Gaining Speed

When Michaela Albanese brought her longboard skateboard to Main Campus with her, she did so mainly for its convenience as a mode of transportation. “I started [longboarding] a couple of summers ago when I lived

When Michaela Albanese brought her longboard skateboard to Main Campus with her, she did so mainly for its convenience as a mode of transportation.

“I started [longboarding] a couple of summers ago when I lived at the shore and there were a lot of other kids that had them, and I just bought one to fit in,” said Albanese, a sophomore jewelry major. “And I brought it to campus because it’s just a lot easier to get to class with it.”

Albanese isn’t alone in using her longboard to travel to Main Campus. To Cameron Snyder-Mitchell, a sophomore visual anthropology major, it’s easier to get from Point A to Point B without wasting time to park a bike and lock it up.

“It’s so fast going around campus,” Snyder-Mitchell said. “You don’t get the same maneuverability with a bike that you do from a longboard because with a bike, you always see people having to get off and walk it, especially if there are other people in the way. On a longboard you just hop off and on.”


While their main mode of transportation may be convenient, as longboarders, Albanese and Snyder-Mitchell are also part of a growing trend across college campuses.

“I don’t want to call it a trend, but it is a trend,” said Alessandro Pruscino, a civil engineering major in his third year at Drexel University. Pruscino also designs and constructs longboards for sale under the name Dro Pru Longboards.

After he saw his roommate’s board in 2009, Pruscino asked if he could borrow it to visit a friend. Pruscino, who said he didn’t start noticing other longboarders until he started riding one  himself, has been longboarding ever since.

But while many longboarders appreciate the convenience of cruising around the city, others don’t enjoy it as much in Philadelphia.

Andrew Becker said he “would love to just cruise around,” but here in Philadelphia, he thinks of longboarding as a “nuisance.”

“I call it urban longboarding here because you’re dodging cars and people,” Becker, a freshman business major, said. “A lot of times you have to constantly jump off your board because you can’t slow down.”

First Wave

Originally dubbed “sidewalk surfers” in the 1950s, longboarders constructed longer, wider skateboards to use as a training tool between surf sessions, according by Michael Brooke’s book, “Concrete Wave: The History of Skateboarding.”

Compared to a 28- to 32-inch skateboard, longboards measure anywhere between 35 and 60 inches. Given the extra length and width of the board, riders have replicated the same carving motion as surfers and snowboarders. These two elements also add weight to the board, allowing the rider to easily carve and turn and offering more control when skating downhill.

The first generation of longboards was fitted with clay wheels, which were less expensive to manufacture, and according to Brooke, there wasn’t much research or development in the construction of longboards at the time. While the wheels remained cheaper to produce, they caused many accidents and gave longboarding a bad public image.

Second Wave

After the wheels changed from clay to urethane, a material that provides a more stable and gripped ride, longboarding became popular again in the ‘70s on the West Coast. Skaters began to use the boards to “bomb” – reaching the bottom of a hill as fast as possible – the steep California coastline, gaining speeds as fast as 50 mph.

Around this time, the infamous Z-Boys, a group of skaters from South Santa Monica, Calif., and Venice, Calif., became a phenomenon. The group created a skating subculture by breaking into backyards and skating drained swimming pools. The media attention they attracted lifted the sport to national recognition and led to the creation of skate teams, competitions and sponsorships.
At this time, skaters started to experiment with downhill racing, freestyle skating and slalom – curving between objects.

Tony Alva, one of the original Z-Boys and a pioneer of skating as a sport, took skateboarding to a new level through his tricks, and the sport became more dangerous.

“Skate-park insurance became an issue due to the problem of liabilities. In fact, skate-park insurance was so expensive for most owners that they closed their doors and the bulldozers were brought in,” Brooke wrote in his book.

U.S. cities started to ban skating due to concerns about the safety of the public and skaters.

New Wave

Steve Miller, owner of Exit Skateshop of Philadelphia, said longboarding is a current fad and fair-weather sport.

