Distance Skateboarding Feature: Chris Vallender

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Long Distance Skateboarding! We never hear enough about this aspect of our great sport. So we sat down with one of the crazy pushers of our continent and find out about the Distance skateboarding scene in Europe.

Hello Chris, thanks fortalking to us tonight. How are you ?

I’m great, thanks for having me on board and organising this.
The pleasure is all ours. Where are you from?
I’m originally from Coventry in the UK and that is where I grew up. I was brought up speaking French  so after university I moved to Paris in late 2006. Moving to there was an attempt to balance time spent in the UK and France. Recently I moved to Lausanne in Switzerland which is where I have been living since last March. It’s quite hilly here!
Chris is sometimes worried when he skates.

That’s quite interesting. Where did you start skating?
In Paris around 2007. When I was a lot younger I remember trying out a friend’s skateboard and falling over almost straight away. I thought to myself, that’ll never work for me. Then in 2005 I learnt to snowboard and started going sideways. Later on, when I arrived in Paris in 2007, I didn’t have the money or time to get to the mountains and I was curious about the few longboards I’d seen around. I bought one and was hooked.

 

Do you remember what your first board was?
It was a Motion Pintail 43”.

The Motion Pintail 43″, Chris’ first board.

What do you ride now?
At one time I had 5 boards. First one was the pintail, then I craved a board with a really responsive flex and after some chance encounters I ended up coming across the German brand Kaliber. I bought a cruiser deck from them. That’s about when the Loaded Dervish was getting popular. I’ve got an Insect Mosquito too, which is rather like a Dervish in shape for general cruising and sliding.

In 2009 I stumbled across Skatefurther, Pavedwave and got really blown away by the LongTreks series about South America and Rob Thompson’s 14 degrees blog. I was inspired and wanted to do something similar.

After researching a little about equipment I ordered a Longboard Larry Pusher. I ordered one in April 2007 and haven’t looked back. The sad news is that after a good many trips that board died and split quite nastily just behind the front drop through mounting. It has since been replaced with a Subsonic GT board.

This Subsonic GT boards takes Chris further than you can think of.

I realised last year that even though those boards are good for longer trips, there would be a board out there that could be pumped as well as pushed, incorporating an LDP (Long Distance Pumping) specific truck and angle setup. I had been lucky enough to be lent a board of rather original design which is the brainchild of GBomb Longboards. They boards incorporate aluminium mounting brackets for the trucks makes for good pumpability whilst remaining low enough to push easily.

Always pushing forward.

Basically the theory is that if a board is a good pumper then you can maintain a speed similar to as if you were pushing. Over a marathon distance it helps since you can ‘rest’ or at least use different muscles when you pump.

You clearly love long distance skating! What is the scene in Europe like?
The scene in Europe has been steadily growing over the past couple of years as people have become more aware of it. That is basically what the aim of Skatefurther is – to promote distance longboarding under all its forms.

For a long time the biggest event on the distance calendar was the Goodwood Roller Marathon in the UK so there has always been a strong crew there. In Paris things have developed a little later but they’re on their way now. There have been a few push races, some solo trips have taken place and there was the first ultraskate last may.

Paris UltraSkate from last May

Distance skating has got popular in Holland – you just need to see the tables on Pavedwave for the Ultraskate to see how seriously the Dutch take it. There are pockets of distance skaters all over Europe but I’m sure that there are many that are still unheard about.

That’s awesome. Tell us a bit more about Skatefurther, what’s your involvement with them?
When I got interested in distance skating I needed info about how to organise trips, the equipment needed… those kind of things. The best place for this was Skatefurther, which has been running since 2007. So I started by contributing a fair bit in the forum and eventually after meeting a few of the team members (Nat Halliday and Laura Hatwell) during events I went to in the UK I got asked to join.

In Paris all the events I helped organise were under the French association Riderz / Skatefurther banner. I also try and update the Skatefurther Facebook page and homepage as and when things happen…and encourage forum activity as much as possible. My aim is to organise some distance events in Switzerland and the surrounding region where this part of longboarding is not very well known.

