Freestyle longboarding is the most acrobatic, “stunty” of longboard riding styles, with constant board flipping and spinning tricks. It’s the closest to traditional street skateboarding, although freestyle longboarding has a less aggressive and more stylish touch compared to its radical shortboard cousin.
But don’t quote me on that, not trying to stir up the old shortboard vs longboard feud.
Freestyle longboarding is a highly technical kind of riding style. Unlike freeriding, which involves riding downhill and sliding to control speed, freestyle is performed mainly on flat ground, sometimes making use of surrounding obstacles such as street curbs and stairways.
Freestyle also includes street and skateparks riding alongside street skateboarders. The type of longboard needed for park and pool has different characteristics from old-school street and even new-school and dancing tricks. See how to choose the best longboard for freestyle.
Freestylers are skilled and fit
Freestyle longboarding requires solid balancing skills, body control and agility, in extreme, acrobatic postures. It involves kicking and flipping your board around while you jump on and off it in different stances.
This style is probably the most athletic and calorie burning of longboarding – read more about longboarding as as workout.
It can be argued that freestyle longboarding is not as dangerous an activity as high speed downhill or city traffic commuting. (how safe is longboarding anyway?)
But freestyling can be rough on the body, as some moves have potentially high impact on feet, ankles, knees, joints and ligaments in general – twists and sprains are common among hardcore freestylers.
That’s probably why many freestyle longboarders are teenagers or younger adults. They are most likely to have the agility, join mobility and ligament strength to perform such explosive and full-range-of-motion moves with less strain.
However, if you’re not a teenager (like me – in my mid forties) all is not lost. Provided your have decent fitness level, with the right amount of stretching and warmup, you can build up the skills you need for some pretty sleek freestyle riding on your longboard. Let’s look at a few techniques to get you started.
Start with easier freestyle techniques
There are actually hundreds of freestyle tricks and variations, from basic pivoting to super complex kickflip combinations with the strangest names (how does “tiger claw 540 body varial” sound ?)
Personally, I have a preference for those elegant tricks that revolve more around body weight shifting, flowing and sliding, vs kicking and jumping.
It turns out these are also the easiest tricks to learn for beginners and older longboarders who already know the basics – pushing, standing, cruising, foot braking. In this post, I’ll take a look at a few of these “flowy” type, accessible freestyle tricks.
One quick note : a sister longboarding style sometimes included in freestyling is longboard dancing. It also involves foot tricks while riding on flat ground, but is more artsy and focused on moving around and cross stepping, twisting and turning, and overall dancing on a larger board. Click here to learn more about longboard dancing.
In this article, I’ll focus on non-dancing freestyle, even though both styles share some of the techniques.
Easy freestyle longboarding trick : nose manual
Watch this (7 seconds) :
A nose manual makes a great introduction to the world of freestyle longboarding. If you’re already able to just stand on your longboard while it’s cruising, this is the first step in learning balancing tricks.
The nose manual involves riding on your front wheels while lifting your back wheels off the ground. You start by moving your front foot up to the nose of your longboard, shifting your body weight slightly onto that front foot.
Depending on the length of your board, you may need to move your rear foot up a bit towards the center. Note that the rider in this video is on a very long board, which is not typically the case for freestyle boards – this looks more like a dancing board.
Notice how the rider is turning his shoulders forward slightly more than normal riding stance.
The trick is to find just the right amount of shifting your shoulders and hips toward the front to tip your board onto its front truck without completely toppling it forward. This will take some patience and practice, but it’s a fantastic and risk-free exercise that will get you started with freestyle techniques.
Easy freestyle longboarding trick : pivot
Watch this 7 seconds extract :
A pivot is a manual nose coupled with a 180º spin of your longboard on your front wheels. Just like the manual, you start from your normal riding stance by moving your front foot up to the nose of the board, and your rear foot toward the center of the board.
You also shift some of your body weight onto your front foot to get the rear wheels off the ground. But at the same time, you start rotating your shoudlers and hips, pivoting on your front foot and swinging your board with your back foot into a half turn, bringing your back foot to the front.
For me spinning the board 180º was relatively easy to learn, but the harder part was to ride “switch” (opposite my natural stance) after the spin.
If that’s your case, you may want to first practice riding switch, that is, with your “unnatural” foot forward, before trying pivoting. Switch riding is a fundamental skill to master for freestyling.
