commuting on a longboard

Long Distance Longboarding : Getting Started with Travel Skating

You may have heard the term “long distance pushing”, “long distance pumping”, or just “LDP” before.  These are part of the overall long distance longboarding riding style, another fascinating, athletic, and sometimes extreme branch of the longboarding sport.

Long distance longboarding takes longboard commuting to the next level.  LDP longboarders skate across cities, states, countries, and even continents.  Some engage in extreme adventure to break distance world records.  Others race across hundreds of miles pushing on their longboards.

What makes distance skating a discipline of its own, vs only a subset of cruising and commuting, are the significant technical and physical challenges and preparation required for skating across tens, hundreds or thousands of miles.

Long distance longboarders also use gear (longboard, trucks, wheels, trekking equipment) that is best suited for sustained riding/pushing over long itineraries and helps minimize the effort they need to put in.

In this post, I’ll take a closer look at this incredible discipline.  I’ll examine:

  • Why riders get hooked on long distance longboarding
  • What are the different LDL styles
  • What are the techniques involved
  • What kind of gear works best
  • What are the challenges
  • How to prepare for LDL

Why get into long distance longboarding anyway ?

Long distance skating has been around for quite a few years, but recently it’s been catching on in the longboarding community – albeit in a quieter way than, say, downhill and freeriding.

Longboarders often first discover the fun and benefits of riding their longboard for commuting to school or work, and progressively start skating daily over longer distances.  You may also get into the discipline by accident – e.g. after a car breakdown that forces you to ride your longboard to the closest town

Transportation is only part of the story, and this is where LDP forks out from normal commuting.  You get into LDP for same reasons you get into running, biking, or paddling marathons : for the challenge, the endurance, the endorphin rush, the camaraderie.

Pushing and riding on your longboard for miles on end can be an amazing experience, similar to that of distance running.  Meanwhile you get a solid cardio workout and strength training of your core (midsection) and lower body (see also longboarding as a workout).

Long distance longboarding gives you the thrill of athletic performance and pushes your limits as you ride for longer times and distances.  Your workout becomes less of a routine as it doubles up as your preferred transportation.

The learning curve for this board sport is relatively short, and push racing is quite accessible to newer riders.

Depending on your personal goals, you may also end up adding adventure travel on top of athletic activity by planning a cross country (or longer) longboarding trip.

Like many riders, you’ll get inspired by the extraordinary feats of prominent long distance longboarders such as Adam Colton, Dave Cornthwaite , and other dedicated LDP-ers throughout the world.

A word of caution : if you do get hooked on LDL, it may eventually become a major thing in your life, focusing a lot of your resources, energy and passion.

Long distance longboarding techniques

There are two general  approaches to skating long distance : long distance pushing and long distance pumping – both are commonly referred to as “LDP” which can sometimes be a bit confusing.

Both approaches focus on the same goal, which is to ride your longboard across land to a potentially far-away destination.  However,  pushing and pumping involve different moves, skills, and challenges.

Long distance pushing

In this longboarding style, you kick push your skate across miles of roadways – e.g. 188 miles at the Chief Ladiga Comet Skate Challenge, or nearly 300 miles at the Ultraskate long distance push European event.

The biggest challenge of this discipline is to maintain the continuity of your pushing and achieve a steady and sustained pushing pace.  For this, you need the right board and gear (see later), and of course, the right technique.

Your goal is to find a pushing frequency and power amount that are the most effective for you, i.e. that give you the greatest impulse with the least effort so you can keep going for hours without exhausting yourself.

Among the factors involved are :

  • How much should you flex your front knee and lean your torso forward when pushing – also affected by your board height
  • How far ahead should you push the ground with your foot
  • How long should your foot keep in contact with the floor / how far back
  • How long can you stand on your single front leg between pushes, with your kicking leg in the air
  • How much of your weight should be on your front leg when pushing-  which affects the stability, smoothness and effectiveness of your riding

For very long distances, pushing becomes a science and a personal performance, in which you constantly fine tune the different components of your movement.  Your breathing and muscle tension also play an important role in finding the optimal momentum.

To improve pushing performance and endurance, many long distance longboarders alternate pushing patterns between :

  • Normal pushing : you ride in your natural stance, and push with your dominant (back) foot.
  • Switch pushing : you ride in the opposite stance to your natural one.  Your dominant foot (normally your back foot) is up front, and you push with your non-dominant foot (normally front foot).
  • Mongo pushing : you ride in your natural stance, but you push with your front foot while your your back foot stays at the rear of your deck.

Skogging

Unlike regular longboarders, long distance pushers train themselves in pushing alternatively with each foot.  This practice is often called “skogging”, a combination of “skating” and “jogging” as skating using alternate feet over distances feels a lot like a form of jogging.

