I’m not a huge fan of watching someone’s humorous get suddenly ejected, seeing ankles fold like wet cardboard, or any other form of serious injury that seems to pass for a good time on YouTube today.
But sometimes, like an accidental punch to the nuts, another person’s video-recorded pain can be pretty funny. Like in this scene of a group of skateboarders seemingly out for an afternoon kick-around. Clearly one of them, who is easy to spot, didn’t tighten his trucks this morning and comes down with a seriously contagious case of the speed wobbles. The result is an epic, but rather painless, pile-up reminiscent of the best NASCAR smackdowns. The lawn slide at the end? Wonderful.
How can you not love this? A program called Ethioskate in a tough urban stretch of Ethiopia is getting the region’s kids on skateboards as a way to distract them from the pull of the collective societal ills draining their neighborhoods. Pretty much exactly how most of our best skaters came to be. They even built a “skate park” with a couple of small quarters at each end of a strip of pavement. Hey, use what you can.
I was lucky enough to be a non-industry type at the Consumer Electronics Show this week here in Vegas. I have a client that is about to make a splash in home networking and I was there to assist in their outreach efforts. I was also able to mingle around the place and check out all the new products in outdoor and fitness tech.
Without doubt, the biggest trend I noticed in outdoor gear and gadgetry has to do with capturing and sharing the outdoor experience. GoPro is no longer alone in this world.
My favorite stop was the Z Board booth. Actually, it wasn’t even a booth yet, as the company’s founders, Geoff Larson and Ben Forman, were just arriving and scrambling to assemble their display. Of course, it was the first hour of the weeklong show, so I have to give these guys credit for taking the time to talk to me about their electric, weight-sensing skateboard.
In a word, this thing is super freaking cool. And yes, it’s exactly that, a skateboard that moves forward, or stops, when you step on the padded sensors in its nose or tail, each positioned smartly between the truck screws. No handheld triggers or cables, just your feet, just like a real board.
Z Board runs on a rechargeable battery pack stationed under the center of a 40” deck, which does make it quite heavy, coming in around 36 lbs. for the standard and 30 lbs. for the Z Board Pro. Despite the weight, the board carves surprisingly well, even on the dense convention center carpet. It is also fast, able to hit up to 17 mph. The sensor technology is savvy enough to be very easy to control, you won’t jerk to start or stop, everything is gradual. I would have loved to have had the chance to cruise this thing on the smooth sidewalks of the Strip.
It is paired with some seriously burly trucks and wheels that make it look at first glance like some sort of all-terrain board. Larson and Forman told me that’s so it can roll over rough patches on sidewalks without disrupting the ride, whereas on a traditional longboard you may be preparing yourself for a header.
There shouldn’t be any backlash over Z Board from the skater community. As battery technology evolves and these guys continue to improve their design, as all good engineers do, Z Board could very well become what everyone thought the Segway would be. No one is taking away anyone’s right to kick or carve on human power, and every outdoor pursuit is subject to advances in thinking. In my opinion, Z Board could be the best thing skateboarding has seen, well, since the Z Boys.