How To Longboard: An Easy Guide For Getting Started

Longboarding is an awesome sport. If you’re just getting started, learning how to longboard involves acquiring certain skills that will keep you safe and make riding a smooth and cool experience. I’ve broken down the skills you need to learn in 3 groups:

  • Initial preparation and training
  • Basic riding skills: balancing, moving, pushing, stopping
  • Intermediate skills: going fast, foot braking, carving, falling

Part 1: before you start riding on a longboard

Step 1 : choose the right longboard to start on

Choosing the right longboard to start on goes a long way in helping you learn faster. You want a beginner-friendly longboard, but on the other hand, you need something you can use for a while after you learn how to longboard.

Short answer: get a low-riding board with a decent wheelbase (distance between the trucks) for stability and safety. Your best bet is a drop-through (trucks mounted through the deck) or double drop – drop-through + drop deck. Two very good examples are the Arbor Dropcruiser and the Landyachtz Switchblade. Both are not only very good boards for learning, you’ll also get a lot out of them later as a confirmed rider. See this post for more on double drops.

Step 2: get some safety gear

longboard safety gear

The last thing you want is to fall off and hurt yourself, which might discourage you from learning how to longboard. The most common injuries beginner longboarders incur are to the wrists, elbows and knees.

Before you set foot on a longboard, put on some good knee/elbow pads and wrist guards. Really, you’ll be happy you did. Also, I recommend wearing a helmet before going for your first rides around the neighborhood or park.

If you need a quick recommendation for decent protection gear, check out the good reviews for these Pro-Tec elbow/knee pads, these 187 Killer wrist guards, and this Pro-Tec certified helmet on Amazon.

Step 3: find your natural stance

best drop down longboard

If you’re new to boarding sports, you may not know which is your natural stance, i.e. left foot forward (aka “regular” footer) or right foot forward (aka “goofy”).

Finding out is easy, just stand on the ground with your feet close to each other and have someone behind you give you a slight push forward. This will make you lose balance and force you to catch yourself with one foot. Whichever foot you catch yourself with (left or right) is your front foot in your natural stance.

Most people have the same natural stance for all board sports – longboarding, snowboarding, surfing, wakeboarding, kiteboarding etc. Riding in your natural stance is key to learning how to longboard.

Step 4: practice static balancing

longboarding tips for beginners

Before you start getting your longboard moving, you need to get comfortable balancing on while it’s still. The best way to do this is to place your longboard on grass or on a thick carpet so the wheels won’t roll. Then step on the longboard and adjust your stance. Look for the most comfortable stance for the best balance – typically with your feet about shoulder width apart.

Even with your wheels not moving, you may find it challenging to stay on the board as the deck leans from side to side whenever you move. Deck leans cause the wheels to turn even if not rolling. Keep your knees bent to lower your center of gravity and use your arms for balancing as you get comfortable moving your arms and legs on your static longboard.

Part 2: basic longboard riding skills

Step 1: learn to step on your longboard

learn how to step on your longboard

Now you’re ready to start rolling on your longboard. Place the board on a smooth surface such as a quiet sidewalk or a parking lot with good pavement. The first thing you need to learn is how to step onto your board.

Start to put one foot on the deck, then the other. Most people start by placing their front foot first (according to your natural stance) while your rear foot is on the ground. Some people prefer to put their back foot on the board first. You’ll immediately find out which approach works best for you.

Assuming you start with your front foot, place it close to the front trucks, not fully perpendicular to the deck, at around a 45º angle. Then lift your rear foot off the ground while balancing on the front, and place it about shoulder width behind your front foot, at a 45º to 90º angle with the deck.

If you start with the rear foot, inverse everything.

Step 2: learn to roll down a soft incline

Now that you know how to step onto your longboard, you’re ready to start rolling. Try to find a very mild and short incline with smooth pavement, and something you can hold on before you start rolling (e.g. a wall, a rail, or even a person!).

Once you’ve stepped onto your longboard as explained in Step1, you’re initially holding on to the wall or rail next to you. When you’re ready, let go with the wall so you can slowly start rolling. Feel the momentum of your longboard and focus on maintaining your balance while your wheels are rolling.

Try not to push with the balls or heels of your feet onto the sides of the deck to avoid turning initially, just go straight and get comfortable with the motion. Let your longboard lose its momentum naturally as you read the end of the incline, then step off your board.

Step 3: learn to push on your longboard

learn to push on your longboard

Find a flat area you can practice pushing on, preferably with a smooth surface. Step on your longboard, then take your rear foot off the deck and lower it down to the ground by bending your front knee and lowering your hips, balancing on your front foot only. Turn your front foot to point forward (vs at 45º) on the deck while lowering your rear foot to the ground.

Once your rear foot touches the pavement, push towards the back to get your wheels rolling. Kick it this way once or twice while balanced on your front foot on the deck. Once you get a bit of speed, bring your rear foot back off the ground and onto the deck and return both feet to a 45º angle. You’re now riding your longboard at push speed.

Step 4: learn a simple way to stop

The better you get at pushing, the faster you’ll start rolling on your longboard, so you’re going to need a way to stop. The easiest way for a beginner is to jump off your longboard and run it out. This only works as long if you’re don’t ride faster than you can run.

