Are you wondering if you’re too old to longboard ? Well, you’re not alone. Longboarding is growing in popularity, and not just among the younger crowd. “Grown-ups” are increasingly taking to the sport, you’ve probably seen a few riding the streets on week-ends or even commuting on their longboard during the week.
Longboarding forums are full of people in their mid 30s, as well as guys in their 50s and 60s riding on a regular basis. A lot of middle aged people are reviving their love for skateboarding, often through longboarding which is more accessible to older riders.
If you’re in your 30s, 40s or older, and you’re new to longboarding, you may be thinking, just how old is too old ? Clearly it’s a great sport, great fun, great workout, great transportation… But can I still do it at my age in all sanity ? Am I comfortable with the idea of falling off my board at 10-15 mph and hitting hard concrete ?
Before answering this question, let me first ask you a couple of things : are you a sporty person ? How agile are you, how are your joints ? Did you practice any board sports in your youth ? What are your goals with regards to longboarding ? What kind of environment do you live in ? And do you care what people think of you ?
Whether you’re 30, 70, or anywhere in between, you should be able to start longboarding if :
- you’re in reasonable shape
- you don’t have any serious hip / knee / ankle / foot / back issues
- your goal is not to bomb big hills or ride big ramps (at least for now)
- you’re patient and you enjoy learning
- you like being around people of different ages and backgrounds
Note than if you spent part of your youth skateboarding, snowboarding or surfing, then have stopped for the past 20 years, and are now looking to start riding again, getting into longboarding at an older age will be much easier than for a complete newbie.
Your goals as an older longboarder ?
By the way, what do we mean by “older” ? Age doesn’t matter that much – though obviously if you’re in your twenties you’re not as concerned by this post as if you’re in forties or older. “Older” really refers to what your body allows you to do.
We’ll come back to this in the next section.
Now older guys and gals getting into longboarding for the first time have varying objectives. Let’s stop for a moment and look at the most common ones, and how realistic they may be :
- Riding around the neighborhood, in car parks, to the gym, to the liquor store etc. Definitely something you can learn to do at pretty much any age, including in your late 60s, provided you’re decently fit.
- Doing some commuting, e.g. to the train station to go to work and back (at both ends), say about 3-5 miles every day. One step up from the above, but fit people in their 30s, 40s and 50s are normally capable of it. Just look out for bad pavements and nasty cracked sidewalks.
- Distance pushing with some carving on small hills : if you’re in your mid forties, relatively fit, never ridden any kind of boards, distance pushing may be the perfect longboarding discipline for you. Take it slow and choose the appropriate gear, you should be riding smoothly within a couple of months, and loving it. Who knows, you may end up participating in events such as the ultraskate race.
- Cross stepping across town on a dancer board. More fitness oriented, dancing involves solid balance skills and joint mobility. May be harder if you’re in their 50s / 60s with an average fitness level.
- Riding pools : if you’ve had boarding experience in the past (surf / snow / skate) you may be up for some pool riding, flowing it up on a surfy setup (you’ll need serious safety gear for this). This would be a lot harder for an older rider to get into if you’ve never done any deep carving before.
- Light flatland freestyle : tougher for older riders – unless you’ve done it a lot in your youth and can rely on your muscle and joint memory and turn the ollie and kick flip machine back on. For most newcomers though, my advice is to do your joints and bones a favor and stick to some gentle nose manuals.
- Rushing downhill, speedchecking into tight corners : downhill is not for the faint of heart, so again if you’re new to longboarding and are past your thirties or forties, in most cases you’d probably be better off giving it a pass unless you really know what you’re doing (and if so, gear up)
Older longboarders common injuries
So what kind of health issues do older riders typically deal with ? Joint problems and injuries are the most common, such as your knee giving out as you push or carve – or sometimes even as soon as you step on your board.
Constantly changing directions with your knees bent can put a lot of stress on your knee joints (at any age actually). Your knee joints may be stiff or unstable, making it difficult to bend your knees in the first place. More serious joint problems include ankle sprains and joint dislocation.