We’re quite International now with Nat Halliday (one of the founders) being in NZ. Our other team members are in the USA and in the UK.

Good stuff. What events did you make it to last season?
Non distance:

  • Jan 2011: Longskate video party, Paris, France.
  • Jan 2011: Paris King of Parking, Paris, France.
  • Sep 2011: Descent2, Lausanne, Switzerland.

Distance:

  • May 2011: Paris Ultraskate, Paris, France.
  • Aug 2011: Goodwood Roller Marathon, Chichester, UK.
  • Oct 2011: The Rabbit Race Marathon, Amsterdam, Holland.
Chris on one of his routes.
Sounds like a lot of pushing! Is it as competitive as the downhill side of skateboarding? Is there an IGSA equivalent?

There is an umbrella organisation called the IDSA (International Distance Skating Association) with some local offshoots, some more active than others. Various organisations such as PushCulture and Skatefurther pitch in with the promotion/reporting when it is possible.

The Adrenalina Skateboard marathons have brought distance longboarding a lot more attention and due to this the focus has been on accurate timing and measurement of tracks. Pavedwave.org holds all the records be it for the fastest mile, half and full marathon all the way up to the 24 hour Ultraskate (there are various cutoff points for each discipline though). This is mostly down to the work of one man, James Peters, to whom the entire distance community is grateful for doing such a good job.

In terms of rivalry, there is always an element and this is good. The competitive side of people comes more to light at marathons with big prize money anyway… luckily, like at all longboarding events though, there is an overall good vibe. Many are sponsored events for charity so that does take the edge off things too.

I guess like a lot of things it depends on personality, and if people don’t live up to their own expectations it can give rise to frustrations being vented.

Rob Thompson, Guiness World Record holder for longest distance travelled by skateboard

Any advice you can give to anyone who is interested in skating a large distance to raise money for charity?

Choose your route wisely! The beauty of distance skating is the simplicity, you can just grab your board and head out and follow your nose. Having said that it is going to be a lot more fun if the route is relatively car-free or has a cyclepath. Being on a road with HGV’s roaring past you gets tiring not to mention dangerous pretty quickly. It’s always best to stick to small roads and make sure that if you’re going to be in traffic that you’re as visible as possible – common sense stuff really. For example, the sustrans site http://www.sustrans.org.uk/ lists all the national cycle routes for the UK. There are similar organisations for most EU countries.

Charities are always really interested because it is an original idea…after that distance specific gear is down to personal preference although bigger wheels are a good place to start as they help you hold momentum and get over rougher surfaces.

What’s the greatest distance you’ve pushed ?
In 24 hours during an ultraskate my record is 201km, back in 2010 I skated with three other guys from Calais in France to Rotterdam in Holland, roughly 300km.

Chris and some of his Distance-freaks friends!

Aside from distance, do you dabble in other disciplines?
I like cruising, the odd slide here and there and much shorter distances – sometimes it is all you need to get your fix.

Awesome. It’s been great talking to you Chris. Before you leave, pick 3 numbers between 1 – 10, please.
7, 5, 1.

7) What’s the best board you’ve ever ridden
I’m pretty pleased with one of my current boards! Subsonic GT, Gullwing Stalkers, Seismic Speedvents and Rockin Ron bearings.

5) Who is the best skater you’ve met ?  
James Peters was a real inspiration. I met him at the Skaiti Ultraskate back in April 2010 – time just flew by as we put down the miles. Matt Elver currently holds the record with two other mates for the shortest time to get from John O’Groats to Lands End… super relaxed and chilled, an awesome all round skater. Last May I went to NYC and met Jeff Vyain at the Longboard Loft, it was great chatting to him about gear, races… there are so many more I’d like to meet and I’ve yet to come across a longboarder I’ve not had a good laugh with.

1 ) What do you take with you when you go for a skate ?
Helmet, skate tool, water… and some food if its a long trip.

It’s been a pleasure talking to you, thanks so much for all the information about a discipline we don’t hear enough about!
Thank you so much for letting me ramble! Have a look at my blog to keep up to date with my adventures –  http://hereandla.wordpress.com/