Miller said his average customer’s attitude toward longboards is that they are “basically the equivalent of a hummer in terms of an unnecessary piece of wood and product.”

“We can’t fully stock them because the kind of person who buys a longboard is the kind of person who throws it in the closet after a couple of months and never steps on it again,” Miller said of people in Philadelphia, adding that the sport “hasn’t caught on” yet in this city.

Representatives from two other shops, Bainbridge Skateboard Shop and Nocturnal Skateshop, said they do not stock longboards but will specially order one for a customer. Although longboards can be difficult to purchase in the city, two groups, Liberty Longboarders and the Philadelphia Longboarding Society, exist to promote the growth of the sport in Philadelphia.

Pruscino is one of six active members of LL. The group has a strong presence online with Facebook and, a forum dedicated to the longboarding community.
Pruscino originally became involved with the group through two longboarding events in Philly: the ShoeKill on the Schuylkill, which is organized by LL, and the Broad Street Bomb, which is organized by the PLS. Considered push races through the city, the two events have been held annually since 2009.

Sponsors, separate competing classes, prizes and word-of-mouth have all helped the events grow. This year’s ShoeKill, held in July, grew from 40 people its first year to 60 in its second.
Both events were modeled after New York’s Broadway Bomb, where hundreds of longboarders participate. Having never actually attended one of those races, Pruscino and a gang of passionate riders had to pull their resources together to make these events successful.

“We put a lot of time into organizing that race. We had to figure out where to do the race, how people were going to park and stuff like that,” said Pruscino, adding that although the city isn’t the ideal place for a race, the organizers made it work. “A lot of people organizing, especially a few older people, didn’t like the idea of just skating in the street.”

Pruscino gives a face to longboarders in Philly. Although he enjoys planning events and widening the local longboarding community, he said he knows longboarding will likely remain a passing fad, especially in Philadelphia.

“Philly doesn’t really have a good longboarding scene. It’s not like New York, [which] has a phenomenal longboarding scene because of Bustin Boards Custom Longboards, a major company based in that city,” Prusino said. “For it to grow in Philly, a major longboarding company needs to be headquartered in the area, and then, chances are, it will emanate from there.”

Stephen Rose can be reached at

[Editor’s note: The original version of this article in correctly attributed a quote to Exit Skateshop owner Steve Miller. The quote was to be attributed as a common sentiment of Miller’s customers. The quote has been corrected in the current version of this article.]


  1. “A longboard is basically the equivalent of a hummer in terms of an unnecessary piece of wood and product,” Miller said. “We can’t fully stock them because the kind of person who buys a longboard is the kind of person who throws it in the closet after a couple of months and never steps on it again.”

    Really? The longboarding scene did not just “explode” yesterday. It has been in a slow but steady growth pattern since the late 90’s. Not sure what is happening in Philly but hit a bunch of other major cities and a huge number of smaller ones and longboarding is thriving.

    Longboarder Since 1976 (when I added one to my skate quiver)


  2. This article is a bit of a head scratcher. I am not sure where to begin. Thanks for checking out my book, but frankly, you’ve confused a number of things…quite significantly, I might add.

    The most amusing part of this piece is the comments of the shop owners. Call me crazy, but I have a sneaky suspicion the one guy (who equates longboards to Hummers) probably has real issues selling to longboarders.

    I reckon, he does nothing to cultivate them purchasing from his shop. Truth be told, he’s probably ashamed of longboarders and hopes they would just disappear. Too bad, because longboarders are voting with their wallets and moving online…or to shops that will in fact service them with a smile.

    If you ever want to do a follow-up to this piece, I can help. But for right now, I give this article a failing grade. You missed the boat, bigtime!

  3. Pruscino he said he knows longboarding will likely remain a passing fad

    Steve Miller, owner of Exit Skateshop of Philadelphia, said longboarding is a current fad and fair-weather sport.
    “We can’t fully stock them because the kind of person who buys a longboard is the kind of person who throws it in the closet after a couple of months and never steps on it again.”

