Street luge is an extreme gravity-powered activity that involves riding a streetluge board (sometimes referred to as a sled) down a paved road or course. Street luge is also known as land luge or road luge. Like skateboarding, street luge is often done for sport and for recreation.
Other than the supine riding position and very high speeds (40-97 mph / 64-157 km/h), street luge has little relation to its winter namesake.
In 1975, the first professional race was held at Signal Hill, California, and hosted by the U.S. Skateboard Association. The race winner was based on top speed. The boards used in this race varied from basic skateboards to complex skate cars in which the rider was completely enclosed by plastic or fiberglass. The sport was not commonly referred to as street luge at this time but the term luge was used to describe some participants' riding position. Most contestants were standing up; however, an opening in the rules enabled riders to choose their own board position, including supine. By 1978, repeated injuries to both riders and spectators halted the races at Signal Hill.
Several riders from the Signal Hill races kept the sport alive by continuing to hold races in Southern California. Throughout the 1980s and into the early 1990s, both underground and professional races continued to be held in Southern California by such organizations as the Underground Racers Association, Federation of International Gravity Racing and Road Racers Association for International Luge. Race organizers in the 1980s and 1990s started implementing many more equipment, safety and race regulations.
Meanwhile, in the early 1990s, some Austrian skateboarders started sitting down on their skateboards on the way back from teaching skiing in the Alps. This activity lead to a classic style street luge race in Austria, riding wooden boards closer to large skateboards than the usual street luge, which is heavier, longer, has larger wheels and more trucks than a skateboard or classic luge. There is now a healthy street luge riding and racing presence in many European countries.
In the mid-1990s, ESPN’s X Games showcased street luge to the world and the sport was originally sanctioned by RAIL, then by the International Gravity Sports Association. NBC followed ESPN’s lead and created the Gravity Games in which the sport was sanctioned by Extreme Downhill International. Smaller events were also held in Canada, South Africa, Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden and the U.K. Qualification criteria for these events varied and were controlled by each of the sanctioning bodies.
After a media splurge through the late 1990s and early 2000s, extreme sports like streetluge have taken a lower profile. The X Games has become more stadium-based for commercial reasons. Others, such as the Gravity Games, Hot Heels and the Australian Extreme Games, have disappeared.
While no longer a sport in either the X Games or Gravity Games, street luge is a burgeoning sport in numerous countries with competitions around the globe. There are approximately 1200 active street luge riders in the world.
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