I’m a 43-year-old beginner skateboarder. Yes, believe it or not, it is true. I grew up in rural Nebraska and it just wasn’t something we did. So when I was approached by Hamboards in early November to review one of their land paddling boards I was excited, but also a bit nervous about the prospect and even considered turning them down. I envisioned a broken wrist, a cracked skull or worse. And while all those things still may happen, here I am, a 43-year-old beginner skateboarder. Yew!
Me and my Hamboard.
Being a beginner, this will be not be your typical gear review. After all, I’m in no position to provide “expert” commentary on a skateboard. I am however, a perfect test pilot to learn how to skate and land paddle from an everyman’s perspective. So here we go, from soup to nuts, this is the first chapter in my Hamboards land paddling experience as I channel my inner longboarder prowess and chronicle my progression, accomplishments and failures carving up the streets of Los Angeles to infinity and beyond.
But hey, you may be wondering what the heck is are Hamboards anyways?! Well, let me tell you. The brand is a cutting edge skateboard company founded by a group of enterprising brothers in non other than Huntington Beach, California. They offer a quiver of seven über stylish boards ranging from the petit Biscuit at 24” long to the behemoth 6’6” Classic. The Hamborg brothers designed each of their boards with the goal of replicating the experience of surfing on land. Whereas the Biscuit is probably analogous to surfing a shortboard, the Classic is a true land paddling machine, not to mention a consummate head turner.
Most of the boards in the range are available in a natural bamboo finish and although I’m a huge fan of the color orange, I was beyond stoked to unpack a Classic in natural bamboo. The craftsmanship is immaculate and instantly evokes images of classic longboards with its elegant, long striations of color. This board is a true thing of beauty. It is art and if money were no object, I could envisage mounting one to the wall as an objet d’art. Coming in at 6’6” x 15”, the Classic is fitted out with a set of eye-catching 200mm spring torsion trucks and 98mm 78A wheels. It is smooth, very smooth. Compared to “normal” skateboard wheels, these wheels are massive!
For stand up paddlers, the land paddle is a natural extension of an on the water paddling experience. Engineered with a blend of spiral bound carbon fiber and high-tech fiberglass, the land paddle has a flexible (and replaceable) rubber tip on one end and an ergonomically shaped, EVA wrapped handle just like many SUP paddles on the other. The rubber tip grips the ground well – essentially, if the surface is firm enough to plant your foot, you can stick the land paddle and be off rolling.
Up top, the EVA wrapped handle makes using the paddle a comfortable and pleasant experience. The EVA construction prevents your hand from slipping and is comfortable to grip over long periods. The entire paddle is lightweight, easy to use and just like a SUP paddle, it is available from Hamboards in two configurations: adjustable and fixed length.
I’m using an adjustable and I recommend going this route. I will most likely settle on one length in due time, but having the flexibility to play around with different lengths as I get to know the board is clearly advantageous and I would not want to have it any other way. Plus, it is a lot easier to share your paddle and board with friends. And believe me, when people see you riding a 6’6” Classic Hamboards, you are going to suddenly have a whole new batch of friends.
No Assembly Required
I’m generally not a patient person and it doesn’t take much for me to balk at products where significant assembly is required. At home I’m known for breaking things, not putting them together. In my mind, this makes me a perfect product tester and I’ve been known to push gear to within an inch of its life. So, if you’re like me and don’t enjoy putting things together, you’re in luck. You can ride a Hamboards board straight out of the box. Did I mention the Classic is 6’6” long? Well, the box it comes in is even bigger!
I live on a long cul-de-sac with a slight decline. The pavement out front is, well, let’s just say it has a bit of texture. I stepped on the board for the first time, wobbled a bit and fell off to the side. Take two: I positioned my feet along the clearly delineated centerline of the board and I was off! Look out world, here I come!
My first “run” was similar to most new surfers when they first begin catching waves. In other words, I went straight. The initial excitement of rolling down the street was soon accompanied by the feeling that I was picking up some speed as the street declined into the turning circle at the end of the road.
Unsure how I was “supposed” to stop, I hopped off to one side while trying to maintain a toehold on the board with my other foot. I didn’t exactly execute the maneuver as planned. In a manner just like falling off your surfboard or SUP, my foot that was still on the board had the unintended consequence of pushing 6’6” the elegant bamboo crafted board down the street towards a parked car like a missile from a combat drone.
I sprinted after the board. Fortunately I was able to chase it down. Crisis averted!
Lesson One: Speed is not necessarily your friend and when out on a skateboard, you will find all the hills, especially the little ones whose existence you may have previously disregarded.
I practiced some basic carving turns and began to develop an initial feel for how the board performs. Just like surfing, or alpine skiing for that matter, you only have to apply a small amount of pressure to the rail to initiate a change of direction. The stand up paddling mantra of look down, fall down also applies. Keep your head up and allow the board to become an extension of your body. Now this is easier said than done. The Hamboard is after all beautiful and you are going to want to look at it. Especially on your first time out.
