“Who runs the world?
Beyonce said it herself, girls are taking over the world.
The latest phenomenon to get the girl power treatment is not unlike Beyonce herself; equal parts elegance, style and strength - it is Longboard dancing.
CURL Interview Christchurch Longboarder with Elissa Mah
It looks just as stylish as it sounds; a mix of skateboarding, surfing and dancing that invites expression and innovation.
From Paris to Italy to Korea and New Zealand; all over the world girls are practising the art of combining dance and flow with skating.
Encouraging creativity and experimentation on the board, there is no ‘right’ way to do it and it’s not about who can go the fastest. It welcomes the rider to add their own touch of personality, poise and to be guided by feeling the movement.
Best of all, the only thing you need to try it out is a longboard and a flat surface and you’ve got the tools to “surf the road”.
Alysha Dew is part of Depper St, an Australian community that focuses on bringing together females passionate about skating, surfing and an active lifestyle.
Alysha said Depper St has shown that the longboarding scene is definitely growing in Australia with it becoming more popular to see girls on boards as well as more general interest in female skating.
The trend has spread to New Zealand where girls like Grace Wong are taking to the streets and practicing dance moves on a board.
Grace said she started longboarding because she was too poor to surf and has been dancing for a couple of months. She is working on her flow, trying to get the moves smoother and more graceful.
“It feels great when you boardwalk.”
Fellow Kiwi Elissa Mah started in late 2010 at a time when longboards were starting to become popular at University.
“I gave it a go, discovered how fun it was and just went from there!”
Elissa said she learnt a lot of dancing moves off YouTube and then found the Christchurch skating group, Garden City Sessions. She said skating is more convenient than walking and it can be meditative concentrating on the board, the road and those around you with little room for anything else.
“Skating gives you an amazing sense of freedom, it’s an addictive feeling!”
As with any new skill, being prepared to fall is essential, Elissa said. She’s had injuries herself, but nothing has stopped her from getting up and trying again.
Having travelled around the world with her skating, Elissa said the hardest part of skating is finding other people in Christchurch to join with. She found the Facebook page ‘Longboard Girls Crew NZ’ a great way to meet up with other skaters in the area.
“Meeting people from a completely different culture who had this shared love of skateboarding was incredible. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.”
“There are a lot of people who think it’s too hard to learn but it’s not.”
Elissa said the main thing for girls getting started is to not give up.
“Keep trying things and don’t be scared of looking silly.”
On the other side of the world, Cassandre Lemoine is a longboard dancer in Paris who uses the banks of the river Seine to practice her dancing. She said there are lots of girls skating in France who feel welded together by their shared passion for the sport.
“I do this because I like the sensation it provides. I feel free, happy and in my element. Dancing on my board has become my greatest passion.”
Her suggestion for beginners was to start with learning basic steps then practising style. She encourages girls to not be afraid.
In Italy, Alessia Marziali has been snowboarding since she was young and believes it has helped her with her dancing on a longboard.
“In Italy it is difficult to find suitable places and events, but recently more and more people are approaching this (longboard dancing) world and we hope to have more opportunities in the future.”
Although longboard dancing events are rare in Italy, Alessia said she is part of a crew called ‘The North’, for all the girls skating in the north of Italy but appreciates the alone time that skating can bring.
“I love dancing on my own in the peace of nature.”
Alessia said her dancing is helped because she is a surfer and she practices yoga to improve her balance.
“Consistency is the secret to have a nice style. If you stop training it’s so easy to lose the flow.”
The growing trend means competitions are starting all over the world and in the USA there are ladies only skating sessions popping up every week encouraging girls to give it a go. The Super Crown World Championships held in America introduced a women’s division in 2015. With the rise of girls showing they have style for days, this is a great inclusion to a huge event and will provide great recognition for females.
Korea is one of the leading countries when it comes to female longboard dancing and Yoonji Seo is part of the trend.
After receiving a longboard as a birthday gift, Yoonji has been longboarding for two years. She has entered the Longboard Korea festival the last two years and plans to go to the So You Think You Can Dance competition in Europe in 2017.
“In South Korea the longboard scene is getting bigger and bigger now. Korea longboard dancing is trendy. Chinese, Taiwanese and Japanese are also following the way we ride.”
Yoonji’s favourite trick is the more advanced ‘mango fresh’, a move her boyfriend fellow longboarder Jongbin Jo invented.
Fellow Korean Yuna Kang had never even seen a longboard until she saw other people longboard dancing at her college.
“Many people are starting to ride a longboard nowadays,” Yuna said. “Most beginners want to dance, but the whole longboarding scene is growing and girls are getting involved with slide and downhill too.”
Yuna is currently practising pirouettes and body variables on the board. Body variables involve jumping up with both feet to do an180 so that your feet land in the opposite direction to where they started.
“I feel so good when I ride fast cutting through the wind.”
Yuna said the most important thing is to be safe and wear protective gear.
“Please wear a helmet. Longboarding is a kind of extreme sport.”
The Depper St community is passionate about encouraging females to get out and give rad activities a go. They give support and advice to new starters while providing encouragement.
Alysha advised any board from 105cm and longer for dancing and the longer the board, the more stable you will feel when starting out. Unlike regular skateboarding, a longboard is longer and wider to allow more stability and surface area to perform tricks.
Popping into a local skate shop and trying them out is the best way to see what feels best for you with flexibility, shape, width and length.
“It will have a totally different feel depending on the shape, concave, width and length.”
Once you feel comfortable and balanced on the board and get a sense of its movement, you can start trying out different manoeuvres.
The classic beginner trick is known as cross stepping.
The art of cross stepping is walking across the board with alternating steps while carving up the pavement. It helps to have solid balance and a little bit of speed can help with stability. A tip is to ensure there is plenty of straight pavement ahead as it’s much more difficult to turn the board while cross stepping.
With its roots in surfing, the similarities between longboarding and surfing means practicing for one also helps the other as the skills are useful in both forms.
More style and fluidity on a longboard and a surfboard? Sign us up!
Gaining confidence in cross stepping on a longboard leads to more comfort and stability on the board and it helps for developing more advanced and technical tricks.
“Walk the plank” involves walking up and down the board as you ride rather than crossing your feet like cross stepping.
To “chop the wood” is hopping up onto one foot while using your other foot out in front of you for balance. Kick your back foot out from behind you and then land back on the board.
The number of tricks to try are endless. Extreme skills for the more advanced riders include balancing on the nose of the board, pirouettes (just like the ballet move) or the ‘tiger claw’, which involves stepping off the board, kicking it up into your hands, spinning it round and landing on it.
What are you waiting for? If the surf is flat, you want to improve your balance and stability or if you want to impress passers-by, get out there and be part of the movement taking the world by storm.
As Alysha at Depper St said “grab your mates, some beats, make a session out of it and give it a go.”
Make Beyonce proud and prove that girls really do run the world. Or at least longboard dancing.