City Review: London

City Review: London

It is tough to give an exhaustive review of London, the city is huge and offers everything one can dream of in terms of music, art, sport, culture, etc. You name it, London has it but I’ll spare you the clichés! Away from the touristic highlights, you can experience a vibrant city, rich in cultural diversity, full of creativity and opportunities. There is never a dull moment. Living in London can be draining at time, but it is also extremely rewarding when enjoying it to the fullest

Me rocking at a Docksession

London Overall Score: 4

  • Riding through the city: 3.5
  • Specific spots for longboard dancing: 5
  • Longboard dancing community: 5
  • Longboard dancing equipment availability: 3

Riding through London on a longboard

Home of nearly 10 million people and top European touristic destination, it is not easy to cruise around the mean streets of London. Traffic lights, crowded pavements, double decker bus, black cabs, cyclists and nervous drivers make it challenging, particularly for someone uncomfortable in busy streets. Luckily the city is BIG. Spread across 45 miles (about 70 km), there are many opportunities to ride whether it is in parks, along the Thames or on the streets.

With its schizophrenic weather (you can literally go through 4 seasons in 1 day), it can be difficult to plan a skate day. It is worth saying however that the city goes fairly quiet at night and it becomes an enjoyable playground.

Best spots in London for Longboard Dancing

Thanks to the amazing work of the London Longboard community there is a living map of all the key dancing/downhill/sliding/cruising spots in London (shout out to Louise Taylor for her incredible efforts to pull it together). I have picked my top 6 spots:

North Greenwich (East London): I had to start with the London Dockession spot! Hidden a short cruise away behind the massive O2 Arena, the Docksession flat has an incredible offers a beautiful view of Canary Wharf. Located along a Thames path, there is a little bit of movements, some cyclists, runner and walkers but no car. The tarmac is flat, smooth and long enough to give you plenty of space to dance!

Hyde Park (Central London): Located in central London, Hyde Park can be very busy (it’s close to Buckingham Palace, Oxford Street and some of the key museums). On the right days however, there is a very long stretch along the Serpentine River, fairly smooth and flat. The road is shared with in-line skaters, cyclists, roamers, and even horses (not even joking). It is however a lovely spot. Especially if you want to have go for a cruise as well.

Dan being his usual great self at Hyde Park (photo: Hoang Nguyen)

Victoria Park (North East London): Victoria Park has a very smooth ground with gentle slopes in some places, it is the perfect place to cruise around, learn how to slide and dance!

Arsenal (North East London): Forget football, think about wind/sun protected area, wide and spacious ground. It is not the smoothest (there are some little dents) so it does slow you down a bit if you have very grippy wheels.

Guy rocking it at Arsenal Emirates Stadium (photo: Louise Taylor)

Clapham Skatepark (South West): Clapham skateparks is located within Clapham Common park. It’s fairly small but perfect to get you started on ramps and half pipes. Mostly importantly, there are a few basketball courts next to the stakepark, host of many BMX sessions and occasionally longboard dancing. The ground is smooth and made with this multi-purpose concrete, which slightly absorb shocks (I wouldn’t push it and say it’s nice to fall on it, but you know what I mean)

Leran killing it Ravenscourt Park (basketball court, similar to the one in Clapham)

Canada Water (South East):  It is a large flat area, tiled but smooth. It’s a popular spot with skateboarders, though you can see some longboarders as well. Easy to find as it is next to a road, it is lit at night and not too busy.

Louise rocking Canada Water (photo: Guy Balaam)

Interactive map of all of London’s Spots

Click the various colors in the map to open up a description of the spot. You can also click the square/arrow icon on the top left corner to open a list.

London’s Community

By far, this is the best thing about London! The community is fairly big and very active, sessions are popping out all over the city all the time. The Facebook page, London Longboards is perfect, whenever you feel like going, you will find someone who is up for it, whenever you have a question, and someone will answer. There is always something happening, there is always an opportunity to dance. But that’s the digital part. In the analogue world, every single person from the community is nothing but friendly, tolerant, supportive, helpful and super chill. Anyone is always happy to teach you a new trick, recommend a board, etc. and they will be happy for your success no matter how small the step is. For the ladies who feel a bit intimidated to go to mixed sessions, there are also girls only sessions available.

Getting proper gear and equipment in London

For such a big city like London, I thought it was surprising how little amount of shops there are for longboarders in central areas. While you can find everything you need for skateboarding, you won’t necessarily find all types of decks, trucks and wheels you would need. There are quite a few websites, not to mention this is the motherland of Lush Longboards and Facebook has a very active market place for buying/selling/trading longboard gear and equipment. There are a few shops however that can sort you out:

Slick Willies (South Kensington, Central London) – They cover skateboard, longboard, inline and roller skates. While they don’t have the biggest selection of longboard decks, you can find what you need in terms of wheels, bearings and trucks as well as protection gear and tools.

OddBalls (Camden, North London) – Originally a juggling supplier (yep, true story!), but they now provide quite broad range of toys, accessories for outdoor fun (from diabolo to slacklines). They have a few complete longboards and decks. You can find good wheels and bearings as well.

Most of the time, longboarders in London get what they need online.

Summing it up – London Baby!

Definitely go skate London!! It’s unquestionable that the city has a lot to offer (great pubs and rooftops, great gigs and parties, great markets and restaurants, great museums), but beyond the city, what makes it so great is the people! You will never ride alone, you will find a community of great, friendly and supportive people, which is the best way to discover the city while improving!

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