I had the perfect solution. GoPro!
Exploring the Strand
There is an ocean down there somewhere!
So, remembering my conversation with the Hamboards Sales & Marketing Manager who told me he land paddles up to 20 miles in a day (I’m a bit competitive) I decided to head down to the strand cycle path on day two to see what I could do. The path runs the length of the beach along the Santa Monica Bay from the Pacific Palisades in the north to Palos Verdes in the south and is a great public resource regularly filled with walkers, joggers, cyclists and skateboarders making their way north and south.
I loaded the Hamboard into my Jeep which necessitated folding the front passenger seat down flat, and headed down the parkway to Playa del Rey where I planned to park and pick up the strand path. I only live a few miles from the beach and it was sunny at home, but as I drove down the parkway I began to encounter the distinctive signs of a marine layer drifting in. For those who do not live near the coast, the marine layer is a layer of fog, typically thick, which comes in from the water and envelops the land in a cool, damp, gray cloud. Basically it transforms the Southern California of picture perfect postcards into a moonscape.
While it would have been dangerous to be out on the water that day, visibility along the beach was suitable for land paddling I decided. Having had a bit of experience with the marine layer, I also knew that it was possible the fog was localized and I may skate/paddle out of the fog bank as I made my way south.
I didn’t have a predetermined destination in mind as I headed out on the Hamboard that day, although I initially thought I would be doing well to make it to Dockweiler Beach – roughly 1.5 miles (2.4 k) away. Skating along the path is pretty straight forward in a manner of speaking. You do have to be proficient enough to navigate around other people and handle the windy curves of the path. And while it was only my second day with the board, I quickly felt comfortable enough to paddle on!
Starting out on the strand path.
This was in no doubt due to the amazing stability of the Hamboard Classic. To be clear, I do SUP surf, but not anywhere near as often as I’d like, and I’m firmly in the cruisy, longboard style camp as opposed to being a snappy, shortboard ripper. So while I’m new to skateboarding, my balance is probably better than someone who has never surfed or skated. Even so, rolling along the path on the eye-catching board was a whole new experience.
The majority of the stand path is flat, although there are a few soft, undulating hills as the path winds its way along the beach. With my initial lesson about speed fresh in my mind, I took no shame in stepping off the board and walking along it down one of the steeper sections as the path descends into El Segundo Beach and passes in front of the Chevron refinery. Because of the two-way traffic on the path, you are limited to staying in your lane and are not able to cut the type of wide carving turns which for which the Classic is designed and I certainly wasn’t up to bombing down the hill and risk plowing into someone coming the opposite direction around the blind turn at the bottom.
As I cruised along the flats it was not long before I gained a sense of confidence and began to add a little speed. As someone transitioning to the Hamboard from stand up paddling, I initially wanted to use an extended reaching stroke once I started cruising, but quickly realized that was not going to get the job done. In comparison to a stand up paddle where you plant the paddle and then pull your board towards it, the land paddle works best as a pushing tool in the same manner as you would use your foot if propelling the board in a traditional skateboard fashion.
Even though it was only my second time out on the board, I quickly found the fun factor as I glided down the path on the giant board gaining additional confidence each time I passed by someone. Settling into a cruising pace, I began to get an initial feel for the utility of the board as a surf training tool. Just like on a surfboard or SUP, the Hamboards Classic responds to the slightest foot adjustment. It is a feeling just like surfing.
Outside the side entrance to Nikau Kai during their construction phase.
Having long since blown past Dockweiler Beach, I was on a quest for sunshine and kept on trucking all the way down to the Manhattan Beach Pier, which is right around 5 miles (8k) away from my starting point. As luck would have it, the marine layer dissipated as I continued to roll down the strand and I was able to snap a selfie at the pier before trekking up the hill to drop to see my friends at Nikau Kai Surf x Cafe.
Nikau Kai is the premier waterman shop in Manhattan Beach and the cafe is a new addition. I was curious to check on the progress of the construction and it also gave me an opportunity to let the boys at the shop try out the Hamboards Classic. There is still some work to be done, but if you are in the area I recommend stopping by to check out this fantastic, family owned and operated shop.
A short while later I made my way back down the hill to the stand path and cruised back to Playa del Rey where I had parked. Heading back was a bit like watching my day in reverse as the marine layer promptly returned around El Segundo and I’m sure I passed by a few of the same people as I had earlier in the day.
This is the first installment in a series on the ins and outs of cruising on a Hamboards Classic. Join Matt each month as he practices new skills, explores the strand path, encounters new sights, and meets new friends from the Palisades to Palos Verdes.
Learn more at hamboards.com.
Acknowledgements: Shelta Hats provided the Griffin camo hat and as anyone who follows my columns regularly knows, I’m a big fan of Shelta. The hydration pack I used is a Source Hydration Durabag Pro which is a fantastic, insulated hydration pack with a number of easy to use and care for features. My shirt is a 100% polyester SelectWick performance shirt from Merrell and is my current go to shirt for all manner of outdoor activities from the sand to the summit.