Getting started with longboarding doesn’t have to be a daunting prospect if you follow the right learning steps in the right order. Many riders take to the hills straight away without even knowing the basics. This list of longboarding tips for beginners will help you get started while hopefully reducing the pain and suffering many go through !
Lets dive right in.
Longboarding tip #1 : get the right board
This is a broad topic since the “right” board is different for everyone, based on your size, age, skills, riding goals etc. I’ve written many separate posts about each longboarding style, but if you’re just tuning in I suggest you start by reading this post on choosing your first longboard.
Longboarding tip #2 : find your stance
Each person has a natural riding stance for board sports (for some people it can even vary from one sport to another). When you step on a longboard, if you naturally stand with your left foot forward and right foot back, you’re “regular“, if you put your right foot forward then you’re “goofy” .
This is the very first thing to find out as you begin. A classic way is to stand on the ground with your feet together and have someone push you from the back. You’ll see which foot you naturally put forward to keep yourself from stumbling.
Why is stance important ? If you’re regular, pressing on your toes while you’re riding on your longboard will make you turn right, and pressing on your heels will make you go left. If you’re goofy it’ll be the opposite. Keep this in mind as you learn new techniques. More about longboard stance.
Longboarding tip #3 : find your balance in static mode
If you’re new to boarding, you want to get comfortable with balancing on your longboard before starting to get moving.
A great way to practice safely is to put your longboard on grass or on a thick carpet, so that friction keeps the board from rolling.
Step on your still longboard and get into your natural stance, your feet about shoulder width apart or slightly wider – depending on your board length, your feet will be close to, or on top of, the bolts of the trucks .
Your back foot (right if you’re regular, left otherwise) should be about perpendicular to the deck, while your front foot is slightly angled with the deck, say about 45º. Bend your knees a little and lean forward slightly so as to feel nice and stable.
You should be comfortable standing without having to step down.
Longboarding tip #4 : practice your turning stance
Still standing on your longboard in the grass, your wheels are not rolling but the deck will lean to the sides as you shift your body weight around.
Practice rolling back and forth with your ankles to make your deck lean on each edge – that’s how you’ll turn when riding. Next step, lock your ankles and make the deck lean just by shifting your body weight forward (toes) and backward (heels).
If you want to go one step further in static training before taking to the streets, you can get a balance board (link to Amazon). A fantastic balance training tool worth the investment if you’re serious about starting board sports.
Longboarding tip #5 : practice your push & brake stance
A key skill you absolutely need to master for any longboarding you’re going to do, is balancing on one leg while your other leg pushes or brakes.
While standing on your longboard in the grass or on a carpet, rotate your front foot so that your toes point forward toward the nose. At the same time turn your shoulders and hips to also face forward.
As you do that, lift your back foot off the deck, balancing on your front leg. Your front foot being turned forward helps you stabilize. Shifing your weight onto your front leg, bend your front knee to lower your back foot to the ground without moving your hips.
Just touch the ground with your back foot for a few seconds as you squat on your front leg. Then, start bringing your foot back up onto the deck to its initial position, turning back your shoulders, hips and front foot to their initial angle.
You may first find this exercise difficult to do because the deck keeps leaning left and right, making it challenging to balance on one foot – for even more of a challenge you can try in on a balance board.
Longboarding tip #6 : get comfortable rolling
OK so you have your basic stance, turning stance and push/brake stance down in static mode. Time to get moving. Find a driveway or parking lot with a slight incline, stand on your longboard, and let gravity get you rolling.
Now put your push stance into practice : rotate your front foot and shoulders forward, drop your back foot to the ground, and do a small push to give your board some momentum. You’ll find that a little speed gives you some stability and makes balancing easier.
If the ground is uneven, try not to put too much pressure on your front foot, or even shifting your weight back slightly to let your front wheels roll more easily over cracks or pebbles.
Unloading your front foot a bit will also give you less fatigue.
Once you get comfortable pushing you can kick the ground a little harder for a bit more speed. However, make sure not to go faster than you can run at this stage.
Longboarding tip #7 : learn to brake
As a beginner, knowing how to brake effectively is obviously an essential prerequisite to any riding you’ll be doing on a longboard. Foot braking is the first technique you’ll need to master. Look at this 3 second video :
The steps involved are similar to those for pushing, but after dropping your back foot to the ground, instead of kicking you brush the ground with the sole of your foot to make the friction slow you down.
Make sure you approach the ground with your foot flat, even your toes slightly lifted, so as not to catch your toes on any crack or bump as you scrub the floor to brake.
This technique works well at low speed but gets more challenging as you go faster. One way to get better at it is to practice standing on one foot and squatting while rolling – like in this 2 second video :
Longboarding tip #8 : start riding on a mild hill
Once you’re able to foot brake on flat, you’re ready to step up to a small slope. Find one that ends either in flat or uphill, and that doesn’t cross any street.
At this stage, you need to wear some protection. At the very least, wear a helmet that’s snug enough on your head and strapped under your chin – if you’re not sure get the Pro-Tec classic (Amazon).
