Cruising on a longboard : everything you need to know

When thinking about longboarding, for most people the first things that come to mind is cruising.  If you’re considering getting into longboarding, chances are you plan to initially use your board to cruise around pleasant areas of your town.

What does it mean to cruise on a longboard  ? Cruising usually refers to riding a longboard in a relaxed and fluid way, slowly riding down a road or through city streets, roaming around for pleasure or to get from one place to another.  Cruising is a very popular longboard discipline, accessible to many people all ages and fitness levels (see my post : is longboarding hard ?)

Longboard cruising often refers to longboarding activities that are not specifically downhill, speed, or freestyle / trick focused.   But learning how to cruise on a longboard involves different things for different people, depending on how and where you plan to ride your longboard.

The following are 4 common cruising styles, listed in increasing order of agility and skills required :

  • Boardwalk riding
  • Long-distance commuting
  • Urban transportation
  • Flat ground carving

Let’s take a look at each of these styles, and the main skills you’ll need to master when cruising on your longboard.

Boardwalk cruising

By “boardwalk cruising” I’m refering to a leisure style of cruising typically done in a nice pleasant environment such as at the beach or park.  This kind of cruising is for relaxing and enjoying the day while doing some light exercise akin to running or biking.

Boardwalk cruising

What kind of board

Your best option for a relaxed and chilled boardwalk cruising ride is probably a pintail longboard.

Cruising on a longboard pintailYou’ll want a 40″ or longer deck for stability.  A flat deck (no concave) with moderate flex is perfect for easy cruising – flex gives you a comfortable ride and less stress on joints.   Choose big soft wheels for a nice suspension feel.

A bigger longboard will typically be heavier, but the ability to carry it around is not an important factor for this type of cruising.

Boardwalk cruising style

When cruising along the beach or on a park trail, you can get in a laid back position since your longboard is typically large and stable enough not to worry about balance.

Many bigger pintail longboards have good lean, meaning you can press on the rails without causing the board to turn a lot.  A board not too reactive or fast turning allows you to relax and look around as you ride.

Boardwalk cruising techniques

The main techniques you need to learn for this kind of cruising are light pushing / foot braking, and soft leaning for wide turns.

Pushing a larger pintail is easy : you just lean forward to balance your weight into your front leg, dropping your rear foot to the ground for pushing.  Since you’re cruising at low speed, braking by dragging your foot on the ground also comes naturally.

If your cruising pintail is a slow turner, you’ll need to lean quite a bit to initiate turns.  If you’re goal is to go for a relaxed ride, that’s a good thing.

When cruising on your longboard, make sure to keep your spine straight (not bent), your rib cage high (not tucked into your hips), and your shoulders externally rotated, to avoid back issues from riding over time.

Long-distance cruising

long distance cruising

Another common good reason for cruising on a longboard is for long distance commuting – “long distance” may be across campus or all the way across town.

The board type and skills for commuting are similar to those of “boardwalk cruising”, except in this case you ideally want more speed and mileage for less effort to get further faster.

What kind of board

For a commuting cruiser longboard, you would likely choose a board with a very long deck (say 42″+), as a low as possible to the ground so you can keep pushing over longer periods of time with less effort.

A drop platform – or a double drop (drop deck + drop-through) – with good stand-over length is the best choice.  (click here for more info about longboard types)

This type of cruising board is not only very push-friendly, but also super stable as your center of gravity lies so close to the ground.

A dropped platform will have even more lean, and less turn, than a classic pintail – which are usually topmounts hence more reactive.  Stability and lean, and slow turning, is what you want for long distance cruising.

You’ll also want wheels with a large diameter (70-75mm) for speed, very soft (low durometer in relation to your weight) for absorbing shocks from bumps and holes, and squared edged for good grip.

You may also want to get some good quality bearings (e.g. Bone Reds) to maximize distance from each of your pushes.

Long distance cruising style

When long distance cruising on a longboard, you may get into a slightly tucked position to minimize air resistance after each push so as to get the best mileage from each impulse.  However, you also want your position to be sustainable without too much strain over a potentially long time.

When riding on a long deck, you typically stand up front, closer to the nose, for better control and speed, with most of your weight lying forward.

Long distance cruising skills

The main skill you need to build for long-distance cruising is power pushing.  You first need to master balancing on your front leg, with your front foot facing forward (or at a slight angle) and your front knee bent to lower your center of gravity and keep your body stable as your rear foot kicks the ground.

Then through practice, you will find your optimal pushing range – that is, how far back your foot should stay in contact with the ground – and frequency  – how much time between successive pushes so as to not lose momentum.

