By Andrew Lee
Managing Editor for Promotion
What has four wheels, two trucks, a deck to stand on, and is not your typical skateboard?
The answer is a longboard, and Ben Katsarsky, a sophomore at Jamesville-DeWitt High School who has been longboarding for about a year, can tell you all about it. “It's the most amazing thing I have ever done,” says Katsarsky. “I love the feeling you get when you stomp a new trick you've been working on for hours.”Katsarsky got interested in longboarding about a year ago. “I always knew I wanted to learn how to skateboard and do tricks, but when I stepped on a skateboard it felt tiny and the board tipped all over the place. So I got discouraged for a little while and gave up skateboarding all together,” he says. “But then one day I went down the street to my friend's house and I saw a huge board hanging on their wall in the garage. They told me it was a longboard, so I took it out on the road and started riding down the hill. I never felt better in my life. The ride was so comfortable and smooth I never wanted it to end. I asked for a longboard for Christmas and started watching longboarding videos on YouTube. That's when I realized I could learn tricks on a longboard, so I hit the streets everyday on a quest to learn the tricks I saw in those videos,” Katsarsky says.
So what's the difference between skateboarding and longboarding? According to Katsarsky, it's all in the mentality. “Sure, in the way they're the same thing, but what you do on a longboard and a skateboard is very different. The wheel base on a longboard (the space you place your feet) is much longer than that of a skateboard, making the traditional skateboard ollie almost impossible. Skateboarders use the ollie as the gateway trick into the kickflip, the varial flip, and so on,” says Katsarsky. “As a result, riders have developed skills in sliding or freeriding, when you torque your board so that you break the friction of your wheels and perform various different techniques.” “Breaking the friction of your wheels is very difficult to do at low speeds, so longboarding has developed as a speed sport. This is different from skateboarding, where the focus is getting from one platform to the next while flipping and spinning your board,” Katsarsky says.
These are the techniques that Katsarsky showcases in his longboarding videos, a compilation of footage of all his tricks and skating that he does. He then sends these videos to various companies who decide whether or not to sponsor him. Katsarsky is currently sponsored by Original Skateboards, Bear Essentials Gear, and the Nobi Foundation, and does things to rep their gear and promote helmet wearing awareness.
Original Skateboards sends Katsarsky boards for him to test and then give input on. “In the future, when I move up to the higher level team, I will test prototypes of boards that haven't hit the market yet,” Katsarsky says. For Bear Essentials Gear, a clothing company, Katsarsky reps their clothing and other gear as well as does photoshoots for their Facebook page and websites. “I make t-shirt designs and also give them new ideas for the future, as well as giving them feedback on any issues with their website or Facebook page. “I don't make any money from my longboarding, but I do get free stuff,” says Katsarsky. He also works closely with the Nobi Foundation (or the No Brain Injury Foundation) to get some of their products on the market, as well as spread awareness about wearing helmets.
Katsarsky describes the process of making videos in order to get sponsored as “very stressful and time consuming,” often taking more than a week to complete. “It depends on how consistent you are with your tricks, but you always want to get your tricks perfect for the video so it may take 30 tries before you get it to land how you want,” says Katsarsky. “But overall, the process is quite simple. You make videos showing off your skill and then send it to companies you would like to get sponsored by. If they don’t want to sponsor you they will usually give you feedback and tell you what to work on,” Katsarsky says. “Then you can resubmit your video until you get sponsored.”
“If you ever want to try longboarding,” says Katsarsky, “I would suggest getting a board and just riding whenever you can. To learn how to do tricks, go onto YouTube to watch videos and try to mimic how they do it,” he says. “A good way is to take it frame by frame and see how their feet and board move.” Katsarsky is always happy to talk about longboarding and welcomes anyone to get in touch with him. “I would be delighted to teach anyone who wants to learn or answer any questions people have about longboarding, or what board to choose, or how to do certain tricks. If you want to get in touch with me the easiest way is to send me a message on Facebook or just come talk to me in school.”