So you’ve decided you want to give longboarding a whirl. You’ve done some research and purchased your first board. Maybe you even watched a few YouTube videos in search of inspiration. But what the hell do you do now? It’s time to get those feet off the ground and on your board.
No one wants to look uncool. We’ve heard one barrier to longboarding for the first time is the fear of feeling like a dork who doesn’t know how to skate. Despite what you see on YouTube, longboarding is not easy. Those guys making videos are pros who have spent years perfecting their craft. They make it look easy. It’s going to take you, the beginner, hours of practice until you’re able to ride with confidence. But don’t fear, we’re going offer you some tips on how to ride your longboard for the first time while avoiding major public embarrassment.
Tip #1: Balance & Stability
Solid balance is crucial to longboarding. As soon as you lose it, you’re going to fall. To have good balance, you must find a proper stance to keep you stable.
A safe way to stand on your board while you work out your stance is to place your longboard on the carpet (in the privacy of your own home, where no one is watching) or on grass. These surfaces will keep the wheels from flying out beneath you. Try standing on your board, bending your knees, crouching down, and giving it little bounce. Get to know how springy it feels. Play around with shuffling your feet without stepping off. Another useful tip is to stand next to your board, with one foot on the ground and the other foot (your dominant foot) on the board, toes pointing forward. Push the board back and forth to learn how it feels, while keeping one foot safely planted on the ground. .
Once you’re standing on the board, keep both feet in between the wheels, slightly wider than shoulder width, with the front foot pointed at a 45-degree angle. While this is a pretty fool-proof way to stand, there are about a zillion other ways to stand on your board. The bottom line is finding what feels comfortable to you.
Tip #2 Find Your Stance
Before you go out on your first ride, figure out a stance that is comfortable for you. There are two different stances in longboarding - “goofy” and “regular.” Most people are right-handed, and in turn right-footed, which means righties generate more power when pushing off with their right, dominant foot. If you are a rightie, when you stand on your board your left foot will be in front, planted to the board, so the right foot can be free to do the pushing (aka “skating regular”). If you are more comfortable using your left leg for power and keeping the right leg in front, you skate “goofy.” Snowboarding and surfing use this same terminology, so if you've tried other boardsports, default to the same stance you already use.
Neither stance is better or worse, it’s merely a matter of comfort and determining your stronger foot. If you aren’t sure, try it both ways and see which you prefer. A simple test is to find a staircase and take a step up. Which foot did you use? This will be the foot you keep in the back to use for power.
Tip #3 Call a Friend
Now that you know how to stand comfortably on the board, it’s time to add a little speed. Find a buddy who can act as a safety net, so you can focus on keeping balance. To keep things simple, don’t worry about kicking off just yet. Just stand on your board in your preferred stance, and have your friend slowly push you while you focus on balance. One way to check yourself is to make sure your front foot, knee, and nose are always in a straight line. Once this feels good and your confidence increases, try creating your own momentum. You’ll probably want your friend to stick around to take sweet shots for Instagram.
Tip #4 Start Flat
The easiest and safest place to start kicking off on your own is flat terrain. Once in your stance, with lead foot/knee/nose aligned, push off with your back foot. Give yourself three or four good kicks and bring that back foot onto the board. Once you gain momentum, keep your knees slightly bent and your body weight resting on your lead foot. As you start to lose speed, drop your rear foot and give it a couple more kicks. Keep your body relaxed and loose, as stiffness will mess up your balance. As you can probably guess, going uphill requires more power, so try to stay on flat ground for your first couple rides. If you start to feel out of control, try focusing on a point far out in front of you. Use your peripheral vision, and your body will naturally stabilize.
Tip #5 Practice Turns
You’re going to get bored quickly if all you can do is longboard in a straight line, so we recommend getting comfortable making turns early on. All you have to do is lean the direction that you want to go. To turn right, press your toes downward, to your outside. To turn left, press your heels downward to your inside. Remember to keep your stability by bending the knees - a low center of gravity will help you keep balance. While it might sound scary as a beginner, turning is easier if you’re going fast. Don’t be discouraged if you’re having trouble turning at a slow speed - keep at it, and as you’re comfortable going faster, the turns will become more comfortable.
Tip #6 Stop Your Longboard
Don’t freak out, but there is no actual way to slow down or stop your longboard, like you would on your bike. Since longboards don’t have brakes, you need to use your body movement to come to a stop. One option is to simply stop pushing and roll to a halt. Additionally, you can try a technique called foot-braking, in which the rider drags one foot on the ground to create friction and slow the momentum of the board. If you are traveling fast and need to stop quickly, you can carefully jump off the board, but you must keep your legs moving (i.e., running) as you slow your body down. When you jump off, you’ll be bringing the momentum at with you were riding with you. IT’S PHYSICS, PEOPLE! Objects in motion stay in motion…
Tip #7 Don’t be a jerk
Once you venture out into the world on your longboard, remember to respect yourself and others on the road. Be confident and assertive without being aggressive. When you encounter pedestrians, bikers, other skaters, and cars on the road, relax and be mindful of space. People often make generalizations about skater culture, so be a good steward of the sport. Smile, wave, and yield when necessary. Make friends with other riders on the road. You may be surprised at how many longboarders you encounter, all of whom are potential new friends waiting to connect you with this new community! Lastly, don’t forget about style. There are all kinds of articles and blogs that will tell you the rules of how to look “cool” while riding. Ignore it all. Does it feel better to push with your front foot instead of your back? Then go for it! Everyone is built differently, so find your own style that feels comfortable to you.
No one ever truly perfects longboarding. It takes years of practice to build your skills. If you’re willing to put in the time and abandon your fear of falling (because you are going to fall), the sport will reward you with the thrill of cruising down long hills and satisfaction of learning a new trick.