Skogging has obvious advantages over traditional single foot pushing :

  • It provides a more complete workout since you use both sides of your body to impulse energy into your longboard
  • It reduces the risk of imbalances from asymmetrical movement – creating muscle tensions and issues, and ending up with a huge calf on one leg.
  • Mastering alternate pushing allows you to skate for much longer distances and durations, as each side of you body (leg, hip, midsection) is able to rest briefly while the other is working.

Some well known longboarders, such as Chris Yandall, have taken skogging to an art form, even designing boards specifically for ambidextrous riding.

Long distance pumping

The long distance pumping community is a very enthusiastic and active one, with a relativey wide following.  Riders of all ages – including many older riders – discover this peculiar riding style, and many get deeply involved into it.

Pumping” refers to propelling yourself on your longboard by moving your body and shifting your weight back and forth as you enter / exit turns, without pushing on the ground with your foot.

Long distance pumpers can ride for miles and miles on end through a well-tuned, continuous S-shaped body motion that allows them to gain and maintain speed.

Pumping has long existed in the world of board sports, it’s an essential technique for getting speed in surfing and snowboarding through “rail shifting”.  Pumping over long distances, however, is a relatively newer trend.

There is a lot to say regarding the various techniques experienced riders use for pumping.  Pawedwave.org has a complete website dedicated to the topic, the community’s go-to place for everything LDP and what they call “pumpology”.

Effective pumping requires mastering both the stance, i.e. your feet’s position, and the form, that is your body motion. There is a wide variety of stances and forms, the “surf stance” being one of them : feet shoulder width apart, front foot turned 45º relative to the deck, and back foot almost perpendicular to it.

According to pavedwave, you pump by initiating an “S motion starting high in your chest and core, and continuing through your lower body, all the way down through your board, the trucks, and finally the wheels”.

The movement involves “your feet catching up with your body : you commit your upper body’s movement, and constantly keep your lower body chasing after it.”

The result is a snake-style (or hoola hoop) motion waving through your body from top to bottom.  Your body’s motion leads to subtle weight shifting from one rail of your longboard to the other, making the board steer slightly right and left, gaining energy and speed with each direction change.

Your core muscles are the ones that actually initiate that energy.

On long distances, after generating the initial inertia with ample body rotations, you tyically get in “cruise mode” with smaller, more relaxed movements that allow you to maintain momentum without excessive sustained effort.

Check out this pavedwave post for a comprehensive analysis of pumping techniques.

Long distance longboarding gear

While you can practice long distance longboarding on any kind of board, some setups are much more efficient for pushing and/or pumping than others.  In this section, we look at what makes for a good LDP longboard for both styles.

What makes a good long distance board ?

There are some qualities to look for when choosing a board for long distance traveling. If you travel far, chances are you will be mixing the two forms of locomotion, pushing and pumping, so ideally you want a longboard that’s well suited for both.

You want a board that is :

  • As low to the ground as possible (less fatigue, stability)
  • Little concave for foot comfort
  • Some flex for comfort (vibrations), but not too much
  • Wheel clearance for big wheels (75-85mm for comfort and traction)
  • Durable and water resistant deck

Long distance longboard deck

A long distance board should have as low a center of gravity as possible to minimize the effort required for pushing.  A lower deck means less flexing your front knee to drop your pushing foot to the ground.

Low riding boards also provide for more smoothness and stability, an important factor when riding during long hours.

The lowest  boards are double drop longboards, which are drop-through mounted (trucks are fitted through the deck, bringing it closer to the ground) with a dropped platform (lowered between the truck mounts).  These are generally the preferred longboard type for long distance skating.

An all-time favorite example is the Rayne DemonSeed, with its wide double drop deck – the board Adam Colton and his team used on some of their very long trips. The Rayne Nemesis and Reaper (Amazon link) are mid-size and compact versions of that board for more versatility beyond LDP.

Another well-known dropped platform board that has proven to work well for LDP is the Landyachtz Switch (Amazon).

The Landyachtz Evo is also a good LDP candidate although, being more of a hardcore downhill board, it’s stiffer and heavier.  Weight is not so much of an issue for LDP since you typically don’t carry your board around when push traveling – heavier boards actually offer more momentum.

Really stiff decks, on the other hand, can make your long distance trips much less comfortable.  A deck with some flex helps dampen your ride and is also more lightweight – a good thing if you’re going to be pushing uphill.

You want your deck to have little to no concave – aggressive concave will kill your feet on really long trips. Wheel cutouts are desirable for fitting bigger wheels. Make sure your deck is water resistant, e.g. with a layer of fiberglass on the bottom.

For more casual day trips, a Sector 9 drop-through or equivalent can do the trick.

If your focus is specifically on long distance pumping, you should probably consider a GBomb longboard.  Instead of using tight trucks, GBomb decks and brackets are designed to work with a very loose and responsive front truck/ bushings and tighter rear truck while still riding very low – a combination which greatly facilitates pumping.

