Explained: Longboarding, the sport practiced by the late Kerala skateboarder Anas Hajas
The death of Anas Hajas, a 31-year-old skating enthusiast from Kerala, while ‘longboarding’ has raised serious concerns about adventurous solo journeys undertaken with skateboarding. Hajas was on his way to complete a record-breaking 3,500km trip on a longboard from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. However, he fell under the wheels of a truck while on his long skateboard near Pinjore, Haryana on August 2.
Hajas was an IT graduate, who quit his job in the IT industry to pursue his passion for skateboarding. He had launched the expedition to raise public awareness of skating. Beginning the journey from Kanyakumari on May 29, Hajas reached Panchkula on July 30. In the first days of his journey, Hajas traveled up to 100 km per day. Later, on the advice of friends, he reduced the distance traveled daily to 40 or 50 km.
Longboard experts called the incident unfortunate and advised young players to follow certain rules while skating. Here’s what we know about the unique sport of longboarding and the rules that govern it in India.
What is the sport of longboarding and is it different from skateboarding?
Basically, a longboard is similar to a skateboard, which is a long board or plank made of wood, plastic, or even heavier materials, balanced on small wheels. Players often perform impressive stunts and descend from a height onto the boards, performing tricky moves even while suspended in the air. The sport originated in the United States around the 1950s, and at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, skateboarding was included for the first time as a competitive category.
A longboard is naturally longer but flatter compared to skateboard decks, which typically have upward curved ends. There are other technical differences in wheel size and wheel distance. It is believed that longboards are generally sturdier and better suited for longer outings.
Longboarding is one of the many sports that fall under the category of roller sports. Park Skateboarding, Street Skateboarding, Longboarding (downhill) and Freestyle Skateboarding are other popular examples. The style followed by Anas Hajas falls into the category of freestyle skateboarding.
What are the rules for solo longboard trips?
The RSFI is the governing body of skateboarding and roller sports in India, registered in 1955 and affiliated with World Skate, the parent body of the sport since 1971. It was recognized by the Government of India in September 1990 and later recognized by the Indian Olympic Association.
According to Naresh Kumar Sharma, General Secretary of Roller Skating Federation of India (RSFI), solo longboard trips fall into the category of adventurous activities. “Indeed, we allow such travel, but under strict standards and guidelines. The person desiring such solo trips must inform the government of their home state, which will give the green signal and also inform the other states that will be crossed by the riders,” he said.
In Hajas’ case, on behalf of an escort, he had only one friend following him on a bicycle behind him. Panchkula police said when he was hit by the truck, his cyclist friend was in front of him.
Sharma added that the rider’s associates or relevant state police must escort the rider forward and backward whenever the rider travels on the road. There must also be a guarantee of 24 hour emergency assistance for the rider. “Adventure Club of India used to organize such solo downhill skateboarding trips in a very professional way until 2005. These trips were organized in Himachal Pradesh,” he said.
But what are the reasons people choose to undertake tedious solo journeys?
Coaches and coaches involved in roller sports claim zeal to achieve something as a big reason for these trips. The record setting is also behind this upward trend. Chandigarh-based coach Chander Singhal said: “Indeed, youngsters should show up in adventure sports activities, following standard rules and guidelines. People’s feeling of doing something unique and making a record is justified but not at the cost of life.
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He warned against unregulated travel and said: ‘A person puts their own life at risk and also poses a risk to others. Many enthusiastic young people have come to me with ideas for such trips, I appreciate them but advised them to complete their difficult training, to follow established rules and procedures.
Also, overall, roller sports have been growing in popularity in India over the past few years. Apart from private roller skating academies, government coaches also train young people in skating at many government sports complexes.