Longboarding originated in the 1950’s with surfers who wanted to bring surfing to land. And what began as a way to simply pass time while the tide was low, quickly became a cultural phenomenon. Fast forward almost a century and longboarding is still still a thriving sport and exciting pastime for people of all ages! It’s been a passion of mine since high school, but it wasn’t until much later that I realized longboarding’s practical uses as well. This is T-Mans Longboarding breakdown for beginners, let’s roll!
What is a Longboard?
A longboard is similar to a skateboard, but the difference is in the name. You guessed it! A longboard is longer than a skateboard (at least in most cases). They come in all shapes and sizes, the trick is getting a board that matches your preferences!
Longboards are most commonly used for either downhill racing, cruising, or transportation. Due to its longer and wider base, a longboard is more stable, making the ride generally safer and more comfortable than on a skateboard. Although, for beginners, it may be hard to ride down hills at high speeds.
Their greater weight makes them less suitable for many tricks, but contributes to a fluid motion by giving more momentum. Thus, a longboard will roll farther with a single push of the foot. Many people prefer longboards to normal skateboards for cruising on streets and sidewalks. Longboarding is often compared to surfing on concrete, and the size gives riders the option of performing big turns or quick short carves just like on a surfboard!
Choosing a Longboard
It’s tough to know where to begin with the wide variety of brands and boards available. However, even beginners should be aware of a few things starting out. Firstly, avoid models marketed as “beginner” or “disposable.” As in many sports, low quality equipment can turn beginners away before they even have a chance to experience it.
Mid-length boards, (39 to 50 inches) are the most versatile. Beginners should avoid overly long or overly short boards, which are better for certain styles, but are less versatile, and may be more difficult to ride.
Boards used for transportation or commuting are the most common types of longboards. These boards are usually 40-50 inches long and do not have a shorter nose. The boards are flexible to provide a more comfortable ride and are often shaped to resemble surfboards. Their trucks are set up loosely to allow for narrow turns.
Longboarding for its own sake is often called cruising or, when going down a hill, carving. It can be a convenient alternative to walking as you only need to push one time to move several feet.
Downhill skateboards are used for riding down mountain roads as fast as possible. The boards are usually 38 – 43 inches long and very stiff. The trucks are attached to the ends of the board to maximize the wheelbase. In order to lower the center of gravity, downhill longboards sometimes feature a lowered platform, by mounting the deck below the baseplate of the axles, or by the shape of the deck itself.
Cruising is often used to show off skill and control over the longboard. This is a relaxed style, usually performed at slow speeds and involving tricks imported from classic surfboarding such as hanging ten, cross-stepping, and drop-knee-turns. Cruising longboards are typically much longer then the usual longboard, 60 to 80 inches or more, and often closely resemble the surfboards that they borrow their style from.
Trick boards are similar to the short skateboards in shape and construction but are longer and usually wider. The trick boards are seldom longer than 43 inches. Tricks that can be performed on these boards are the same tricks that can be performed on a short skateboard but the heavier weight and larger size of the board require more skill and strength from the skater.
A drift, just like with vehicles, is when the wheels lose traction around the turn. It’s a controlled movement designed to reduce speed or impress spectators. The same equipment is used for a slide; the only variation is in hand positions. Drifting is most commonly used in downhill racing, to negotiate turns that are entered at high speed or are too tight to make. Drifting can also occur accidentally when carving.
Air braking involves standing upright on your board as tall as possible with arms outstretched to catch as much wind resistance as possible. This is primarily done in speed boarding to reduce speed but is not an effective way to stop. This only works at high speeds.
Foot braking involves putting one foot on the road while balancing on the board with the other foot. This technique can be used to reduce speed or come to a full stop, which is useful on narrow paths or casual riding.
Carving is an effective way to control speed when traveling downhill. Instead of coming to a complete stop, the rider makes a continuous “S” path by leaning left and right. By making so many turns the speed can be controlled and maintained.
Slide braking or sliding is very important skill for longboard skaters who regularly downhill. To slide brake the skater quickly turns his/her board sideways into a controlled slide, to stop. A slide can be performed backside or frontside. With practice a skater can burn off speed very quickly in a relatively narrow roadway. Generally a skater sliding should have gloves because a hand is often placed on the ground for balance and control in the slide, however it is possible to slide to a stop, while moving less quickly, either hands-free or with minimal hand to ground contact.
Boardwalking is a technique that consists of moving ones feet, in front of, or behind, the other (cross-stepping) up and down the deck. Usually this technique is practiced by a longboarder with a longer deck (40+ inches). Different variations of boardwalking depend on the imagination of the rider. Twists, turns, hopping, jumping etc. can all be considered more technical variations of boardwalking.
Due to the risk of losing balance and falling, riders should wear the same padding and protection that is normally used while skateboarding. However, for higher speeds and riskier courses, professional riders often wear safety equipment used by motorcyclists and dirt bikers.
Aside from traffic, the greatest danger to any board rider is a “speed wobble”. A speed wobble occurs when excessive speed combined with inexperience and/or a cheap board causes the board to swerve rapidly from side to side, throwing the rider off. Try using a longer board with a lower center of gravity to minimize this risk. If you’re experiencing a speed wobble, be prepared to either bail into a soft patch of grass, or perform a running or rolling stop.
Longboarding Risks & Rules
Unfortunately, longboarding is banned in many public areas due to its association with the property damage and liabilities caused by street/trick skaters. Boarders should use caution and good sense at all times to keep longboarding from being banned on further hills and parking garages, as the sport is practiced almost entirely on public roadways.
Longboarding at night is one way to avoid crowds and law enforcement, however, there’s also a higher likelihood of being hit by a car or failing to see obstructions. Always stay alert for passing cars and people, and be ready to bail off your board at a moment’s notice!
This is T-Mans Longboarding breakdown for beginners! Let me know if I missed anything or if you’re planning on trying any of these techniques during your next cruise! Happy Skating!