MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
The economic news can be pretty frightening, but scary doesn't begin to describe the new extreme sport that's taking hold in Malibu, California. Imagine riding a skateboard, full-bore, down some of that beach town's most treacherous public streets. As NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates reports, Malibu lawmakers are hitting the brakes.
KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: I'm at the top of Malibu's Canyon Road. It's a heavily traveled road that goes inland and cuts down to the beach. And to get from inland to the beach, there are lots of twists and turns and serious sharp drops through the Santa Monica Mountains. It's scary enough to drive some days, especially when the weather isn't good. But now, think about going down this same road, flat on your back on a wooden board with four wheels between you and the road, and maybe a helmet.
DAVID WALLACE: It's a really dangerous sport.
GRIGSBY BATES: 24-year-old David Wallace is in the office of the Malibu sport shop where he's a skateboard consultant. He's been skateboarding - upright - for more than half of his life. But long boarding, sometimes called luge boarding, does not appeal.
WALLACE: Those guys get going up to, you know, 50 miles an hour. And people, if they spin out of control, they can break, like, their leg in half by hitting something, you know, just straight on because they're going so fast.
GRIGSBY BATES: The city is not hating on all forms of skateboarding. In fact, Malibu has a small skate park and plans to replace the current one with a newer, more challenging version. David Wallace skateboards competitively. He is worried that long boarders' daredevil antics will turn public opinion against upright skateboarders too. They also like to skate the canyons. The difference, Wallace says, is upright boarders use spotters and have more control over their boards. He's worried that public will lump all skateboarding together.
WALLACE: Like, we're are all going to, oh now you can't skateboard in the canyons and da da da da da, and the word goes out to all the cops and it gets worse and worse, you know.
GRIGSBY BATES: Yeah, that would a bummer. But Malibu's Reva Feldman would rather you live to complain to her another day. Feldman is the administrative services director for the city of Malibu.
REVA FELDMAN: Drivers and the residents who live in these areas obviously are concerned, because if you're coming down one of the steep canyon roads, you have blind turns - both going up and down - and the skateboarders are going over both lanes of traffic.
GRIGSBY BATES: And, she says, long board sightings aren't rumors or isolated incidences.
FELDMAN: During the summer months, it's very common. All of the canyon roads - you'll see on the weekends - the skateboarders going down.
GRIGSBY BATES: One Southern California city has already paid a seven-figure award to a skateboarder injured on municipal streets - hence Malibu's proposed ordinance, which will likely be approved and adopted in early March. Back at the top of Malibu canyon, hiker Mike Smith admits he gets why long boarders find the canyon roads so tempting.
MIKE SMITH: I guess it's a hazard.
GRIGSBY BATES: Can you imagine doing it yourself?
SMITH: No, it's beyond, it's beyond crazy. But I understand the adrenaline aspect of it.
GRIGSBY BATES: Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.
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