Skateboards catch an innovation wave
With innovative board sports growing -- think snowboarding, wakeboarding, kiteboarding -- it makes sense that the granddaddy of them all wouldn't stand still. Skateboarding, developed in the 1950s among surfers who wanted to "surf the streets" in their spare time, is being influenced by its modern offspring. Novel new boards let you carve asphalt like it's powder, stand up and paddle like you're in Waikiki and twist like, well, nothing I've ever seen.

-- Roy M. Wallack

Paddle on pavement

Kahuna Creations Ki'i Pohaku longboard and Big Stick: A 4-foot longboard that you propel on the streets with a 5 1/2-foot, rubber-tipped wooden pole.

Likes: Exhilarating fun and fitness for all ages. Superb upper-body workout as you push off and glide; you drag the end of the stick to stop. The artistic, slightly rounded, sand-impregnated, three-eighths-inch-thick wooden board flexes as you push off, adding to your power. The 10-inch wide wheelbase keeps it very stable. Instant fun -- you can do it the first time and feel yourself getting smoother by the minute.

Dislikes: None.

Price: Longboard, $139-$159; Big Stick, $89-$149 (877) 945-0100; www.kahunacreations.com.

Hone those surfer skills

Carveboard: Wooden-decked surf- and snowboard land trainer, invented for pro surfer Brad Gerlach by his father, Joe, that lets you simulate near-horizontal banking into a wave or snow with extra-wide wheelbase that enables the platform to pivot 45 degrees or more.

Likes: Great for fitness, skill-building, balance training and sheer fun. Starting on a slight hill and replicating the snowboarding position, with feet width-wise across the board, you squat, twist your torso and carve S-turns deeper and deeper. Although I'm not a surfer or snowboarder and was shaky at first, I got into a groove after about an hour and started seeing skills I didn't know I had. The huge 4-foot-long model with 9-inch-tall pneumatic Dragon Paw tires and the smaller 40-inch Longstik with polyurethane tires were great fun, with the former designed for steeper hills. Carving is work; I was soaked.

Dislikes: The wheels are so wide and stable that you can't kick up the board to your hands or spin it around.

Price: Wave, $450; Surfstik (34 inches), $275; Longstik (40 inches), $285. (760) 930-9767; www.carveusa.com.

A bit of twisted logic

The Wave: A 33-inch-long plastic two-wheel skateboard with duel foot platforms that twist in opposite directions, so you can power the board without setting foot on the ground.

Likes: Develops impressive balance and agility. Snaking along in an "S" pattern while keeping both feet planted on the concave platforms looks very, very cool.

Dislikes: Hard to learn. Frankly, trying to balance for a split second on the rotating castor wheels was too much for me, and I gave up. I didn't want to break my neck. But my extremely coordinated 11-year-old nephew, Jake, mastered the core twisting motion after 15 minutes.

Price: $129, DVD included. www.streetsurfing.com.

Tricked out on wheels

Flowboard: A 3 1/2-foot-long wooden board on 14 inline-skate wheels that are split into two curved rows, enabling you to rock deeply from side to side.

Likes: Fun for any age. Works the legs. Develops balance. Blends the feel and carving motion of a Carveboard snowboard/surf trainer with the agility of a regular skateboard. Start off riding as if on a regular skateboard, then place feet perpendicular to the length of the board and lean and twist to turn. You can kick up the board and do jumps and tricks. Very good control on hills; deep carving gets the outside wheels moving. Beginner-friendly.

Dislikes: Much slower and less smooth than the Carveboard. You can carve deep 45-degree turns, but it wobbles somewhat as you transition between the wheels.

Price: 32 inches, $80; 42 inches, $159. (800) 503-9432; www.flowlab.com.

Irvine-based endurance cyclist and runner Roy M. Wallack is the co-author of "Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100." Reach him at roywallack@aol.com.