You’ve seen a longboard in your neighborhood and want to get one for yourself. Before you jump right in, or on that longboard, educate yourself on what longboards are, and the different types of boards, and gear, available. By the time you finish reading this, you might believe you already know how to longboard, even if you haven’t set foot on one.
What is Longboarding?
In the shortest terms possible, longboarding is skateboarding on a longboard, although it isn’t as simple as that. Yes, the boards are longer, but there is so much more to longboarding than size.
How Do They Compare To Skateboards?
Longboards fall under the same category as skateboards but what most people think is a skateboard is a shortboard. Here are a few differences between the long and short versions of this rolling board.
Shortboards run between 30 and 33 inches while longboards start at 34 inches and can run up to 50 inches. People that are beginning their experience with longboards should go with a shorter version no matter how tall you are. The longer the board, the more relaxed the ride so get one longer than 40 inches if you plan on spending long periods cruising on your board.
Where Are You Going To Ride?
There are several areas where a longboard would be much handier than a shortboard.
Some riders use their boards as a ride to school. Others like to head to other towns via country roads. Some people ride to work because longboarding isn’t only a young person’s game.
Wherever you plan on getting to you are better off with a longboard taking you there than the shorter version. The ride on a longboard is smoother than a typical skateboard. You will get a more comfortable ride and a feel more secure than you would with a shorter board.
Riding a longboard downhill is not for the weak of heart and takes some dedicated practice, including the right gear and an appropriate board. Riding a longboard downhill is an extreme sport with races and celebrities. You can become a member of the Downhill International Federation if you want to be a serious contender.
Our advice though, unless you are familiar with riding a longboard already, we would put off the downhill attempts until you feel secure on your wheels. You can pick up some high speeds
Falling under the category of downhill longboarding, this type of riding gives room for different terrains. Riders blend several styles of riding with various slides. Freeriding is an excellent way for a beginner to break into longboarding, especially if they have downhill longboarding as a goal.
Creativity is vital when it comes to this type of longboarding. When watching freestyle longboarders dance around the only thing that sets it apart from watching skateboarders is that the deck of the board is longer.
Decks that measure longer in length offer more options for riders who want to dance and do tricks. Riders can learn to walk from one end of the board to the other while in motion and make it spin while they seemingly float in the air.
Long Distance Pushing (LDP)
Taking a road trip is fun, imagine how enjoyable it would be on a longboard if the weather is right. Some riders enjoy riding long distances that put miles between them and their homes. Distances can reach into the thousands where miles are concerned.
Some LDP riders compete in races. Serious contenders can join the International Distance Skateboard Association.
Carving or Cruising
If you aren’t looking for an extreme sport, then this type of longboarding would appeal to you. It is also perfect for people who have never ridden a board before. The title, cruising, describes the activity better than we could, but we will try. You get on your board and head down a street carving your way through the world.
As it turns out, this type of fun is actually healthy. Men’s Journal reported that in the exercise science community, riding is considered a “rigorous cardio workout,” which is good news to us because sometimes walking and running gets a little boring.
What You Need
Before you run out and buy a board educating yourself on the subject is imperative. Almost every aspect of a longboard requires a well thought out choice. We have put together all the information you need to make the right one in this one guide, but first, you should consider the following things.
Now that you’ve learned about the different types of riding you can do with a longboard, which do you feel appeals the most to you. Do you see yourself reaching speeds of 50 miles per hour headed downhill? Maybe you aren’t there yet.
You might be the kind of person who wants to dance with their board while wowing spectators with your ollie. If you don’t know what an ollie is, keep reading. When you take a long look inside, do you see yourself riding to your friends’ houses most of the time, or do you want to do a little bit of everything?
It is all available to you, but you need to have a handle on what you want because, unless you have exclusive rights to the only money tree in the world you are going to be limited on how many boards you can buy, like the rest of us. Not to mention all the other gear you are going to need, which we get into later.
Specific lengths and types of boards work best for beginner and different styles of riding, so knowing this information before buying a board will only save you time and possible disappointment with your choice.
