Why do skateboarders grind on railings? Was it part of an evolution of the sport, from backyard pools to urban landscapes? Sure. Was it a ridiculous idea from a skateboarder who preferred to risk life and limb, sliding down a rail rather than face certain death taking the stairs on a skateboard, again? Probably.
Now, recent Royal College of Art graduate Po-Chih Lai has designed a skateboard that can cruise down stairs without a second thought. Called the Stair Rover, it’s the semi of skateboards, an 8-wheeled beast that’s quite literally "rocking" an aluminum Y-frame to transform stairs into a passive-propelling landscape.
"My idea is basically the same as surfers," Lai tells Co.Design. "They look for the hidden energy of nature, which is waves. Mine is looking for the hidden energy around us. Interestingly what I found is stairs, there are plenty of stairs hidden around our playground and habitat—the city."
Whereas some may see Lai’s clever skateboard as an overly simplified parallel to the automatic transmission in a suburban car, he sees his stairmaster as an extension of the extreme sport, turning "boundaries and restrictions into a positive and creative physical enquiry into the ever changing kinesis of the urban ecosystem." Skateboarding is an activity shaped as much by culture as it is hardware, but as a once-clandestine activity has gone mainstream, it will be interesting to see if the traditional hardware is reassessed to enable a new generation of bigger, crazier tricks (and plenty of commuter convenience along with them).
What could Tony Hawk do on a skateboard fitted with Segway-like intelligence and an F1 engineering crew? What if sensors were ensuring his board was always at the right angle when making contact with the pavement, allowing him to focus even more on wild aerial stunts? What if traction control could assist where his balance failed?
And what if—just what if—Lai’s skateboard could climb up the stairs, rather than just down them?
[Hat tip: Denzeen]