    The statements copied above are narrow-minded and ignorant.
    Although they MAY be representative of their respective locations, it is NOT true of the rest of the world.
    I would like to suggest to these persons that they open their minds and expand their horizons beyond their respective city-views.

  4. I’ve got to agree with Mr. Brooke there – this article seems to have ignored a pretty serious phenomena that’s going on across the continent. i’m sure it’s even in philly, despite the obvious negative bias’s toward the sport indicated in this article. Every scene starts somewhere, whether it be 40 people in a shoekill event in philly (which sounds fantastic, by the way) or 400 in a board meeting event in toronto. you call it a fad.. every other commentary on the sport calls it fantastic and wait for it… here to stay.

  5. One more point I would like to make: I guess I am old school but skateboarding is skateboarding. Street skating is seriously the hot thing I know and the level of skating is going up and up. Vert skating is seeing its revival in huge ways especially now that skateparks are actually being built with bowls.
    Freestyle may be old school but the moves that side of skateboarding created is clearly in the bloodline of modern day street skating (can you say “Rodney Mullen?). Downhill skateboarding was a huge part of the sport back in the 70’s and the emergence of the longboarding scene has spurred it to new levels as well. A “8 set stair double kick flip ollie 50/50 grind down a rail” is sick gnarly but pre-drifting a 180 degree turn at 45 mph down a mountain road is gnarly in its own right.
    So what if there are “longboarders” who are simply riding longboards for transportation and personal enjoyment? I don’t see sick bike riders like Dave Mirra railing against people who ride earth cruisers or fixed gears or heaven forbid a road bike. Matter of fact walk into most major bike shops in your city and you will see something for just about everyone.

    Why do skateboard shops have to stick to the whole “if it ain’t street skating it ain’t (crap)” mentality? Oh wait. I forgot…it’s the image thing. What percentage of stuff in the shops are sold to people who don’t even skateboard at all? More skate shoes and skate styled clothing is purchased by posers than purchased by real skateboarders. At least, the longboarders who are riding for transportation are actually skateboarding.

    It’s all skateboarding people. Yeah, maybe it is NOT your style but it is still 4 wheels, two trucks, and a piece of wood. That’s a skateboard. Period.

    Skateboarding since I was 10 years old and still skating at 48.

  6. The problem with this article is it’s based on the East Coast. 😎

    a warm hello to all you right coasters! no worries, this mentality will pass too. just keep skateboarding and ignore the faint call of b.s.


  7. I have to agree with Michael Brooke on this one, definitely jumbled some facts there as well as the fact Bainbridge Shop has been out of business for quite sometime and the guy who owned that shop (formally Elite) used to carry long boards all the time as he was a crossover surfer.

    Nocturnal is all about supporting long boarding, actually talked to Kerry the other day about what he is doing with the shop as he is fully involved now and the first thing he told me was to diversify the wall and bring in Longboards and more cruisers as they sell the cruiser wheels like hotcakes!

    Exit Skate Shop is the only part of this article I feel you hit the nail right on the head as that does sound like something Steve would say and believe. Sector 9 is the biggest skateboard company in the world now and their primary board sales are longboards, he is missing yet another boat but again that doesn’t surprise me at all as some people never get it and yet will still inexplicably stay in business (well at least for a little while longer)

    Philly and NYC have teamed up in the past for events and it is only going to get bigger as parents and others who either always wanted to skate or want to do something with their kids are able to due to longboarding. Plus it is just plain old fun! Thats what it is all about, no matter what you are riding it is all about having fun!

  8. Someone better clue those skate shop owners into longboarding then. It’s what’s going to be keeping their lights and feeding their kids for the next few years if they are smart enough to adapt. To ignore it, or consider it a fad is to lose a ton of opportunity and money.

  9. Passing fad huh? We were sliding on steel wheels at the Villanova Law School parking lot in 1960, bombing hills at over 30 mph on the as yet unopened 420 Bypass out past Valley Forge in 1964, and hitting ditches in King of Prussia when urethane wheels came out in 1975. Steve Miller at Exit and the kooks at Drexel who don’t know how to footbrake are all wet.

