and was sponsored in the race, says the Broadway Bomb is an opportunity for companies to promote their products, and Bustin has seen a growth in its customer base as the sport has advanced.
“Two years ago we opened up the Bustin company, just doing online customization, and we’ve opened up two shops in the past two years,” says Lang. “At our newest shop, in the Lower East Side, we carry our brand plus our competitors brands, so I think that’s a test for how well we’re doing. We’re doing our best to keep up with demand and to keep up with the growth.”
Other brands sold at Bustin’s Longboard Loft include Rayne, Sector 9, Loaded and Land Yachtz.
Lang says the recession actually helped Bustin, because “in urban areas like New York City, if a board is your transportation, you don’t have to constantly spend money on an MTA pass.”
The average Bustin Board sells for about $195 to $250 (including trucks, wheels and bearings). Lang adds that longboards are also good for the environment. “You reduce your carbon footprint more by not catching a cab or not catching the train,” he says. “Plus you get the benefit of in a few years being extremely healthy. It’s a workout that you can do every day.”
Among Bustin’s competitors is Quicksilver on Broadway between Spring and Broome Streets; it carries both longboards and skateboards. “We sell more longboards now,” says Lester Fish, manager of the Quicksilver store on Broadway. “Longboarding is really starting to pick up especially recently with the Broadway Bomb. Practically everyone that works here has one.”