A Grasp of the Lingo
It’s nice to know what you’re talking about when you want to learn how to do something from others with more experience. Knowing how to speak to them helps. Here are some terms used in longboarding circles.
As you read through the different words commonly used by longboarders, you can see why it is essential to know yourself and your intentions before purchasing one. What is your dominant stance? Preferences will matter when you set out to buy one or possibly build a board yourself.
Try It Out
You can read about longboarding all you want and watch others do it but, until you try it, you won’t know if it’s right for you until you stand on a board and ride. If you don’t know someone who longboards search for groups in your area via social media. You can also go into a sporting goods store to try out different types.
More often than not people who want to longboard already know other people who do. Ask to get a feel for their board and stand on it. Ride it if they let you. Write down all the things you liked about it and what it had that appealed to you. What did you not like? Keep a journal and refer back to it when you shop for your own.
Now that we’ve covered the language and the different styles of riding that comes with owning a longboard, we can discuss the actual board itself.
Generally, there are two types of shapes typical for a longboard. Your ability level doesn’t have anything to do with what form is best for you. You have a choice between directional, which are designed to only go in one direction. The front faces forward, and the back is the back.
Symmetrical decks are made to go in either direction because both sides are designed to move forward. Directional boards are used by riders who carve, cruise, or head downhill. Twins are popular with riders who want to slide and dance.
There are so many choices when it comes to picking a board, and the design is no different. There are four general styles.
As it says in the name, the deck is attached to the top of the trucks, and this is the conventional design chosen by riders. It could also be because top mounts typically cost less. Boards like this are great if you want to cruise, carve, freestyle and freeride because turning leverage is higher than the other types. You are not as stable but more agile.
Boards like this have a hole at each end where the trucks at attached and seem to go “through” the deck, which sits lower to the ground due to this type of attachment. Drop throughs are more stable and don’t tire out the rider as much as the top mounts.
Pushing and braking are less strenuous with this type of mount, so commuters, freeriders, and downhill challengers like this type of board.
The shape and design are just two aspects in a vast amount of choices that come with selecting the right board for you. There are also several features available, which all make a difference when thinking about what you want to accomplish.
This term goes back to wheel bite, which we mentioned in the lingo section above, and they are also known as wheel cut-outs. Wheelbite typically happens when a rider goes around a corner too fast. With wells, you can take those corners with some serious speed. You can make sharp turns without making contact with the deck.
At the end of skateboards are those little lifts that give the board a bent look at each end. Those are the kick tails. You need them to do ollies, tricks, slide down a banister, or anything you like. Directional boards only have one kick tail while twin boards have one at each end.
Concave vs. W-Concave
Concave means to curve inward. When it comes to decks, that means the part of the board you put your feet on is lower than the edges of the board. W-Concave means there are two indents, one for each foot.
Depending on what type of riding you do the level of concave is available. Cruisers have a more shallow concave than downhill or freeriders. The W-Concave option offers a substantial amount of anchor.
Length of our board is critical. It’s called longboarding after all. But, where this matters most is speed, turning, and stability. Longer wheelbases are more stable and can generate faster speeds. Shorter wheelbases are better for quick turns.
Depending on what materials make up the board, how deep the concave is, and the type of laminate used, your board will have a flex rating. They come in three categories.
- Stiff which is stable during high speeds. It can feel every bump in the road. It is ideal for speedy downhill attempts and freeriding
- Medium which is stable during decent speeds. If feels like a spring when pushing and carving. It absorbs a fair amount of shock. It is ideal for commuters, cruising, and carving
- Soft is the best shock absorption but is unstable at high speeds. However, it is ideal for dancing, tricks, and low-speed cruising
If you think there were a lot of choices when it came to the deck, welcome to trucks. While skateboards have trucks but the ones attached to a longboard has a reversed kingpin. This placement allows the rider better control of the board and a stable feeling under their shoes. There are three main parts of the truck.
As the name implies, this is the part that is attached to the underside of the deck.
