First drifting, now downhill skateboarding: Tantalus residents have a new worry

Downhill skateboarding is a sanctioned sport in South America and Europe. Longboader Kaleb...
Downhill skateboarding is a sanctioned sport in South America and Europe. Longboader Kaleb Nakanelua competed on that scene and rides steep downhills on Oahu, even though its illegal to skateboard on roadways.(Kaleb Nakanelua)
Published: Jan. 15, 2019 at 5:20 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Downhill skateboarding, also known as longboarding, is like big wave surfing on blacktop.

Even experienced riders say it’s risky.

"It's almost undoubtedly dangerous," Ryan Bishop said.

Protected only by a helmet, gloves and sometimes body pads skateboarders zoom down steep streets like Tantalus Drive.

"Whatever traffic is going, consider we're going that fast," Kaleb Nakanelua said.

He's been longboarding since he was a teenager, captured by the thrill of flying down straightaways and whipping around winding turns.

"It's conquering the unknown," he said. "It's hurtling yourself towards a place where anything can happen."

But residents who live on Tantalus are fed up with downhill skateboarders and the close calls drivers ascending the hill have with them as they come hurtling down, especially around blind turns.

"It's pretty frightening. It gets your heart racing. No one wants to be responsible for injuring or killing somebody," said Mark Bronstein, president of the Tantalus Community Association.

Oahu law forbids skateboarding on any roadway. Last year police issued 12 citations on Tantalus. But the penalty is only $25.

"Is a ticket going to stop this? Not really," Bronstein said.

Longboarding's been happening for years across the state.

Bishop has ridden downhills on Maui and Kauai. The California resident said he’s been clocked at 60 miles an hour.

Despite the danger he won’t discourage young skaters from trying it.

"I would argue, and a lot of my friends would as well that we can actually stop at a quicker distance with the right skill set than a bicycle could at the same speed," he said.

When crashes happen they’re sudden and frightening. But injuries don’t deter hardcore downhillers like Nakanelua.

“The responsibility falls on us to keep ourselves safe. If I get hurt the person who suffers the most is me,” he said.

He insists downhill skateboarders who ride Tantalus Drive are hyper aware of their surroundings, listening for vehicles coming around turns and riding in packs to assist skaters who fall.

That's not how Tantalus homeowners see it.

Brontstein said there have been too many close calls between skaters and automobiles.

Residents recently met with police to explore ways to put the brakes on the extreme activity.

“It’s not an ‘if’ question it’s a ‘when’ question,” Bronstein said. “You’re going to wind up getting seriously injured or killed.”

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