The death of Anas Hajas, a 31-year-old Kerala skating enthusiast, while longboarding has raised serious concerns about adventurous solo trips taken by skateboard. Hajas was en route to a record breaking 3,500 km longboard trip from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. However, he got under the wheels of a truck while on his long skateboard near Pinjore, Haryana on August 2nd.
Hajas was a graduate computer scientist who gave up his job in the IT industry to pursue his passion for skateboarding. He started the expedition to raise awareness about skating. Hajas started his journey on May 29th from Kanyakumari and reached Panchkula on July 30th. In the first days of his journey, Hajas covered up to 100 km a day. Later, on the advice of friends, he reduced the daily distance traveled to 40 or 50 km.
Longboarding experts called the incident unfortunate and advised young players to follow certain rules when skating. Here’s what we know about the unique sport of longboarding and the rules that govern it in India.
What is the sport of longboarding and is it different from skateboarding?
Basically, a longboard is similar to a skateboard, which is a long board or plank made of wood, plastic, or even heavier materials, balanced on small wheels. Players often perform impressive stunts and move downhill from a height on boards, performing tricky moves even while floating in the air. The sport originated in the United States in the 1950s, and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics saw skateboarding included as a competitive category for the first time.
A longboard is of course longer but flatter compared to skateboard boards which usually have upturned ends. There are other technical differences in wheel sizes and wheel spacing. It is believed that longboards are generally more stable and better suited for longer rides.
Longboarding is one of many sports that fall under the category of roller sports. Park skateboarding, street skateboarding, longboarding (downhill), and freestyle skateboarding are some other popular examples. The style that Anas Hajas pursued belongs to the freestyle skateboarding category.
What are the rules for solo longboarding trips?
The RSFI is the governing body for skateboarding and roller skating in India, registered in 1955 and affiliated with World Skate, the sport’s parent federation, since 1971. It was recognized by the Government of India in September 1990 and later by the Indian Olympic Association.
According to Naresh Kumar Sharma, Secretary General of the Roller Skating Federation of India (RSFI), solo longboarding trips fall into the adventurous activity category. “Indeed we allow such trips, but under strict norms and guidelines. The person interested in such solo travel should notify their state government, which will issue the green signal and provide further notification to other states that the riders will be transiting through,” he said.
In the case of Hajas, on behalf of an escort, he had only one friend who followed him on a bicycle behind him. Panchkula police said at the time that he was run over by the truck, his bicycle friend was in front of him.
Sharma added that either the driver’s staff or the state police in question must escort the driver from the front and back if the driver is moving on the road. In addition, emergency assistance for the driver must be available around the clock. “Adventure Club of India organized such downhill skateboarding individual trips in a very professional way until 2005. These trips were organized in Himachal Pradesh,” he said.
But what are the reasons people choose boring solo travel?
Roller sport coaches and supervisors name the eagerness to achieve something as a major reason for such trips. There is also a record behind this rising trend. Chandigarh-based trainer Chander Singhal said: “Indeed youngsters should engage in adventure sports activities while following standard rules and guidelines. People’s sense of doing something unique and making a record is justified, but not at the cost of their lives.”
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He warned against uncontrolled travel and said: “A person puts his own life at risk and also endangers others. Many enthusiastic youngsters came to me with ideas for such trips, I appreciate them but advised them to do their hard training, follow rules and set procedures.”
Also overall, roller sports have gained popularity in India in recent years. In addition to the private roller skating academies, there are also state coaches in many state sports facilities who train young people in skating.