Over the last few years, skateboard pump tracks, a new kind of skatepark course, have emerged and are attracting increasing numbers of skateboarders and longboarders everywhere in the world.
A pump track is a closed (looping) road track composed of bumps, berms, and banked corners with varying frequency. The successive berms and turns help you keep momentum and speed through pumping on your skateboard or longboard without having to kick push. The rider uses an up and down pumping movement to transfer energy into the board and generate speed.
Pump tracks have long existed but were traditionally designed for BMX and mountain bike races in the form of dirt trails with firm subsoils. In the 70s and 80s, skateboarders created “virtual” pumping circuits inside local skateparks by riding chosen paths through specific bowls, pools, and pipes. Recently, hard-surfaced pump tracks – some with full tarmac treatment – have begun to pop up, attracting a growing number of skateboarders and longboarders.
Skateboard pump track features
Skateboard-friendly pump tracks are similar to traditional skate parks but use berms and bumps in a closed-loop instead of ramps and staircases. The level of challenge and suitability of a pump track for skateboarding depends on the frequency and height of the berms and turns. While some tracks are designed for huge double or triple jumps focusing on BMX and bike tricks, others put the emphasis on rollers and berms for generating speed through pumping on a skateboard.
There are several types of pump track fit for skateboarding and longboarding, based on the material used and construction type. Some tracks are built from marine grade lumber topped with a composite surface for grip and smoothness. These pump tracks are best for indoor and temporary setups, and are easy to reconfigure (different shapes and designs) and transport.
Another type of skateboarding pump track are structures made of reinforced composite with ultra grip surface. This type is best for an outdoor place with a hard surface, such as a tennis court, parking lot, or park area. Unlike the lumber type, composite pump track structures are usually installed permanently, though they can be redesigned or added to with ease.
A third common type of skateboarding pump tracks is tracks made of precast concrete. Concrete pump tracks offer a perfect shape and a very smooth riding surface, ideal for skateboarding and longboarding. Obviously, they are the most permanent structure type of the three.
Pump track manufacturers, however, offer flexible, modular, and portable structures which can be adapted to all kinds of terrain and land-use restrictions.
Some skateparks mix traditional street transitions, pump track concrete waves, and downhill runs for maximum speed and adrenaline. Many municipalities are hard surfacing their existing bike-focused dirt tracks in to reduce maintenance costs and broaden their reach to skateboarders, longboarders, kick scooters, etc.
Where are there skateboard pump tracks?
As concrete pump tracks are growing in popularity, many cities are either building a one or upgrading their dirt pump track. One example of a brand new concrete skateboarding track is the Pacific Highlands Ranch pump park in the San Diego, California area, which allows for both 2 and 4-wheeled riders.
It’s hard to mention pump tracks without mentioning Velosolutions, a world-leading pump track builder with dozens of tracks in many countries. The following are some of the Velosolutions tracks that are suitable for skateboarding.
LAAX (Switzerland) pump track and snake run
This 3000 m2 track combines traditional pump track lines with skate park bowl features. Website
Pump Track Roosendaal, Netherlands
This 3500 m2 star-shaped track is the largest in the world, almost as big as 14 tennis courts and with total length of 1/2 km (545 yards). Website
Brooklyn NY bike park pump track
1300 m2, 173m track and speed ring built on the grounds of the iconic Domino Sugar Factory, close to the Williamsburg bridge. Website
Skateboard pump Track Decathlon Avignon, France
Created on a 500 m2 area with two facing turns and long banked rollers. Website
Kanab City Utah skateboard pump track & skatepark
950 m2 – 150 m2 pump track & skatepark hybrid located between the Zion National park and the Grand Canyon. Website
Wals Austria skateboard pump track
Austria’s largest pump track, 2100 m2, 425m long asphalt design. The track has a jump line and two mirrored tracks. Website
Sils im Domleschg, Switzerland pump track
Unique design, first of its kind worldwide. 1000 m2 area. Website
Boston skateboard pump track
Pretoria, South Africa Eduplex Sports Academy pump track
5000 m2, 245 m long track with a 208m jump line and a 58m kids track. Massive berms and numerous jumps.
More examples of skateboard and longboard pump tracks in the US:
- Pump Track Superior, Colorado, USA
- Key Biscayne FL Pumptrack (free and open to the public)
- 1/2 mile long pump path (world’s first) in Pineville MO, from downtown to the Skatepark
- Hybrid Park in Haulover Beach, FL
- Ningbo China: amazing 200-meter, 10-foot wide pump track for multi skater racing. Major longboard brands hang out there.