You’ll also get a feel for how strong a push you need so as to strike a balance between effort (energy spent) and speed.

In some cases, if your itinerary grants it you may need to push upwill on mild slopes, which requires more effort and higher fitness level.

Urban transportation cruising

Longboarding as urban transportation

If you use your longboard primarily for moving around the city, learning how to cruise involves both a different type of board and different skills.

What kind of board

City cruising requires a more agile and nimble board compared with beach or long distance cruising.  For this kind of cruising, a longboard with a shorter deck, e.g. 32 to 38″, and a tight turning radius is the best option for navigating people, cars and obstacles.

Besides short length, you want the deck to be stiffer to give you more leverage in turns, that is, better power transmission, making it easier to cut street corners and ride along those narrow sidewalks.

Shorter longboards are often more lightweight.  Portability is important in city cruising as you constantly need to step in and out of traffic, turning into a pedestrian as needed.

You may also want a board with a kicktail to help you get over those small obstacles, and help you jump on and off of sidewalks.  Kicktails, however, often come at the expense of stability with a shorter wheelbase.

City cruising style

When riding a smaller longboard for city cruising, you keep your body in tension and your knees flexed, getting ready for quick turns and / or tail kicks.  Due to the board being reactive, you constantly need to readjust your balance and body weight.  You’re also always on the lookout for cars, pedestrians, dogs etc.

To avoid upsettting people, make sure to go slow in crowded zones.  When riding on a sidewalk use your hands to signal where you are going.  Also, always give people room to walk, staying in your “lane”.

City cruising skills

Cruising around town requires continuous pushing, quick turns, small jumps, and fast foot braking.

You have to master light kicking your longboard tail with your rear foot to ease yourself over pebbles and bumps.  Kicking the tail also allows you to pick up your board quickly and walk among cars or people when needed.

This cruising style is closer to street skateboarding, but it’s a lot of fun.  There will still be moments when you’ll find yourself riding freely down the street, until the next obstacle comes up.

“Carving” cruising

Carving cruising longboardCarving is sometimes described as a discipline of its own, separate from cruising.  Carving on flat ground, however, can be a great part of the cruising experience on a longboard, so I’ve included it here as a fourth cruising style.

Carving involves picking up speed on your longboard without foot pushing, by chaining successive turns and impulsing energy through powerful weight shifts.   Click here for more about carving.

What kind of board

Carving can be done on any kind of longboard, though some boards are specifically designed for it.  Carver boards are not a completely distinct animal, some city cruisers and shorter pintail boards are well suited for carving as well.

Carving requires a board that turns faster than a regular cruiser, yet not necessarily as fast as a highly reactive city cruiser.

When you carve, you want your turns to flow smoothly, pendulum-like, in response to your body’s rotations. You may prefer a smaller or midsize board, with loose RKP trucks for deeper turns, and a deck with concave to help secure your feet while you sway back and forth.

A topmount board is typically a good choice due to its responsiveness.  You need soft square wheels for grip in your deep turns.  To avoid wheel bite in such turns, your deck may be elevated with risers and/or have wheel wells to grant more space for the turned wheels.

Carving riding style and skills

Performing turns that really generate speed require a wave-like body motion that takes time and practice to master.  Carving involves full body rotation and weight shifting originating from your head, and naturally propagating down to your shoulders, hips, knees, ankles and toes.  Your body transmits energy into the board’s edge while in the turn.

An important skill is to understand at which point during each turn to lower your center of gravity, and when to release.

Cruising through carving is a subtle skill for which you need to become one with your longboard, getting a deep feel of the way the board reacts to, and accelerates, with your body’s rotations and leans.

Wrapping up

Cruising on your longboard can range from easy riding at the beach, to pushing hard over long distances, to fast kicking and turning along city sidewalks.  Whatever your style, choosing the right machine for the job will make your life easier and more pleasant !

If you already have a longboard, however, just be aware that you can probably tune it to some degree to match your preferred riding style.


Photo credits:
Longboard by the beach” (CC BY 2.0) by bailout design
Pintail longboard, Unai Fdz. de Betoño (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Push for the Cure Ontario 2013” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Fixed in Silver (cropped to focus on rider with backpack)
Surf One, Day 146 of 365” (CC BY 2.0) by DieselDemon
Carving” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by Robert Conrad Photography

Add comment

About me

Big Kahuna

Hi I'm Jesse. I'm a board sports enthusiast. All my life I've been passionate about the board riding lifestyle. My goal is to help you get on a board and get hooked forever. Whether on land, ocean, or snow. No matter how old and how fit you are, or where you live. Aloha !