Long distance longboard trucks

Standard 180mm trucks with a 50º angle work fine for LDP, although some riders use narrower trucks or just turn their wheels inwards so they don’t stick out as much, making it less likely for their foot to hit the wheels when kicking on long distances.

Your trucks should be tight for better control while pushing and for greater stability when riding downhill.  Use big barrel bushings to tighten your trucks instead of over-tightening the kingpin screw.

Tight trucks also reduce the likelihood of wheelbite with big wheels (see next section), as well as rail bite – the edge of your low deck touching the ground when you turn.

Riders who do a lot of long distance pumping use very turny, traditional kingpin trucks like Bennets, Don’t Trip Poppies or Seismic trucks, with quality bushings. They play with truck angles to optimize “pumpability”, often reducing their back truck angle (e.g. to 0º) through wedging.  See this article for in-depth information on pumping.

Wheels

For long distance longboarding you want wheels as big as possible (bigger than standard longboard wheels) in the 75-85mm range.

Within that range, smaller (75mm) is better for uphill pumping and keeps the board lower, while bigger (85mm) gives you more rolling speed and roll momentum.

Choose a durometer between 78a (for harsh pavement) and 85a.

The Seismic Speedvents (Amazon link), the Orangatang Kegels, or the Orangatang Durians (smaller and narrower than the Kegels) are LDP favorites – though most race wheels will also work well.

Expensive ceramic bearings are not essential, decent bearings such as Seismic Tektons will work fine as long as you grease them up (instead of using oil) to help keep them dry.

What to pack for a long distance longboard trek

When setting out on a long distance skating trip, you should pack only essentials to keep your backpack weight as low as possible.

If you have the budget, you should get ultralight equipment, including tent, backpack and sleeping bag – typically the bulkiest items.  These are quite expensive however, so you may just go for regular models.

It boils down to a tradeoff between comfort while pushing and comfort at night.  Adam Colton recommends a total weight no more than 12.5lb, but other longboarders have crossed continents with as much as 40lb on their back.

In your backpack, you’ll at least need to have :

  • water container
  • pair of shorts / pants
  • hoodie
  • buff – to wear under your helmet
  • warm shirt
  • rain shell
  • extra socks
  • sun screen
  • skate tool (or socket wrench)
  • spare set of bearings
  • spare set of bushings
  • some spare bolts/nuts.

Depending on your trip you may choose to pack a small tent, a hammock, or none.

Extra shirts will weight you down, so expect to ride in your dirty shirts a lot ! Extra socks are more important to have.

Shoes are essential in long distance longboarding.  Skate shoes are typically heavy, not very breathable, and not  rugged enough.  Look for the lightest possible water resistant shoes with rugged soles and strong foot support.  Also, make sure to get gel insoles.

Long distance longboarding challenges and preparation

Seasoned long distance longboarders are able to cover up to 50 miles a day, in say 12 to 14 hours.  That’s a big performance since pushing can exhaust you pretty fast.

To achieve this kind of level eventually, you will need to practice on a daily basis, starting with frequent short rides pushing on flat land, then longer commutes, day trips, etc.

Building the right muscles for sustained pushing will take time. As discussed in a previous section, you should get used to pushing alternately with both feet so as to build up your muscles evenly and symmetrically across your body.

Initially, your feet will hurt quite a bit after only a few miles – your foot muscles will also need to build up.  One way to minimize this issue is to keep moving your feet around the deck as often as possible.  Also, as mentioned before, make sure to pick a deck with little concave.

You will also likely deal with blisters, no matter how good your shoes and insoles.  When you feel a blister popping up, try to cover it right away with tape, compede plasters or special foam bandage.  Wear two pairs of socks whenever feasible.

You should prepare your itinerary using Google.  Look for bike lanes, and in places where there aren’t any, use street view to check  road condition and sidewalks to ride on.  Where there are no sidewalks, check if you’ll be able to skate safely in traffic – use roads with no more than two lanes.

Some stretches of road will have no shoulder and lots of traffic – you may have to hitch hike through them.  Be aware that head winds will make your journey much harder.

Wear bright colored clothes and helmet so cars are always able to see you.  Keep your lane when riding in traffic, and always try to anticipate to what drivers might do.

Wrapping up

Long distance longboarding is accessible to anyone.  If you have the motivation and discipline,  you won’t regret joining this adventurous, athletic and rewarding longboarding lifestyle.

Along the way, you’ll meet some fascinating people and learn a lot about physical and mental endurance training, hardcore long distance skating techniques, and advanced equipment for riding across the planet.

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Photo credits :
Features image : Y. Boundouq

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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. I hope this site can help you learn a lot about the riding styles and techniques that best suit your personal goals. Ride on !

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