When Mischo Erban makes a mistake at speeds of more than 100 km/h, he tries “not to crash one arm or one leg first” and does his best to tuck in his feet and let his back absorb the impact.
But when the 28-year-old Vernon man attempted a Guinness world record for the fastest skateboard speed from a standing position last week, he managed to reach 129.94 km/h without breaking anything except his previous best time.
“I start off at the top on kind of a level area,” said Mr. Erban, recounting his run on a longboard down a winding mountain road near Les Eboulements, Que.
“I push off as hard as I can then, quickly, I get into my tuck and find myself a really nice, comfortable position and lock into what I believe is my best aerodynamic position.”
After a sweeping right turn and a small bump, Mr. Erban explained, the speed begins.
“I start dropping in ... it starts off with 700 metres of an 11-per-cent grade and then drops into 600 metres of an 18-per-cent grade,” he said.
Those inclines might be enough to make most people take the stairs. But Mr. Erban’s interest in longboarding has always been related to how fast he can go.
Mr. Erban’s quest for speed began when, unable to make it across campus in time for classes at the University of British Columbia, Mr. Erban needed a quick and convenient means of conveyance.
A bike has to be locked up and roller blades have to be taken off, but a skateboard features a quick dismount and easy storage.
With the hills of UBC and the surrounding area as his training ground, Mr. Erban gradually began going faster, especially down a Vancouver city street leading from the campus.
“I did that on my longboard without fully knowing how I was going to stop at the end,” he said with a laugh.
Making it down the hill requires more than pure skill, and Mr. Erban was aided by a piece of equipment resembling something out of a science fiction novel.
His helmet is fitted with a prototype heads-up device built by Vancouver-based Recon Instruments. It provides a view similar to the one Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character had in the Terminator series.
William Parry, of Recon Instruments, said the unit gives Mr. Erban a digital display as he zooms down his run.
“[He can see] speed, distance, navigation,” Mr. Parry said, noting Mr. Erban previously used a GPS attached to his shoe.
"He said it was dangerous when he was looking down at his foot and then having to look back up and refocus on what he was doing, which at the speeds he goes is not ideal."
Much like any other high-speed vehicle, Erban uses the information from the helmet display to improve the handling of the board.
The device and experience helped Erban reach his goal, made official when he passed the speed-check station.
As he came to the end of his run, Mr. Erban spread his arms, transforming himself from human bullet to human parachute, eventually putting his foot down to stop.
The record is set, but it isn’t the end.
Mr. Erban plans to research the physics of his sport more in an attempt to as much as double his record.
“I want to be afraid of the next hill that I do a speed record on,” he said.
“I just want to find that hill that scares me that I really have to focus like 100 per cent on to make it down in one piece.”