Max Capps concentrates as he races down a hill in Mission Viejo, California. (Lee Eisler)
Staying on top of a skateboard going over 50 mph is very difficult.
“Your butt hole kind of shrinks shut, you have to get a good speed tuck, and you can’t wiggle around,” said Max Capps. “You become one with the road.”
Capps likes going fast. He is a downhill skateboarder.
“Fifty-five mph is the fastest I have gone. I average 35-50 mph but there are guys that push 70-80 mph,” Capps said.
In 2008 he was 19th in the U.S. and currently he is ranked 155th in the world according to the International Gravity Sports Association.
Capps has been skateboarding four years now.
“I would just cruise around the neighborhood at first. Then I started going fast. I like going fast,” Capps said.
People who are his fans notice his talent.
“He’s faster than a speeding bullet,” said Greg Silvia, 19, business management.
Downhill skateboard races are held all over the world.
“I will be racing in Washington and Colorado this year,” Capps said.
The way races are set up is very safety oriented. A physician, paramedic, or qualified medical attendant and first-aid kit is required to be present at all races.
All riders must also receive approval from a technical inspector making sure all the rider’s equipment are in good working order.
Races are usually 0.5 to 15 miles, held on steep roads with several turns. Usually roads you would not dream of racing down or even going down on a skateboard.
The rider’s safety equipment must meet several specifications as well. Helmets must be hard shell, full-face helmets with a shatterproof shield or goggles. Riders must also wear a one or two-piece suit and full-fingered gloves made of leather or Kevlar. Shoes are required to cover the ankles from abrasion and elbow or kneepads are recommended, but are not mandatory.
Along with safety equipment the skateboard has its own specifications.
The deck of the board must be structurally sound and cannot have any sharp edges.
A complete board may not exceed 15.4 pounds and the board cannot be more than 55 inches long and 12 inches. wide. Trucks must be the normal lean to steer technology and no wider than 12 inches. Wheels must be no wider than 5 1/8 inches and the bearings must be the kind that can fit into a standard 608 hub. All braking must be accomplished using the rider’s feet.
It is also important to note that in this sport you must be standing in an upright position on your skateboard. Laying down on your back or stomach is prohibited.
While racing, riders are doing many different maneuvers. They are drafting behind each other while sliding and drifting around turns going 35-50mph.
Several different techniques are used to both stop and control ones speed.
Footbraking is a skill you have to learn and is an effective method for shaving off some speed, but it’s not nearly as effective as sliding.
Sliding is the most effective way to take off speed and there are many variations of slides.
When a rider is traveling really fast the air brake is an effective way to cut some speed off before a turn. This method is simply standing up on the board with your arms outstretched trying to get as much wind resistance as possible.
Drifting around turns also helps take off some speed, but if it is done incorrectly it can cause riders to crash. One thing a rider really wants to avoid is sliding and having the board stop, instead of continuing to slide.
This will generally have an unpleasant result.
Carving and adjusting the speed tuck are effective ways to increase or decrease speed by allowing friction in the wheels to reduce speed and reducing wind drag to increase speed. Carving is basically turning left to right in S shaped paths on your way down the hill.
“Long boarding is super underground. There are popular riders, but there are no celebrities,” Capps said. “Although there isn’t a lot of money to be made racing, the atmosphere is what it is all about.”
Crashes are inevitable in this sport. “I’ve had four really gnarly falls. The last one was in Laguna Beach trying to stop,” Capps said.
Going fast on your board is all about confidence, and crashing can play a big part mentally on a rider.
Danny Way broke the speed record by going 74 mph on a skateboard. “When we heard about Danny Ways speed record we were really pissed. Long boarding is super underground and it costs a lot of money to get into the Guinness Book of World Records, plus you have to close a road. There are people that have gone faster than Danny Way hundreds of times,” Capps said.
“In the last 2 years, the way people are riding is way different,” Capps said. Once Cliff Coleman invented what is known as the “Coleman slide” skateboarding changed forever. This maneuver is basically sliding sideways drifting one hundred eighty degrees, which helps shave off some speed.
There are now many different varieties of slides.
You can immediately notice a long board skateboarder by their board. It is distinctly different compared to a regular Tony Hawk or Danny Way skateboard. Long boards come in many shapes and sizes.
“Wheels and trucks make the world go round,” Capps said.
Wheels and trucks are a huge part of the sport and affect the way the board rides significantly. Wheels come in a variety of sizes, widths, and different durometer (The hardness of the wheel).
Buying the right type of wheels is important for the type of riding that you will be doing.
If you are doing a lot of sliding you will want a different wheel then if you are trying to go fast. “I’ll have days where I will go through a set of wheels in one day to the core” Capps said.
Long boarding is a mentally and physically tough sport. Riding is a constant challenge and can be full of rewards and consequences. Despite the risk of injury, Capps pushes his riding further and further everyday with support from his friends. The long boarding community is definitely a tight knit group.
“A big part of skateboarding is the partying and the family,” Capps said.
Max Capps skateboarder