07 Jan Longboarding 101: How to Skate Safely on an Open Road
What is longboarding? From the name itself, longboarding is a form of skateboarding where you ride a longer board with bigger trucks and wheels.
Longboarding has many disciplines. Some people like to cruise on their longboard, some people enjoy freestyle riding, longboard dancing, and others get really gnarly and bomb down hills, sometimes going over 100 kph.
However, just because you have a longer board doesn’t mean that you’re longboarding. There are some skateboard tricks that you can’t do on a longboard and some longboard tricks that you can’t do on a skateboard.
Of course, tricks like kickflips are much easier to do on a skateboard with a tail. Things like carving and turning will be more comfortable with wider trucks like on a longboard.
As mentioned, longboarding has many disciplines, but I want to maintain focus on downhill skateboarding or freeriding in this article.
Unlike street or park skateboarding, longboards do not have many designated skateparks for people to longboard. Most downhill skaters use the open road and it can be dangerous or even fatal if you’re not safe.
This guide will give you some of the most useful tips for longboarding safely on an open road. Whether you’re looking to shred hills and canyon roads or if you decide to get a longboard or cruiser skateboard for commuting to work or school, these tips are here to help!
How to Ride a Longboard
How to Determine If You’re Goofy or Regular
First things first, you need to figure out if you’re goofy footed or regular footed. If you already have experience riding a skateboard, you can probably skip this step.
Goofy doesn’t mean something funny in the case of skateboarding. It just means that you’re more comfortable riding forward with your right foot in front and your left foot in the back.
If you are regular, you’re more comfortable riding with your left foot in the front of the board, pushing off the ground with your right foot.
Method #1: Ride a skateboard
The best way to find out if you’re goofy or regular is to stand on your board and have someone push you slowly.
If it feels more natural going forward with your left foot in the front, you’re regular footed. The same goes for your right foot for goofy footed.
Method #2: Slide with your socks on
Many skateboarders swear that if you run and slide on a smooth surface with your socks on, you’ll naturally plant your dominant foot in the front during the slide.
Method #3: Lay down and stand up
You can also try laying down on the ground and getting up. If you get up using your right foot, you’re most likely goofy and vice-versa.
All of these suggestions might work, but the best method, in my opinion, is the first one.
Your Front Foot Should Be Your Dominant Foot
One of the most significant differences between riding a regular skateboard and a longboard is the how you position your weight. When riding a longboard, you need to put most of your weight on your front foot, especially if you are riding downhill.
As a street skater, I had to learn this the hard way. When I tried going down a steep hill on a longboard for the first time, I didn’t know I had to shift the weight on the front foot, which is why I wobbled when I got going really fast.
Good thing I didn’t get hurt, but that’s just because I had skateboarding experience.
Helpful Tip: It’s good to keep your front foot at a 45-degree angle for better balance when riding a longboard.
How to Turn and Carve on a Longboard
If you have skateboard experience, you probably turn by placing weight on the tail of the board and lifting up the front wheels.
In longboarding or when riding a cruiser, you can turn by carving. All you need to do is keep balance and lean on your toes or heels. Lightly lean your shoulders in the direction of your carve. Even if some longboards have a kicktail, carving is more fun when you want to turn!
Loosen or Tighten Your Longboard Trucks
Some people like to skate with loose trucks because it allows you to carve easier and it’s easier to do slide maneuvers when you start learning to do powerslides.
However, riding with your trucks too loose will make it harder to balance, especially when going fast. Make sure you adjust the tightness of your kingpin nut just right, allowing you to carve and keep balance at the same time.
How to Footbrake on a Longboard
When longboarding on the open road, it’s essential to know how to slow down.
It’s easy to gain speed, slowing down is the more challenging part!
Before riding downhill, make sure you’re comfortable riding and turning on your longboard. You also need to be able to balance on your front foot.
Why? Because when footbraking, you will have to lift your back foot and gradually push it towards the ground to slow down before coming to a stop.
Do not immediately stomp your foot on the ground because you will fall or get thrown off your board. Remember, gradually place your back foot on the ground while maintaining balance with your front foot.