With a little practice, you should soon master pivots, which again will provide you with a solid foundation for more complex techniques.
Easy freestyle longboarding trick : shove-it
Watch this 8 second extract :
The frontside shove-it (aka “shuvit”) goes one step further from the pivot, in that you switch stance right as you finish spinning your board 180º. As a result, you end up in your natural riding stance, vs. in switch with the pivot.
Like in the pivot, you start in normal stance and move your foot and body weight onto the nose, and spin the board on its front wheels by swinging your back foot around.
Here, however, you perform a subtle jump to flip yourself around at the same time that the board rotation is completing, so you end up in your initial stance even though the longboard was flipped 180º.
In other words, your back foot still drives the board to swing it around, but before the swing is over you perform a subtle jump to switch feet.
This trick is a bit harder than the previous ones, but it’s really cool looking and a great feeling when you succeed at it.
Easy freestyle longboarding trick : tiger claw
Watch this 3 second excerpt :
The tiger claw is a slick looking, flowing technique that doesn’t involve complex balancing and weight shifts.
As you ride, you move your back foot onto the real kicktail of your longboard, and your front foot toward the center. While the previous tricks started with moving your front foot onto the board nose, this trick starts by kicking the back tail.
With your foot and some of your weight on the rear tail of the board, you lift up your front foot off the board and step onto the ground. As a result, the nose of your board comes up toward your hand.
You grab the board with your front hand while you step on the ground, you swing the board 360º with your hand, then put it back down in rolling position underneath you while still walking.
At the same time as you put the board down, you jump back on it and resume riding.
As you can see this technique doesn’t involve any complex tricks, the difficulty is to perform it in a fluid and continuous motion, as that’s what gives it style.
Tip : before kicking the tail, try to put your front foot closer to the edge so when you take your front foot off and the board lifts up, it will do so with a swinging motion that you’ll continue with your hand.
Easy freestyle longboarding trick : caveman
Watch this 10 second excerpt :
Awesome ! see that same sequence in slow motion by skipping to t=2:48 (until 3:01)
The caveman looks harder than the tiger claw, but in reality it’s quite similar. In both maneuvers, you start by scooping the board with a tail kick, grab the board while you walk and flip it, then jump back on it.
The main difference is that this time, after grabbing the board with your hand you give it a 360º vertical flip, instead of swinging it horizontally as in the tiger claw.
Notice how the rider jumps back onto the longboard while it’s still off the ground, as the board completes its flip. So when the board lands back on the floor after spinning, the rider is already in riding stance. This is the part that requires the most practice.
Slightly harder freestyle trick : G-turn
Let’s complete this list of beginner freestyle longboarding tricks with the G-turn, a more advanced technique. Watch the following 5 second excerpt :
As you can see, the G-turn involves performing a U-turn on 2 wheels (nose manual) followed by a pivot. It requires quite a bit of balancing and coordination.
As in the nose manual, you start by shifting your weight onto your front foot placed on the board nose to tip the board’s back truck off the ground. If you haven’t done so, make sure to practice the nose manual technique by itself first.
The next part is the hardest : while riding on your front truck (with your back wheels off the ground), you need to initiate a U-turn. You can’t just press your toes onto your longboard’s rail to make it turn since you’re standing on your front wheels in a very unstable position.
The way you steer the board around in that position is through subtle rotation of your shoulders and hips. See how the rider is bending at the hips and leaning his shoulders towards the turning direction.
The last part is probably the easiest, swinging the longboard 180º with your feet in a regular pivot. Again, make sure to practice pivoting before trying this more advanced technique.
Tip : note how the rider starts to swing his upper body slightly at the same time as he starts pushing on the nose to lift his back wheels. Initiating your shoulder rotation and nose press simultaneously is key in performing the U-turn successfully.
So yes, freestyle longoarding is a high skills riding style that requires some patience and work. Whatever your riding level, age, and build though, if you’re in reasonably good shape and have decent balancing skills, you can get into this awesome discipline starting with the easier tricks we’ve seen and moving up from there.
If you feel you’re not up to these types of maneuvers just yet, first get in shape doing some easy cruising on your longboard, familiarizing yourself with motion, balancing, and turning. After a short while you’ll feel confident enough to try a simple pivot or nose manual. Best of luck !