At 40 mph, they take on Malibu’s hills

Special to The Times

Longboarders looking for the true mountain experience or a little more speed -- or simply hoping to stay away from traffic -- don’t have to head farther than the hills of Malibu. On a recent weekend, we trailed a crew of four longboarders as they descended multiple canyon roads.

Although one intermediate rider wore a full-face helmet and a leather skin suit, the more experienced skaters donned lighter helmets, kneepads and elbow pads. And they all wore sliding gloves -- full-fingered mitts with plastic pucks on the palm and fingers -- which let riders put their hands down and slide the board sideways across the pavement in a four-wheel drift to reduce speed.

Adam Colton led the descent. Wearing only minimal padding, he kept it mellow -- about 40 mph. Colton is one of the biggest names in the sport. He’s longboarded cross-country, records how-to videos and is regularly featured in longboard films where he shows off his skills.

For many Los Angeles longboarders, he whetted their appetite for the sport.


“Longboarders are all weird -- all of the longboarders I’ve met are a little bit different,” said Westchester resident Tadaichi Nakayama, who has been longboarding for about five years and often skates with Colton.

Nakayama, who is off to UC Santa Cruz in the fall, says his parents don’t know the full of extent of what he does during a downhill session. Gravel, rocks or reflectors that have been liberated from the center of the road can pitch a rider onto the pavement, a wrong line can send a skater off the side of the road (which may or may not be a cliff face) and sunning rattlesnakes or neighborhood dogs can bring a downhiller to a catapulting halt.

But Nakayama and his friends have an outlook of near-immortality that’s common with the young as well as those under their parents’ health insurance.

“You don’t want to fall out here, because if you get hurt, you won’t be able to skate for a couple of weeks,” says Daniel Boothe, before beginning his downhill run.