IN 1989, WHEN I was 5 years old, Marty McFly promised me a hoverboard when I turned 30. I began skating, surfing, and snowboarding in preparation. Thirty arrived, and the glorious day when I could float through the air on a self-propelled board didn’t come. But riding Onewheel, the new electric board from snowboarder-turned-IDEO-designer Kyle Doerksen, gets me pretty close.
Doerksen grew up carving down the ski slopes of his native Canada, so he spent five years in his garage obsessing over a “street snowboard.” To create a floating-on-powder feeling over asphalt, he needed a system that could auto-balance a rider. “That’s usually the kind of stuff you want to do when you’re trying to point a missile,” Doerksen says. So he hired a couple of engineers and came up with a single-tire, skateboard-sized electric vehicle that turns like a snowboard and handles like, well, a hoverboard. It zooms up to 12 mph in the direction the rider leans and contains a smartphone-style ARM processor that crunches gyroscopic data to counteract uneven terrain.
Shane Snow tests out the Onewheel on a slush-covered street. GIACOMO FORTUNATO
I took Onewheel for a spin moments after Doerksen and his team demo’d it for Tony Hawk, who said he was impressed by how the board’s hidden tech balanced the ride for him. I’ve spent decades trying every board I could get my feet on, and the Onewheel is probably the craziest thing I’ve ridden. Skate- and surfboards require strength and concentration, but Onewheel whisked me around with the subtlest effort. It may not actually hover, but riding it almost feels like flying. Just don’t try it on water.