Contrary to popular belief, riding a longboard is not the same as riding a skateboard. While there are plenty of similarities, they are not exactly the same.
Aside from having a longboard skateboard, a good safety helmet, pads, and flat-bottomed shoes, it does not take much to learn how to skateboard on a longboard. However, it is important that you know the basics of longboarding before you go on your first longboard ride.
Let’s run through some of these fundamentals.
Longboards vs. Skateboards: The Differences
Technically, longboards are considered one type of skateboard. Both of them have a deck that is made of either wood or composite material, and both of them have wheels that are attached to the board using trucks.
But apart from the length, the primary difference between a skateboard and a longboard is that riders use longboards for carving hills and cruising streets, unlike skateboards, which are normally used for kicks, jumps, and tricks.
Longboards can be anywhere between 34 inches to 50 inches long and 7 inches to 10 inches wide, although they normally run around 42 inches long and 8.5 inches wide. Compare that to a skateboard, which normally measures 30 inches to 33 inches long and 8 inches wide, and you can see why longboards are called longboards.
Furthermore, unlike skateboards, longboards do not usually have a symmetrical head and tail. Instead, longboards come in different shapes to accommodate different riding styles.
Important Things Beginners Should Know
Riding a longboard is no easy feat. You will have to go through a lot of training and, in the process, suffer many injuries. However, with proper practice and safety precautions, you will be able to master the art of longboarding.
1. Pick up a longboard that meets your riding demands and preferences.
There is a wide array of longboard skateboards available in the market today, with each board having been designed for a specific purpose. So, if you are planning to buy a longboard, we advise that you think hard about what type of longboard you want.
While a longer board provides greater stability, it also comes short as far as turning ability goes. On the other hand, while a shorter board offers greater turning ability, it may also lack the degree of stability that you need. Hence, you have to consider what type of riding you want to do before you hit the board shop.
Based on our observations, longboarders generally want one of the following:
- To get around;
- To do downhill skating; or
- To engage in some freestyle riding.
If you also desire the same, it is crucial to take note that you will need a different longboard for each of these purposes.
- For getting around, also known as cruising around, you will typically just want a cruiser. Cruisers have a rounded tail and pointed nose, although there are also cruisers with more sharply pointed noses called pintails.
- For downhill skating, which involves going very fast, you will want a speedboard or a top mount. Top mounts can be either symmetrical or asymmetrical, usually with a narrow head and a tail with a blunt end.
- For freestyle riding, which involves downhill skating and showing off other skating skills, your top choice ought to be a drop through longboard. Drop through longboards have narrow heads and symmetrical tails.
Another thing that you have to also consider as a beginner longboarder is that the wheels of a longboard, which are made of urethane, are wider and smoother than the wheels of a skateboard. While wheels with square edges are best for cruising flat terrains or smooth and straight hills, beveled wheels are great for roads with plenty of twists and turns, and rounded wheels are good for sliding and carving.
2. Purchase reliable safety gears
Longboarding is an adventurous sport that can be quite risky for riders. Because you have to tackle bumps and obstacles while keeping your balance, it is vital that you wear protective gears before you take a ride in order to prevent significant injuries in case you fall from the board. Essential safety gears include helmets, elbow and knee pads, and longboarding shoes.
A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Longboard
1. Figure out your stance.
Are you a goofy rider or a regular rider?
This question basically entails determining your stance when you skate. If you skate with your left foot forward, with your right foot doing the kicking, it means that you are a regular rider. But if you skate with your right foot forward and kick using your left foot, it indicates that you are a goofy rider.
If you already know how to ride a skateboard, then you likely already know what stance feels comfortable to you. However, if you do not yet know or if you have not yet tried riding similar sports before, there are also two simple methods to find out which stance you have onboard a longboard. One is to ask someone you trust to push you from behind without prior warning. Another method includes sliding on a plain surface without wearing shoes.
Take note that your arms and knees are also important for when you balance while trying to move. So, don’t sweat about it if you find it difficult to balance even on a completely still longboard.
2. Find your footing.
The next step involves practicing your stance on a smooth, even surface. Stand on the center of your longboard deck so that you can get a feel of its springiness. Bend your knees, crouch down, and stand back up. Get accustomed to shuffling and moving your feet onboard without stepping off.
The placement of your feet will depend on how you ride. Most of the time, you will want to keep your feet on the space between the trucks, but at an angle that is a little wider than the width of your shoulders, such that your front foot points diagonally at a 45-degree angle and your back foot points out a few degrees.
If you wish to “bomb the hills” (i.e., longboard down hills fast), spread your feet wider. For greater speed, point your feet downhill. Put a good amount of your weight on your front foot when bombing hills in order to maintain control.
3. Push off.
To get moving on your board, simply push your back foot against the ground. You can either make just one big push or push a few more times if you desire greater speed.
After you get used to moving on a flat surface, you can already practice riding downhill. Just find a slight slope (instead of a steep drop) to get on your longboard. Avoid pushing on your first few tries. Rather, just let gravity pull you down.
Once you feel comfortable with each process, you can now try to do both. Try pushing once then riding down. Go faster only as you feel more and more comfortable.
4. Practice stopping on your longboard, too.
While getting your longboard moving is important, so is stopping properly. Otherwise, you might get injured.
If you are a beginner, you may find it easiest to stop by simply dragging your foot. This method is called footbreaking. Here, what you have to do is to simply drag your back foot on the pavement until you slowly come down to a halt. Keep your heel flat on the ground as you drag your foot.
Once you are comfortable doing this, you can also practice more advanced means of stopping on your longboard. A Coleman slide, for example, is a cool method you may want to try.
On the other hand, if you end up going too fast and lose control of your board, you will most likely have to bail by jumping off. It may sound reckless, but the idea here is to leap off the longboard and hit the ground running so that you can remain on your feet.
If you wish to practice this method of stopping, the first thing you can do is find a flat area where you can freely move without going too quickly and ending up hurting yourself if you stumble. This method will take practice, so be sure to wear your pads and roll slowly.
5. Carve and cruise.
Once you have learned how to get moving on your longboard and how to stop on your longboard, you also have to learn how to carve or make turns. Carving is typically done by shifting your weight from one side to another as you ride. You can try carving on your heel edge or toe edge. The deeper you carve, the more extreme the turns you will make.
To practice, try carving gently down a slope. Start by getting some forward momentum, then lean gently to one side to start turning. Carving can slow you down, so you will need to give a stronger push. Moderate your speed by carving from one side to another as you cruise. To increase your speed, you may also consider crouching down even lower and lowering your center of gravity.
As a newbie, you may instinctively feel like watching your feet as you practice cruising and carving. However, you should always keep your gaze fixed on the horizon since your board will go wherever your eyes go.
6. Hill carving
Once you feel comfortable already controlling your longboard on easy descents, you may want to improve even more by trying out something challenging, such as longboarding down a hill. Longboarding down a hill is similar to longboarding down a slope, only with greater speed. Because of this, stopping can be a little trickier, too. However, the fundamentals of longboarding techniques still apply.
Safety Precautions for Beginners
Regardless of your level of experience, bear in mind that safety gear is a must to prevent or at least minimize injuries. This includes wearing a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, hip pads, mouth guard, and closed leather or suede shoes for protection.
You might want to consider doing some warm up and doing a little stretching before starting on your longboard. Also, never attempt tricks that are out of your skill range. Above all, be aware of your surroundings, and watch out for bikes, cars, pedestrians, or other road traffic while you ride.