Skateboards have been around possibly as long as 100 years. Most records indicate that skateboards were introduced around the 1940s but there is some belief that people were adding wheels to pieces of wood as far back as the 1920s. Skateboarding became popular through the 60s and then took off with nationwide competitions and magazines detailing the best skaters of the day. The legendary Zephyr skate team produced talented skaters and through them came other even bigger names such as Tony Hawk. During this period though there was another type of board that was being used but was in the shadows of the standard skateboard. The longboard has been around for decades but wasn’t as popular at the time, perhaps due to it being less agile. However, there are many great incentives for taking up longboarding as a hobby or as a sport. Of course, taking up a new skill takes practice and time so here are a few considerations and tips for beginning to longboard.
Why take up longboarding?
Presumably, you already have an interest in longboarding but if you are not sure if it is right for you then consider the following; you will have a new hobby and a new mode of transport (beats walking), you will meet new people as it is a social hobby. You will increase your fitness and maybe your creativity too. Skateboarders can be very creative and often boarding crosses over into street art, graphics, and music.
Is it expensive to start?
Longboarding can be accessible for most people. For your first board, you need about $100 and another $50 or so for safety gear. This area is important as you are legally obliged to wear proper safety pads and a helmet in skate parks.
What is the distinction between skateboards and longboards?
Actually, that question is worded wrongly. The first thing to understand is that longboards are skateboards. There are three types of skateboard, the shortboard, longboard, and the penny board. The last one was popular in the 1970s when skateboarding was becoming very big. They were often made from fiberglass and they tend to be looked down upon in the skating world.
The shortboard is the most popular type of skateboard and it is typically around 30-33 inches long whereas longboards will be around 10 inches longer. However, longboard lengths differ depending on who is using it. For a child, the board may be not much longer than a shortboard and for a bigger, taller rider the board might be nearly 20 inches longer than a shortboard. The width surprisingly isn’t much wider than a standard shortboard. Apart from the length, the one obvious difference between the two boards is that the longboard comes in different shapes. This is because longboards can be used for different styles of riding.
What types of longboards are there?
There are many different types of longboards and when you start with your new hobby you will need to think about what you want to achieve and how you will be using your board. You may find that as your love for the sport grows you end up with more than one type of longboard for different uses. Here are some of the different types:
- Speed boards
That’s a fairly long list and there are even more. Believe it or not, you can even buy an electric longboard but that won’t interest you. To make your selection simpler you need to look at the main reasons for using a longboard.
Riding styles of a longboard
It is likely that if you are beginning with longboarding then you will be either using it for cruising, freeriding or if you are interested in the sport then taking it downhill.
If you want to just cruise around on your board, traveling from A-B and just generally chilling then you want a cruiser. You could look for a pintail which is 40” or more. These will have a flat deck, good stability with just a reasonable flex for comfort and you may want to choose bigger wheels. A blunt longboard is also a good board for beginners to learn the basics but has less agility than other boards.
If you want to freeride and learn some tricks or be a more technical skater then you will use a drop-down or drop-through board. A drop-down board has a lower nose and deck and they are comfortable boards to ride. They have good stability and are suitable for dancing. The drop-through is possibly the best choice for freeriding though. They are easy to control and are good at high speeds. They have good stability and have a low center of gravity. They are not ideal for downhill though as they tend to drift. If it is fast downhill boarding that you are interested in then you want a speed deck or top-mount.
Top-mounts allow for fast and aggressive turns but speed boards are, as the name implies, built for going fast. They are very stable and good for fast downhill riding. Now you have an idea of what you want to do and you have gone out and made a purchase, it is time to start longboarding!
Find the right stance for you
There are two types of stances one is ‘regular’ which is where you lead with your left leg and put your right foot back, and ‘goofy’ which is the opposite way around. The foot you place at the front of the board will be used to steer and the one at the back is used to push. Before you can start skating you will need to determine which stance is right for you. Next, you will need to practice your balance.
Learn to safely balance
Before you can start bombing down hills you need to be able to balance. The safest way to do this is to place the board on the ground where it cannot easily move. Now, step on to your board into whichever stance is right for you. Spread your feet apart so that they are near or on top of the trucks. This should mean your feet are about shoulder-width apart, although this depends on the length of your longboard. Try bending your knees and leaning forward a little to get used to how it feels. To make the board turn in the direction you require you will use your toes and heels. So while you are on the board practice pushing forward on your toes and then your heels to get a feel for turning.
Of course, you must also learn how to brake. This is a difficult skill to get at first but it is vital you know how to do it before taking the board outside. While you are still on the board, rotate your body and front foot so your toes, hips, and shoulders are all facing the nose of the board. Now, bend your front knee and put your weight onto your front foot. This allows you to lift your back foot to the ground. Practice holding that position, front leg bent, weight on the front foot and back foot on the ground then lift your foot from the ground and move your whole body back into your normal riding stance. You will probably need to practice this many times as it can be quite tricky.
Time to get rolling
Don’t get too carried away, you first need to practice moving at low speeds. So, find a safe flat area such as your driveway and you can begin to practice pushing off. Move your hips, shoulders, and front foot forwards and use your back foot to gently push the board forward. Start gently and as you slow or come to a natural stop try it again. As you get used to your board you can start to go a bit faster. Remember, you still need to know how to brake. So once you are moving a little quicker you can practice that braking stance from earlier. Rotate into the correct position and lower your back foot to the floor. Try to keep your toes slightly higher than the rest of the foot so that it doesn’t catch on any debris on the ground. Gently put the sole of your foot down and the traction will slow you down.
Learn to turn
Now you are moving you will need to use your turning stance. Start moving as before and once you are going use your ankles to lean into your heels and toes to turn or carve. Start with gentle carves on a slight slope to get used to it before trying to carve harder. Carving also helps you to slow down without braking. Now you have some basic skills you will be cruising through the city on your new skateboard although check the local laws allow that first. There are many more skills to learn including sliding and other tricks. These will come in time and of course, you may decide you want to get into the sports side of longboarding.
Competing with longboards
Once you have the suitable skills and experience you can start to compete if that is what you wish. There are likely to be local longboard groups in your area and the World Skate is a governing body for skateboarding while SkateIDSA covers long-distance longboarding.
Whether you wish to just cruise through the parks or commute to work on your board or bomb down some serious hills in search of adrenaline, longboarding is a great hobby. Once you have the skills and can take your new board out you will discover the social aspects of skating, meet new people and enjoy the health benefits of being active and outdoors more often.
Photo by Kelly Repreza on Unsplash