If you’re new to longboarding, you may be wondering what freeride longboarding is and how it compares to other longboarding disciplines.
Freeride longboarding involves downhill riding although at low to moderate speed, with a focus on performing stylish power slides to control your descent. Unlike downhill racing which is mainly about reaching maximum speeds, freeriders seek to perform slides, spins, and other technical maneuvers, both for the beauty of it and to control velocity.
So the main skills involved in freeride longboarding somewhat differ from other longboarding disciplines : cruising, which focuses on foot pushing and relaxed riding at low speed along roads and city streets; Carving, which involves maintaining momentum through successive impulse turns; Freestyle, closest to street skating with its technical stunts; And downhill racing, which is about sheer speed.
If you’re a beginner longboarder, freeriding is good way to learn riding faster than on flat ground while controlling your board’s speed.
Freeride longboarding: controlling speed through sliding
Power slides are a central technique in freeride longboarding. As you’re riding downhill, sliding means turning your longboard hard sideways across the slope, pushing your body weight onto one rail so the wheels lose traction, stop spinning and start drifting sideways in a controlled way. The friction of the drifting wheels makes you lose speed quickly.
Slides are the bread and butter of freeride longboarding. Not only do freeriders perform slides to control their speed, like in downhill/racing, but they seek to do them with style – sliding is an end goal of itself (vs mainly speed in downhill ). This is an important aspect to understand as to what freeride longboarding is.
There are many sorts of slides, but these are some of the most common ones.
Stand up slide
The most basic type or slide, performed standing by pushing out the longboard sideways and extending your legs and shifting your weight backward. Read more about how to powerslide.
Similar to a regular stand-up slide, but followed by a 180º turn. That is, after pushing the longboard 90º to slide, you push it another 90º to get it back into the slope but with your stance switched. Click here to see it in action.
You push the board into a slide by either pushing forward with your back foot heel (heelside) or pushing backward with your back foot toes (toeside). Then after drifting you push the board back into its normal rolling direction.
A slide in which you lean so much as to touch the road and place your hand on it (using a slide glove) as you’re turning 90º into the drift.
Similar to the Coleman but without placing a hand on the ground. After pushing the board into the slide, you crouch facing downhill, so low that you’re almost sitting on the board.
In this slide, you put your hand down and swing your board across your body past a 90º angle with the road all the way to 180º, riding backward a moment (wheels roll in reverse direction), before sliding back into the normal forward facing direction. See it in action.
Drifting is simply mixing normal riding and stand up sliding to achieve controlled speed, by shifting your weight between normal stance and slide stance. Drifting is often used for controlled turns in corners. Pre-drifting means doing a light drift before a sharp turn.
Getting started in freeride longboarding
If you’re just getting into longboarding or have been longboarding for transportation or just cruising around, you already have the basics down in terms of balancing and steering.
If your next goal is to get speed and ride down steeper hills, you first need to learn how to stop! Foot braking will only take you so far, to ride downhill you really need to learn to slide.
One way to familiarize yourself with weight shifting for speed control is to practice carving, i.e. successive turns performed by shifting your body weight into your toes then ankles, pushing hard into the board rail for deep turns.
When you’re carving, you’re just one step away from sliding – there are times when you end up actually sliding a bit as you lean deep into a turn.
Once you’re comfortable performing the S-shaped carves, you can start experimenting with gentle stand up slides on a mild slope, since by now you have some grasp of how to shift your weight from rail to rail.
Start practicing soft heelside stand up sliding, by quickly turning your board sideways across the slope while at speed, and pushing both legs out to get the board drifting.
A key skill you’ll need for freeride longboarding is riding switch, that is, riding opposite your natural stance. If you’re a regular footer, this means riding with your right foot forward, if you’re goofy, with your left foot forward.
Being comfortable in switch stance is crucial for more advanced slides and 180s.
What makes a good freeride longboard?
You can freeride on pretty much any longboard. Some boards, however, are better suited for beginner freeriders while others have characteristics that are best for advanced longboarders.
So what makes a good freeride longboard for a beginner freerider?
