Speedboarding: Flirting with Russian Roulette



I’m afraid that much of the discussion on these pages about speedboarding down our city’s steepest hills fails to address what I consider the key problem, which is the speed at which speedboarders and automobiles are hurtling towards each other.

Speedboarder Bryn Jones stated in a nationally-telecast interview that “we take curves as fast as we can,” with speeds he estimates in “the low 60s.”  Well, if the speedboarder is coming downhill at 60 mph while a car is driving up the same hill at (the legal speed of) 25 mph, the two are approaching each other — often in the same lane — at 85 miles per hour, which is equal to 124.67 feet per second.  Since the sharper curves on our streets restrict forward visibility to as little as 110 feet, the driver and the speedboarder will have less than one second to see and then avoid crashing into each other as they round the bend.  If the driver takes a quick glance at his rear view mirror or GPS during this time, or if the uphill vehicle is a SUV or a school bus, a collision is almost certain, particularly because the speedboarder is swerving from one side of the street to the other (as also shown on the TV clip).

Some of the speedboarding defenses I have read on these pages are simply silly.  One person writes that the driver is no more likely to hit a speedboarder than a pedestrian, but a pedestrian descends a hill at 5 miles an hour, not 60.  Another says that riding a speedboard is no different than riding a bike, but bicycles have actual brakes.  Another calls speedboarding a “mode of transportation,” but that’s like saying that a ski-jumping or luge competition is a mode of transportation.  This is a sport, not a means of transportation, and I applaud the City Council members who seek an appropriate venue for such sports.  But such flirtations with suicide on publicly trafficked streets, and at these speeds, seem to me akin to playing Russian roulette.

Robert Cohen, Laguna Beach


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  1. Robert, in your example, you cite the speed of cars on our hills at 25 MPH. We live on a steep part of Temple Hills and cars rarely go 25 MPH and routinely exceed 50-60 MPH. A MUCH bigger problem than kids on skateboards is our fine neighbors, in high performance cars and trucks, bombing through our residential neighborhoods on streets like Park, Nyes, Temple Hills and others. We’ve had 3 accidents within 100 feet of our driveway in 2 years! How about some righteous indignation on that subject!

  2. I do indeed have righteous indignation about cars driving 60 in a 25 zone, Kirk! But there are already laws against that, enforced with $380 fines. But I’m happy to read your comment, as it only reinforces mine – as it points out that speedboarders approach such reckless auto drivers at up to 120 miles per hour, or 176 feet per second.

  3. Robert, as one of the 13 year old skateboarders pointed out at one of the meetings, according Newton’s Third of motion your speed calculations are not correct. But you have, however, correctly clarified the point in the above comment for the case of ‘no banned hills’. The cars are not banned because they speed, they are regulated with traffic laws. Which is all the skateboarders need. Banning something ‘because something bad could happen’ is ridiculous. Common sense alone tells us we don’t ban pedestrian crossings just because people get killed, injured and permanently maimed each year in our streets. We regulate it to make it safer and hold the cars accountable for safe driving. Laguna Beach needs a paradigm shift. Slow down. Skateboarders use the hills. They’re human beings with interests that are different than yours. Be a good neighbor and ajust. I just drove through Bear Brand ranch and they have ridiculous, giant speed bumps on every street placed every 40 feet and a 15 mile an hour speed limit on all of their streets. I’m sure you can find a home for sale there that suits your style. Get off your high horse and join the community as a friendly neighbor. Now go buy yourself a Gelato and chill.

  4. I do realize this is an old article, but it’s stated that skateboards do not have brakes which is true.

    However there’s foot braking: using your foot to apply pressure at a gradual rate on the ground to slow down.

    and there’s sliding a MUCH MUCH more efficient way to slow down than bicycles brakes


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