Some older riders also start developing tendonitis in their achille heel from pushing too hard or for too long.
Wipeouts also happen, e.g. your longboard stops short after hitting a stone or crack, or you catch your foot while trying to foot brake, or you get overwhelmed by speed wobbles. Stiff joints can make things worse by preventing you from adapting your position quickly or stepping off and running it out.
If you do fall, even at relatively low speed, there’s a chance of ending up with wrist sprain or fracture. That’s when reality catches up and you may start thinking that perhaps you’re too old for this. Also, as you get older you don’t heal as fast as you used to, so getting hurt can be even more of a hassle.
So should you just give up longboarding ? Absolutely not. Here are some of the things you can do to reduce the likelihood of injury – things I personally do and which work great.
Injury prevention for older longboarders
As far as I’m concerned, there are 3 pillars to avoiding injuries as an older longboarder : preparation, riding technique, and gear. A lot of it also applies to young guns too, but go try to tell them about it… They won’t listen for at least a decade.
In this section, I’ll talk about physical preparation. Let me say this first : everyone knows how essential warming up and stretching are for avoiding injuries, yet almost no-one (outside of the professional space) does it. Most people are just not sure how to do it, don’t have time for it, and/or are too lazy and just want to get on their board quick.
I used to be like that too, until a couple of years ago my joints got so stiff they stopped moving properly, I got stuck and had to stop all activity for months. Since then, I’ve learned to deal with joint dysfunctions (which can start in your 30s or earlier), and have fully returned to my boarding activities – always with appropriate preparation.
If you think you’re too old for longboarding and are thinking of giving it a pass, think again ! Just keep reading.
Abundanly stretch your posterior chain
Do this every time before riding your longboard. Your posterior muscle chain includes your lower back, mid back, glutes, hamstrings, calves. If you’re not sure how to stretch, check out this 4 minute exercise, extremely effective :
These postures are a part of Foundation Training, an amazing set of isometric exercises focused on restoring good posture and joint mobility.
These exercises got me back into boards sports after some crippling joint problems a couple of years ago. The method is used by famous professional surfers and sports people worldwide.
If you’re experiencing serious spine / hip / lower body pain and are worried about having to stop riding, check out my complete post on Foundation Training (separate website).
Strengthen your core muscles
This is crucial, without this part I would have quit riding longboards, surfboards, kiteboards etc long before my back even went out. I strongly recommend you do some basic strengthening of your core muscles before you embark on any kind of board riding. These include your lumbar, psoas (big hip mucles), glutes (butt), and quads.
The very best way I’ve found to do that is squats like these :
If they’re too hard for you due to knee pain, support yourself with your hands on a table in front of you. Until you can do these relatively comfortably, riding a longboard may be hazardous for you.
If you’re able to do squats without issues, like me, try to do them before each riding session – and on your days off – I find them a very effective way to warm up and get my core muscles ready to roll, litterally speaking.
Train and reinforce your smaller joint muscles
Before jumping onto your longboard and riding away, be sure your joints and ligaments around your hips, knees, and ankles are warmed up and ready for the fight.
One basic way to do this is to stand on your longboard on a carpet or on grass, moving around and shifting your balance for 5 to 10 minutes. This will get your tendons moving gently.
Even better, get a balance board such as this one (Amazon). It may be hard for you at first just to stand on it, especially if you’ve never ridden boards before. But with practice, it will become second nature and will greatly help strengthen your knee and ankle joints, and avoid nasty injuries due to intense longboarding.
If you feel strain or pain in your ankles while practicing on your static longboard or balance board, consider using ankle braces or straps to keep your ankle safe in case you roll or twist it in an unnatural way. Here’s one I’ve bought on Amazon – not the cheapest but I find it very supportive.
Learn to fall
this one is typically harder for older longboarders – I must admit I haven’t learned that yet. Knowing how to fall properly from a longboard by rolling onto your shoulder and arm can save you some broken bones and torn ligaments, from your wrists to your limbs and even your jaw.
Of course if you grew up on a skateboard, you may still have good balance and reflexes as you age, from years of practice and falling, so you may not fall easily.
