From the Street
Luge Survival Guide
Gravity Publishing, ISBN 0-9662563-7-9
Copyright 1998 Darren A. Lott
(Note: This content has been provided as a sample only and is formatted for your browser. The actual look of the printed manuscript is different.)
Most of my terminology comes from what is commonly used among the people with whom I've raced. "Get all of the riders into the truck, and throw their boards in the back." I like the sound of "luge pilot" but it's still trying to find its way into the vernacular. I have it on my business card and sometimes people chuckle. But I certainly prefer "pilot" to calling ourselves "a bunch of lugers."
"Luge" itself is a noun and a verb so I tend to alternate between "luge" and "board" when discussing what we ride. I might think "lean-steer gravity platform" sounds more high tech than "board." But then I'd start substituting "urethane based rolling units" for skateboard wheels and everyone would get confused.
When it comes to common usage - pilots fly airplanes; we ride boards. It's not that terminology which distances us from skateboarding is bad. It's just awkward forcing it throughout the book.
There is also some controversy as to whether the real name of the sport is "Dry Land Luge," "Road Luge," or "Street Luge." I suppose it depends when you started. All three terms are still in use and can distinguish subtleties in the sport.
When I started, the only "luge" was on ice. Since ice luge is already on land, "Land Luge" seems redundant. Nevertheless, it's the earliest non-skateboarding term and applies to any paved surface. "Road Luge" is a stronger distinction, referring to Luge Road Racing, and it's still in use by many "pilots."
Extreme Games creator, Ron Semiao, decided "Street Luge" is the most descriptive and has the most sex appeal. Consequently, "Street Luge" is the de facto title for what we do.
If you're brand new to the sport, I'll try to give you some tips on what to try first; if you're a seasoned competitor, you'll enjoy dissecting my theories (and then brag to your friends I have no idea what I'm talking about because you beat me racing last weekend). I'll try not to make too many specific equipment recommendations, because I anticipate the number of gear options will increase dramatically with a growing participation base.
Some of my recommendations will no doubt fly in the face of prevailing opinion. Like most competitive activities, the winner of the last race becomes the template for what's fast, and therefore, what's right. But with the rules and technology still in their infancy, whatever is winning today will undoubtedly be losing in the future. To avoid instant obsolescence, I'll try to stick more to what's known to work, and let the competitors build on "what's fast" from there.
Not everything is professional racing. This book will be controversial with those who think the only version of the sport is what they've seen on TV. I believe in an opportunity for people to experience the thrill of street luge without needing thousands of dollars in equipment or big name sponsors. It takes some really basic materials, appropriate protection, and a safe place to ride. It also takes the good sense to walk before you run. Any fool can buy fancy gear and go 70 mph into the side of a mountain. Be safe; be smart; be able to luge tomorrow.
Beginners will profit most from this book until actual instruction becomes available. Today, you would hardly try to learn skydiving or scuba diving without lessons. But someone had to.
The hardest thing about writing this book is to strike a balance between exaggerations on either side. We are not idiots because we use our shoes to stop. Nor can we stop from 70 mph in 20 feet. At 70 mph you are traveling over 100 feet per second; you can barely get your shoes to the ground in 20 feet. But we can stop really fast and are not sitting ducks for cars to run over. The pendulum swings from side to side. Let's stop in the middle and proceed with improving the sport.
I'm not going to spend a lot of time trying to convince you what a fabulous experience street luge is. Footage from an on-board camera is all it takes. I imagine you're already convinced or you wouldn't be reading this book. Or perhaps you currently ride and are looking for tips.
If you were not already intent on trying street luge, please don't let this book seduce you into something for which you may not be ready. I am going to try to present a glimpse of the dangers that the novice might not anticipate, and present contingencies for avoiding them. But I certainly won't cover everything bad that can happen, even if I have thought of it. And there is much more to learning an adventure sport than can be read in a book. Eventually there is training, and VERY CAREFUL practice. Even then, as I used to remind my scuba students: "This isn't Disneyland. Just because you paid money doesn't mean you can't get killed."
BACK to the SURVIVAL GUIDE CONTENTS