Mark Harris lives his life carving hills. A former competitive snowboarder, the current Schweitzer snowboard team coach took up longboarding during the summer to fill the competitive void and fell in love with the sport and its lifestyle.
“In this high tech world with cell phones and PDAs, where our cars talk to us and park themselves, there’s a real beauty in the simplicity of a skateboard.”
“The competitive side is very serious but also very supportive-it’s like minded people just out to have a good time.” There aren’t a lot of local longboard competitions; most of the comps are on the coast in the Seattle area or in Oregon, but Harris is working with the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department, the YMCA and the local skate shops to organize more local events and competitions.
Most recently he traveled to the Oregon State Games in Salem, a three-day event in which he competed in the Park Slalom, a timed event within a typical skate park, a Giant Slalom race, and a Tight Slalom, where the boarders make three to four turns per second in a downhill course.
Boards: Harris has more than a few boards, but the highlights of his collection include the Long Board Larry Tarpon board his wife bought him for Christmas, the Gravity 36 board he uses for the Park Slalom events, and the Roe Racing board for GS.
“Every board, every material has a little different personality,” Harris says. The Tarpon is made of baltic birch, “which gives it strength and resistance, a layer of carbon-fiber for dampening, and bamboo for added strength and flex while still being lightweight.”
The Gravity 36 is made of hard rock maple, and the Roe board is “a carbon-fiber raceboard made by a guy in Seattle who makes some of the best raceboards in the world.
Trucks: “On my downhill board I run Randall downhills,” Harris says, and for the park slalom: “Trackers-they’re one of the oldest companies in skateboarding, they’re and industry standard and a brand I’ve trusted and used forever and ever.”
“The GS and Slalom trucks are much more specialized. You can spend huge amounts of money on trucks, but there’s also a lot of great guys out there on standard-issue Trackers.” For his Slalom board, Harris uses Splitfire trucks on the front and Airflow trucks in the rear.
Wheels: “For all racing other than park, my wheels of choice are Abec 11-the company is owned by a long-time racer, so he’s got the right combination of size, shape and construction of the wheels, and the right urethane mix.”
For the park slalom, Harris prefers wheels by Bulldog skates.
Shoes: “I wouldn’t say there’s one brand that’s better than the rest,” Harris says, but shoes are important in a sport where your equipment is brakeless. Currently Harris is racing in a pair of DVS shoes with a hard rubber sole.
Helmet: Harris uses the Pro-tech Ace Helmet.
Body Armor: Harris has yet to start racing in the downhill competitions where velocity requires leather suits. However, he says, “asphalt hurts, and if you’re fully padded up you can push yourself that much harder knowing you can take it in the pads rather than leaving your skin on the streets.” He uses knee and elbow pads by TSG and wrist guards by Pro-design.
And you thought longboarding was just a great way to tackle the fossil fuel shortages.
Originally published in the July 2007 issue of “Out There Monthly.“
[Feature photo courtesy David Uhlenkott, Dopamine Board Sports. Because this story dates to 2007, there is no feature photo of Mark Harris available for the web version of this story.]