The most efficient way is to step with your rear foot onto the ground in front of your longboard. As you step off, this will cause your front foot to push the board backward before hitting the ground, causing the board to stop or slow down. Merely jumping off to the side of your board is likely to keep it rolling.

An alternative easy way to stop as a beginner longboarders is to roll on grass or rough surface. Just make sure there are no rocks that may stop your longboard dead and send you flying.

Step 5: learn to do simple turns

longboard heelside carve before slide

The next major step in learning how to longboard is turning. When you practiced balancing on a static longboard, you experimented with making your wheels turn by pressing on the rails with your heels and toes. Now you’re ready to do it while rolling.

On smooth flat ground, give your longboard a slight kick push as in the previous step. As you’re rolling, press with your toes onto the front edge of your deck, making your wheels turn (toeside turn). If you’re regular, that will steer your board to the right, if you’re goofy, to the left.

As you press with your toes, you can shift your body slightly toward the direction of the turn, putting more weight onto the rail. Make sure not to shift too hard so your longboard doesn’t turn too fast, practice putting just the right amount of pressure into your toes.

Then shift your weight slowly from your toes onto your heels to make your wheels turn in the opposite direction (heelside turn). Again, practice controlling the amount of body weight and pressure you put onto the rail to achieve smooth and controlled turns.

Part 3: learning intermediate riding skills

Step 1: practice going faster on your longboard

Now that you’re comfortable at beginner speeds, you’re ready to take your longboard faster. Find a soft and quiet hill that ends in a flat or inclined section. Get comfortable riding down that small hill and making small toeside and heelside turns while you go down.

Practice wider and narrower stances and shifting your weight between both feet to learn what works best for you. If you experience speed wobbles (small uncontrolled turns), try putting more weight on your front foot and doing more voluntary small turns.

On flat ground, keep practicing pushing with your natural foot (front or rear), balancing on your steering foot for longer periods for more powerful pushes. If you feel up to it, try also pushing with your alternate foot – a more advanced technique extremely useful for distance skating.

Step 2: learn to foot brake on your longboard

Previously, you learned to stop on your longboard by running it off or rolling onto grass. Your next challenge is to learn to foot brake. Though it may look easy when watching experienced riders do it, foot braking does require a bit of practice and good technique.

Like for kick pushing, the challenge is to first get comfortable balancing on your front leg (or your back leg if you’re a mongo pusher) while lowering your opposite foot to the ground to create friction and slow down. So the first part of the foot braking technique is basically the same as kick pushing.

Once your braking foot is close the ground, though, you want to brush the ground with the sole of your shoe to create friction and brake. Make sure to get low on your longboard and keep your knees close to each other for stability while your foot touches the ground.

Foot braking is an effective technique at moderate speeds but can be dangerous at really high speeds – learning to slide is typically a better aproach when going really fast on your longboard.

Step 3: learn to control your speed through carving

The next most important technique you should learn as a beginner longboarder is carving to control your speed. Find a slightly steeper slope with enough width for a 180º turn (i.e. heading back uphill) on your longboard and with no traffic.

Now get onto your longboard and start heading slightly downhill. Before you pick up a lot of speed, turn slightly uphill so you’re riding perpendicular to the slope (vs into it). When you reach the edge of the road, do a hard turn and ride across again in the opposite direction.

This is called carving, i.e. slaloming from one edge of the road to the other to control your speed – vs riding straight down. Carving allows you to ride down steeper hills by making successive tight turns. Each time around, you lean hard into your rail to make your longboard turn close to 180º.

Carving requires that you master weight shifting and body rotation on your longboard with your eyes (and front shoulder) always looking toward your target direction. Practice carving on smaller hills before tackling steeper ones.

Step 4: learn to fall off your longboard

Another important thing you’ll need as a beginner longboarder is learning how to fall. A natural reaction when falling is to catch yourself with your hands on the ground which can easily result in a broken wrist or even a broken arm.

Therefore, it’s important to educate yourself to fall the right way, i.e. tucking your arms in across your upper body, landing on your forearm, and rolling sideways on your shoulder, like in the following short clip:

Practice the fall on a mattress before attempting it on thick grass, for example.

Another way to fall safely when riding your longboard is to drop to your knees and slide on your kneepads – you obviously need strong kneepads to do that.

Final words

Learning how to longboard takes practice, but following the above step will get you pushing and carving in no time. Once you master the basic skills I’ve listed in this post, your next step will be to learn how to slide so you can take your longboarding skills to the next level.

***
Photo credits:
– Featured: “DSC07234_edited-1” (CC BY 2.0) by Rob Cruickshank
– Product shots: 187 Killer pads, S1 Helmet
– “Longboard Dancing with Dad” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by paulhami
– “longboard” (CC BY 2.0) by claudiolobos
– Longboard pushing photo: “Swoosh” by Victor Neves (permission: Loaded Boards)
– Carving photo: Loaded Boards with permission
– “DSC05290” (CC BY 2.0) by Rob Cruickshank

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About me

Big Kahuna

Hi I'm Jesse. All my life I've been passionate about the board riding lifestyle. Some years ago I got into longboarding, and in doing so, I discovered a whole new universe and a fantastic community. There's something for everyone in longboarding regardless of age, gender, size, and fitness level. Ride on!

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