  10. I was approached by the author and asked to give my thoughts and experiences concerning “Long boarding on PHILADELPHIA COLLEGE CAMPUSES” not to give a commentary on the sport at large.

    As the owner of a inner city skateshop for a decade I have seen my fair share of fads fade in and out of skateboarding, big pants, tiny wheels, big wheels, tiny pants, vert skating, street skating etc etc etc, BUT Philadelphia is not your traditional skateboarding market. Our skateboarding scene remains a strong but small tight group of individuals with very few changing variables in terms of what we can and cannot sell.

    I have carried longboards in the past and will continue to special order them for customers who want them, but it still remains to risky to stock longboards full time (weather is a huge issue). This is not a question of “Is it not cool enough?” or not wanting to cater to the longboarding customer… Trust me I am the sole owner and employee of an independent retail business during the worst economic downturn in 70+ years, if it can keep me afloat and alive I WILL sell it, but bringing in a product that doesn’t provide a reliable sell through can destroy a shop as small as mine.

    This article got several important details wrong, and I apologize if any one was offended by my statement concern longboarders on temples campus. Like one of the posters above had mentioned “skateboarding is skateboarding” no matter what form your doing it. As long as your enjoying yourself your doing it right.

    If anyone would like to contact me directly at my shop feel free to. 215.425.2450

  11. I’m left scratching my head as well. Was the author of this article just covering his bases? The fact is, longboarding is growing faster and faster, while popsicle sticks are selling less and less. Just go to silverfish and check out the demographics…the new breed of longboarders are the young fishes, and many are just bypassing the whole shortboard thing.

    Even here in south Florida, where there are no hills, more and more I’m seeing speedboards and longboards. The Push Culture is growing strong. Those guys from Exit/Bainbridge/Nocturnal skate shops need to get a clue.

  12. thank you Steve Miller!
    this is why I love the internet…
    you have clarified things and you’ve taken the time to write – this is hugely appreciated!

    Personally, the writer of this article got a lot wrong…and I hate to say it, but if I was marking this as a paper, I’d grade it an F.

    so, going forward, Steve, I’d like to extend a free subscription to your shop. Just email me at

    Our magazine covers longboarding and I sense that it might give you pretty cool ideas…I for one want to ensure that the lights remain on on the indie skate shops forever!

    thanks again!

  13. Way to step Steve Miller and clarify. Every time I am quoted in the paper it usually misses something I said or meant as well.

    Good response to the comments. I wish you the best of luck up there.

    Skateboarding is a way of life not a pasttime.

    Downhillbillies Skateboarding Organization

  14. I just want to send out a big thanks to Mr. Brooks, Enemy Combatant and hammerhead. It’s because of rad guys like you that ensure lonboarding will not just be a passing fad. The flame is growing strong and if people don’t know now.. they will soon! Longboarding is here to stay!

    Also, the longboard scene in growing big time on the East Coast! Dont count them out just yet!

  15. This story sums up why so many skaters (including myself oftentimes) are so afraid to talk to the press. Many journalists seem to do a great job in making the person being interviewed look uneducated or just like a kook really.

  16. if journalists and especially student journalists can’t get longboarding right then it makes me wonder about TRULY important stuff like war….government actions and health care policy (just to give you 3 examples)

    How much stuff is filtered, made up, poorly understood and just plain WRONG ???
    the mind boggles

  17. “I was approached by the author and asked to give my thoughts and experiences concerning “Long boarding on PHILADELPHIA COLLEGE CAMPUSES” not to give a commentary on the sport at large…”

    Then why did you end up giving The Temple News an extremely narrow-minded and ignorant commentary on THE SPORT AT LARGE…? You do realize that you tagged longboards as “an unnecessary piece of wood and product”, and essentially called all longboarders posers with the “kind of person who buys a longboard is the kind of person who throws it in the closet after a couple of months and never steps on it again” quip.

