From the Street
Luge Survival Guide
Gravity Publishing, ISBN 0-9662563-7-9
Copyright 1998 Darren A. Lott
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First of all, I'm not going to insult your intelligence by writing some heroic biography as though National Geographic were presenting straight facts. This book is written by me and represents my opinions. Although I'm a pro-class racer and X Games medalist, I'm not the ultimate authority on street luge nor is anyone else. This sport is still in its infancy and whatever we think we know may be laughable in a decade. I invite you to use my reasoning as a starting place in making your own decisions.
I began riding street luge in the late 1970s. My friend Dave Perry had put together a mini-documentary with his dad's super-8 camera. It had footage ranging from spectacular skate car crashes at Signal Hill to hand held action shots from his own proto-downhill board. I was immediately hooked.
Dave and I built matching wooden boards and covered them with shag carpeting. He showed me all the tricks he had picked up through trial and error, and a few tricks from other riders. I still have that board and use it when I teach others to ride. That it is still very rideable almost 20 years later is testament to certain lasting design principles.
On my first day riding, I smugly passed my mentor at over 60 mph and my new board flipped out from under me. Through a combination of quick reflexes, good balance, and dumb luck, I was able to stand up and "street ski" to a running stop. A good thing too, because during the half second I was actually touching the asphalt, I totally ground through my street clothes. After that, safety became paramount.
For a couple of years, Dave and I rode everywhere on every occasion; at night, in the rain, down residential streets, down sidewalks, in parking garages, on the freeway &endash; wherever we found an untested grade that looked faster than 20 mph.
Eventually the sport hit the "big time" with the 1980 race at Glendora Mountain Road in Southern California. There were sponsors, banners&emdash;and the California Highway Patrol. I was pictured in SkateBoarder magazine getting a ticket. The cover claimed we were the new skate outlaws, which became more accurate every time we rode.
In any extreme activity, I prefer to concentrate on riding the edge, not looking over my shoulder to avoid incarceration. I eventually moved away from street luge and became a rock climber, triathlete, skydiver, and spent several years as a scuba instructor.
Through all my other activities, I still kept my ears open for anyone who was still "downhilling" and of course would hear about Roger Hickey and his bone breaking death sport. I had ridden with Roger back in the early days, and he was already an established figure then. I was half glad he was keeping some media attention, even though it broke my heart that the press continued the "death wish" image.
Meanwhile, back at the drop zone, some base jumper friends hooked me up with a French TV crew doing a segment on "California Extreme Sports." They had lost contact with Roger and needed someone to "land luge" to round out their itinerary. I was only too happy to oblige. Now my skydiving rig is dusty.
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