Once you’re comfortable with the basics of longboarding, we recommend finding a mellow hill to get the feel of riding downhill.
Limber Up Before Skating
To stay alert when riding, your muscles have to be ready.
Make sure you do some stretches and warm-ups before your descent. Doing this will keep your blood flowing and help you stay alert in unexpected situations.
Wear Protective Gear While Longboarding
Make sure you have safety gear before longboarding downhill. Whenever you’re skating on an open road, you never know what’s going to happen, so make sure you have these gear handy:
Helmets for longboarding should be light enough so that you can still move and turn your head easily. There are helmets made specifically for skateboarding that protect the back of the head properly. You should not use a bicycle helmet.
If you plan on riding fast, make sure you invest in a full-face helmet. It has full head protection, which is essential for downhill skateboarding on an open road.
Elbow and knee pads are essential, especially for beginners. It will save you from scabs and a lot of pain. You can thank me later!
Wearing slide gloves is a longboarding staple. It allows you to place your hand down when doing pre-drifts, and it will protect your palms from getting scabs and bruises.
Even if you don’t know how to drift yet, wearing gloves will protect your hands and fingers. Some people make their own slide gloves with an old pair of gloves and a chopping board, but it is much safer to buy proper ones for better protection.
5 Tips to Longboard Safely on an Open Road
IMPORTANT NOTE: Some towns and cities have local laws regarding longboarding on streets and sidewalks.
Please check the laws in your area before riding.
Always stay alert. Use your eyes and ears to listen for oncoming traffic or other longboarders when skating on a hill.
Some people like to skate with headphones on because, let’s face it, it’s fun to cruise down a hill while jamming to your playlist. However, it’s really not safe. If you choose to do this, make sure you can still hear your surroundings.
Always be mindful of other riders and cars. If you’re not confident enough to ride with cars, you can footbrake and stop, or you can….
Choose a Spot with Few Vehicles
I recommend this tip for both beginners and experienced longboarders alike.
The open road may be fun to skate, but always remember that it’s not made for skaters. It’s made for cars; fast, furious, heavy, deadly cars.
If you know a spot where traffic is minimal, go for it! It doesn’t have to be gnarly all the time, especially if you are just learning the ropes.
Photo of GB riding Tuna Canyon Road in Malibu, Ca
There’s a canyon road in California called Tuna Canyon Road. It’s a popular spot among longboarders and a one-way road with no oncoming traffic.
The catch is, it’s tough to skate if you’re a beginner. It’s really fast and scary, so make sure to choose your spots wisely and not blow it by breaking the rules!
Skate with a Friend
If you have a choice, always skate with a friend. It‘s better if there’s someone there to help just in case anything happens.
Designate a spotter
Skating around corners is delightful when longboarding, but if it’s a blind turn, make sure you have a spotter. Your friend can spot you and tell you if there is oncoming traffic before hitting the turn.
Corners are the best places to practice your toeside and heelside slides and pre-drifts!
In longboarding, clapping indicates that there is a car or a rider speeding behind you. There is no need to panic if you hear someone clapping with their slide gloves on. All you need to do is stay alert.
Once you hear a clap, take a quick glance at your surroundings and do what is appropriate. You will either need to stop or slowly swerve to the right.
Follow Traffic Rules
On a longboard, it’s very easy to miss or blow through stop signs. Remember, not following traffic rules is extremely dangerous. Make sure you always follow traffic rules and remember to stay in your designated lane at all times, unless you’re on a closed course.
Some spots get banned from longboarding because other longboarders didn’t follow the rules and got hurt. You don’t want that to happen, especially if you’re a part of a longboarding community in your area!
Time to Go Longboarding!
Hopefully, these tips will help prevent you from getting hurt so you can make the most out of longboarding on open roads! Not only will following them help protect you, but it also the people around you.
So, what are you waiting for?! Grab your board and have fun!
Text by GB Castillo
Photo 1: Marine Graham riding Perth area, Australia
Photo 2: GB Castillo riding Tuna Canyon Road in Malibu, Ca, USA