Slalom Skateboarding: Complete Guide (Technique, Gear, Events)

slalom skateboarding

Slalom Skateboarding first appeared in the 1960s and 70s, then got forgotten for some time, to become popular again since the 2000s. Slalom skateboarding is a special skating style primarily about high-speed pumping and precision skating, fast riding around obstacles, on flat ground, banked surfaces, or downhill.

“Slalom racing is the art of gyrating as fast as possible while weaving through cones” (Dan Gesmer). It requires mastering technical pumping motions, generating speed through body rotations without pushing the ground. Everything in slalom skateboarding revolves around maximizing speed and turn through rider motion.

Slalom skateboard setups also serve that same goal through careful selection of deck shape, truck geometry/mount, bushing shape/hardness, and wheels size/grip.

What is slalom skateboarding?

The goal of slalom skateboarding is to race down a course marked by plastic cones while knocking down the fewest cones possible. Slalom race formats – Super Giant, Giant, Hybrid, Tight, and Banked slaloms – differ by:

  • Total run time (e.g. 1 minute)
  • Distance between the cones and number of cones, which also determines the frequency of turns
  • Racing speeds (the fastest can reach 30 to 40mph)
  • Number of concurrent skaters (head-to-head vs single racer)
  • Type of riding surface: flat/sloped, banked (such as drainage ditch)

Some people view slalom skateboarding as a subset of downhill riding since it’s also about high speed and control. Unlike downhill, however, there’s no sliding in slalom as your goal is to make the fastest and tightest possible turns around the cones.

In addition to downhill slalom, flatland slaloming is also a great way to practice the pump. Flatland slalom events are also an important part of the discipline.

Slalom skateboarding technique

The key technique involved in slalom skateboarding is pumping, aka “power turning” or “gyrating”. Pumping involves body rotations for creating a continuous carve and generating speed on a skateboard without ever setting foot on the ground (pushing).

Pumping is a very precise technique that requires continuous rail-to-rail weight shifts and toe/heel pressure at a quick steady pace. Pumping starts by initiating very small successive turns on your skateboard, which create momentum and increasing speed.

As the board picks up speed, each new turn gives it more forward momentum. As a slalom skateboarder, your goal is to attain and maintain high speed while matching turns with the cones in the slalom course.

Slalom pumping motion

Powerful pumping on a slalom skateboard comes from your hips, which initiate a side-to-side roll that propagates to your legs, feet, and front truck, making it turn. The rotation, however, often starts with your arms making continuous circles which flow down to your midsection.

When pumping, your rear foot is typically on top of your rear truck and perpendicular to the board, while your front foot is placed right behind the front truck and turned forward at a 15-30º angle. As you initiate the powerful thrust, you may find your rear foot up on its toes.

“Your upper body and arms are always moving ahead of the lower portion of your body as if your lower half is constantly playing catch-up.” (Paved Waves).  Your pelvis is turned forward, aligned with your shoulders.

Weighting/unweighting your board

The second key aspect of pumping is weighting and unweighting. When you press and weight onto a rail for a slalom turn, you get low on your board, lowering your center of gravity and weighting down hard on your skateboard. This increases wheel traction and creates acceleration through the centripetal force.

Then as you get out of the turn, you offload (unweight) your board by pushing up on your legs as if you were going to jump, similar to a spring decompressing. This gives your skateboard another speed boost.

The energy of the pump on your skateboard is created by both the gyrating motion and the weighting/unweighting in slalom turns.

Advanced slalom skateboarding techniques

The “Tossing the Baby” (Pavedwave) technique is an advanced pumping technique top slalom skateboarders often use. The gyrating motion descrived above (pumps initiated by hip rotation) is made even more efficient by throwing your arms far out to the side in the direction of the turn and opposite your legs, resulting in even more acceleration.

slalom skateboarding pump technique
Source: Paved Wave

Slalom skateboard setup

Slalom skateboarding setups are special, custom-built setups designed to maximize speed, fast turning, and grip. The following are the most important component features to look for in a slalom setup.

Image source: sk8kings

Slalom skateboard deck

Slalom skateboard decks are typically 30-34″ long with an 18-24″ wheelbase, narrow enough to work with 100-120mm trucks, but with a wide nose to be able to place the whole front foot for better front truck responsiveness.

slalom skateboard deck
Image source: sk8kings

Slalom skateboard decks are often built from rigid maple or carbon fiber for minimal flex for speed and responsiveness – though at the expense of smoothness.

