Longboarding returns to Soda Springs; Tahoe City’s Beck revives a sport that once thrived | SierraSun.com
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Longboarding returns to Soda Springs; Tahoe City’s Beck revives a sport that once thrived

Sierra Sun Staff

No, it’s not the latest line of winter wear from Columbia or North Face.

What visitors to Truckee will see this weekend is just the vintage clothing that will be worn by participants in the National Longboard Association’s longboard races at Soda Springs this Sunday, March 15.

Soda Springs, billed as the fastest longboard track in the nation, hosts the 11 a.m. event, which springs from the regional longboard races of more than 125 years ago.

Registration is $25.

History of the sport

Longboarding began in the 1870s in Sierra mining camps such as LaPorte, Poker Flat, Johnsonville and Allegany and grew in popularity as each town, some of which no longer exist, sported their own local champion.

The racers skied on long wooden skis called longboards that averaged 12 to 14 feet in length.

The longboards were attached to racers’ feet with leather thongs tied around the skiers’ workboots or cowboy boots.

A single pole was used for pushing off and braking along the course. The races often ran as long as a week during festivals, and the tracks were approximately 800 to 1,000-feet long and 100-feet wide.

There was a starting line at the top of the course and a finish line at the bottom, designated by American flags planted in the snow.

Racers ran in heats of two to four at a time with winners advancing to the next round through elimination.

Local papers of the time reported skiers, who had to climb to the top of the course, often reached speeds as high as 88 mph.

The secret to the speed was the “dope,” or wax, used on the skis, and the team’s dope-maker was considered the most important member.

‘Dope’ wax

Dope was made from various ingredients like pine pitch, camphor, glycerine and whale spermacetti.

A century ago, longboarding was the most popular winter sport

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