Why should we care about the SUPSKATE ENDURANCE boards?
At SUPSKATE, our goal is to design and manufacture a specialty boards that are mass producible with the necessities to facilitate pumping while also providing an approachable board that's comfortable to ride for anyone.
That's why we say that the "ENDURANCE boards aren't for everyone, but they are for ANYONE who wants to learn how to participate in this sport." The the majority of the SSUP team riders at the '22 Miami Ultraskate used the ENDURANCE 45in and 60in boards, while the very top individual athletes used their own custom made boards.
The very top distance athletes (outliers) use VERY specialized skateboards with 50~55 degree pivot axis on the front and as close to zero degree on the back as possible. Further the back axel is as narrow as possible. The very light weight decks range from 30~60 inches long, are fairly narrow and can be highly flexible with some concave shape. Most people can't ride these specialized boards. They're not all that easy to master, in fact I still haven't put enough time in to master them. The rider needs precise footwork, exceptional balance and strong technique. In order to use a pole with a board like this, precise footwork is even more important because it can be challenging to get your hips pointed forward, which is essential for most people to switch sides while paddling. The best athletes can "skogg" where they alternate the front foot. (Skogging feels really awkward for most people, who have a dominant front foot.). These boards are generally expensive and assembled by each long distance athlete with components of their own personal preference. There are many different configurations, but we've noticed some common threads in most of these high performance boards.
- The decks are light, flexible, narrow and sized to the riders stance.
- There is a 40 to 55 degree difference between the front and back pivot axis.
- The front hangers are wider than the back.
- Big wheels are better than small wheels
We also observed the following:
- Most people don't feel comfortable with a 50 degree pivot axis difference, but a 40 degree difference seems to be manageable.
- The concave decks tends to hurt the riders feet after standing on a board for a long time.
- The wider the deck, the easier it is to keep both feet pointed forwards to keep hips pointing forward, which is necessary for most people to switch arms.
- Most people will never figure out how to skogg, so it's not good to expect them to develop that skill.
- Most people like to have fun carving AND making distances. The boards should also have the ability to convert from long distance into carving rides.
This formed the basic assumptions when we designed the Endurance boards.
Endurance 45in All Star - Light weight, nimble and highly pumpable and ~3.5 ft turning radius (7ft diameter).
Endurance 60in All Star - Most comfortable and easiest to pump and ~5 ft turning radius (10ft diameter).
ENDURANCE boards are specially made for long distance skate poling. They're wide and flat decks with 40 degree pivot axis on the front truck and a ZR0 degree pivot axis on the back truck. Further the front axel is 200mm wide and the rear is 160mm wide.
"The Sentient 60 planted my feet, spoke a few fine words, and literally taught me how to pump. The Flying 45 is lighter and predictably more nimble. Awesome boards." - B. Ennis; First time 2022 Miami Ultraskate athlete.
"They nailed the pumpability with the new HST 2.0 trucks. The 45 is my size, but if you want to get some attention, the 60 will certainly accomplish that." - A. Andras; 2022 Miami Ultraskate World Record holder; 273 miles in 24 hours.
Why should we care about the SUPSKATE poles?
Over the years, we tried all sorts of sticks, paddles, gizmos and gimmicks. Our gear is designed by an experienced sports gear engineer and is way ahead of its time.
The fundamental design needs are:
- Isotropic response to strain (forgiving when you "miss")
- High axial stiffness (eliminate energy loss at the end of the stroke)
- Optimal transverse flex (comfortable load/unload potential energy)
- Minimal weight (design at the ragged edge of material science limits)
- Maximum road grip (minimize pusher tip slipping)
- Ergonomic T handle (top hand comfort)
- Size options (optimal fit)
- Reliable thumb lock (easy length adjustments without slipping)
- Interchangeable pusher tips
Almost a decade ago, we started with a one-piece and a two-piece straight fiberglass tube with a three inch diameter rubber ball glued onto the end. The first Street Sweeper was functional, but it was too stiff, had no whip, was too heavy and hurt my shoulder. The two-piece design kept shipping costs down, but the button "clicked" every time you planted it. We tried someone else's rubber SK8Pole® tip which was grippy, but it "gave out" (buckled) when you pushed hard. The molded eva handle was ergonomic but nowhere near strong enough. So, I sat down and wrote out the idealized attributes, sketched the concepts and built prototypes for testing. After filing the patent application disclosure, we started showing it off and getting feedback.
Here are illustrative charts from the first brief, provided to Patent Counsel.
I was proud of the first adjustable Street Sweeper® PRO skate poles (paddles) which had all the right elements; adjustable length, a tapered lower pole and a flexible tip that really gripped the ground and flexed without buckling or losing energy. New in 2021, the hybrid composite SUPSKATE® RACE and CUSTOM poles were much better, and we're not even close to done innovating.
In addition to understanding mechanics, materials science and practical manufacturing concerns, sports gear engineers design specific tools so that they can evaluate the performance of their gear. Users rely on gear manufacturers to make gear that's fit for use and safe. In order to do so, we need to understand the loads and strains of the use case and do our best to ensure that the gear is designed to be reasonably safe. The custom built flex tester (above) is used to evaluate strength and flex for all our poles. We design our poles to handle at least 100 lbf, when simply supported, and then we measure the flex deflection which needs to be in a range of comfort for the user. This analytical method is a work in progress, but this is how we measure the paddles attributes to know they are strong enough and flexible enough for use.
