The Future of Longboarding Is Foldable
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because who wants people hating on you on the bus/train/sidewalk.
By Eugene S. Robinson
There’s a certain ostentatious joy with going BIG.
Hence, the Cadillac, Texas, bodybuilding. Showing out to show off. Which is fine, just fine. Until you’re that fool trying to parallel park that four-wheeled barge, or trying to squeeze your 5-foot-long skateboard onto the commuter train. Then it’s all Three Stooges slapstick and everyone who is being jammed up by your board hates you.
There are folding bikes, so you might well ask, why hasn’t anyone invented a folding longboard? OK, you’re way too smart for that, and I know damned well that you probably never asked that. But the 40-something Bin Lu did. Lu, a South Bay serial entrepreneur, has used his master’s in electrical engineering for most of his career to work on chipset architecture, reference designs for mobile phones and all manner of internet-connected embedded systems. He’s also worked on being a father to his son.
It had to fold easily, be easy to carry, and not snag or pinch.
Bin Lu, creator, BoardUp
“My son inspired the idea,” Lu says at a Mountain View Starbucks, his board posted up on the table between us. “He was commuting to school using a longboard and just wished he had something that was a little easier.” So in the kismet-y way that things happen in Silicon Valley, Lu started talking to folks, and those folks started talking to folks, and all of a sudden a bunch of engineers who were sick of carrying around longboards decided to do something about it. That something was hooking up with pro boarder Aaron Kyro to build a self-folding board.
“It had to fold easily, be easy to carry, and not snag or pinch,” says Lu. So on came the hinges, clasps, hasps, wiry gizmos and doohickeys, and a version of the board came off-line. But building a self-folding board and making your son happy is not a business plan. Starting a Kickstarter campaign to see if anyone other than said son would be interested? Now, that was interesting. Twenty-four hours later, when the campaign goal was exceeded, it was more than just interesting — it was a business.
Which doesn’t interest us at all really since the proof of the pudding is in the tasting — and OZY is full of skaters, current and former. Snapping the self-folding board open and dropping it to the ground … there’s not much difference between it and your average longboard. Which is to say, with its extra, whizbang folding shtick, it’s just as ostentatious as the longboard formal. Once on the ground, though, does it ride worth a damn?
“It’d be cool for commuting,” says OZY’s photo editor Sean Culligan, a longtime skateboarder. Or, more precisely, according to freelance video guy Pierre Malin, “just commuting is one of the least interesting things you could do with it, I think.” Which is to say, if you’re a longtime skateboarder and serious about your deck — at least $170 worth of serious for BoardUp — you’ll be wanting it for street skating, decks, pools, hills and anything else you can carve on. We mention this to Lu, whose voice drops a couple of octaves as he whispers conspiratorially something very much akin to “product cycle.” Which we’ll take very possibly as an admission that, with the aid of street, deck and pool pros, there might be a little something else in the works.
Until then? Wearing a $45 suit and $200 shoes, I drop it like it’s hot, jump on and ride it a bold 20 feet to my car. Lu was largely right: It’s a blast to ride, and I’d ride it some more before they wrestled it from my hands. But for my commute? I’m sticking to my 1965 Chevy. For play? Word up for the BoardUp.