Freeride deck shape
Freeride boards are usually symmetrical (bi-directional) to facilitate spinning and riding both ways – in contrast to pure downhill speedboards which are often directional. Some hybrid freeride/freestyle boards have kicktails.
Most freeride boards are between 38″ and 42″ in length with a wheelbase between 24 to 29″. Normal width is between 8.5 and 10″. Some experienced freeride longboarders like shorter decks for more agility and maneuverability. As a beginner, however, you would normally prefer stability.
Freeride mount style
Freeride longboards may be drop-through, drop platform, or topmount – in fact, any mount type will work for freeriding. Drop decks (aka platforms), however, are best for beginners since they are closest to the ground, providing stability that makes it easier to start sliding on.
Drop-through decks are good for intermediate freeriders. While still hanging low and stable, they are thinner and lighter than drop decks and easier to push out into slides. Drop-through decks for freeriding should have little to no flex for stability at speed.
Some advanced riders prefer topmounts because they offer better grip, more control around turns and during slides (many downhill riders also prefer topmounts). They are higher off the ground, however, and hence less stable and harder to learn to slide on.
Examples of popular freeride longboards
A very popular double-drop platform (dropped deck + drop-through mount) freeride longboard is the Landyachtz SwitchBlade (Amazon).
Freeride deck profile
You want a deck with a strong amount of concave for secure foot placement and foot lock-in. If you’re a beginner, a simple concave (e.g. radial) will work, vs a more advanced concave (W concave) which may be get in your way as you practice.
Concave refers to the deck’s curve along its width. Rocker designates the curvature along the length. A deck with rocker has its midpoint lower than the truck mount points. More rocker makes it easier and more stable to get into slides.
What makes good freeriding longboard trucks ?
Your freeriding trucks should be strong as they will have to withstands lots of pressure in all directions as you slide and spin at high speed.
Freeriders often recommend reverse kingpin trucks (trucks facing away from each other) from reputable brands such as Randal, Bear or Paris.
Beginners may choose trucks of regular width (180mm), while more advanced riders may choose somewhat smaller trucks (e.g. 160mm) for faster turning.
The truck’s base angle you select will depend on your freeriding skills. Truck manufacturers often offer truck angles of 40-45º or 50-55º . Higher angles are less forgiving, i.e. less stability, but better slides. Lower angles mean more stability but harder sliding.
The bushing seats in your freeriding trucks should not keep the bushings from moving. The bushings themselves should be medium hard depending on your weight – e.g. 87a if you’re around 150lb, 90A if you’re around 200lb.
What are good wheels for freeride longboarding ?
As a freerider you should typically pick wheels with diameter between 68 and 72 mm, and a low-to-medium hardness between 78A and 82A for balance between grip and sliding ability.
Factors affecting your exact choice will include :
- your weight : more weight = harder wheels
- your level : sliding ability and durability (hard wheels) vs control (soft wheels)
- the type of surface you’ll be riding on (smooth, curbs etc)
Your wheels lip profile is also important. Freeriders tyically choose rounded wheels with bevelled edges. These have a smaller contact patch that create less friction and are easier to push sideways – making for better and more predictable sliding.
This is in contrast to sharp edged downhill wheels, which offer more grip in turns but are harder to slide.
Another subtle factor advanced freeriders take into account when choosing wheels, is the core placement, which measures how far the bearing is positioned into the wheel. This affects the way the wheels get into, and out of, slides.
I won’t get into details here, but you should know that centerset wheels provide for mor comfortable sliding for new freeriders.
Bearings are not that important for freeriding, just get low price bearings with decent quality. You should, however, add spacers to protect the bearings from wearing out fast with your sliding- that is, assuming your bearings don’t have spacers already built-in.
If you want to get your adrenaline up, yet are not looking to get into racing or record breaking downhill, freeriding may well be for you.
Freeride longboarding is similar to freeride snowboarding, it’s about the freedom and pleasure of riding down a hill while elegantly controlling your speed and course through highly skilled sliding and turning maneuvers.
As you start mastering the art of sliding on your longboard, chances are you’ll soon be hooked on freeriding.
Image credits :
Featured image “Springtime” (CC BY 2.0) by PeterYSKim
Video by Shaka / CC BY-NC-ND 4.0