Or, if you’ve done martial arts before, it may be easier for you to learn to fall properly.
If not, it may be worth enrolling in a few martial lessons just to learn that skill – I’m planning on doing that myself. More about falling (with video) in this beginner tip.
Wear safety gear
I hate writing about obvious stuff, and this is one of them. Yes I’m going to say you should alway wear a helmet and pads bla bla bla… Not trying to bore you, but I do want to remind you that a lot of injuries, especially among older longboarders, occur at stupidly low speeds doing stupidly simple things !
Many riders, for example, have sprained or broken a wrist because they were going too slow ! As their wheel hit a pebble, their board just stopped dead sending them flying off. Breaking a wrist is bad enough, but if you’re not wearing a helmet you may also end up with a concussion (see my other post about longboard safety).
Keep reading for more about gear (last section).
Riding techniques for older longboarders
Now I’ll assume you’re physically prepared : you’ve stetched your posterior muscle chain, livened up your core muscles (hips, butt, limbar, thighs), prepared your joints, warmed up everything, you’re ready to ride.
As an “older” longboarder, you’ll need to acquire – or re-acquire – the same basic skills as a newbie of any age :
- Find and get comfortable with your natural stance – regular or goofy (left or right foot in front)
- Start slowly, basically walking pace, e.g. on a parking lot. Learn to push and foot brake early. Try rolling with one foot slightly off the deck, that will help your foot braking (don’t forget to stretch and warmup first).
- Learn to bend your knees, rotate your body and lean for turning (hip and lumbar mobility important)
- Control your speed through successive turns (carves)
All these basic moves require constant knee and ankle flexing, hip rotation, and head and shoulder rotation. See why preparation is crucial ? Without it, you’re an injury waiting to happen.
If you have trouble balancing on your longboard when rolling or turning, you can help your body learn by using a land paddle stick such as sk8 pole (Amazon) or the pricier Kahuna. These sticks can not only help you build up your balance, you’ll also discover an alternative riding style similar to stand up paddling on water.
One technique you’ll need to watch out for is pushing. Many older riders (including myself) sometimes feel pain in the knee, heel or achille heel due to repetitive footwork, particularly in the beginning. Your kick pattern, i.e. the amount of force you put and the way your foot hits the ground, plays a great role.
So if you’re feeling pain, try modifying your kick, e.g. varying the pushing intensity and the distance between your kicking and standing feet. Finding a more natural kick pattern can make it easier on your knee, save you from developing tendinitis, and allow you to ride for longer sessions pain free.
Learning to push with alternate foot (aka “skogging”) can also be a great way to avoid injuries while getting a more balanced workout for both sides of your body. Check out my post on distance skating for more.
Longboard setup and safety gear for older longboarders
What kind of board do you need ?
If you’re getting into longboarding while in your thirties, forties or later, your longboard setup should ideally help you find and maintain your balance and allow you to build up the right muscles and strengthen your joints fast, while putting minimal stress on them.
You want a forgiving board, something stable and mellow for flatland riding, commuting and carving down mild slopes, yet one that doesn’t hinder you from reaching your longboarding goals.
Before you get upset thinking I’m suggesting a “grandpa” kind of longboard, let me clarify. Many riders I know in their forties go for larger, drop-though boards 38″ to 42″ in length. These boards ride low to the ground, resulting in more stability and less knee strain when pushing and foot braking.
Chances are you’re not going to be bombing downhill at insane speeds, right ? So you want a deck not too stiff for comfort and shock absorption – flex will also help with pumping, something a lot of older riders really enjoy (learn more about pumping).
What about trucks and wheels ?
For trucks, you want something maneuverable enough for carving, but not too loose as that would affect stability and make distance pushing harder. You want a truck that holds the course as you kick, but you also want to be able to carve without having to lean like a madman/woman – adding more stress to your knees, ankles and feet.
Unless you plan to freeride and slide, big soft wheels are typically a good choice for an older rider. They roll faster and smoother over cracks, bumps and paved stones, and are easier on your knees and lower back.
