According to Guinness World Records, the fastest skateboard speed in a standing position ever recorded was 91.17 mph. It happened at L’Ultime Descente, a gravity sports event. The gravity event technically qualifies as downhill longboarding, where a rider can achieve an extremely high speed.
When on a downhill longboard, you can achieve higher speeds than you typically would when simply skating on an evenly sloped path or road. Since these speeds are higher, there’s an increased inherent risk with downhill longboarding.
Let’s look at what downhill longboarding is, what you need, and a few excellent tips on how to go about it while remaining safe.
What is Downhill Longboarding?
Downhill longboarding is a non-competitive style of skateboarding in which skaters ride a board down a hill at extremely high speeds. The goals of downhill longboarding are to achieve the highest speed possible while remaining in control of the longboard. Some downhill longboarders have achieved high speeds of up to 85 mph. As mentioned, the skating record above happened at a downhill event.
Since downhill longboarding involves racing at extremely high speeds and a heightened risk of injury, it does qualify as an extreme sport.
Downhill Longboarding Safety Equipment
When participating in extreme sports, it’s important to have the right safety gear to help minimize your risk of injury and give you the confidence you need to push yourself even further. Here is some essential protective gear you will need to participate in downhill longboarding.
- The right downhill longboard: Not every board is suitable for downhill longboarding. The one you choose should have a deck that is not only stiff but also offers maximum stability. Your longboard deck should also be slightly concave to prevent your feet from accidentally slipping while you are riding, and the grip tape should be intact to provide the best grip possible. The trucks should withstand the higher speed that you are likely to achieve. Even though this is a matter of personal choice, most downhill longboard enthusiasts prefer riding on broader and longer decks because they are easier to maneuver. They also prefer downhill longboards that have a wider wheelbase, which offers more wheel bite and control when going downhill at high speeds.
- The right helmet: There’s almost a 100% chance you will wipe out at some point in your skateboarding career, especially if you are a beginner. The degree to which this happens depends on your maximum speed, riding style, and skill level when it occurs. Since you can’t avoid this, the best course of action is to wear the right helmet to protect your head from possible injury. Try to find a multi-sport helmet or one that is specific to skateboarding. This helmet should fit your head snugly. The ideal option has installable pads, ensuring that the helmet doesn’t move when you shake your head. The right kind of helmet should sit low on your forehead. The side straps should form a V-shape around your ears, and the buckle should fasten tightly under your chin. To test whether the helmet is tight enough, try passing your fingers between the strap and your chin. If you can fit more than two fingers there, you need to tighten it.
- Knee and elbow pads: The right kinds of pads minimize the cuts, bruises, scrapes, and burns that tend to occur when you fall, and as we have already discussed, you WILL fall at some point. Always wear a pair of knee and elbow pads when skating or longboarding. These pads should have excellent padding and an external plastic cap that is tough enough to take abuse.
- Tough gloves: Racing downhill on a longboard often involves making sharp turns and sudden stops. Wearing a good pair of sliding gloves will help keep your fingers and the palms of your hands safe from scrapes and cuts as you execute these tricks.
The Top 6 Pro Tips for Downhill Longboard Enthusiasts
Note that even the most professional of downhill board enthusiasts still have quite a bit to learn about the sport. Since it involves higher speed and no two hills are the same, there are some things that you can only experience in the moment. That, however, doesn’t mean that you can’t prepare yourself adequately for any eventuality.
Here are some simple yet essential pro tips to help you get started on your downhill longboard journey:
Learn How to Fall
Falling is an inevitable part of skating, and it will happen. Learning how to do so safely will save you from broken limbs. For the most part, you can try using wide turns or even foot braking before bailing on a downhill run.
However, if you find no way to save yourself from the fall, absolutely resist the urge to break your fall using your hands. Doing so may result in broken wrists, elbows, or arms in general. Instead, learn how to tuck in your chin and roll. Try your best to find a soft landing, like a grass patch or soil, instead of tarmac.
Here’s a video giving you a quick tutorial on how to fall when skateboarding:
Learn How to Stop
Unlike regular skating, downhill riding involves a great deal of speed, meaning you will have very little reaction time with which to work. Before you get on that downhill board and pick up those speeds, you must learn how to come to an effective stop. One skill you need to master is foot braking.
This technique allows you to lightly tap your back foot on the ground to generate a bit of friction that slows you down.
Here’s a video giving you a quick tutorial on how to foot brake when longboarding:
Another technique you must learn is called the controlled slide. This involves turning your longboard sideways while you are still in motion. This way, the wheels on your longboard do the work for you as they skid to a stop. These skills take a lot of practice to master. The best way to go about it is to start by finding a gentle hill where there’s no traffic and practicing with slow speeds first before you graduate to faster and steeper hills.
Learn How to Gather Speed
One of the main reasons many skaters enjoy downhill riding so much is because they can pick up incredible speed while doing it. Even though gravity does most of the work for you, it’s important to learn how to increase your speed whenever you want to do so. Two main techniques can help with this:
- Tucking: This is where you make your body as small as possible to reduce wind resistance. Keep your hands close to your side, crouching on your longboard, and your front foot on the deck, with the back foot up on its toes.
Here’s a video showing you how to tuck effectively:
- Drafting: Another technique used by pros to increase their speeds is drafting. This is where you closely follow behind another downhill longboarder to take advantage of the reduced wind resistance. If you follow them closely enough for long enough, you will gather enough speed to easily overtake them.
Maintain the Balance of Your Trucks
Speed wobbles are a phenomenon that happens when the back trucks are looser than the front ones. A wobbly longboard is unstable and likely to cause a wipe-out. You can easily avoid speed wobbles by either making sure that your front and back trucks are balanced or evenly tightened, or you could simply loosen the front trucks a bit more than the back trucks. The best course of action is to ensure that they are evenly balanced.
Learn to Navigate Turns
Unless you are cruising on a straight path, which is unlikely, you will need to turn at some point. At such high speeds, turning can be as exciting as it is dangerous. Learning how to turn safely is essential to your safety. You can do so in two ways:
- Foot braking
Pre-drifting is where you perform a light drift just before you get to the actual turn. This allows your downhill longboard to slow down just enough to allow safe navigation of the turn. If you go into a turn with too much speed, you are more likely to miss it entirely and wipe out. If you go into it with too little speed, you will lose your momentum and fall off.
Finally, the best tip that all professionals use is bravery. This is an extreme sport. You need to believe in your own abilities and simply go for it. As long as you have taken the time to learn the basics properly.
Going downhill on a longboard can be great fun, but it can also be dangerous. These tips will help you manage it just fine and even tackle bigger, steeper hills safely.