Older and bolder

'It's like surfing on land'

(From left) Mr Raymond Tan, 53, Mr Simon Lee, 50, and Mr John Cheng, 58, take safety precautions when they longboard.
(From left) Mr Raymond Tan, 53, Mr Simon Lee, 50, and Mr John Cheng, 58, take safety precautions when they longboard.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

On weekends, 58-year-old businessman John Cheng destresses by cruising along the streets of Pasir Ris on his four-wheeler - a longboard about 1m in length. It is not a skateboard, he is quick to point out.

His board is longer and sturdier than the conventional skateboard - he can travel a greater distance than when he is on its shorter cousin. He covers a distance of about 50km on the weekend.

"It is just a different experience from other sports like cycling," he said. "Cycling is mostly sitting down and using your legs, while skateboarding involves your whole body. It does wonders in keeping me fit and agile."

Mr Cheng has been longboarding with a group of about five friends - some of whom are also in their 50s - for several years.

Mr Simon Lee, 50, who works as a legal counsel, said he had wanted to pick up snowboarding. In tropical Singapore, longboarding came closest to it. "I enjoy the freedom," he added. "At my age, I don't want to do tricks, but I do this as exercise."

He acknowledged that it is more dangerous when older people fall, which is why safety is of utmost importance.

Mr Alan Wong, 51, learnt that lesson the hard way.

"I used to hate using a helmet," said the IT professional with a laugh. "But once, when my wheel got jammed, I fell off, hit my head and got a small crack on my skull near my eye. Since then, I tell people to buy the helmet even before getting the longboard."

Mr Wong started longboarding about three years ago when his father-in-law bought his son, then 12, a skateboard. While his son soon lost interest in it, the gift reminded Mr Wong of how he used to skateboard as a teenager. "It wasn't difficult to start again," he said.

The longboard also serves as a means of transport for Mr Raymond Tan, 53, head of marketing operations at software company QLIK. Instead of taking the train or bus to work, he longboards from Bedok or Pasir Ris to Suntec City, covering between 14km and 20km. His ride takes about 60 to 90 minutes. "It's like surfing on land," he explained. "It feels so natural. You flow with your board."

Mr Tan wants to encourage other older people to pick up the sport. "I know people in their 60s overseas who skateboard. We just have to do it safely," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 03, 2017, with the headline ''It's like surfing on land''. Print Edition | Subscribe