New to longboarding? Don’t worry if you don’t have a clue what you’re doing. Most riders I know think they’re a lot smarter than they actually are, myself included. So you’re probably not quite as far behind as you think you are, but as a rider with several years of experience skating and a few years in the biz, I figure I can probably help a lot of ya’ll in some way. The goal of this article is to create some simple longboarding tips that will either help you become a better rider or tune your board so that you can maximize your experience. I’m going to start with #1 and end with #10 because this ain’t no hottest hotties countdown. And these are in no particular order of importance…more like the order that they popped into my head. So without further adieu (had to look that word up), may the longboard tips commence!
1. Bushings – for the most part, stock bushings in most trucks suck. Longboard bushings should have a purpose. Most stock bushings were chosen with a purpose in mind, but how can you tell if the manufacturer’s purpose was the same as yours? The truth is, there are no “best longboard trucks.” There are a couple of designs out there that have substantial design differences, but most trucks are about the same–basically a modified Randall RKP truck with a different shape, bushing seat design, or axle width. The bushings will function differently in each of these designs, and when you build your own longboard, picking the right combination to suit your style and your current gear will make all the difference in the world.
2. The rider, not the ride – There are no best longboards, there are no best wheels for sliding, there are no best longboard trucks. There is only what you got, and what you’re doing with it. That’s not to say that you won’t have an easier time making long slides on harder wheels with round lips on a stiff board with foot-locking concave. But it’s ALWAYS going to come down to personal preference, and most of that, my friends, is in your head. I personally have the easiest time sliding low, stiff boards, with soft, round lipped wheels. I also like sliding top mounts with 24-inch wheelbases simply because it’s super fun and just sketchy enough to make it exciting without being extremely dangerous. I also like sliding my 20-inch wheelbase slalom board with trucks wedged for pumping, but hey, that’s just me, and I don’t recommend it for you. I also like, dun dun DUUUUUUN….carving. And going fast in straight lines, or around curves. And pumping. Pumping 25mph down a gradual hill, ahhh Heaven, I tell ya! Just because 90% of what you see online involves somebody getting their wheels sideways doesn’t mean you need to be doing it to enjoy skateboarding…or longboarding…or whatever. I feel like the biggest deviation FROM skateboarding INTO longboarding came when longboarders decided that it wasn’t all about the tricks. It’s about the smiles, yo! Do what makes you happy.
3. Ease into it – New to downhill boarding? You’re one of many. All the videos online may have you thinking that you should be doing this or that. The first thing you should be doing is riding around as much as possible while gaining balance and control. Falling at 30MPH+ is not going to help you do that. Just about everyone I’ve ever seen ride a skateboard, when they’re brand new and they start bombing hills, takes a big fall off some gnarly wobbles. Most of the riders here in NYC turn into pretty solid skaters just by skating in the city and dodging pedestrians and potholes. Gaining the confidence, control over one’s body, and calm of mind takes time and effort, and that time and effort is necessary for progression. Time in a wheelchair won’t help your speed boarding much. Learn how to push, learn how to carve, learn how to stop, then learn how to stop going faster. Get yourself a set of slide gloves and then learn how to stop going even faster. Don’t go faster than you can stop unless you’re on a soapbox derby hill with no cars and no real dangers. Otherwise, you’re sort of just aligning your stars for disaster to eventually strike.
4. Bearing Spacers – One of the most overlooked longboard accessories on the market is the bearing spacer. Most knowledgable riders know how important these are, but many of the companies putting together packaged completes don’t put as much importance on these little buggers. For as cheap as these are and for how simply they are to install, spacers should really be on every single skateboard. Bearing spacers will allow you to tighten down your axle nuts all the way, keeping your bearings inline and healthy and allowing for more consistent, less choppy sliding.
5. Picking the Right Skateboard – When setting up your own personal high performance longboard, you need to ask yourself what it is that you intend to do on it. When there are so many longboard designs on the market and such a wide range of shapes and sizes, the difference between one or another will have a pretty massive impact on what you can do with it. Larger wheelbases (approximately 29-inches and up) with little or no wedging will give you a nice stable platform to handle higher speeds with. Stiffer decks and decks with very mild dampening flex (not bouncy) will also handle faster speeds as well as give more control for sliding. Lower decks will be easier to get loose and will be easier to push, while higher decks will grip more. Decks with tails will allow you to perform freestyle maneuvers and kick the board up more easily when your commute has come to a halt. Smaller wheelbase decks will turn more quickly and grip harder through turns while providing less overall stability at speed. What does all this mean? First, get a board that you fit onto. Some people will feel more comfortable on smaller decks for portability reasons, but for the most part, larger decks will be easier for most beginners because they are more stable, and having more foot space will allow you to move around on the board and find a comfortable position. Next, get a deck that allows you to do what you dream about doing on a skateboard. Our favorite do-it-all deck in the Bustin lineup is the Boombox. The board is stiff enough to go fast on, flexy and strong enough to handle some major drops off of ledges, stairs, and will usually sustain run-ins with cars reasonably well. The concave combined with rocker and radial drops on either side locks your feet in like no other for slides, and the tails allow you to pass time in the city doing some steezy freestyle maneuvers. If you don’t need all that jazz, there are a million other shapes out there that will fulfill your needs with less frills! And that’s part of the beauty of this longboarding thing. Whether you’re racing longboards down hills, sliding down your local freeride hill, or just cruising with friends through the city or your local neighborhoods, there are board shapes out there that will fit your needs perfectly.
6. Be respectful – Respect yourself and your fellow road travelers. When I say respect yourself, I mean be assertive on your skateboard. Assertive is not the same thing as aggressive. You are in charge of keeping the flow. If you have space, take it. If you don’t, chillax, don’t try to make space by taking others out of the flow. And smile and wave. Smile. And wave. It goes a long way. When you ride a skateboard, think of yourself as a giant billboard representing all skaters, everywhere. Don’t be the guy on the skateboard that The Man wants to keep off the streets. Be the guy that he fist bumps. Seriously…most cops are really easy to get along with. I’ve helped get our team out of some sticky situations on more than one occasion, and it all revolves around looking the dude in the eyes and talking to him like a decent human being, and even the ones that start off kinda pissed off usually end up proving themselves to be pretty decent human beings. Give the man in blue a chance, and give yourself a chance to prove him wrong and maybe look at all of us plank pushers a little differently.
7. Bring da funk – you’re not going to be the next Mischo Erban…I mean maybe, but probably not. So what do you have to offer the world if you’re not the fastest, longest sliding, most technical dude on the hill? Well, my friends, you have 2 great things to bring to the table. The first is a great attitude and friendship with all the other riders on the hill. This is invaluable and ultimately what’s going to keep you coming back for many years to come. The 2nd is style. There are so many ways to do things, and we are all built differently, so take advantage of your differences and use them to help create your own style. Being different on the hill is just as important as being “steezy” or holding out that slide a little longer. We have this sort of pop-culture type of attraction toward what we think is cool as skaters, but it changes on the regular and you’re never going to keep up with it. The Tyrannosaurus arms things is even getting old! Just do your own thing and do it with a smile.
9. Read this blog post on wheels. It’s super dorky but being a dork pays off when your ride is smooth like baby booty.
All You Need to Know About Longboard Wheels
10. Have a ton of fun. Like seriously, that’s why you’re doing this, right? If not, the exit is on the couch, my friends.
-Thanks to Nick Coolhands and Khaleeq Alfred for the photos used in this blog! Hope you enjoyed my lil’ longboarding tips blog. I will try to come up with some more useful stuff for ya’ll here in the near future. Remember #10!!!