Slalom skateboarders generally opt for slightly longer decks for larger slalom courses vs smaller wheelbases for tighter courses. Shorter setups – wheelbase between 17″-22″, widths between 8″ – 9.5″ – are also easier to learn to slalom on.

Slalom decks generally have a kicktail for rear foot lock-in for aggressive pumping, and a slight nose concave for more precise steering control with the front foot. Riders may also use foam blocks to add lock-in to their deck.

Slalom skateboard trucks

Bennett Vector truck 4.3 slalom skateboard truck

The main objectives when choosing trucks for a slalom skateboard setup is to have a responsive front truck for quick turns around slalom cones and a more stable rear truck for grip in these tight turns. Such high-turn/low-turn front and rear combo also makes the board much more pumpable.

Quick turning in the front truck can be achieved by a high baseplate angle. Stability (lower responsiveness) is achieved through lower angles. For these reasons, slalom setups typically have a higher angle in the front and a lower one in the rear (more stability due to more lean).

Since tighter turns are needed in tight slaloms, higher angles are used compared to larger slalom courses.

Beginner slalom skateboarders typically start with Bennet trucks (Amazon) in the front and Tracker RTX/RTS for the rear. The Tracker RTX cheaper than the Bennet), or even standard trucks, can also be used as a front truck using wedging – adding angled riser pads to modify the truck angle.

As they get more advanced, however, many riders switch to pricier precision trucks (e.g. Don’t Trips or COG). As they improve, some slalom riders switch to tighter trucks for more power – harder weighting is required for turning and pumping but with faster resulting speeds.

Slalom setup bushings

Slalom setups generally come with soft bushings (70A-80A) in the front and harder bushings (90A) in the back. Bushing shape varies a lot based on rider preferences. Reflex and Venom are two brands commonly used for slalom bushings.

Slalom setup wheels

The wheels in a slalom skateboard setup are typically in the 65 to 75 mm range since speed is the main focus – larger diameters make for faster roll.

Another key factor is the durometer: harder wheels roll faster on smooth surfaces, while softer wheels have better grip. The ZigZags 70mm are among the most popular wheels for slalom racing

Beginner slalom skateboarders should generally start with softer wheels for control. More advanced racers often use different durometers for front and rear, with a harder front wheel (e.g. 85A) for better pumping and quick turning, and a softer rear wheels (e.g. 76A) for better traction.

Popular slalom skateboard setup examples

slalom skateboarding dedicated complete setup from sk8kings
Image source: sk8kings

Sk8kings, a U.S skate shop owned by slalom legend Richy Carrasco (former World Champion) has long specialized in custom-built slalom skateboarding setups.

Their base setup includes either a high-end carbon fiber composite deck or a more affordable hard rock maple deck, a Bennett 4.3 front truck, and a Randal 125mm back truck – another popular rear pumping truck.

Another good slalom setup (also available at Sk8kings) would wither the Lynn Kramer Pro Model or the Olson & Hekmati SC85 fit with a Tracker RTS 106mm rear truck and a Bennett 110mm front, ZigZag 70mm Pink and Lemon wheels, and 6º wedged pads for the back truck.

You can find Sk8kings’ dedicated slalom completes here.

Slalom skateboarding events

Slalom skateboard racing is governed at the international level by the International Slalom Skateboarding Association (ISSA), part of the World Skateboarding Federation (WSF), since the late 80s.

The ISSA organizes and sanctions slalom races, acts as an authority for racing rules, maintains and publishes world rankings, and publishes content related to the discipline.

There are also several U.S associations, such as the Northern California Downhill Skateboarding Association ( NCDSA, founded 1996), a global confederation of slalom, longboard, and street skateboarders in the Northern California area and beyond.

National slalom skateboarding events include the 2019 ISSA World Skateboard Slalom Championships (Winston-Salem, NC), the Sk8kings West Coast Championships (Salem, Oregon), Slalom Saint Louis (St Louis, MO), Socal Slalom Series (San Diego, CA), Luna Slalom Jam (Jackson, MI).

Some of the most respected riders in slalom skateboarding are Ritchy Carrasco, Michael Dong, Joe McLaren, Dan Gesmer, John Gilmour, Vlad Popov, the brothers Viking and Viktor Hadestrand (Sweden), Paul Price (UK).

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Photo credits:
Featured photo: “210712 5158” (CC BY 2.0) by jesusjmenendez

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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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