Lake Tahoe longboarding has rich history, bright future
May 30, 2017
Whether it involves land, snow or water, most people who come to Lake Tahoe are in search of adventure. In the realm of pavement, longboarding around the lake can certainly provide what you seek.
If you aren't familiar with the sport, longboards are a littler larger than the traditional skateboard, or shortboard, and are used for cruising or going downhill at high rates speed. You've likely seen people making their way around town on a longboard.
Chuck Vogt, who founded Tahoe Board Company at Kings Beach in 1997, has been shortboarding and longboarding around Lake Tahoe for decades. Tahoe Board Company, an early pioneer in longboarding, builds all types of boards for both short and longboarding. Vogt's Tahoe Longboards falls under the umbrella of Tahoe Board Company.
According to Vogt, some of the early longboards he made were not much more than some carved out pieces of flat plywood. "We would be cruising around at 40 miles-per-hour and these boards we made out of regular plywood would start to crack under your feet," he said. "Then people started to learn what birch plywood was and what marine grade plywood was. That's when the boards started to get better." Aside from Sector 9, which was founded in 1993, Vogt said there weren't many other companies developing longboards at the time he founded Tahoe Board.
Vogt said learning more about proper board construction and wanting to develop skating and longboarding around the lake were two of the motivations that led him to found his company. "There were no skate parks around then so it was hard to ride just regular boards," said Vogt. "It was never really tapped into as far as all of these hills. Once the snow melts, you have these hills with long rides so it was like snowboarding."
According to Vogt, it was the area of Alpine Meadows that saw some of the earliest longboarding runs. "That was the birthplace of Tahoe Longboards," he said. "We were just out there barefoot, drinking beer, cutting out these boards left and right and selling them around the neighborhoods."
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Alpine Meadows neighborhoods have since become less than ideal for longboarding, but a lot of the early history in the sport stems from riding there.
Vogt explained that there are still plenty of great spots to board around the basin if you are up for the challenge. "I'm up at Incline Village so [Tyner Way] and all of those neighborhoods have nice runs," he said. "There's a great run up there called Lunar and Apollo, which is off of Mount Rose Highway."
For others who want to take on hills that would likely have you hitting some major speed, you may want to head a little farther north. "If you really want to test yourself as far as speed goes, there's Old 40, up at Donner Summit, which is a fantastic road," said Vogt. "You can still carve it up slow there, but it's really good for getting up and going at 40 or 50-miles-per-hour."
One of the main advantages of longboarding, though, is that you don't have to bomb a hill at 50 mph to do it. Vogt said the bike paths around the lake would be good for a cruise with the family and the roads around Camp Richardson can also provide some fun for someone just getting into longboarding.
More on the professional side of things, Tahoe Board Company does sponsor a group of riders who compete in events. Rider Luke Zinn has been on the team almost a year, but his involvement with longboarding around Lake Tahoe goes back several years. "I went to school at the [University of Nevada, Reno] and kind of picked it up my freshman year," said Zinn. "We started out just riding around campus, but after a couple years we started coming over to Tahoe because a lot of the roads there are steeper and harder to ride."
Zinn said some of his favorites spots to ride around the lake are around Cave Rock and Emerald Bay. "Those spots are good because there isn't a lot of traffic to deal with," he said. "We go over to Kingsbury Grade some, but that's usually good to hit early in the day to avoid traffic." Zinn and Vogt agreed that Kingsbury is mostly for advanced riders and wouldn't recommend it to a beginner.
"One of the most iconic Tahoe runs is the Emerald Bay path," said Zinn. "We'll just skate down that and hike back at the end of the day." Zinn said for a more relaxed cruise, going to the Bijou skating and biking parks can make for a fun day.
Zinn said he's longboarded all over and that it's hard to beat riding around Lake Tahoe. "Skating has taken me to a lot of beautiful places," said Zinn. "Tahoe is definitely the most beautiful place I've skated. It just brings out that feel that you're skating out in the forest with your friends and there just happens to be this giant, beautiful lake right there."
Vogt said there will be several events coming up for people wanting to get familiarized with his shop or just longboarding around the lake. They will be at the Made in Tahoe Festival May 27 through 29 at the Village at Squaw Valley. The Tahoe Board Company team will be at the El Bowlrrito Bowl Jam on June 3 at the Skatehouse Skate Park in South Lake Tahoe. If you can't make it to those events, Vogt said they will have team members and a tent with gear and merchandise set up at Truckee Thursdays, beginning June 8. One of the team's biggest local competitions will be on Aug.11 — Lake Tahoe will be home to "Shred the Lake."
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