Some riders use really big wheels, e.g. 85mm Speed Vents which are fantastic for distance skating – you can probably average 10 mph on a 30 mile push with these. Wheels that big, however, can get in the way of agility for street cruising and carving if that’s something you care about.
Any specific recommendations ?
So which longboard should you pick ? Obviously the options are endless, but if you’re like me, you may prefer to invest in a high quality board that rides as nice as it looks and lasts a long time. If so, check out the Loaded Dervish Sama.
The Dervish is a highly regarded board that has all the above characteristics – on the larger side (42″ by 9″) for easy riding, drop-through construction, flexy bamboo composite deck, very well built and durable, beautiful design. At around $320, it’s definitely a premium board though.
If you go for the Dervish, select the “Carving and Pumping” configuration with the Paris 180 / 50º trucks and the 75mm In Heat wheels with 80a durometer (on the soft side). This combination is perfect for pushing and commuting, with the right mix of turn, stability, and comfort for rough surfaces. And, no risk of wheelbite due to wheel size.
The board also has small kicks, which will come in handy once you start getting comfortable and want to do some kick turns or hop on/off curbs.
If you want a slightly shorter board for more agile urban riding (assuming your joints are in good shape) and carrying around, the 39″ Tan Tien is just as popular as the Dervish, but also has additional “hybrid” features for some freestyle tricks. Go for the “Dustin’s Corner” setup which, again, is optimized for commuting and carving.
Finally, if your goal is more getting into dancing and cross stepping, you may want a bigger longboard. Loaded makes the Tarab 47″ dancer board – another outstanding board though it does come at a hefty price of about $430.
Let’s finish this section with a quick note about protection gear. As I mentioned earlier, no matter how old and how experienced a longboarder you are, you probably should wear a helmet (I’ll be writing a full post on this topic soon).
As I mentioned earlier, tripping off and hitting your head on the ground, including at really low speed, is a reality for a lot of riders of all ages. Not worth the gamble.
As an older longboarder you may be initially concerned about looking stupid from wearing protection gear, particularly around younger riders. Something I’ve learned is that, for the younger boarders, there’s nothing worse than a “kook” trying to look cool. Just be yourself and wear your helmet confidently, it’s cheap insurance !
Get an ASTM certified helmet such as this one (Amazon). Also, decent quality wrist guards (Amazon) are recommended if you’re an older rider getting started – if you fall you’ll naturally try to catch yourself on your hands and might sprain or even break a wrist.
If at first you’re feeling vulnerable – you fear your knees may give out, your ankles feel unstable, or (like me) your hips are a bit stiff, keeping you from reacting fast enough, get extra padding such as knee and elbow pads (Amazon), perhaps even padded shorts – those can be hidden under your pants.
You should be able to get rid of some of these as you gain the skills, confidence, and joint / muscle strength.
Finally, get some good, strong, durable shoes to protect your feet from shocks and rubbing. There are lots of good skate shoes on the market, I’ve personally used Vision Street Wear, DC, Etnies, Emerica, and Globe. Pick one with the durable waffle soles, e.g. this cool Emerica model (Amazon).
Whatever you choose, try to avoid running shoes with thick soles as they hinder the feeling between your feet and the deck, slowing down your muscle memory building. If on the other hand your soles feel too thin and make your feet sore, you can always add impact absorbing insoles (Amazon) to reduce the soreness.
Older longboarders – wrapping up
So are you too old to longboard ? Chances are you’re not.
Just look at places like Southern California, where people all ages naturally ride all sorts of devices along the beach – bikes, boards, skates, scooters …
Longboarding is awesome and can be several sports in one, based on the kind of riding you do. It’s not only a fantastic workout, including for older riders, it’s also a great way to meet new friends.
Speaking of friends, one more tip before wrapping up : the followning are some very popular groups in which older longboarders often hang out :
- Middle age shred
- Distance skateboarding
- Long distance pumping
- Skaters over 50
- Very old skateboarders
Remember, you’re not too old to longboard until your body and/or your mind is. Ride on !