By Michael Collins
Sauntering along the Venice bike path just doesn’t cut it for maniacally committed long-distance in-line marathon skaters, so they’ve remapped our megalopolis into a kind of gigantic Olympic arena of routes called “jaunts.”
Jaunters criss-cross the county, skating brutally long and dangerous treks like the Pt. Dume to Palos Verdes “Point to Point Penitencia,” clocking in at nearly 60 miles. Braving traffic, hills, and those tiny pebbles that lead to wipe-outs, they slog the “Barrios to Breakers” jaunt from Olvera Street west on Sunset Boulevard to the Pacific.
Buses and light rail augment treks like “Riot Run”: West L.A. to downtown, then through South Central, Long Beach, and LAX to Santa Monica. Downhill slalom courses are carved out of commandeered canyons like Temescal and Big Tujunga.
The term “jaunting” comes from Alfred Bester’s sci-fi classic The Stars My Destination, in which humanity masters mental teleportation. Real-life jaunting aficionados with nicknames like Hollywood, Splat, and Valkyrie get decked out in futuristic protective gear, wild getups, and custom five-wheel Bont skates, literally built around exact molds of the skaters’ feet and costing as much as $1,500.
Shielded by the occasional helmet and lots of padding, jaunters push the limits of self-propulsion by illegally “skitching,” or hanging onto the cars and trucks of unaware drivers. There’s no jaunting website, and the only way to hook up with these people is to participate in the Friday Night Skate, a recreational in-line event that leaves from the top of the Santa Monica Pier every Friday at 8:30 p.m.