    You do realize this, right…? That what you just did, is to make a crass generalization regarding all longboards, and longboarders…?

    Or, are you saying that The Temple News mis-quoted you, and that you didn’t actually say these things…?

    I’m dying to know, because it’s a direct reflection on your business, and your values and opinions. If you make it a habit of saying these things about your FELLOW SKATEBOARDERS, then maybe it should come as no surprise when your fellow skateboarders start attacking/stop supporting your business.

  18. So if mistakes are made in this article, would any of you care to actually point out where he quotes wrong, especially Mr. Brook, since he used your book. I’m a longboarder in Philly, and will agree with the author on his points, because it was meant for the east coast, and the Philadelphia college campus scene.

  19. Ya lets get off this author’s case already, the dude is a REPORTER, he writes down what he has REPORTED. For this article, it was simply just the case that the opinions he acquired from those interviewed failed to portray an accurate representation of the essence of longboarding, once compiled. Of course, transportation can be considered a plus, by to focus on that one virtue consequently turns a blind-eye to the many other attributes that better embody the underpinning reasons we all longboard. e.g. freedom, joy, exhilaration, escape, sick slides, crazy carves, blazing down a hill with your eyes tearing up-hoping a car isn’t going to show up at the intersection…
    As far as those Miller quotes; while your follow-up comment might have rationalized your initial ones from an economical standpoint, its hard to imagine your meaning being misconstrued by the author in any sense, and even harder not to feel a little ticked off upon reading it. Misinterpreted or not, I can assure you that you longboard customer support has deteriorated-although I imagine to you, that matters not.
    ATTENTION= longboarding’ is on the up and up! Its as much a fad as herpes-its just not gonna go away. Not as long as it remains a more enjoying hobby than a brief psychedelic dependency.

  20. 1st issue that I have:

    Originally dubbed “sidewalk surfers” in the 1950s, longboarders constructed longer, wider skateboards to use as a training tool between surf sessions, according by Michael Brooke’s book, “Concrete Wave: The History of Skateboarding.”

    No, this is not the case. Sidewalk surfing was skateboarding…in the 1950’s there were very few longboarders…it was pretty much hand made stuff (with rollerskates) and few mass market decks.

    The other main concern is that a number of facts that were taken from my book, aren’t really that relevant to this story. If you want to discuss pioneers of longboarding, it wasn’t the Z Boys. It was people like Tom Sims and Ed Economy. THEY experimented with longboards.

    Frankly, this article is a jumbled collection of information.

  21. That may be true enough (and, I might even agree with that sentiment)… but, it’s also really quite beside the point.

    The fallout from the article does not seem to be whether the inferences that he made, based on the information that he had on hand, as a whole, are accurate or inaccurate. Example: You’re right, the Z-Boyz had virtually nothing to do with longboarding, while Tom Sims’ groundbreaking experiments were seemingly overlooked. Reporters make incorrect inferences every day.

    However: The fallout seems to be whether his sources were quoted accurately or not. Especially when it comes to Steve Miller at Exit. And as far as I can see, he quoted extremely accurately. Example: He didn’t mangle the words of Concrete Wave; he simply failed to connect the dots quite right. But as for the words themselves, they looked pretty accurate to me (having read the book myself many times).

    Let’s face facts: This is more than likely a student reporter, for a student newspaper. It’s not award-winning commentary, we don’t expect Pulitzer-Prize winning reporting from students usually.

    But insofar as the basic reporting goes… that is, getting multiple viewpoints, using multiple sources (both written, as well as in person, and getting those sources on the record), documenting those thoroughly, and keeping transcripts, notes, and audio recordings… Steve Rose seems to have done a pretty good job. I know, because I vetted him earlier today, and continue to do so.

    But maybe most importantly of all: He ignited a controversy, and a worldwide debate over some very important issues in skateboarding. At the end of the day, isn’t that really what all good reporters do….?

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