- Leavenworth, WA skateboard pump track
- Serenity concrete Pump track in the City of Lake Elsinore
Skateboard and longboard pump tracks are also popping up everywhere in the UK, Germany, France, and Eastern Europe. More and more pump tracks are getting increasingly skateboard friendly.
Pump track skateboarding technique
So exactly how do these closed-circuit pump tracks allow skateboarders to gain and maintain speed without ever kick pushing?
Skateboarders create energy by pumping their board, that is, pushing down on the board right after going over a bump, and offloading when going through a trough in the track to help the board go up the next berm. The rider “lightens up” when going uphill and “weights down” when going downhill, maximizing the momentum of the wheels.
Note that this type of pumping is different than pumping on flat ground, where the energy is created through hard and fast successive turns (carves). On a pump track, it’s the small ups and downs of the riding surface that creates the drive, amplified by the successive pushing and unloading with the right timing.
The pumping motion on a skateboard pump track can be compared to being on a swing, gaining height by pushing your legs out (weighing down) on your way down and tucking them (lightening up) on your way up.
Skateboarding a pump track takes a bit of practice at first until you get the timing right. Once you do, riding for longer sessions will get your cardio really pumping, and you’ll often find yourself being out of breath. Pump tracks also give you an incredible leg workout.
Skateboard pump track as a physical and mental skills tool
Pump tracks are great for teaching kids and beginner skaters the basic skills of balance, speed, and using arms and legs to build up and continuously maintain momentum on your skateboard or longboard.
Skateboarding pump tracks are a safe and fun environment for younger riders and people of all skill levels – including with disabilities – to get comfortable with riding a skateboard. Pump tracks are also appropriate for all types of skateboards, from street decks to cruisers small or large to surf skateboards.
Learning to ride a skateboard or longboard across the bumps and curves helps you build some solid technical and physical skills. The variations in bumps and turns forces you to maintain balance, but you also build agility and coordination – namely between torso and legs for the pumping motion. As mentioned, you also get a strong cardio and leg workout when riding a pump track over a longer duration.
As a result, pump tracks can play a key role as to the future of skateboarding and longboarding, as it helps provide a great educational foundation for the sport. Organizations like Skateboard Supercross leverage the benefits of pump tracks to promote education and build a community around skateboarding.
Pump tracks are also a nice extension of the distance longboarding (LDP) discipline (see this other post to learn more about it).
Skateboard pump track safety
Skateboard pump tracks with a concrete surface are great fun, smooth, and relatively low maintenance. However, crashing on them at speed can hurt! Here are a few tips on how to stay safe if you’re just starting on a pump track:
- Wear protective gear including a helmet, knee and elbow pads, and wrist protection
- Start on an easy track at slow speed until you get the motion and pace for pumping up and down the track’s bumps and banked curves
- Bend slightly forward and regroup yourself when pumping for better stability when riding up and down the concrete waves. If you fall, you’ll also likely fall forward and slide on your kneepads.
- If you’re an “older” rider (i.e. beyond your 20s), consider doing a good leg, knee, and lower back warm-up before getting into the pump track on your skateboard. Like snowboarding, pumping on the bumps can take a toll on your joints if they’re not trained. A balance board can provide decent preparation.
Temporary pump tracks, e.g. those with a wooden surface, are popping up everywhere these days. While these are fun and nice to skateboard on, unlike asphalt pump tracks, they tend to degrade after some time and become dangerous to skate (depending on the quality of the modules). Be sure to check the state of the track before you drop in.
Finally, if your local pump track is shared by many types of riders including skateboard/longboarders, bike/BMX riders, kick scooters etc, it’s important to be respectful of rules and keep an eye on what other riders are doing so as to avoid nasty collisions and fights (see this newspaper article for an example).
Pump track longboard setup
The best longboards for pump tracks generally have a relatively short deck with medium-sized (60-65mm) medium-soft wheels (e.g. 83A) and responsive turny trucks such as Paris V2 or Bear Grizzlies RKPs.
Typically, you’ll want a topmount deck for a higher ride to avoid scraping those higher bumps, and decent wheel clearance (wheel wells/flares or cutouts) for tight bank corners.
If you’re newer to longboarding, two examples of a good longboard setup for pump track are the Landyachtz Dinghy nimble mini-cruiser (see my full review here) or the larger (34″) Loaded Poke with Paris or Carver trucks (see my review).
Alternatively, you can check out a Magneto Longboard cruiser which is a more affordable but very decent option.
Featured and pump track photos courtesy of Velosolutions