The Art of Longboard Dancing, Hill Bombs, and Chill Skater Culture in Northern Nevada

Johanna Guerrero and Natalie Newman look into the culture of skateboards, longboards and penny boards, from Insta-worthy longboard dances, to racing the wind, and mastering a tiny plank.

Ryan Gildore rides his skateboard sitting down around the UNR campus.

Transportation Needs

“Initially, I started because I can get to work faster and it’s cheaper than a bike before I get a car,” said longboard rider Olga Guerrero Pena, an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Nevada, Reno. “I feel like longboarding you don’t do too many tricks. It’s more about speed and transportation.”

Guerrero Pena, a former employee of the skateboard shop Zumiez, doesn’t ride her longboard as much nowadays since she lives close to her current job on campus. When she used to work at a Zumiez branch in Las Vegas, the store would hold a monthly skate night at a local skate park. She and her coworkers would gather around at the park to talk about skate tips, trip on their boards over unsuccessful tricks, and celebrate successful attempts. The store would even raffle a free board to one of the employees at the park.

Longboards continue to be a popular choice for commuting since some skateboarders find the board’s size helps with stability but others prefer a classic skateboard to do tricks with.

Meagan LeBerth with a broken arm jumping to do a trick on her skateboard during the summer of 2020.

Embarrassed in Class and Doing Tricks

LeBerth often hears people call her “that one girl who skates on campus”. When classes were previously in person, LeBerth would ride her skateboard through campus, skating around groups of students chatting along on their way to class.

One time for the first day of classes, Meagan was running late while looking for her class. With her heart racing she found her classroom and set down her board by the front of class before quickly taking her seat.

In a quiet room of students, the professor began lecturing and her board fell with a loud bang. She felt so embarrassed but to her relief, the professor was very nice about the situation and even set her board back up against the wall.

“There’s this idea that longboards are a little easier to first start riding,” said LeBerth, now a 20-year-old junior at UNR. “So maybe that’s why people first start riding. I prefer skateboarding because I wanted to learn how to do jump tricks. This is my goal so I want to get there.”

Hill Bombing

Instead of using longboards to commute, other longboarders love “hill bombing”and speeding down hills all over the country.

Hill bombing is “the art of going fast and learning to break/power slide,” said 22-year-old Southern California native Sam Starratt McCune (in video above). Hill bombing experts say their favorite places to hill bomb are in cities and neighborhoods with lots of hills. David Rodgers, 19, likes to hill bomb in the historic town of Genoa, feeling the breeze as he goes down the town’s many hills with paved roads that make for a smooth ride.

“I watch people in San Fran do those competitions and every year somebody gets seriously injured,” said LeBerth. “It’s cool if you can do it but probably not something I would do — unless I had a helmet.”

Longboards are common for hill bombing, but some longboards have a dual purpose with specific wheel designs made for power sliding during hill bombs. Some styles of decks can be used for tricks while other styles work better for transportation as they glide over rocks and bumps better than normal wheels.

“I’ve done it like four times and I have fallen,” said Ryan Gildore, a 19-year-old sophomore at UNR. “I fell every single time except for once. I just don’t think it’s safe for me on the penny board, maybe on a longboard is better but you can’t make sharp turns.”

“All about the knees, balance and your core,” said Rodgers, currently a sophomore at Western Nevada College. “No fear, hesitation usually is how you fall,” You have to trust yourself and your board in order to succeed.

“Don’t be afraid to be the only person with a helmet,” said McCune. “It’s setting a good example. Other than that, it’s all in the knees!”

Examples of longboard dancing above.

Longboard Dancing and Penny Boarding

“You dance on a longboard by using the longboard as a prop,” said Nevada native and female longboarder, Ray Freeman. “You cross step on the platform of a longboard or you spin on it or you pop it and spin it around.”

“I could get into it, especially if I knew some people who were into it,” said LeBerth. “I do know that longboards are expensive though so I don’t know.”

In order to longboard dance and do these types of tricks, skateboarders need a mirrored longboard. A mirrored board is designed with no specified front or back, both ends are exactly the same. The art of dancing can be done in many different ways depending on your skill level and board type. Most dancers start with moves like jumping on the board to get on or while it’s moving. More advanced movements are cross stepping and flipping the board around, almost like typical skateboard tricks.

Longboarders need to be careful when they’re stepping all over the board, one wrong step and the board could go flying out from under them. Weaving in and out of cars while cruising down the road can be stressful especially during busy times. Longboarders are considered vehicles while in motion so this can be tricky at intersections due to the fact that cars stopping for riders is against the law.

“I’ve always wanted to do it on my penny board,” said Gildore. “You can do it. I wouldn’t do it often. One time I tried to do a crane pose with one foot, another time I put my butt on the board and I went like a car.”

Reporting by Johanna Guerrero and Natalie Newman for the Reynolds Sandbox

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