As part of his role at the Landyachtz headquarters, Riley Harris spends a portion of his time seeking out and working together with longboard clubs on University campuses all across North America. One of the most established longboard clubs in the United States, the Longboard Club at Indiana University, is hosting their annual Poker Run this Saturday. Riley got in touch with the club President Alex Otto, and posed a few questions to the club’s leader.
RH: Hey Alex, before we dive in, can you let us know a little about yourself and how you started longboarding?
AO: I grew up in Salt Lake City and had snowboarded and skated since I was 6 years old. When I was 15 I completely quit the skate scene in order to focus on sports, music, and school. I didn’t skate for several years and then in 2012 when I graduated I decided to get a board for cruising around campus while I was at college. I would casually ride to class and one day, during my sophomore year at Indiana University, this gangly tall dude snagged me while I was riding by and gave me a Longboarding Club sticker and told me to come to a group skate. It turns out that guy was Max Vickers and after my first group skate I was hooked!
RH: What are the origins of the Longboard Club at Indiana University?
AO: The Longboarding Club at Indiana University was officially founded in 2013 by Max Vickers and a handful of local longboarders. Before that, the group had existed but was unorganized and was not recognized by Indiana University. Within a few years of being founded the club had become one of the largest student organizations on campus. Nobody really knows why the longboard scene blew up like it did. Perhaps corn breeds longboarders. For those of you not familiar with the Midwest, it has two things: flat land and corn.
RH: How did you end up as President of the club?
AO: After my third group skate with the Longboarding Club I went home and told my roommates, “You know what? I think I could be the president of the longboarding club and I am going to be the president next year!” I was the new kid in the club and I had a lot to prove. However, by involving myself in every club event and by not missing a single group skate I was able to prove my worth. And guess what? 9 months later Max Vickers informed me that I was going to be the president. Becoming the president of the Longboarding Club at Indiana University was one of my greatest accomplishments in college. I really do love the club and the sport.
RH: Can you explain to me what a Poker Run actually is?
AO: A poker run is really quite simple. Essentially there is a route with 5 “playing card stations”. Riders cruise to each station and are given a playing card from a regular deck of cards. At the end of the run we find the 3 players with the best poker hands and that is our podium.
RH: Why host a poker run versus any different style of event?
AO: Poker runs are great because they are all inclusive, anybody can win, and they have a low entry cost ($10). There is as much chance that a participant who is sponsored will win, as there is for a participant who just started riding.
RH: What about the people who don’t win?
AO: Every participant is entered into a raffle and I can confidently say that I have never seen a participant go home without some sort of prize. We literally have hundreds of dollars’ worth of prizes to give away.
RH: Do you plan on hosting other events in the future?
AO: Of course we plan on hosting more events! Our next big event is the Slide Jam at the Dam, which is hosted in the spring. The Slide Jam has started to gain a lot of national attention and I am really excited for next year. And when I say national attention I mean the event was on the top 40 Longboard Event list for North America and Redbull showed up with a huge Redbull truck called the Redbull Cate. There is only one Redbull Cate in the whole nation to the best of my knowledge. The Slide Jam is a really fun event with thousands of dollars worth of prizes/purses. And for you girls out there, the Slide Jam is one of the few events that gives a big cash purse to the winner of the women’s category.
RH: Where would you like to see your club (and longboarding in general) in 5 years?
AO: I personally want to see the club stick around. That sounds like a small goal but running and organization of a club this size requires time and a hell of a lot of dedication. My biggest fear is that I will graduate and the club will fail because of lack of leadership. I have several younger members that I am grooming for taking over the club after I graduate and I am fairly confident that they have what it takes.
RH: As for and industry as a whole?
AO: I would like to see the longboarding industry pick itself up out of the current slump it is in. I personally think that means moving away from the “core” longboard scene. Going 45+ MPH at a cool race is awesome but the reality is that those events exclude new longboarers. We need more events like the Poker Run and Team Nobull’s Bayou Battle garage race events.
RH: It’s always a pleasure working with you Alex, thanks for your time and good luck with the event!
The event goes down on October 22, 2016. Landyachtz is the main supporter of the Longboard Club at Indiana University and a top sponsor of the annual Poker Run.