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Speedboarding: street surfin’ Laguna Beach

Some residents of a popular slope in Laguna Beach want to ban the practice of “speedboarding” – hitching a ride on a skateboard up a major hill and riding down the hill with hands clasped behind the back, at speeds of perhaps 50 miles/hours. :-) The residents would like to ban skateboarding (in prehistory, known as “Sidewalk Surfin’” [YouTube video] [1]) on most hills and enact a 10 miles/hour speed limit! One resident, Alan Berstein, 62, pushed the issue onto the city’s agenda after several “close calls” with speedboarders near his home on Bluebird Canyon Drive (dude/dudette, check out that straightaway on the Google Map!). According to the LATimes online:

“A few months ago, Bernstein called police and was told that downhill skateboarders weren’t breaking any laws. They are pedestrians, according to state vehicle code, so they do not have to obey stop signs or speed limits.

So in May, he submitted a proposal to a city committee asking for a new law.”

Laguna Beach will forever be the first place (1, 2) that I ever put my toes into the Pacific Ocean.

As a protective father and a biologist, I have “mixed emotions” about speedboarding. The father in me wants to help those kids live long enough to let their brains physically mature in their early 20s (PDF). :-) The biologist in me says that there are not enough opportunities for “Natural Selection” to act on human beings, particularly in California. (Highway 1 is a notable exception.) :-)

Do these “adrenaline-minus mutants” have real survival value, and should we make sure that their DNA continues in the human gene pool (even the shallow end)? :-)

Another part of me (the lower, reptilian brain? :-) ) wishes that some of my managers in high tech had engaged in speedboarding in their teens.

As for other California cities, Malibu outlawed skateboarding on some of its most twisted streets (hmmm, Malibu and “most twisted” in the same sentence :-) ), and in Newport Beach, it’s against the law to skateboard on a 6% grade or more.

Hmmmm… maybe skateboarding IS a crime after all! :-) Or MAYBE, I have just discovered a new subspecies or two of the adaptive and ubiquitous “California maroon” (1, 2) among the critics and detractors!

It could just be that the saying “live and let live” was coined in Laguna Beach (a city of 23,000), but now the potential threat of a $50 to $500 fine has polarized even neighbors. A petition gathered over 1,200 signatures. A Facebook group called Friends of Safe Skateboarding in Laguna (FOSSIL)posted police statistics showing that most traffic collisions are between cars and pedestrians or cyclists, not skateboarders. Dozens of residents not yet old enough to vote sent impassioned letters to the city.

I’d like to help you son, but you’re too young to vote.” (Eddie Cochran 1958) cover by The Who, YouTube video at Monterey Pop 1968 (or at Woodstock [1] 1969), “Summertime Blues” (… or one of my favorite covers, by Blue Cheer). (George Santayana said it, and people are still not listening: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.“)

The battle over speedboarding will likely continue even beyond the City Council meeting that will consider the issue this fall. Meanwhile:

“As a surfer and someone that occasionally will ride my Carveboard down our streets, I cannot support you in this one,” Mark O’Brien wrote Bernstein, his neighbor. “The feeling of pure gravity is second to none.”

Yep, gravity is one of the laws that I obey.

-Bill at

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