Get a pair of slide gloves with plastic pucks. If you can, get some knee pads – highly recommended. Elbow pads are also a good idea for beginners.
Make sure you have sports shoes with strong soles for foot braking – skate shoes work better than running shoes for this.
DON’T go on a hill until you know you can handle it. Choose a very slight hill and push back up after riding down. Make sure you can run off your board at any time.
If the only hill you have access to is too steep, start at the bottom and walk up a bit more each time around until you feel confident. There’s nothing worse than losing control on a big slope and crashing because you’re not ready.
Longboarding tip #9 : practice turning
Practice turning, this time with your longboard rolling. First practice on flat ground, then on a small slope. Before going on a hill, tighten your trucks a bit to make the board less turning.
Same as on grass earlier, start by simply rolling your ankles, pushing down onto the edges with your toes and heels to make the board turn right and left.
When you’re comfortable, try locking your ankles and instead, leaning your whole body onto the board’s rails. Your board will follow your upper body and turn. Turn your head, shoulders, and hips toward the direction of the turn, balancing with your arms.
Longboarding tip #10 : learn to carve to slow down
Carving simply means performing successive turns on your longboard in an S shape pattern. When riding down a slope, you moderate your speed by turning (carving) as sharply as you can. Carving back and forth will slow you down.
You lean hard into each turn so as to scrub your wheels on the road and dump off speed.
When carving, bend your knees to lower your center of gravity. Push your knees forward (weight on your toes) to carve toeside, and pull your butt out backwards (weight on your heels) to carve heelside.
Watch this 8 second video excerpt :
Longboarding tip #11 : learn to fall
I know, sounds scary and weird, but you will fall sooner or later. Don’t be terrified though. The important things is NOT to fall on a stiff arm or hands to avoid breaking your arm or wrist.
When you fall, instead of putting out your hands (a natural inclination), you need to learn to tuck your arms in across your torso, land on your forearm, and roll sideways on your shoulder. Watch these 12 seconds :
This “tucking and rolling” does take practice. Try it on an exercise mat or a pile of pillows on the floor.
When skating, if you feel you’re going to fall, try to get low on your board. If you can, always fall forward, not on your back – but if you do, try not to lock your elbows as you hit the ground.
An easier alternative to rolling it out, if you’re wearing gloves and knee/ elbow pads, is to slide it out on your kneepads. Robust pads such as these (Amazon) are designed just for that.
Longboarding tip #12 : learn to slide
I know, this is a big one. Easy to just add it to this bullet list, not so easy to do. For me though, learning to slide is when the real longboarding starts. Not just because it’s cool to slide (it certainly is) but mainly because it’s the most effective way to slow down when going fast.
There are many ways to slide, some easier than others (and some easier for you than others). In short, you can slide standing up on your board, or you can slide with a hand down on the ground.
If you’re not going too fast, stand up sliding can be easier to pick up with a bit of practice. See this post about stand up powerslides. At higher speeds, however, hand down slides are probably going to be a safer bet.
For a hand down slide, you get real low on your board and put your gloved hand on the ground to take some of your weight off the wheels. Meanwhile your other hand grabs the board’s edge and pulls it hard in a tight turn to bring the board sideways across the slope.
We won’t go into the details of sliding in this post, but be aware it’s an important step in your progress as a beginner longboarder, as sliding will help you take your riding to the next level.
Longboarding tip #13 : abide by the unwritten rules
The last tip I’ll mention is about the longboarding etiquette and common sense safety and courtesy behavior you should adopt when skating.
When riding amongst cars on open roads, make sure to keep your lane and respect traffic signs (stop signs, traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, speed limitations etc) just like you would when driving. More about longboarding safety.
Try to ride conservatively, getting ready for worst case behavior from cars (e.g. unanounced turning), dogs, bikes etc. Give pedestrians the right of way when riding on sidewalks, use your voice to let them know you’re about to pass by them.
Be friendly and courteous to pedestrians and neighbors so as to maintain a pleasant vibe and convey a positive image of longboarding – vs the traditional anti social image associated with skateboarding in general.
Keep the noise down in residential areas, especially at late hours. Avoid screaming or cursing when riding in group, and avoid sliding at night as it’s a very noisy maneuver.
If you’re just getting started, I hope you’ll find these beginner longboarding tips useful. I tried to reflect the actual steps and skills I went learning as I got started myself.
The order in which you go through these steps may of course vary, depending on your personality, previous skills and personal learning pace.
Whatever you do, make sure to enjoy this great sport and to give other people who are watching or riding with you a nice and positive experience as well.
Photo/video credits :
Featured : “Longboard Dancing with Dad” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by paulhami (cropped from original)
“Surf One, Day 321 of 365” (CC BY 2.0) by DieselDemon
Video by Sévan Stroh / CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
Video by Lesley Elizabeth / CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
Video by Anastasia / CC BY-NC-ND 4.0