It may look astronautical but luging is basically just going down a hill while lying on a skateboard. As with most great skateboarding innovations, street luge was invented in sunny South California in the early 1970’s.
Starting off as a new form of “downhill skateboarding”, the turning point for the sport was the Signal Hill meet in 1971. The object of the competition was simple: get down the hill as fast as you can. Competitors soon realised that you could cut a lot of air resistance by lying on your board. Though it did make steering quite a bit more difficult. And in those days, safety wasn’t even a consideration. People were going down these slopes in just singlets and flip-flops. Needless to say, there were broken bones and grazes a-plenty.
From then, skaters have been customising boards and racing equipment to be safer and more aerodynamic. Gone are the days of long hair and baggy jeans, street lugers nowadays look more like formula one racers than skaters. A standard luging kit includes helmets, gloves, leathers and sometimes even light-weight body armour.
Some have even gone so far as integrating their board with their suit. This is Jean-Yves Blondeau, aka Rollerman, invented, daredevil and all-round badass. You may have seen some of his stunt clips (there’s one below for your perusal). His suit, also known as Buggy Rollin’, consists of 31 wheels attached to what looks like power armour from Fallout 3. It can reach speeds of up to 95km/h and costs around $4000 on the internet.
Street Luge in Australia
There are a couple functioning street luge organisations in Australia, including Australian Street Luge (and its multiple chapters in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane, as well as Ladies of Luge, their female team). Check them out if you’re interested in picking up the sport.