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By Steve Cave
Longboarding is the term used for skateboarding with boards larger than the usual short board trick-oriented skateboards that you see in skateboarding competitions. Longboarding is closer to sidewalk surfing. A lot of longboarders use their boards to actually get places, since longboards are more stable and heavy than skateboards (so you get more roll out of your push). Longboarding is perfect for people who want a comfortable, more soulful ride, but also for those who want to carve down a steep hill at high speed! All this, and plenty more, is longboarding. Just like short board skateboarding, there is no right or wrong way to longboard. However, I'll walk you through some good suggestions to get your started in discovering your own longboarding style, and the weird combination of fun and relaxation that is longboarding!
You also need a helmet. You'll need it when starting out, and you should always wear a helmet when doing anything fast, downhill, or anything even slightly dangerous!
Finally, you need a longboard.
There are just about as many different longboards available as there are longboarders to ride them. Since longboarding doesn't destroy the board in the same way as trick skateboarding, your board doesn't have to be quite so tough. This leads to piles of longboarders making their own longboards! Making your own longboard is a great idea, but this article is aimed at beginners. Besides, there are so many cool longboards on the market to choose from!
Do you see yourself longboarding around campus? Longboarding to work? Do you see yourself trying big hills? Do you see yourself trying insanehills? Do you want to try riding in bowls? Do you want a smooth, soulful ride, or a quick, agile ride? Take a minuet and think about what you want to do.
Basically, the longer a longboard is, the more stable it will be. However, longer boards are less agile - meaning, they don't turn as quickly or as easily. Shorter longboards are more agile, but less stable. So, keeping this in mind, figure out where you want to be on the longboarding spectrum. If you plan to ride bowls, then you will need a much shorter board.
I recommend borrowing a longboard from a friend, or at least standing on one at a skateboarding shop to see how you feel on it before buying one.
Next you need to figure out your longboarding stance - as in, which foot you will put forward while longboarding. There are two stances - Regular (left foot forward) and Goofy (right foot forward). If you already skateboard, snowboard, surf or wakeboard, then go with the same stance you already use. Otherwise, here are some tricks to see which longboarding stance you might want to use:
Just like most people are right handed, most people are regular footed. That's why it's called regular. Just remember that there's no RIGHT way to do it. If all of these tricks tell you that you are regular, but you just like riding goofy, then ride goofy!
For longboard foot placement, it depends on what you are doing. Most of the time though, I keep my feet between the trucks at a little wider than shoulder width, with my front foot pointed diagonally out at about a 45 degree angle, and my back foot pointed out slightly (not pointed directly forward, but out a few degrees). There's an excellent chance that after riding for a while, you may find a more comfortable stance that works for you. For bombing hills (longboarding down hills fast), I like my feet spread wider. If I want more speed, I like to point my feet ever more downhill. It's also important to put a good amount of weight on the front foot when hill bombing, to remain in control. Or in as much control as is actually possible!
Next, try giving the longboard a push. To push, take your back foot off of the longboard, and put it on the ground. Next, you simply push off with this foot, and get your longboard rolling. You can push a few times if you want to get more speed quickly, or just one big push. Either way, the goal is to get the board moving, and then put your foot back on the longboard.
If it feels more comfortable to push with your front foot, that's fine too. This is called pushing Mongo. It can get in the way of tricks in short board skateboarding, but for longboarding, if it works for you, use it. Most people don't.
The longer you longboard, the better you will get at getting the most out of your pushes, so don't worry too much right now if it seems you have to push a lot!
Push around a little more, and feel where your center of gravity is. When rolling, notice that the lower you set your center of gravity, the more comfortable it is to ride. This is important.
Next, you'll want to find a gentle slope to ride down - and I mean gentle!You'll be riding down hills in just a minuet - first, find a slight slope. This can be a parking lot with a slope to it, a road without traffic, maybe a footpath across campus...
Now, get on your longboard, and try riding it down the slope. The first time, don't even push. Just get on and let gravity pull you down.
Next, try pushing once, and riding down. Ride down the slope until you feel comfortable.
There are several ways to stop on your longboard. The easiest at first will be footbreaking (dragging your foot). Take the foot you push with, and try dragging it on the pavement. Try and keep the bottom of your foot flat on the pavement when you drag it. This should stop you if you aren't going too fast (which you shouldn't be at this point). Of course, this is easier to do if you're wearing shoes...
For a more advanced, and much cooler looking way to stop, you can learn the Coleman slide. But, I recomend taking your time at first and getting comfortable just riding and cruising, before tackling the Coleman slide.
If you DO end up going too fast and getting out of control, then try jumping off your longboard! This sounds crazy, but it actually works very well. Try aiming your board at a lawn or something else that won't destroy it when you stop, and jump off the longboard.
To practice this, go to your large flat area, and push a lot and get a good speed going. Then, practice jumping off! You will of course want to land running. This might sound a little nuts, but it'll be good for you to know how fast you can do this. It's a good idea to not longboard faster than you can catch yourself running like this, until you get a little more skill under your belt.
Now, back to the slope!
Try carving gently down the slope that you've been practicing on, and get comfortable with it. Carving slows you down, so you may need to either give yourself a stronger push. Try moderating your speed with carving, and get used to it. Try actually turning completely to the side by cutting a deep, hard carve. This is another way to stop, and how you will turn corners while longboarding. You can also slide, but that's a more advanced longboarding move. For now, just stick to getting comfortable with easy, gentle carving.
While practicing carving, you should also notice that the more you crouch down, the faster you go. If you stand straight up, you should slow down. Understanding little things like this will help you become more comfortable and smooth.
As you get more comfortable longboarding, try to not watch your feet. Keep watching further ahead, down the hill, and let your body naturally adjust for what's going on. This will help you avoid bigger problems later.
Just keep practicing, and getting more comfortable!
If you want to try steeper slopes and hills, that's great. Don't pick anything extreme, just something a little steeper than the slope you were trying on. Roads work well for this, just make sure there isn't going to be any traffic. Having a friend there to watch for cars is helpful!
And please, make sure you wear a helmet, even if you think you are good enough that you don't need to. One of my friends ripped down a huge hill on a longboard I was reviewing, lost control, and ended up in the hospital for a head injury - if he had been wearing a helmet, he would have been fine with only a few bumps and scratches. Instead, the guy couldn't skateboard for two weeks. If nothing else, you don't want to lose good riding time to a dumb injury - wear a helmet. And it wouldn't hurt to wear elbow pads as well, if you plan on getting up some good speed.
Longboarding down a hill is exactly like longboarding down a slope, you just go faster. Plus, stopping is a little more tricky. Don't be discouraged if you fall and get a little banged up - shake it off, and get back on your board.
That's basically all you need! Longboarding is an art, just like skateboarding, and the more you ride the more you will develop your personal longboarding style.