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How To Fall Off A Longboard Without Hurting Yourself

How To Fall Off A Longboard Without Hurting Yourself

Last week-end, I was riding my Loaded Poke at a quiet pace on the beach sidewalk, when my wheels hit a bump and I face planted against the sidewalk, cutting my chin wide open (stitches required) and traumatizing my jaw joint (hurts when I eat!)

Now falling is part of longboarding, if you’ve been riding for a while, you’ve no doubt experienced it. If you’re lucky, you get away with mild bumps and bruises, but you may also end up with broken bones and/or concussions. Since falling at some point is inevitable for longboarders, I decided to learn how to fall properly.

How do you fall on a longboard? If you’re going at low to moderate speed, you should bail off your board and catch yourself running, then immediately get ready to “tuck and roll” to land on your shoulder. This will help absorb the impact through your momentum over a wider surface, vs your body slamming hard against the ground and taking the full impact from your fall.

This approach works well for “slower” fall situations where you’re going too fast to simply run it out but still slow enough to bail in a more-or-less standing position before you actually trip forward. Rolling it out can even get you to land on your feet, and often limit the damage to your body.

See also: Can You Teach Yourself to Skateboard?

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Technique for falling off your longboard the right way

When you lose your balance and fall forward on your longboard, your natural instinct is to throw your arms out to try to catch yourself with your hands. It’s a very bad idea! Posting your arm out often results in broken wrists and arms or at the very least hyperextensions. Likewise, falling backward on your hands can result in broken arms or elbows.

When longboarding at slow to moderate speeds – e.g. under 15-20 mph, in most cases you’re able to bail and step on the ground before your fall. Trying to outrun it can lead to a harder fall and loss of control. Committing to rolling right after you jump off is a better approach, although it does require the right skills.

Thus, it’s important for you to know how to roll. Break falling is a technique commonly taught to Judo and Jiu-Jitsu learners since they need to be able to get thrown without hurting themselves. Break falling allows you to reduce the impact of a fall by spreading its force across a wider surface.

To perform a break fall, you partly extend one arm and you roll over your forearm and then your shoulder in a single fluid motion. Your other arm and elbow are tucked against your upper body. You then absorb the impact by rolling on your shoulders and back. A key aspect of this technique is to keep your chin tucked to your chest.

OK this all sounds super easy on paper, but how can you actually learn the technique without killing yourself on your longboard?

How to learn proper longboard falling techniques

Here are some steps that can help you learn how to fall properly – I’ve been working on learning these steps myself.

Find a soft surface to practice on such as thick grass, a carpet, or a large mat e.g. in a gym or dojo. You’ll practice on that surface before graduating to harder ones, and eventually on concrete.

1. Learn forward falling on your longboard

When you lose your balance, jump off your board, and are about to fall forward, you need to get into a forward roll. Check out the following clip:

Here are the steps to learn the forward fall:

1.1. Rolling forward on a fitness fall

Starting with a fitness ball makes it much easier to learn the technique. Kneel down on the floor with your upper body lying horizontally on a fitness ball. Wrap the arm on which you will roll around the ball with the back of your hand touching the floor. Rest your opposite hand on the side of the ball under your chest.

Start rolling forward over the ball, head first. Tuck your chin onto your upper chest and let yourself roll with the ball over your arm, shoulder, and lower back. As you complete the roll, slap the ground with your free hand.

1.2. Rolling forward from a kneeling position

Kneeling on the ground, tuck your head against your chest and start rolling your hand and arm down between your knees, bringing your shoulder across and down until it reaches the ground. You then continue to roll over your shoulder and on to the side of your back, until you come over fully and land on your side.

As you land your roll, as your feet touch the ground you slap the ground with your free hand – e.g. opposite your rolling arm. Once comfortable on one side, practice doing that same roll on the opposite side.

1.3. Rolling forward from a one-knee down position

The next step before learning to fall and roll is to start with one knee down and one knee up. This is very similar to the previous step, except your starting position is closer to a standing position since you only have a single knee down on the floor.

Here again, you sweep your hand down to bring your shoulder down and forward to the ground . Here your hand points towards your toes on the kneeling side, leading your arm then shoulder down to the ground. The rest of the roll is similar to step 1.2.

Doing the forward roll starting from a one-knee down position will help you get through the next step.

1.4. Forward fall from an upright position

This final step is the real deal, rolling from a standing position. While standing, you first bring your rolling arm up, then you bring your arm and shoulder across your body and down towards the ground. Your arm and shouler lead your upper body into the roll as you bend at the waist. You then roll fluidly over the side of your arm, shoulder, and back, all following a diagonal plane in your body. Keep your chin tucked in at all times.

2. Learn backward falling on your longboard

Now that you know how to fall forward, you need to learn to fall backward the right way. Watch this 50 second clip:

2.1. Roll straight backward from a squat position

Start off your roll from a squat position. From there, let yourself roll backward over your butt and lower back, ending with your legs up in the air. As you roll, slap the ground with your hands on both sides of your hips.

2.2. Roll straight backward from a standing position

This step is similar to the previous one except your start off standing. You first crouch down to bring yourself to the starting position of the previous step, then perform the backward roll in the same way.

2.3. Roll sideways from a standing position

From a standing position, swing your arm across your upper body and your leg across your lower body to “sweep yourself off” the floor. Simultaneously, you lower your butt to the floor and roll over the side of your butt and lower back like. As you perform the rolling step, you slap the ground with your free hand.

Practice rolling over one side until you feel comfortable, then on the opposite side.

For both the forward and backward fall, you should always focus on keeping your chin tucked to your chest, which keeps youd head from hitting the ground when you land.

Practice break falling as often as possible until it becomes second nature. After some time, you’ll be able to use this technique to roll out of bails and avoid nasty falls when riding your longboard. Check out this bail:

How to fall when longboarding at high speed

The break falling techniques we’ve looked at don’t really apply to extremely high-speed longboarding situations. If you’re riding at 30 or 40 mph, you’re always going to slide on the ground very fast after falling down. The horizontal force of sliding is going to be even more important than the vertical force from your fall.

In these situations, the basic principles of not trying to post out to catch yourself and protecting your head still apply. What you should do if you fall is try to orient yourself face down and prop yourself on your glove pucks and kneepads to slide it out:

If you fall backward at high speed, however, you can probably try to break fall and take the slide rather than put your hands out in the back. Road rash will hurt but it won’t be as bad as broken bones and concussions.

Final words

Wearing protective gear (helmet, elbow and knee pads, wrist guards, etc) obviously is a big help in keeping you safe. But learning to fall properly is just as important. You won’t always be able to run it out, you may get caught off guard and trip over like I did last weekend. When that happens, catching yourself with your hands (like I did) is often the worst thing to do.

Learning to fall on your longboard boils down to learning how to roll. Practice the forward and backward break fall, first on soft surfaces, then on harder ground. You’ll be glad you did the next time you fall off your longboard and are unable to catch yourself running!

Photo credits:
Featured: “2009-06-26 Veko09 Longboard Skjervet 121” (CC BY 2.0) by eskedal