Explained: Longboarding, the sport played by late skateboarder Anas Hajas from Kerala

The death of Anas Hajas, a 31-year-old skating enthusiast from Kerala, while ‘longboarding’ has raised serious concerns about adventurous solo trips undertaken using the skateboard. Hajas was on his way to complete a record 3,500 km-long journey on a longboard from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. However, he came under the wheels of a truck when he was on his long skateboard near Pinjore, Haryana, on August 2.

Hajas was a graduate in computer science, who left his job in the IT sector to pursue his passion for skateboarding. He had launched the expedition to create awareness about skating. Starting the journey from Kanyakumari on May 29, Hajas reached Panchkula on July 30. In the initial days of his journey, Hajas covered up to 100 km a day. Later, following the advice of friends, he scaled down the distance covered daily to 40 or 50 km.

Experts on longboarding termed the incident unfortunate and advised young players to follow certain rules when skating. Here is what we know about the unique sport of longboarding, and the rules governing 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 plank or board made of wood, plastic, or even heavier materials, balanced on top of small wheels. Players often perform impressive stunts and move downhill from a height on the boards, doing tricky movements even when suspended mid-air. The sport originated in the US around the 1950s, and in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, skateboarding was included as a competitive category for the first time.

A longboard is naturally longer but flatter when compared to skateboard boards, which usually have upward-curving ends. There are other technical differences in wheel sizes and distance between wheels. It is believed that longboards are generally sturdier and better suited for longer rides.

Longboarding is one among many sports that come under the category of Roller Sports. Park Skateboarding, Street Skateboarding, Longboarding (downhill), and freestyle skateboarding are some other popular examples. The style which was being followed by Anas Hajas comes in the category of Freestyle Skateboarding.

What are the rules for solo longboarding trips?

The RSFI is the governing body for skateboarding and roller sports in India, registered in 1955, and affiliated with World Skate, the parent body of the sport since 1971. It was accorded recognition by the Government of India in September 1990 and later recognized by the Indian Olympic Association.

According to Naresh Kumar Sharma, General Secretary, Roller Skating Federation of India (RSFI), solo longboarding trips fall in the category of adventurous activities. “Indeed, we do allow such trips but under strict norms and guidelines. The person keen on such solo trips should inform his/her parent state government, which will give the green signal and further inform other states which will be crossed by the riders”, he said.

In Hajas’s case, in the name of an escort, he only had one friend following him on a cycle behind him. Panchkula police said at the time that he was run over by the truck, his cyclist friend was ahead of him.

Sharma added that either the rider’s associates or the concerned state police are to escort the rider from the front and rear whenever the rider moves on the road. There also needs to be a guarantee of emergency assistance round-the-clock for the rider. “Adventure Club of India used to organize such downhill skateboarding solo trips in a very professional manner until 2005. These trips were organized in Himachal Pradesh”, he said.

But what are the reasons behind people choosing to undertake tedious solo trips?

Trainers and coaches involved in roller sports claim the zeal to achieve something as a big reason for such trips. Setting a record is also behind this rising trend. Chandigarh-based trainer Chander Singhal said, “Indeed, youths should come forward in the adventure sports activities, following the standard rules and guidelines. People’s sentiment to do something unique and make a record is justified but not at the cost of life.”

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He cautioned against taking unregulated trips and said, “A person puts his own life at risk and also poses risk to others. Many enthusiastic youths came to me with ideas of such trips, I appreciate them but advised them to complete their tough training, follow rules and laid procedures.”

Also overall, roller sports have seen a rise in popularity in India in the last few years. Besides the private roller skating academies, there are government coaches also training the youth in skating in many government sports complexes.

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