Did you guys invent this sport?
I would expect that this sport has been around as long as skateboarding. We've heard stories of people using poles with skateboards since skateboards were invented. Anyone who's been to the Huntington Beach or Venice Beach boardwalks has a good chance of spotting them. It's totally unfair to call them "kooks"; I see them all as pioneers, ahead of their time. Respect to all the pioneers.
I can imagine that this could have started ten thousand years ago when native humans poled dug-out canoes in shallow waterways to catch fish and travel between communities; maybe in the African mangroves. But that's a guess...
Some might argue that the origins can be traced to Altai Mountain natives in North Central Asia where pre-1900 skiers utilized single poles called Tiaks. While descending on snow-covered slopes, the Tiak was dragged behind, forming a tripod support. There were no edges so there wasn’t much carve to those early skis, so the Tiak was also leveraged against the hips to facilitate sweeping turns. It’s obvious that on flat or gradual hills, the Tiak was meant for pushing yourself along too. Ironically, the stance in the statue below is very similar to the follow-through stance for a skilled skateboard paddler; one foot slightly forward of the other, bent knees, forward leaning and keeping your chin up, to see ahead.
Is this ACTUALLY a competitive sport?
Does Leonard (below) look like he's competing? He's a beast racing against the clock and the other competitors in a grueling 24 hour endurance challenge at a NASCAR Motor Speedway. It's a sport.
So... now we've built some good gear, but is this a pastime, a competitive sport... or is it just something that old-timer kooks do for attention? Well, it turns out that people have been competitively skate poling for many years. There has been a small group of people connected to long distance skating, competing in ultra events, mostly in San Diego, Miami and Amsterdam. In fact, this activity goes by many names; land paddling, skate sup, skate poling and street sup. Several brands have made gear over the years, and some still do, but in my opinion, none of them ever really put it all together. We're making high-quality purpose-built performance gear and doing all the other things to support community, events and athlete promotion to ensure that this has a shot as a competitive sport and pastime.
Andy (below) is the GOAT. He is full time Miami Fireman, an accomplished triathlete and skateboard competitor. Andy was the first man to ever push 300+ miles within 24 hours. Having accomplished his goals in long distance skating, he's found renewed competitive interest in pushing the limits of distance skate poling. At the 2022 Miami Ultraskate he established two world records; 1) the fastest sprint lap 5:24 (16.3mph) and 2) the longest distance in 24 hours (232 miles).
Julia (below) is the world record holder in her category, with 171 miles in 2021 (below).
The four person team world record 273miles was set by the Soflo Supskaters in 2021 (below).
The team I'm proudest of is the Panthers Warriors (below) who have managed third place in 2021 and second place in 2022. These wounded veterans devote themselves to team competitions in a way that gives them a way to connect, communicate and cope with their "new normal". They do important work and are fierce competitors. They raise insane amounts of money at this event and they are pure inspiration. These athletes sustained and survived significant injuries in service to our country, but you'll never hear them complain about ANYTHING. They bring maximum stoke and have more fun than anyone!
I also train to compete in the annual Miami Ultraskate 24-hour endurance competition each year, hosted by the Homestead-Miami International Motor Speedway. I prefer to compete on a four person relay team. (This year my daughter and I were on a team together and we took third place!). This grueling challenge provides an opportunity to test the endurance of body and mind. “The best part about this sport is that even though we’re all at different fitness levels, we’re all competing on the same 1.5-mile track. Your ego will survive being lapped, and let’s face it… you’re really racing against your own self. Like Yogi Berra said about Baseball, “(it’s) 90% mental. The other half is physical.” Seeing all the other challengers motivates me throughout the day. I notice other techniques; different gear and I make regular adjustments. Flying down pit row is always the best because all our support people are there cheering us on AND it’s the smoothest section track… Sometimes I forget to stop and rest because I’m so stoked while cruising downwind on that smooth pit row concrete, and I accidentally do a fly-by so I have to make another 1.5 miles before I can rest.
For me, what’s profound about this sport is that, so long as the gear is dialed-in and my technique is good, there’s no pain. I’m exhausted; yes. I can get a little delirious. All my muscles get tired, especially my legs. At about the 10-mile mark, I feel a euphoric sensation making me feel like I can just keep on going forever. Then at about 20 miles (~2 hours) I need a break. So, I stop for some rest, fuel, and hydration then I’m back on it.
At the end of the day, I've realized we're all endurance athletes of various fitness levels. Anyone can do this, it just takes time to develop technique and a commitment to push through fatigue. Sharing the journey with others is a huge motivator. It's so much fun. I tell everyone that "You don't have to win to be a winner, but you do have to try."
Sometimes the best time to be outside and active is at sunrise.
(Sunrise at the Speedway, delirious with exhaustion but keeping a nice steady rhythm)
Relieved that I survived, I was in shock how far I had paddled. These kids made me feel proud.
(Team SUPSKATE at Ultra Skate Miami 2021)