This part holds the wheels together while serving as a pivot while riding.
We touched on these earlier, but they are essential to the type of ride you are looking to have. They sit where the kingpin, hanger, and baseplate meet. Hard bushings offer ample resistance when pumping but are hard to turn with while soft bushings absorb shock and are easier on turns.
You can tighten trucks to achieve the best feel for you.
There are just as many choices to consider when it comes to the wheels. This fact makes sense when you think about how important of a role they play connecting you to the ground you’re cruising down. Wheels affect grip, speed, and ability to take corners well. There are five factors you should consider.
There are two shapes, round, and square. You may be thinking, “square wheels?” but that doesn’t mean the wheel is square. The lips of the wheels are at a 90 percent angle, which gives the rider superior grip and offering more traction. Square wheels are not as easy to slide on until they are broken in for a while.
Round wheel edges are rounded and popular with freestylers and freeriders. Square wheels are the better choice for downhill riders and commuters.
Smaller wheels move faster but offer less grip than their broader relatives.
Also known and “height” and measured in millimeters. Shorter wheels are faster but will not absorb as much shock and the thicker, or more substantial options. You have a better chance of getting knocked off when hitting a crack or stone.
As we mentioned earlier, this refers to how hard the wheel is. You will either have a choice between A and B. A wheels are softer and made from rubber. These offer traction and shock absorption but are not as fast. B wheels are harder and made of plastic. You can feel every bump in the road with plastic wheels, but you will gain more speed and slides are simpler.
As we reach the last consideration when choosing wheels, this category is broken down into subcategories. While the core is the center, there are three types you can select. The bearings are in the core.
The core of these wheels is near the inner lip. Sidesets are perfect for sliding but are challenging to flip after too much use.
The core of these wheels is close to the center. These are good for grip and sliding.
Placed at the center of the wheel, this type of core is common on skateboards. It has a symmetrical setting and is excellent for flipping no matter how worn they become.
We are almost there but, the bearings play a big part in your ride because without them your wheels would not spin. There are different ratings under the industry standard titled ABEC. The higher the number, the faster your board will go.
All it takes is one experience of wheel bite for a rider to realize they need some other gear to make it through a ride without serious injuries. Here are a few things you should get with your longboard.
If you are downhill riding or any style that requires a lot of speed protecting your head is essential. Hitting it in a certain way can lead to death or severe brain injuries. Helmets with face covers also keep bugs and flying debris out of your face.
When you reach back to attempt a pendulum slide, or pre-drift do you want your bare hand to be scraping across the pavement? Of course, you don’t. These moves are why a sturdy pair of gloves is a must-have. Gloves with guards and protectors are made specifically for this sport.
Your knees are susceptible to injury while longboarding as well as your elbows, so it’s best to wear pads when riding.
Your boarding is not going to be secluded to daytime hours. Lights for your board and promote safe riding.
Camera and Mount
Backpack or Satchel
If you are longboarding for the long haul like commuters or long distance pushers you are going to need to carry things like water bottles, snacks, external chargers, and a first aid kit. You are going to need a convenient bag for carrying it all.
Other items you need to consider if you plan on traveling with your board include a change of clothing including a warm sweatshirt. A poncho for possible rain comes in handy as well as socks, sunscreen, tools, spare parts for your board like bushings, bolts, nuts, and bearings.
Skating puts some wear and tear on your shoes, especially the one on your pushing/braking foot. Also, you don’t want to be riding a longboard while wearing logger boots. You need a pair of light water repellent kicks to optimize your speed. But the soles need to be durable with strong support for your feet. Comfort inserts wouldn’t hurt either.
As you can see after reading all this information longboarding is a commitment, and there is a lot to consider. The good news is you just gave yourself a quick education on what it takes to try longboarding, which means you are sincerely interested in the sport and should take the next step.
If you haven’t ridden one, get out there and try it. If you have and know what you want then start shopping so you can get one of your own. If you experimented with longboarding and have something to add, please leave us a comments section.